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Beijing and Paris should intensify African cooperation

By  Li Xiang in Paris and Qin Zhongwei in Beijing  (China Daily)

13:09, March 30, 2013

China and France should intensify cooperation under a strategic partnership to promote development in Africa, a senior French politician said.

Jean-Marie Le Guen, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the French National Assembly, said the roles of China and France in Africa should be complementary. Stronger cooperation will benefit the region's economic and social development, he said.

"It will be mutually beneficial if China and France can work together... and combine their approaches," Le Guen told China Daily. "China and France should have a strategic partnership in the region."

Cooperation between French and Chinese enterprises is increasing in various sectors in Africa, including infrastructure, logistics, science, health and education, Le Guen said.

France, which has historic links with Africa through colonization and which continues to exert influence over the continent, has been paying close attention to China's growing presence in recent years.

"We know that China has increased investment in Africa, but we think it is a good thing because Africa needs to improve its economy and social development," Le Guen said.

Africa, with an economic growth rate of 5 percent, has become China's fourth-largest investment destination. The total value of China's direct investment in Africa reached $15.3 billion as of April 2012. Bilateral trade jumped to $200 billion in 2012 from $10 billion in 2000.

While France may remain cautious about China's economic presence in Africa, the country may seek political support and closer cooperation with Beijing on key issues in the region, such as its ongoing action in Mali, experts said.

Chinese media recently quoted a French diplomat in Beijing as saying that France hopes China can participate in the international support group meeting on Mali, scheduled to be held in Brussels in April.

Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs Zhai Jun said earlier that China does not exclude partnerships in cooperation with Africa.

"China and France enjoy satisfying dialogue on the issue and the prospects for Sino-French cooperation to promote development in Africa are good," he said.

China is open to international cooperation in Africa, and cooperation between China and Africa does not exclude other developing countries or developed ones from becoming involved, said Yao Guimei, an expert on China-Africa economic cooperation at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

But any international cooperation should have Africa's consent and be done in the continent's interest, said Yao, pointing to transportation, infrastructure, and agriculture as potential areas for such cooperation.

Since China is a latecomer to Africa, the West is concerned that China's arrival will hamper its interests. However, these worries cannot be eliminated by accusations, Yao said.

"The West cannot always accuse China. Instead it should learn more about the real situation involving China's investment in Africa and its policies," she said.

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