CHINESE FM WRAPS UP FIVE-NATION AFRICA TOUR

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has wrapped up an African tour which took him to Madagascar, Zambia, Tanzania, Republic of Congo and Nigeria at a time when China-Africa co-operation is going from strength to strength.

The foreign minister's visit was in keeping with China's nearly three-decade-long diplomatic tradition of making Africa the minister's first overseas destination each year.

Such a tradition signifies that "China always regards developing countries as the cornerstone of its diplomacy and Africa its priority", Wang said during the visit.

China announced 10 major co-operation plans which are aimed at helping Africa realize industrialization and agricultural modernization, at the Johannesburg summit of the Forum on China-Africa Co-operation (FOCAC) in December 2015.

China also promised 60 billion US dollars as funding support to see these plans through. The implementation of these plans has constituted a new driving force for the China-Africa co-operation, Wang said while in Zambia.

The co-operation has witnessed fast growth since then, with many Chinese companies coming to Africa to invest and establish plants. From the December 2015 Johannesburg summit to July, 2016, the agreements signed in various fields between China and Africa were valued at over 50 billion USD.

Wang said in this process "three new changes" had emerged in terms of China-Africa co-operation. A government-led pattern has gradually evolved into one where the market plays a major role. General merchandise trade has been gradually upgraded to production capacity co-operation, processing and trade. There is also a gradual shift from basic project contracting to investment, construction and operation.

Many China-funded mega projects in Africa were completed in 2016, paving the way for materializing the ambitions laid out at the summit. Among them are the 752.7-kilometre Ethiopia-Djibouti Railway, Nigeria's 186.5-km Abuja-Kaduna standard gauge railway and Tanzania's 680-metre-long, six-lane Nyerere Bridge, the largest cable-stayed cross-sea bridge in East Africa.

China, Zambia and Tanzania will work together to revitalize the Tanzania-Zambia Railway (TAZARA), built with Chinese assistance in the 1970s and a monument to the China-Africa friendship.

Through comprehensive reform of the management system, effectively linking the railway to ports and building an industrial economic belt along the railway, it is hoped that the 1,860-km TAZARA line will gain renewed vigour and contribute to helping Tanzania, Zambia and other African countries realize independent and sustainable development.

In Madagascar, Wang said that China welcomed African countries to join the Belt and Road Initiative. China has already started to explore cooperation opportunities with a number of African countries, especially those on the east coast of Africa and has achieved positive progress in this regard.

With the deepening of co-operation, the African continent will get more development benefits from this co-operation, said Wang.

As Africa's largest island and an important country, Madagascar is geographically nearest to China among African countries. Madagascar had direct links with the ancient maritime Silk Road in history, which makes it a natural extension of the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.

The Belt and Road Initiative, proposed by China in 2013, aims to build a trade and infrastructure network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along the ancient Silk Road trade routes. It has won support from more than 100 countries and international organizations.

China would help the Republic of Congo build a special economic zone (SEZ) in the port city of Pointe Noire, Wang said.

The Pointe Noire SEZ would draw upon China's rich experience in development, and turn into a flagship programme for China-Africa production capacity co-operation.

The current complexity in global politics and economics has brought many uncertainties to the peace and development of the African continent, as well as new opportunities, Wang said while in Nigeria.

China has the desire and capacity to make new contributions to Africa's peace and development through deepening its co-operation with the continent, he added.

"Unlike other development partners, the Chinese are investing in infrastructure and industries which could help propel Tanzania to middle income status by 2025," Gaudence Mpangala, professor at the Ruaha Catholic University in Iringa Region, told Xinhua.

Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK