A prosperous China, a shared prosperity

It’s all coming together, like the confluence of a river, merging the dreams and aspirations of the Chinese people and flowing out to the rest of the world in the spirit of shared prosperity and a common destiny for mankind.

Within the backdrop of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Communist party of China (CPC) last year, and the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) three years ago, 2022 serves as the occasion for the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China which charts the path for its socio-economic development and presides over important political decisions.

In a deeply polarized world with multiple and growing economic and social challenges, including the existential threat to humanity of climate change, China has chosen the path of political continuity to steer it through a global turbulence that has shattered economies, wiped out jobs and shredded livelihoods. The disruptions have been on an apocalyptic scale. But China aims to emerge under the CPC leadership with renewed vigour and focus, ready to pick up its post-Covid 19 economic pace and spread the benefits of its prosperity across the world.

To Africa, the 20th CPC National Congress is of significant importance because of the historic ties between China and the African continent. It serves as a moment for deep introspection for many Africans familiar with this history, which includes China’s military and technical assistance in the years of the struggle for liberation. The building by the Chinese of the Tanzam Railway, which gave the frontline states access to the sea during South Africa’s liberation war against the brutal Apartheid regime. Linking the town of Kapiri Mposhi in Zambia to the port of Dar-es-Salaam in Tanzania, it’s part of this quest for freedom. In a quid-pro-quo, Africa also helped Beijing get back its status at the UN in 1971, and to reassert its one-China policy.

In the last decade, China and Africa have worked hard at both the multilateral and bilateral levels to deepen cooperation between them. In terms of commerce, China has overtaken the US as Africa’s top trading partner. Hinged on President Xi’s Belt & Road Initiative (BRI), infrastructure development has become an important nexus between Beijing and Addis Ababa, the headquarters of the African Union (AU) and various capitals across the African continent.

With the recent launch of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), rails, roads, airports and ports constructed with Chinese loans and grants are proving critical in deepening intercontinental trade, which currently stand at a paltry 12%. The Ethiopia-Djibouti Railway, Kenya’s Standard Gauge Railway (SGR), Angola’s Lobito-Luau Railway, and Nigeria’s Lagos-Ibadan Railway serve as examples of Chinese engineering excellence in Africa’s nascent transport sector.

Established in 2000, the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) has provided an invaluable platform on which China and Africa transact their multilateral engagements. In 2015, at the FOCAC summit in Johannesburg, President Xi unveiled a $60 billion package in development aid to Africa, to support agriculture, infrastructure and training on the continent.

More recently, as Covid-19 ravaged the world and the more developed countries looked inward, later giving rise to what came to be known as vaccine nationalism, China, at the very initial stages of the pandemic, when little was still known about it, shipped in health personnel, much-needed protective gear and tonnes of other supplies, standing with Africa in its moment of need. In a bid to help African countries recover from post-Covid economic ravages, China has forgiven its loans to some African countries, and moved to restructure others on a country-to-country basis.

It’s for the reason of the fruitful cooperation that various African leaders have brotherly and encouraging words to share with the country’s leadership and the Chinese people.  

Douglas Okwatch is a senior editor with CMG Africa based in Nairobi