In the latest push to strengthen economic cooperation between China and Africa, a business conference was held in the Egyptian capital on Monday, with the attendance of China's top legislator Wu Bangguo and Speaker of Egypt's People's Assembly Ahmed Sorour.
Also attending the one-day conference was other senior officials and diplomats from both China and Egypt, including Vice Chairman of the Standing Committee of China's National People's Congress (NPC) Ragdi, Egyptian Minister of Trade and Industry Rachid Mohamed Rachid, Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo and Chinese Vice Commerce Minister Wei Jianguo.
More than 400 entrepreneurs from both China and African nations participated the conference, of whom about 150 came from China.
Wu, Chairman of the Standing Committee of the NPC, made a keynote speech at the conference.
"China-Africa political relations are growing from strength to strength, and that strengthening unity and cooperation with Africa is cornerstone of China's independent foreign policy of peace," Wu said.
"China-Africa economic cooperation is growing rapidly with the China-Africa trade volume reaching 55.5 billion U.S. dollars in 2006, a nearly 40 percent increase year-on-year, higher than that of China's trade with any other continent," he noted.
Commenting on the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FCAC), which was initiated in October 2000, Wu said the forum has become an effective mechanism for collective dialogue and an important platform for promoting cooperation between China and Africa.
Wu, who is currently on a four-day official visit to Egypt, said he wanted to further implement the decisions announced by Chinese President Hu Jintao and African leaders at the FCAC Beijing summit last November.
Wu said that to strengthen business ties among companies should be the priority of China-Africa economic cooperation.
"Only with the active participation of the companies will China- Africa economic cooperation flourish," said Wu.
Wu made a three-point proposal in the hope of strengthening China-Africa economic cooperation.
First, China and African nations should focus on key areas of cooperation. "Africa needs to develop agriculture, infrastructure, energy and mineral resources, upgrade industry and train more professionals to speed up its development and improve the well- being of its people," said Wu.
Secondly, both sides should develop new models of cooperation. "Instead of focusing on trade alone, China-Africa business cooperation should be expanded to cover more areas, including investment, services, technology and project contracting," he said.
Thirdly, both sides should foster an enabling business environment. "We should make full use of current mechanisms, adopt new policies that facilitate trade and solve problems," said Wu.
For his part, Sorour said he was fully confident and optimistic over economic cooperation between China and Egypt, which became the first African and Arab nation to establish diplomatic ties with China in May 1956.
"By the year 2012, China will become the largest trade partner with Egypt," he said, adding that the two sides would firstly strive to increase bilateral trade volume to five billion dollars annually.
According to figures released by the Chinese Embassy in Egypt, the total trade volume between the two nations hit 3.2 billion dollars in 2006, up 48.8 percent compared with that of 2005.
Sorour said Egypt would continue its efforts to create a favorable investment climate in order to draw direct investment from other nations, including China.
"Egypt is also committed itself to be a gateway for China to enter African and Arab markets," he said.
Wei Jianguo said economic and trade relations between China and Africa was good as it has ever been, but there was still great potential needed to be tapped.
Following the opening ceremony, entrepreneurs from both China and African nations continued their discussions for possible investment and cooperation.
Egypt is the first leg of Wu Bangguo's three-nation tour to Africa and Europe, which will also take him to Hungary and Poland.