Africa Seeks a More Equitable Partnership With China

Africa Seeks a More Equitable Partnership With China
African delegates walk by a screen panel showing an image of Chinese President Xi Jinping with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ahead of the 2018 Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, Beijing, Sept. 3, 2018 (AP photo by Andy Wong).

The eighth edition of the triennial Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, or FOCAC, took place this week in Dakar, Senegal, marking the first time the meeting was held in West Africa. The conference, which took place days after the release of a Chinese government white paper detailing a new era of cooperation with African countries, saw major announcements on COVID-19 vaccines, Special Drawing Rights allocations and climate cooperation. While those areas of cooperation portend to be the cornerstone of engagement between China and Africa, growing debates are emerging on the continent and elsewhere about the imbalanced nature of the relationship.

FOCAC 2021 was technically billed as a ministerial conference rather than a summit-level event, because Chinese President Xi Jinping and most African heads of state and government did not physically attend the gathering. It was jointly presided over by Senegalese Foreign Minister Aissata Tall Sall and Minister of Economy, Planning and Cooperation Amadou Hott, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Commerce Minister Wang Wentao. 

This year’s gathering reviewed the high points in the relationship between China and Africa’s 54 countries, with pledges to build on the unprecedented agreements struck at the Johannesburg summit in 2015 and the 2018 edition in Beijing. Appearing at the opening ceremony of the conference via video, Xi noted that 2021 marked the 65th anniversary of the opening of diplomatic relations between China and African countries, pledging that China and Africa would work together “to promote and carry forward the spirit of China-Africa friendship and cooperation from generation to generation.” 

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