Eighteen years after the first ground-breaking Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC, 2000), launched to officialise and institutionalize China’s relations with Africa, Beijing hosted – on 2-4 September 2018 - 50+ African heads of state/government and international actors during the 7th event of the series. Throughout these past 18 years, the global status and role of China and individual African countries changed dramatically.
Every three years, the addition of new countries at FOCAC (this year it was Burkina Faso, The Gambia, and Sao Tome and Principe), the upgrading of existing relationships, and the announcements of new financing commitments that dwarf those of other donors highlight the exponential growth in China-Africa relations and the growing importance of China in the geopolitics of development. This is defined as the system and processes by which norms of and approaches to development aid are negotiated between states at the global level.
FOCAC – the Forum on China-Africa cooperation – meets every three years and allows for a stock-taking of the agenda. By 2018, virtually all African countries (except for Swaziland) engage with Mainland China, which is Africa’s biggest trade partner, a large investor, and a donor with substantial importance for African development. It is, indeed, important to know where Chinese interests move.
FOCAC 2018 ended with little surprises for China-Africa cooperation in the realm of new technologies and innovation. This does not mean that China’s commitment in this area has decreased or become less relevant. Quite the opposite. Since the third FOCAC, in 2006, which represented a watershed moment in expanding partnerships to new sectors, with Information and Communication Technology (ICT) representing one of the most significant, cooperation in tech has become one of the new pillars of China-Africa cooperation.
China supports African integration, and not merely in rhetorical terms. Perhaps nothing symbolizes this support more than the impressive 800 million RMB Headquarters and Conference Centre China built and fitted for the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The complex, which was inaugurated at the beginning of 2012, epitomizes China’s stance as a supporter and even facilitator of African integration.