ZIPAR hosted a high level delegation from China led by former Chinese Ambassador to Rwanda H.E. Shu Zhan, flanked by the former Chinese Ambassador to Zambia H.E. Yang Youming on 19 March 2018.
The focus of the meeting was to track progress made in the implementation of the 6th FOCAC, 2015 Johannesburg Summit and provide proposals on measures that should be adopted to further promote China-Africa cooperation under the 7th FOCAC 2018 Beijing Summit in September 2018.
A second delegation from the China Centre for Contemporary World Studies (CCCWS) led by the Director of the think tank, Mr. Jin Xin, engaged ZIPAR on 1 August 2018 to further discussions on the 7th FOCAC Beijing Summit and also measures to enhance the China-Africa cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
During the 6th FOCAC Johannesburg summit in 2015, the President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping laid out a Ten-Point Action Plan, a proposal to lift the China-Africa relationship to a comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership, and therefore upgrade the engagement between China and Africa.
The programmes under the Ten-Point Action Plan were to focus on helping African countries break the three development bottlenecks of backward infrastructure, agricultural modernization and accelerate industriallisation. Since the Johannesburg Summit China’s partnership with Africa had emphasized investments in these three areas. As such the 7th FOCAC Beijing Summit would take stock of progress in the three areas and define new priorities for the three years ahead.
Commenting on the progress made, ZIPAR observed that there was no need to depart completely from the Ten-Point Plan but to enhance its implementation and quality. The priorities areas on industrialization, agriculture modernization and infrastructure were very much aligned with Pillar 1 of Zambia’s current Seventh National Development Plan (7NDP) 2017-2021 namely Economic Diversification and Job Creation. The remaining areas of cooperation also fitted in the other four Pillars of the 7NDP namely: Poverty and Vulnerability Reduction; Reducing Developmental Inequalities; Enhancing Human Development; and Creation of a conducive governance environment for a diversified and inclusive economy.
There was also need to promote more Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) rather than debt-financed investment due to shrinking borrowing space that existed in Zambia and across the Continent. On innovative ways in which China and African countries should carry out investment, financing and monetary cooperation, ZIPAR recommended the establishment of a common platform such as Sino-Africa stock exchange through which investment vehicles, companies and project operators could be listed and equity options offered.
To further cooperation on human resource development, ZIPAR advised that the current approach of FOCAC exchange initiative, which focused on Africa-to-China learning should be reviewed as it did little to help Chinese people to get familiar and comfortable to operate in African social, economic, political and legal spaces and systems. Given the near parity of the total populations in China and Africa, the exchanges could be set on one-to-one ratio. China-to-Africa learning would also help to resolve some of the challenges emanating from the cultural differences between China and Africa
ZIPAR further suggested to China to increase efforts to engage African countries including Zambia to participate in the next Belt and Road Forum (BRF) for International Cooperation as only Kenya, Ethiopia, Egypt and Tunisia were represented at the first forum in 2017.
China should state clearly how Africa as a whole, and Zambia in particular, fits into the Initiative. China’s labour intensive industries were losing their comparative advantages due to the rising cost of labour and Africa was an ideal partner to host China’s labour intensive industries. However, there were concerns that this did not significantly benefit Africa as experiences on the ground indicated that there was limited knowledge sharing and skills transfer.