China spent a lot of 2015 trying to turn itself into a major player on the world stage. A big part of this was spending money and investing in less developed nations that need help building infrastructure to compete in the 21st century.
The continent of Africa was a main beneficiary of this policy as Sino-Africa relations took a giant leap forward over the past 12 months.
In 2015, China signed 245 new economic assistance agreements and exempted 156 items of debt from 31 African countries. It also signed medical aid agreements with 41 African countries.
The pacts are aimed at helping China access Africa’s raw materials, promoting exports of Chinese finished goods to African consumers, fostering good will and developing joint infrastructure projects that facilitate trade.
Sabelo Gatsheni-Ndlovu, Director of the Archie Mafeje Research Institute and a professor at the University of South Africa, told China’s state news agency Xinhua that the 2015 highlight of Sino-Africa relations was the Johannesburg Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in early December in South Africa. It was the first time that a FOCAC summit was held in Africa.
“China showed its commitment to be the main anchor of the African development with the pledges announced at the FOCAC Summit,” said Gatsheni-Ndlovu. “China also showed its commitment to helping the AU and Africa with infrastructural development. This sees China fulfilling its long term commitment to help Africa’s modernization, agriculture and industrialization.”
At the summit Chinese President Xi Jinping unveiled a $60 billion aid package for Africa to be spent over the next three years. The money will be used to help Africa modernize its agricultural production, boost the skills of its workers, build infrastructure and improve its health care.
“This summit has certainly taken the FOCAC partnership to its highest level ever,” said South African President Jacob Zuma at the end of the FOCAC Summit.
The China-Africa Joint Arbitration Centres (CAJAC) in China and South Africa were also established in 2015. As trade increases, between the two nations and disputes occur, the centers will be responsible for handling and solving trade complaints without resorting to the courts.
“China proved itself that it’s a dependable partner,” said Yazini April, a research specialist from Human Science Research Council of South Africa. “When China promises to do this and that this year, they do it. China is not the World Bank or the US, which tell you a lot stories and take time to deliver. China has deliverables which are tangible.”
Last year, China-Africa trade reached $220 billion with investments of $32.4 billion. This year, China-Africa trade is expected to hit $300 billion. Direct investment in the first half of 2015 reached $1.19 billion.