4th ministerial conference of FOCAC begins in Egypt to deepen China-Africa cooperation

November 8, 2009 10:53 pm 

by Muhammad Yamany, Zhang Lin

SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Egypt, Nov. 9 — The Fourth Ministerial Conference of the China-Africa Cooperation Forum ( FOCAC) opened in the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh on Sunday.

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and African heads of state or government attended the opening ceremony of the two-day conference, with the theme of "deepening the new type of China-Africa strategic partnership for sustainable development."

Mubarak, who chaired the opening ceremony, said in a speech that FOCAC is to establish a new stage of relations between China and Africa and a partnership that Africa and China are looking forward to for peace, security and development.

Egypt, which was the first African country to recognize the People's Republic of China more than half a century ago, supports the one-China policy and also supports FOCAC from the first day of its establishment, said Mubarak.

This reflects the solid relations between the peoples of Africa and China throughout the history and is an effective model of fruitful South-South cooperation, he added.

Mubarak urged efforts to deepen cooperation and sustainable development through FOCAC, calling for promoting cooperation between China and Africa on the bilateral and continental levels to support the African efforts to achieve peace and security as the main pillars of comprehensive development.

The Chinese premier announced eight new measures the Chinese government will take to strengthen China-Africa cooperation in the next three years in his speech.

"Chinese people cherish the sincere friendship towards the African people, and China's support for Africa's development is concrete and real," said the premier.

"Whatever change may take place in the world, our policy of supporting Africa's economic and social development will not change," Wen said.

According to the eight new measures, China will help Africa build up financing capacity, and will provide 10 billion U.S. dollars in concessional loans to African countries and support Chinese financial institutions in setting up a special loan of 1 billion dollars for small- and medium-sized African businesses.

For the heavily indebted countries and least developed countries in Africa having diplomatic relations with China, China would cancel their debts associated with interest-free government loans due to mature by the end of 2009, said Wen.

The measures are also committed to building clean energy projects in Africa, carrying out joint scientific and technological demonstration projects with Africa, training agricultural technology personnel for Africa and offering assistance on medical care, health, human resources development and education.

The eight new measures, which succeeded eight measures put forward by Chinese President Hu Jintao at the landmark Beijing Summit of FOCAC in 2006, stressed more on improving the African people's living standard, Wen said at a press conference after the opening ceremony.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir expressed his gratitude towards the Chinese government for its sincere efforts to develop its relations with African countries over the past years and to boost development in Africa.

He said China has fulfilled its commitments made at the 2006 Beijing Summit to assist Africa in the fields of energy, roads and infrastructure, as well as in the critical area of fighting against serious diseases.

Al-Bashir said great achievements have been accomplished by China and Africa under a strategic partnership within the framework of FOCAC, adding that more hard work and commitments are required to carry out the strategic plans, especially in the areas of agriculture, food security and infrastructure.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe praised the "strategic cooperation" between China and Africa, saying it represented the culmination of the friendship between the two sides.

According to Mugabe, a number of countries in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa region have achieved significant progress in their trade exchanges with China, mainly due to the Chinese measures to increase the number of exported items receiving duty-free entry into their markets.

Central African Republic President Francois Bozize said both China and Africa faced great challenges, including natural disasters and climate changes, so both sides should continue working together to deepen their friendship in all fields.

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi presented to the conference a report on the implementation of the outcomes of the Beijing Summit.

The main agenda of the conference is to review the implementation of the follow-up activities of the FOCAC Beijing Summit and the third ministerial conference and explore new initiatives and measures on Sino-African cooperation in priority areas such as human resources development, agriculture, infrastructure development, investment and trade.

The FOCAC, a collective consultation and dialogue mechanism between China and African countries launched in 2000, is the first of its kind in the history of Sino-African relationship.

It is a major and future-oriented move taken by both sides in the context of South-South cooperation to seek common development in the new situation.

The previous three ministerial conferences were held in Beijing, Addis Ababa and Beijing respectively. (PNA/Xinhua)

ALM/ebp

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