Both sides bullish on cooperation ahead of upcoming forum
Africa remains a steadfast focus for China, as the world's second-largest economy continues to play an active role in the continent's infrastructure modernization drive.
Premier Li Keqiang said in his Government Work Report, delivered to the first session of the 13th National People's Congress, that China will enhance unity and cooperation with other developing countries, and will work hard to ensure the success of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation to be held in China in September.[Special coverage]
The premier also pledged to further promote the Belt and Road Initiative, which involves several African nations.
FOCAC has helped Africa achieve success in several key areas. Following the forum held in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2015, Africa recorded impressive economic growth.
The World Bank predicts that six of the world's 10 fastest-growing economies in 2018 will be African.
Ethiopia, which has seen a rising Chinese commercial presence - especially in the infrastructure and manufacturing sectors - is expected to see strong GDP growth this year of around 8.2 percent, compared with a global growth rate of 3.1 percent.
Manelisi Genge, chief director of East Asia and Oceania at the Department of International Relations and Cooperation in South Africa, is confident that China's continued role will play an integral part in shaping the continent's development.
Already, he said, it has improved Africa's global stature.
Africa is no longer a docile partner in global economic growth, he said, adding that China's investment has accelerated the continent's transformation by speeding up connectivity and integration processes in often-ignored markets.
China's investment projects in Africa have brought tangible benefits, he said. These benefits include a 530-kilometer road in the Republic of Congo, the Mzimvubu project that addresses water needs in South Africa, and modern infrastructure that better connects East Africa with the rest of the continent.
He also noted that agreements reached during the forum opened access to China's vast domestic markets, further boosting South Africa's industrial diversification efforts as it moves away from mineral resource dependency. For example, South Africa is the first on the continent to export meat products to China.
Raphael Tuju, a cabinet secretary in Kenya and secretary-general of the ruling Jubilee Party, said an important facet of Sino-African economic relations continues to be Chinese development capital, which he said addresses the heart of the continent's needs.
"China is a strategic partner in assisting Africa to shore up its infrastructure deficit, thus supporting the continent's efforts to alleviate poverty," he said.
He noted that new projects such as the Mombasa - Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway are already transforming Kenya's rural areas by improving farmers' access to markets.
He said he hopes the upcoming forum will prioritize project-specific areas that may be replicated across the continent.
"Since we also view China as a partner in combating climate change, we hope that the .3 million Sino-Africa Joint Research Centre based in Kenya will boost Africa's efforts in improving its environmental resilience while also increasing food production in the region.
"We are also keen on fast-tracking modernization of our agricultural sector to strengthen our food security and drive forward our manufacturing. Going forward, I think these are areas we are going to see a lot more cooperation in," he said.