by Wang Chenxi, Wei Jianhua
ADDIS ABABA, Jan. 29 (Xinhua) -- The friendship between the world's largest developing country and the continent home to mostly developing countries has lasted for over 60 years and touched the lives of over 2.3 billion people.
As a new monument of the long-standing friendship between China and Africa, the 20-story African Union (AU) Conference Center and Office Complex constructed with the aid of the Chinese government, was just inaugurated in Addis Ababa before the 18th Ordinary Session of the AU Assembly Saturday.
At the inauguration ceremony, Jia Qinglin, chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), said the new AU headquarters is a gift from the Chinese government and people and also a symbol of the growing China-Africa relationship.
"The Chinese government has attached great importance to economic and trade cooperation with Africa, and promoted all-round cooperation in fields such as trade, investment, infrastructure, agriculture, human resources, clean energy and environmental protection," Jia said.
ECONOMIC, TRADE COOPERATION ON FAST TRACK
The booming China-Africa economic and trade cooperation serves as a major driving force for overall cooperation between the two countries and is becoming increasingly important to both, especially when the developed countries, the main export destinations for both China and Africa, are suffering from global economic woes and the eurozone debt crisis.
The establishment of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in 2000 put their economic and trade ties on the fast track. Bilateral trade grew from 10.6 billion U.S. dollars in 2000 to 160 billion dollars in 2011, and Chinese investment in Africa rose from tens of millions of dollars to over 10 billion dollars.
China has become Africa's largest trading partner, according to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce.
At the same time, Africa has become one of China's top investment destinations. More than 2,000 Chinese enterprises are investing in the continent. Accumulated investment from China has surpassed 40 billion dollars.
In addition, China has further facilitated the entry of African commodities into its market. During the G20 summit held in Cannes in November 2011, Chinese President Hu Jintao said that China will give zero-tariff treatment to 97 percent of the tariffed exports from the least developed countries (LDCs) with diplomatic ties to China.
The LDCs -- 33 from Africa, 14 from Asia plus Haiti -- are defined by the United Nations as those with a per capita income of less than 745 dollars a year.
China has imported African products worth 1.32 billion dollars under the zero-tariff terms from 2005 to June 2010, according to a government white paper on China-Africa economic and trade cooperation released in 2010.
Moreover, China is building economic and trade cooperation zones in Zambia, Mauritius, Nigeria, Egypt and Ethiopia, involving 250 million dollars in infrastructure construction.
Once completed, the cooperation zones will work as business incubators that help host countries attract foreign investment, create jobs, and improve local infrastructure and investment environment.
EDUCATIONAL, AGRICULTURAL, ENVIRONMENTAL EXCHANGES PROMOTE SUSTAINABILITY
China is not only Africa's trade partner, but also a dedicated participant in strengthening Africa's development sustainability by helping countries on the continent improve their education, agriculture and environment sectors.
According to China's Foreign Ministry, during the academic years of 2010 and 2011, China has provided 5,710 government scholarships to African countries, fulfilling the pledge of 5,500 scholarships announced by China at the 2009 FOCAC ministerial conference two years ahead of schedule.
To speed up science and technology cooperation between China and Africa, and facilitate technology capacity-building in African countries, China also launched the China-Africa Science and Technology Partnership Program (CASTEP) in November 2009.
Under the Program, 100 joint projects on scientific and technological research will be carried out in the forms of equipment donation, technique training courses and workshops, popularization of technology, and joint research. Besides that, 100 African postdoctoral fellows will conduct scientific research in China with financial assistance.
Agriculture is one of the main fields that have witnessed growing China-Africa cooperation. From 2007 to 2009, China has dispatched 104 senior agricultural experts to 33 African countries, established agricultural technology centers in 14 African countries and has decided to build 10 more, said Lu Shaye, director-general of the Department of African Affairs at the Foreign Ministry.
Since 2009, China has sent 16 groups of agricultural experts to Africa and trained 874 Africans as agricultural experts, Lu said.
In the multilateral field, China actively participated in the Special Program for Food Security of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). It has sent more than 700 agronomists to eight African nations. Besides sending professors to do research in African universities and institutions, China has also built demonstration centers and dispatched field experts to the countryside.
In Zimbabwe, construction of such a center began in October 2009 at Gwebi Agricultural College outside Harare. The center is expected to become a hub of high-tech agricultural experimental study and demonstration, technical training and sustainable development in the country.
In Malawi, Chinese companies and the China-Africa Development Fund jointly invested in a cotton cultivation program. Once completed, the program will help more than 50,000 local farmers increase their cotton production and processing capacity.
In Nigeria, much progress has been achieved by Chinese experts working with local farmers in the country's 36 states. The cooperation involves fisheries, animal husbandry, crop production and processing.
Alhaji Gidado Bello, coordinator of the China-Nigeria South-South Cooperation Program, said the Chinese experts and their agricultural service stations across Nigeria have boosted technological advancement and led to improved production and income generation.
Environmental protection is another sector that shows strong ties between China and African countries, which all face the challenge of environmental degradation.
In a village in Nigeria's Kano state, Chinese scientists have joined their Nigerian counterparts in setting up a research base for desertification control.
They will carry out forestation experiments and desertification control cooperation, hoping to nurture shelter-belts and foster sand-related industries to restore local ecology and boost economic growth.
The same project is also being conducted in several other desert countries including Kenya, Egypt, Algeria and Niger.
Meanwhile, in order to improve African countries' abilities to adapt to climate change, China has been launching 100 clean energy projects including solar power, biogas and small hydropower projects in Africa, Lu said at the China-Africa Think Tanks Forum (CATTF) in October 2011.
Lu said China has worked out country-specific plans and signed an exchange of notes on setting up projects with 11 countries, including Ethiopia and Mozambique. Relevant projects will start in the near future.
The all-round cooperation and friendship between China and African countries proved to be solid when the Horn of Africa and its neighboring regions were hit by severe drought and famine in 2011. Millions of lives were threatened.
By the end of October 2011, China delivered food donations worth 443.2 million yuan (69.58 million dollars) to the Horn of Africa and its neighboring regions, according to China's Foreign Ministry.
In late July 2011, China had already announced plans to provide 90 million yuan (14 million dollars) worth of emergency food aid to the drought-hit African countries.
On Aug. 15, 2011, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said that China will provide an additional 353.2 million yuan (55.28 million dollars) in food aid to Ethiopia and other drought-hit African countries.
This is the single largest grain donation to foreign countries ever delivered by the Chinese government since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.
Also, this tremendous donation is just the latest evidence of China's continuous aid to Africa. Since 1956, China began to help African countries in various forms ranging from infrastructure construction to medical support.
During the past few years, China has not only helped African nations to build schools, hospitals, bridges and other important projects, but has sent many agricultural experts, medical professionals and volunteers to train nearly 30,000 personnel.
According to the white paper on China's foreign aid activities issued by the Chinese government, China provided 256.29 billion yuan (38.54 billion dollars) in aid to foreign countries, including 106.2 billion yuan in grants, 76.54 billion yuan in interest-free loans and 73.55 billion yuan in concessional loans, with Asia and Africa accounting for 80 percent of the total amount.
"In order to help African countries achieve independence and development, the Chinese government has unswervingly supported Africa with all it can provide, which has promoted the socio-economic development of Africa and benefited African people," Jia said.
With the good will and joint efforts of both China and Africa, the unique relationship between the two sides has an even brighter future ahead.