•China’s presidential statement also noted that the fact that peace and security is an integral part of Africa’s development process.
•Africa should be helped to narrow the "development gap" by exploring development paths suited to its national conditions - Wang Yi
True friendship knows no bounds. Indeed, true friendship is tested during the times when one partner is in dire need of help. This is the case with China and Africa, whose journey over the last couple of decades has withstood daunting uncertainties and instabilities, like the ones currently caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
China has stood up to be counted for supporting Africa in such areas as fighting the pandemic, post-pandemic recovery, trade and investment, debt relief, food security, poverty reduction and alleviation, climate change, as well as industrialisation.
The two have supported each other when circumstances demanded. As the stronger partner, China has not shied away from calling out any unfairness meted out to the continent at the international arena.
On May 19, under the presidency of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) China held an Open Debate on "Peace and Security in Africa: Addressing Root Causes of Conflict in Post-Pandemic Recovery in Africa" via video link. Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who chaired the meeting, spoke of a wide range of issues that the world needs to focus on in ensuring that Africa does not become the weak link in global social and economic recovery efforts.
The meeting can be seen as a follow up of the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity against Covid-19 held on June 17, 2020, where China’s President Xi Jinping pointed the way forward for the joint fight against the Covid-19, pragmatic cooperation, as well as the development of bilateral ties between China and Africa.
“The aim of China convening this UNSC open debate is to promote the international community to attach importance to the severe challenge posed by the pandemic to Africa's peace and development, build consensus and synergy, and work with African countries to overcome the pandemic, carry out post-pandemic recovery, remove the root causes of conflicts, and inject new impetus to Africa's lasting peace and sustainable development.”
Wang Yi gave a four-point proposal to return Africa to normalcy:
- The international community needs to help Africa bridge the "pandemic divide" by providing more assistance to the continent in terms of pandemic prevention materials, medicines, technology and funding to ensure the accessibility and affordability of vaccines in Africa.
- The world needs to help Africa solve the "peace deficit". The UN and the African Union should coordinate closely with each other to ensure the progress of two major initiatives: Global Ceasefire and Silencing the Guns in Africa. Wang Yi called for the total opposition of unreasonable interference by foreign forces in African countries in order to avoid causing more contradictions and conflicts.
- Thirdly, Africa should be helped to narrow the "development gap" by exploring development paths suited to its national conditions. Developed countries should take concrete measures in such areas as debt relief, development assistance and technology transfer to fulfil their international responsibilities. Development partners should also support Africa’s industrialisation and modernisation initiatives, and enhance Africa's capacity for independent development and innovation.
- Fourth, the UN should help Africa correct its "unfair governance". The realization of equal rights, equal opportunities and equal rules for all countries cannot be achieved without increasing the representation and voice of African countries in international affairs. This is an inherent feature of true multilateralism.
A presidential statement the day after the virtual conference reiterated the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on Africa's economic, political, security and humanitarian spheres and its exacerbation of conflict in Africa. Definitely, the pandemic has widened the gap between the developed and developing countries.
Provision of vaccines was high on the agenda of the presidential statement, with an appeal to expedite discussions at the World Trade Organization on waiving intellectual property rights for the Covid-19 vaccine. “The UNSC considers it necessary to increase the supply of raw materials and supports the transfer of technology and intellectual property rights upon consent from the parties concerned.”
In order to solve Africa’s myriad problems, efforts should be made to push the implementation of the African Union's 2063 Agenda and the UN's 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and to facilitate the economic development and integration process in Africa through cross-border and cross-regional infrastructure construction, industrialization, poverty reduction, job creation and agricultural modernization, so as to contribute to lasting peace in Africa. All parties should work together to support countries in conflict in enhancing food security.
China’s presidential statement also noted that the fact that peace and security is an integral part of Africa’s development process. Consequently, the UN should maintain the continuity of its peacekeeping operations, enhance the capacity of peacekeeping operations and special political missions to implement their mandates, and create an environment conducive to the economic recovery of countries in conflict.
As Africa’s largest trading partner for more than ten consecutive years, China has contributed over 20 per cent to the continent's economic growth, with cooperation in the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) set to grow this exponentially. So far, 46 African countries and the African Union have signed documents on cooperation under the framework.
This year marks a milestone in Sino-Africa relations under the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (Focac). The two partners are celebrating 20 years of fruitful partnership, in a period that has seen African countries take a leap particularly in infrastructural development. The China inspired UNSC meeting has set the tone for the upcoming Focac meeting to be held in Dakar, Senegal later this year.
The writer is the Executive Director of South-South Dialogues, a Nairobi based research and development communication think tank.