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2018, a big year for Sino-African Relations
Friday, 25 January 2019 08:34

Photo by: Sohu

2018 was an important moment in the history of Africa and China relations, with several major events taking place which affirmed the commitment of leadership to growing Sino-African relations. But do the milestones achieved in 2018 provide a sufficiently sound foundation for relations to continue to grow amidst trade disputes and a slowing Chinese economy? With many African countries benefiting from increases in investment and trade with China, shall 2019 continue on this success?

South Africa and China celebrated 20 years of diplomatic relations in 2018. During the course of this relationship, China became South Africa’s largest trading partner in 2009 and investment activity between the two has grown significantly. During state visits by President Xi to South Africa and President Ramaphosa to China in 2018, both nations committed themselves to continue building the relationship into 2019 and the next 20 years. This, in addition to China’s aim to expand imports, will be important enablers for deepened relations amid uncertainties in the global economy.

South Africa hosted the 10th annual BRICS summit from the 25-27 of July 2018 in Johannesburg. Prior to the summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping conducted his first state visit to the West African country of Senegal where he met with President Macky Sall, followed by his first state visit to Rwanda where he met with President and African Union Chairperson, Paul Kagame. On his return to Beijing, President Xi Jinping visited Prime Minister Pravind Jumar Jugnauth of Mauritius, with whom China has shared 46 years of relations.

State leaders from Rwanda, Senegal, Uganda and Angola were in attendance at the summit as part of a BRICS Africa outreach program. Sustainable development was an important topic of the summit, with commitments to continue development on renewable energy and increased efforts to combat climate change. With a global focus on climate change and finding ways to counter what some scientists claim may be an irreversible path of environmental decline, Africa could step up alongside China to be leaders in fighting climate change.

The biggest event for the year however in terms of showcasing the fortitude of Sino-Africa relations was the 2018 Beijing summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), held in China’s capital from 3-4 September 2018. Heads of State and Prime Ministers from African governments were represented at the summit, with multiple high-level engagements and agreements occurring between African and Chinese delegations. Chinese President Xi Jinping also announced a further USD 60 billion of financing from China into Africa, following on from the previous 2015 commitment of the same amount.

China continues to view their relationship with Africa as one of win-win growth and cooperation, with the forum’s various engagements serving to further China’s role as Africa’s biggest trade and investment partner. China and Africa are expected to carry the success of 2018 into 2019 with the many engagements that shall occur as a result of the pledges made during FOCAC. President Xi Jinping in 2019 will have many pressing issues such as a slowing Chinese economy, however the opportunities that a strengthened African partnership could create, may be critical in revitalizing these developing economies which are China’s allies under the south-south cooperation framework.

This article is produced by The Beijing Axis and is published in The Econometer section of ChinAfrica magazine (January 2019), an English and French language monthly publication that provides news, views and analysis on all things China, Africa and China-Africa relations.