China-Africa friendship and cooperation: A strategic partnership

By Hisham AbuBakr Metwally
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, April 19, 2019
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Job hunters take selfies with a Chinese employer at a job fair in  Johannesburg, South Africa, April 8, 2019. [Photo/Xinhua]

Sino-African relations are witnessing unprecedented breakthroughs at all levels, whether it be in the political, economic, commercial or cultural spheres.

The deepening of Sino-African relations came as a result of China's policy toward Africa, which is based on the principles of sincerity, equality and mutual benefit, solidarity and common development.

Africa has been conscientiously exploring a road to development suited to their national conditions. It is seeking peace, stability and development through joint efforts with international partners, and China has been its key partner. African countries have a strong belief in the importance of working closely with China to help Africa develop and flourish.

China and African countries are continuing to deepen their strategic partnership, vigorously advancing cooperation in economic and trade issues, and actively exploring a common path that reflects both China's and Africa's realities.

Under the framework of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), China has constantly provided financial support to Africa, starting from US$1 billion in 2000 to US$60 billion in the last two FOCAC summits. Moreover, China has pledged 10 plans and eight development initiatives to help African countries advance in the areas of infrastructure, industrialization, agriculture, trade, environmental protection, health, education, security and peace.

It has become customary for African leaders to discuss their important projects and sign partnership contracts during the FOCAC forum. For example, Egypt signed US$18 billion worth of contracts with Chinese investors in 2018, which include the construction of the world's biggest power plants and many other mega projects. 

Thanks to the support of the Chinese government, more and more Chinese companies are doing business in Africa. At present, over 3,500 Chinese enterprises are investing in more than 50 African countries, and the areas of cooperation have expanded from mining, agriculture and building industry to intensive processing of resource products, industrial manufacturing, finance, commercial logistics and real estate.

Aerial photo taken on June 17, 2018 shows the China-Egypt Suez Economic and Trade Cooperation Zone, located some 120 km to the east of Cairo near the Suez Canal, Egypt. [Photo/Xinhua]

China has built a fiber-optic transmission backbone network in Tanzania that covers major provinces and cities of the country, linking it with six neighboring countries and connecting it to undersea optic cables in Eastern and Southern Africa. Moreover, six special economic zones have been established in Zambia, Ethiopia, Nigeria and Egypt in a bid to promote local industrial development.

China has become Africa's top trading partner since 2009. With China's efforts to further open its market to African products, all of the 30 least developed African countries now enjoy zero-tariff treatment for 60% of their exports to China, which covers 4,762 items. Due to this policy, African exports to China have grown rapidly.

According to statistics from China's General Administration of Customs, in 2018, China's total import and export volume with Africa was US$204.19 billion. This marked a year-on-year increase of 19.7%, exceeding the overall growth rate of foreign trade in the same period by 7.1 percentage points. In this same time period, China's exports to Africa were US$104.91 billion, up 10.8%, and China's imports from Africa were US$99.28 billion, up 30.8%, with a trade surplus of US$5.63 billion, down 70.0% year on year.

The improvement in trade between China and African countries is expected to increase this year as a result of the import exhibition which was held by China for the first time in Shanghai in November last year.

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), proposed in 2013, aims to improve global governance and the globalization process by providing equal opportunities for all to achieve prosperity and growth.

So far, 37 African countries have joined the initiative. Their participation in the project is completely in line with the African Union Agenda 2063, which aims to link all 54 African nations through transportation infrastructure projects, including modern highways, airports, and high-speed railways.

Aerial photo taken on April 8, 2019 shows the Maputo Bay Bridge in Maputo, Mozambique. The bridge is part of the Maputo Bridge and Link Roads project built by the China Road and Bridge Corporation, with Chinese standards and financing support. [Photo/Xinhua]

African countries have already benefited from the various BRI infrastructure projects such as the construction of power plants, highways, railways, ports and airports. Moreover, the improved level of infrastructure in those African countries has also become a driving force for local economic growth. From this perspective, the BRI is actually China's way of addressing the infrastructure gap in African countries.

The Sino-African cooperation has no limits, and it represents a comprehensive strategic partnership that pushes for growth enabling Africa to fight poverty and build a better future.  

Hisham AbuBakr Metwally is the First Economist Researcher at the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Trade and Industry.

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