I would like to express my sincere appreciation to our hosts, the Chinese People’s Institute of Foreign Affairs, for the wonderful organization of this Forum; and for the warm hospitality since landing in the great city of Beijing.
Strategic, Security and Military Cooperation
As part of mutual efforts to ensure peace, stability and development for the African continent, the China-Africa Defense and Security Forum was held in Beijing for 3 weeks until July 12th. This was an important component in the preparations for the launch of Strategic Security and Military Cooperation between China and Africa. The military cooperation plan is expected to be approved by the China-Africa FOCAC Summit due next September in Beijing,
Army Chiefs from 50 African nations discussed a major military roadmap aimed at coordinated response to the many interlinked challenges confronting the stability of the continent, with the goal of strengthening security, resilience and governance, conduct cross-border counter-terrorist operations, intelligence sharing, combined military training and joint operations, to further develop Africa’s response to crisis situations, as well as to protect Chinese investments on the continent. To garantee Africa’s peace and development, China and Africa need to continue to work together to stabilize the Great Lakes region, the Sahel region, Mali, Libya, South Sudan, and Somalia
Mutual visits by defense and military officials from China and Africa, play a significant role in deepening exchanges on new technologies, expanding joint trainings, intelligence sharing on security, on combating terrorism, illegal trafficking of humans, drugs and narcotics.
In this regard, Africa appreciates China’s continued support to the African Union, its regional economic communities and other African sub-regional institutions dealing with issues of peace and security in Africa, as well as China’s military assistance over the years, in supporting the African Peace and Security Architecture, including the “operationalization” of the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crisis, and the African Standby Force.
We note with satisfaction that, within the Belt and Road Initiative, Beijing is actively involved in more than 3,000 infrastructure projects with more than 225,000 Chinese workers building roads, railways and port networks across Africa, connecting them to major global sea routes, and areas such as the Gulf of Eden, the Red Sea and the Suez Canal, which are vital routes connecting Africa to Asia and Europe. Today, almost one million Chinese citizens live in Africa, while more than 200,000 Africans reside and work in China.
China, a major strategic global player
China, as a major strategic global player and a permanent member of the UN Security Council committed to peace, stability, progress and development should continue to act as a builder of world peace and contribute to global development, while upholding international law and order.
In this regard, Africa appreciates China’s active participation in UN peacekeeping missions on the continent, offering support in peacekeeping training, coordination with Africa in the UN Security Council on conflict prevention, crisis management, and post-conflict stabilization. China deployed 2,400 soldiers under the UN in South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mali. Its navy also deployed in Djibouti where it opened its first overseas base.
Furthermore, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, from 2013 to 2017, China’s arms exports to Africa rose by 55% from the previous five-year period, reaching 17% of Africa’s overall arms imports, thus enabling African governments to better equip their troops in maintaining stability.
On the peace and security pillar, Africans believe that there is a need to strengthen the security cooperation by establishing a strategic dialogue between the African Union Chairmanship and China. Also, through FOCAC, China might further align its development cooperation with Africa with the continent’s priorities. This could include reinforcing national and regional capacities to tackle emerging challenges to peace and security such as organized crime through strengthening border control capacities.
Africa combating terrorism:
Today, the international community faces multiple security problems such as terrorism, extremism, cybercrime and other non-traditional security threats by non-state actors. There is general agreement that uprooting the danger of terrorism requires a comprehensive approach in order to eliminate all terrorist organizations without distinction by standing up firmly to all aspects of the phenomenon of terrorism including financing, arming, training, and providing shelter, as well as political and ideological support.
Equal to a terrorist are those behind the training, arming, financing, providing safe havens and medical treatment for the injured, those and supplying them with logistics, and recruiting new terrorists. We must ensure that terrorism does not pose any threat anywhere along the BRI, mainly to China and Africa’s strategic projects of the BRI, the development of the Suez Canal Economic Zone, African ports, and industrial facilities. Together Africa and China must guarantee secure and sustainable international trade of goods, and energy security.
In this context, the G-5 Sahel, which is a cross-border joint force established by the five States of the Sahel (Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Chad) has been endorsed by the African Union and recognized by the UN Security Council by resolution 2359 (2017), with the mandate of combating terrorism, transnational organized crime and human trafficking in the Sahel area. Africa and China’s joint efforts should result in the eradication of terrorist groups, from Boko Haram to Daesh, and from Muslim Brothers to Shabaab, thus cleaning the continent from extremism, fanatism, and obscurantism.
Institutional reforms of the African Union
Regarding the AU financing and financing of Africa-led peace operations authorized by the Security Council, within the context of the assumption by Africa of a greater responsibility in terms of financing its peace operations, it is worth mentioning that the AU Assembly decided in June 2015 that Member States should strive to achieve 100% of the operational budget, 75% of the program budget and 25% for the peace support operations budget.
In January 2016, the African Heads of State agreed to provide 25% of the AU’s peace and security activities by 2020, with the remainder coming from the UN. So far, 21 Member States began implementing the 0.2% import levy, and 12 among them have already collected funds though this mechanism. Today, $30 million of the $65 million annual budget has been deposited to the AU Peace Fund.
