The Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) opened on Saturday, November 4, 2006. Leaders or representatives of China, 48 African countries, the African Union Commission and other international organizations attended the opening ceremony at the Great Hall of the People.
Before the opening ceremony, China.org.cn interviewed some foreign dignitaries on the state of Sino-African relations, the FOCAC Beijing Summit and the future of Sino-African cooperation.
Ms Rosemary Museminali, Rwandan minister of foreign affairs, said that Beijing had impressed her very much with its big changes compared with her first visit in 1995 when she attended the Fourth World Conference on Women. She also hoped the Sino-Rwandan cooperation would make great achievements during the Beijing Summit, especially to work with China to attract more investments in many fields including tourism, culture and construction. "We have done well, and we hope to do better!" She added.
Hon. Hussein Elabe Fahie, minister of planning and statistics of Somalia, recalled the friendship between the Chinese and Somali peoples and China's selfless assistance to Somalia. "We hope China to play a bigger role in the rebuilding of Somalia like to help us increase level on finance, infrastructure and power." On the FOCAC Beijing Summit, he pinned great expectation on the draft communiqué and looked forward to concrete measures such as enhancing Chinese learning in Africa and stepping up investment in Africa.
Donal Kaberuka, president of African Development Bank, praised China's role in the booming Sino-African economic development and trade. "If you look at the figures of the last six or seven years, African exports to China increased from under US$10 billion to over US$40 billion and in terms of imports by Africa from China, the figure has grown from under US$10 billion to close to US$20 billion. The bilateral trade favorable to Africa is contributing significantly to the development of many African countries." He also praised the FOCAC Beijing Summit as a great mutually beneficial initiative and expected to draw more inflows to Africa.
Some African entrepreneurs also expressed their hope for market expansion and for finding new partners here. This is the third time for Yusuf Abdurrahim, CEO of Abuja Securities and Commodity Exchange Plc located in Nigeria, to visit China. In his two previous visits to Shanghai and Hainan Province respectively, he joined local commodity exhibitions to find Chinese buyers for his cocoa, cotton and maize. According to Prince Lekan Fadina, vice chairman of CISME, a consulting company in Ngeria, over 700 Nigerian businessmen have registered with the Sino-Nigerian Business Council. Besides economic cooperation, he hoped China and Nigeria would further cultural and social cooperation and he believed that China would contribute to the further development of Nigeria.
Besides the African guests, representatives of some international organizations were also invited to attend the third Ministerial Meeting and the Beijing Summit as observers.
"China's grant for providing medicines and equipments to African countries on prevention and treatment of malaria is a good example for cooperation on public health and medical care among the countries." said Dr. Henk Bekedam, representative of the World Health Organization (WHO). "Especially the medicine – artemisinin – is developed from the traditional Chinese medicine."
"The WHO would like to discuss and cooperate with China on this field and hope to work together to promote the health condition in Africa," he added.
On the Sino-African Agriculture cooperation, Victoria Sekitoleko, representative to China, North Korea and Mongolia from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said, "China, Africa and FAO are strategic alliance and we have signed strategic programs that China is going to send agricultural experts and equipments to Africa to help its agricultural development in production, marketing, food processing and other fields. I think it's very good."
The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) also participated in the Sino-African cooperation by establishing a China-African Business Council last year to foster the links between Chinese and African entrepreneurs. According to Renaud Myer, deputy resident representative of UNDP, this council, cooperating with China's the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce, the Ministry of Commerce and trade ministries of some African countries, had organized several bilateral visits of business delegations. He viewed the Beijing Summit as a good opportunity to increase the council's publicity among Chinese and African businessmen and hoped it would highlight China's commitment to Africa and promote mutually beneficial business and experience exchanges.
Constance Thomas, director of the International Labor Office (ILO) for China and Mongolia, hoped FOCAC would create more opportunities for China and African countries to exchange experiences on labor issue, employment creation, human resources, occupational safety and health. She also expected the collaboration between ILO and China would increase from its current fields of employment creation, business development and human resources development to include occupational safety and health.
The Beijing Summit, focusing on "friendship, peace, cooperation and development", will end on Sunday and a package of major assistance, investment, trade and other key cooperation projects with Africa is expected to announce at the summit's closure.
FOCAC, launched in 2000, is a mechanism for collective dialogue and cooperation jointly established by China and Africa to cope with new challenges and facilitate common development.
(China.org.cn staff reporter Li Shen, November 5, 2006)