Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s tour of four African countries continues the 34-year tradition of prioritizing Africa for the first overseas visits by Chinese foreign ministers annually.
The purpose of Wang’s visit is to implement follow-ups of the China-Africa Leaders’ Dialogue held last year in Johannesburg, South Africa. China, at the dialogue, made three proposals to support Africa’s industrialization, agricultural modernization, and talent development, which were well received by Africa.
During the visit, Wang, also a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, moreover sought to compare notes with the African side on the 2024 Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), continue the traditional China-Africa friendship, and consolidate the momentum of China-Africa solidarity and cooperation.
As the world’s largest developing country and home to many developing nations, China and Africa, driven by a spirit of friendship and cooperation, are joining forces to advance their respective modernization paths, building an increasingly close-knit China-Africa community with a shared future.
Boarding an Ibadan-bound train at the iconic Mobolaji Johnson Station in Lagos, Nigeria’s economic hub and most populous city, a family of six took their seats in a corner of a second-class coach, their laughter filling the air; they were clearly in happy anticipation of a holiday.
“I really enjoyed the trip,” Adeniyi Salaudeen, one of the family members, told Xinhua in an interview as the train’s whistle blew, signaling the commencement of the journey to Ibadan, a city in southwestern Nigeria.
With the world’s youngest and fastest-growing population, Africa is emerging as an attractive market for investment. Yet, insufficient infrastructure in fields such as transportation, energy, and communications technology hampers industrialization, limiting economic development and regional integration on the continent.
In 2021, the Lagos-Ibadan Railway, a major project under the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) which links the southwestern cities of Lagos, Abeokuta, and Ibadan, officially started full commercial operation to facilitate public transportation and fuel goods movement in the country.
Michael Egbo, an Abeokuta-based businessman, expressed his delight at the convenience and safety of using the train, saying this would promote tourism and trade.
The Chinese-built railway is a prime example of China-Africa cooperation in infrastructure. Statistics showed that since the FOCAC was founded, Chinese companies have built or upgraded more than 10,000 km of railways, nearly 100,000 km of roads, roughly 1,000 bridges and 100 ports in African countries. They have also helped build an installed power-generating capacity of 120 million kW, a communications backbone network of 150,000 km and a network service covering nearly 700 million user terminals.
Built and operated by Chinese companies, the Eastern Industrial Zone (EIZ), located 40 km southeast of Addis Ababa, currently houses 149 enterprises in sectors like construction, textiles, garment manufacturing, automobile assembly, metal processing, and the food industry.
“Chinese companies have proved to be reliable partners to Ethiopia in its move toward industrialization,” said Awel Hassen, administrator of Dukem Town, where the EIZ is located.
African countries are benefiting from China’s move to promote industrial advancement, said Paul Frimpong, executive director of the Africa-China Center for Policy and Advisory, a Ghana-based think tank.
“Infrastructure projects under the BRI across Africa have significantly helped propel the industrialization of the continent, which would lead to the achievement of Agenda 2063 to transform Africa into a major player in the global economy,” said the expert.
Inside the China-Aid Agriculture Technology Demonstration Center in the Republic of the Congo, machines are automatically cleaning, peeling, slicing, and grinding cassava, an important staple food in Africa, turning the starchy tubers into flour.
In the central African country, cassava crops were traditionally peeled by hand, soaked in water, and then dried and ground — a process taking several days. However, a cassava flour production line introduced from China last year has been established at the center, situated in the suburb of the Congolese capital of Brazzaville, with the capacity to produce 4,000 tons of high-quality flour annually.
“Now we no longer worry about not being able to dry cassavas when it rains. The production is done automatically under the roof,” said Paul Valentin Ngobo, Congolese minister of agriculture, livestock, and fisheries.
Meanwhile, Juncao technology, developed by China’s Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University, allows farmers in many African countries to grow mushrooms from dried grasses without cutting down trees. This eco-friendly approach fosters a low-cost, commercial-scale mushroom cultivation industry.
Ramiz Alakbarov, the UN resident and humanitarian coordinator in Ethiopia, praised the technology, saying it “offers a much-needed potential for African farmers to improve their food security while creating income opportunities to improve their livelihoods.”
Food security is a fundamental global concern. According to the 2023 edition of the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report issued by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Africa remains the worst-affected region, with one in five people facing hunger, more than twice the global average.
Over the past decade, China has set up 24 agricultural technology demonstration centers in Africa and popularized more than 300 advanced agricultural technologies, which have increased local crop yields by an average of 30 to 60 percent, benefiting more than 1 million farmers in African countries, said Tang Renjian, China’s minister of agriculture and rural affairs.
China’s plan for modernizing Africa’s agriculture seeks tangible and mutually beneficial outcomes as opposed to abstract theories, said Richard Mulwa, deputy vice-chancellor of Kenya’s Egerton University. “The benefits will trickle down to farmers,” he said.
Talent shortage, especially in technology, hampers economic growth. The African Development Bank has projected 4 million new tech jobs by 2025 in Africa, but only half can be filled due to the scarcity of skilled professionals.
China’s multifaceted support to Africa, including initiatives like the Luban Workshop, contributes to capacity-building and knowledge transfer in China-African cooperation.
In Rwanda, a Luban Workshop, a collaboration project between China’s Jinhua Polytechnic and Rwanda’s Integrated Polytechnic Regional College Musanze, trains students in skills such as telecommunications, smart manufacturing, electrical automation, and e-commerce. In April 2021, the professional teaching standards of e-commerce developed by Jinhua Polytechnic were formally incorporated into Rwanda’s Educational Qualifications Framework.
Since establishing the first Luban Workshop in Africa in 2019, China has set up a dozen such workshops continent-wide, attracting a growing number of young Africans seeking skill enhancement for employment and development.
On Jan. 12, Angolan President Joao Lourenco cut the ribbon to inaugurate a professional training center donated by the Chinese government in the city of Huambo in the central province of Huambo.
Covering an area of more than 20,000 square meters, the Integrated Center for Technological Training project includes 30 laboratories and six workshops for robotics, machining, computer science, and automotive repair, among others. The center will train 2,400 students per year in its first phase.
Cooperation with China in the area of talent development is effective and stable, Angolan Secretary of State for Labor and Social Security Pedro Filipe told Xinhua in an interview, saying Angola has also established cooperative projects with several Chinese companies, providing internship and training opportunities for young Angolans.
“Over the past 10 to 15 years, China has proven to be an important economic and political partner of Angola, and the partnership has yielded fruits in various fields, with vocational training and employment being prioritized in recent years,” said the official.
Sydney Mwamba, executive director of the Policy Monitoring and Research Center, a think tank in Zambia, stressed the importance of talent development.
“It is gratifying that China is willing to train African human resources in various sectors … which will not only reduce levels of illiteracy but enhance the skills of local people to contribute to economic development,” said Mwamba.