On the financing of AU there is also an ongoing discussion on the institutional reform of the organization. The process includes reforming the Peace and Security Council, the African Court on Human and People’s Rights, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights, the Pan African Parliament, the African peer Review Mechanism and the Advisory Board on Corruption.
On the other hand African leaders decided to work harder on issues like women empowerment (2015), human rights, particularly the rights of women (2016), empowering youth and harnessing the demographic dividend (2017), winning the fight against corruption (2018), and the theme for 2019 under Egypt’s Chairmanship: “Year of Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons in Africa: Towards Durable Solutions to Forced Displacement”
Partnership between the United Nations & African Union:
The outcomes of the reviews of the UN peace operations and the UN peace-building architecture underscored the importance of promoting closer cooperation between the UN and regional organizations, particularly the African Union. The partnership between the two organizations represents an exemplary model of cooperation between the UN and regional arrangements in line with Chapter 8 of the UN Charter. This partnership received was reinforced in April 2017 with the signing of the UN-AU Joint Framework for Enhanced Partnership in Peace and Security, which was followed by the signing of the UN-AU Joint Framework on the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the AU’s Agenda 2063 in January 2018. The African Peace and Security Council and the United Nations Security Council will hold their 12th consultative meeting in New York on 19th July to discuss thematic and conflict situations pertaining to peace and security of the continent.
Support by Africa’s development partners, including through the China-Africa Forum (FOCAC) to African initiatives, particularly the AU initiative on “Silencing the Guns by 2020” is extremely important. There is a need to provide capacity building support, finance, and technology transfer to assist economic growth. It is also imperative to enhance international cooperation in curbing illicit financial flows from Africa so as to allow the continent to make full use of resources critically needed to finance development priorities.
Africa and China: Partners in Development
The African Union’s Agenda 2063, launched in 2013 is an ambitious 50-year vision – developed by African strategists – aspiring to achieve an integrated and prosperous Africa, guided by five-10 year plans, with the main focus on inclusive green growth and sustainable development, political and economic integration, good governance, peace and security, and building global partnerships.
Just recently, the leaders of Africa launched the African Continental Free Trade Area, (AfCFTA) a flagship project of Agenda 2063, and the most ambitious integration initiative aiming at eradicating poverty from Africa. AfCFTA was preceded by the adoption of the Single Market on Air Transport in Africa, the Protocol on Free Movement of Persons, and the African Passport, along with major regional and continental infrastructure projects in which China is an essential player. At a time when others build new border walls and trade barriers, Africa is tearing them down to make the continent the largest free trade area created since the establishment of the WTO, thus becoming a vital partner of BRI.
These encouraging news from Africa need to be welcomed, as they aim at stabilizing our continent by creating a single continental market for goods and services, promoting infrastructure development, reducing custom duties among African nations, easing travel restrictions for investors and professionals in strategic sectors such as energy, financial services, ICT, health, education, and agriculture.
In this regard, Africa appreciates that the implementation of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals figures among China’s priorities; and was adequately reflected in the substantive outcomes of the G20 Hangzhou Summit where a major milestone was revealed, namely the Initiative Supporting Industrialization in Africa and LDCs. This initiative added significance to the BRI due to its explicit focus on supporting important sectors for Africa’s development including agro-industry; broadening production bases; investing in clean energy; developing resilient infrastructure; leveraging domestic and international finance; and promoting science, technology and innovation, thus setting in motion the far-reaching potential to achieve the SDGs over the next 15 years, ensuring healthy lives, inclusive education, achieving gender equality and women empowerment all of which are of critical importance to the overarching goal of eradicating poverty and hunger from Africa.
Genuine and effective sustainable development is essential in providing Africa with appropriate facilities to foster development. No developing or least developed country would succeed without effective public and private partnerships from the developed world and international financial institutions, including the Asian Infrastructure Bank in which China is playing a pivotal role as the largest shareholder. These partnerships should focus on unleashing the enormous potentials of peoples, resources and comparative advantages, through substantial investments and finance for green development which promote entrepreneurship, human and technological capacity, and sustainable growth. China’s energy agency decision to spend more than $360bn on renewable energy sources such as solar and wind by 2020 is a welcome initiative.
Africa commends China for defining the characteristics of its international development model or what some refer to as the Beijing Consensus which includes investment-led rather than foreign-aid based development; resource for infrastructure swaps instead of aid and a vital focus on technology transfer, investments in human resource development, and capacity building projects in order to ensure the sustainability of green development projects. Availing sustainable affordable quality infrastructure for all is an African priority essential for the success of the Belt and Road Initiative. Empowering Africa’s private sector, including SME’s, to maximize finance for development should be geared to effectively contribute towards achieving not only a sustainable climate-friendly growth, but also an inclusive one, thereby harnessing BRI as a catalyst for reducing inequality and advancing shared prosperity.
[i]by Ambassador Hisham El-Zimaity, Former Assistant Foreign Minister for International Organizations & Multilateral Diplomacy; Board Member and Secretary General, Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs, Cairo.
(*) The views expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily reflect those of the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs (ECFA).