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China-Africa forum strengthens ties

Axios.com, Bill Bishops

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa (l) and Alibaba chairman Jack Ma (r) at Alibaba headquarters one day after the conclusion of 2018 FOCAC. Photo: VCG/VCG via Getty Images

 

Xi and his colleagues spent the last week feting the leaders from 53 of 54 African nations at the Forum of China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) summit.

What's happening: Xi promised another $60 billion in financing to Africa along with eight initiativesfor PRC-Africa cooperation. The $60 billion amount was the same as promised in 2015, but with changes to the composition, as Yun Sun wrote in Brookings Institution note:

[J]udging from the volume and composition of China’s 2018 FOCAC financial pledges to Africa, China’s commitment remains strong, but appears to be more cautious and calculating than its pledges from the past summit.

The concessional side of Chinese financing is being moderated, while China has grown visibly more focused on the commercial and viability aspects. From the traditional model of “resources for infrastructure,” China appears to be morphing toward the next stage: equity investment by a more diverse group of investors supported by state development finance.

Meanwhile, Africa still has major catch-up to do to attract more Chinese investment and to diversify its trade relations with China.

What we're hearing: South African President Cyril Ramaphosa spoke to reporters after the summit, telling them China's relationship with Africa has "now entered a golden age," according to Caixin. Per the report:

“There’s no new colonialism,” Ramaphosa told reporters on Tuesday, echoing Chinese President Xi Jinping, who said on the first day of the summit on Monday that China’s investment in Africa came with no political strings attached.

“We were all engaged in struggle against the colonialists from the Northern Hemisphere,” he said, referring to the long-standing relationship between South Africa’s ruling African National Congress party and the Communist Party of China.

Quick take: Much of Western media coverage about the summit has been critical, but we shouldn't forget that the African leaders have agency. Plus, there doesn't seem to be a better offer/plan for them coming from the West.

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