China, Africa seek common development through trade

14:21, May 20, 2011      

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The first Forum on African Studies in Hangzhou took place in Hangzhou, eastern China's Zhejiang Province from May 17 to May 18.

The forum's goal is to encourage more companies in Zhejiang and other parts of China to invest in Africa, especially in bilateral trade cooperation areas. There were several sessions about the actual situation and investment environment in Africa, which helped Chinese companies learn more about Africa and encouraged them to expand their businesses to the continent.

The Chinese Association of African Studies, the African Investments Federation and the website jointly organized the forum. The forum yielded gratifying results with the support of the Zhejiang Provincial Government and other related agencies. Ambassadors to China from the Arab League and many other African countries left Beijing to attend the forum. In addition, the attendees also included 26 officials from 12 French-speaking African countries who are studying development cooperation management. Chinese officials, scholars and entrepreneurs warmly welcomed them.

Economic and trade cooperation is the foundation and a driving force for the development of the China-Africa friendship. China established diplomatic ties with Egypt in 1956, marking a new epoch in the relations between China and Africa. However, the trade value of the two sides stood at only 12 million U.S. dollars.

The trade value between Africa and China topped 10 billion U.S. dollars in 2000 when the first Forum on China–Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) was held and climbed to 107 billion U.S. dollars in 2008, representing an average annual growth rate of 34 percent during the period.

The trade value between Africa and China reached 127 billion U.S. dollars in 2010, setting a new high. Furthermore, the trade value was up 33 percent in the first quarter of 2011 to 37 billion U.S. dollars. China has become Africa's largest trade partner and Africa has become a major overseas contract engineering and investment market for China.

As China-Africa economic and trade cooperation has entered into a rapid, comprehensive and stable development period, Chinese enterprises are continuously expanding their investments in Africa. More than 1,700 Chinese enterprises have invested in Africa.

Francois Xavier Ngarambe, Rwanda's ambassador to China, said that China is Africa's most reliable friend and its investments in Africa have provided the continent with a major development opportunity. He hopes that the robust development miracle in China can reoccur in Africa.

China has established economic and trade cooperation zones in Africa over recent years, providing more Chinese enterprises with investment opportunities in Africa. Wei Jianguo, head of the Chinese Research Society of African Affairs and former minister of commerce, said that Chinese President Hu Jintao promised on behalf of the Chinese government during the Beijing Summit at the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation held in November 2006 that China will build three to five overseas economic and trade cooperation zones over the following three years.

A total of six economic and trade cooperation zones have already been built or are being built in Africa in the last five years. The infrastructure investments in these economic and trade cooperation zones totaled 310 million U.S. dollars as of the end of March 2011 and enterprises in the zones had made investments exceeding 1 billion U.S. dollars.

Wei said that the construction of China-Africa economic and trade cooperation zones is of great and far-reaching significance because it is a major move for Chinese enterprises to "go abroad," particularly enter into Africa. These overseas economic and trade cooperation zones will provide Chinese enterprises with sound production and service bases and advance trade and investments between China and Africa.

At the current forum, representatives of six China-Africa economic and trade cooperation zones had dialogues with entrepreneurs from Beijing, Zhejiang Province, Shandong Province, Shanxi Province and Hainan Province, during which they introduced the predominant geographic location, the broad market space, the mature environment, the perfect supporting services, effective funding policies and low operating costs of these cooperation zones and hope to attract more Chinese enterprises to focus their attention on Africa through their own experiences.

Zhejiang Province, with a relatively developed economy and a relatively high degree of openness, has close economic and trade relations with African countries. Gong Zheng, vice governor of Zhejiang Province, said that the trade volume between Zhejiang Province and African countries stood at 13 billion U.S. dollars in 2010, and there are 324 African enterprises in Zhejiang Province. Ethiopian Airlines particularly opened the Addis Ababa-Hangzhou air route in order to meet the demand of personal exchanges.

In regards to the China-Africa economic and trade cooperation, Chen Yeshui, vice president of the Chinese Association of African Studies and chairman of the African Investments Federation, hopes to establish a bridge of communication and cooperation between China and Africa, especially between the capital of Zhejiang Province and African enterprises, and also hopes to promote the investment cooperation between Chinese enterprises ,such as enterprises in Zhejiang Province, and Africa through the trade and investment forum.

By People's Daily Online

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