China's top diplomat has chosen four African countries to visit on his first trip abroad in the new year, a move that highlights the continent's importance in Beijing's diplomatic blueprint.
Foreign Minister Wang Yi begins his six-day tour of Ethiopia, Djibouti, Ghana and Senegal on Monday.
Wang will arrive in Ethiopia at a time when bilateral trade between China and Africa reached $172.83 billion between January and October in 2013.
Zhang Hongming, an African studies researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Africa, a major source of China's crude oil, rare metals and wood, has seen its status rise in China's development strategy.
"China is playing a constructive role in Africa's development, and the continent needs more investment and funding," Zhang said.
Every year, China provides training for 300 management personnel and technicians from Africa. China plans to provide $20 billion in loans for infrastructure construction.
He Wenping, an expert on African studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Wang's visit has dismissed widespread skepticism that "China now focuses on diplomacy with other major powers rather than those with developing nations".
"Beijing has sent the signal that the African continent is still a supporting pillar of China's diplomatic strategy and the African countries still share a great common ground when China has become the second-largest economy in the world," He said.
President Xi Jinping visited three African nations during his first trip abroad after assuming office last March.
Experts said security cooperation should be given priority as economic cooperation has gained unprecedented momentum.
"The turbulence in parts of the continent has placed Chinese investment there in risky hands ... the cooperation in military and defense fields should be in line with the fast-growing economic field," Zhang said.
Chinese enterprises completed construction contracts worth $40.83 billion in Africa in 2012, an increase of 45 percent from 2009, according to a white paper titled China-Africa Economic and Trade Cooperation, published by the Information Office of the State Council.
Security is now a weak link of China-Africa cooperation, and the Beijing summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation last year underscored "peace and security" as a new field of cooperation.
He Wenping said China and African countries should enhance their cooperation in sharing anti-terrorism information.
"The two sides have taken a major step forward, and China has started training peacekeeping staff for Africa and provided facilities and funding," He said.
Moreover, Sino-Africa cooperation has developed so fast that it greatly exceeded the expectation of both sides and followup measures in some areas lag behind, Zhang said.
"For example, some Chinese companies didn't fully perform their corporate social responsibility when making investments in Africa. Also, the laws and regulations in African countries are not sound enough and might risk some business interests," he added.