African diplomats and officials commended the robust and diverse ties with China on Saturday, hoping for more cooperation as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) is inching towards effect.
Speaking to Xinhua at an African Day celebration here on Saturday, Ambassador of Cameroon and the Dean of African Group in Beijing Martin Mpana praised China-Africa relations and cooperation.
It touches “practically all conceivable spheres of development,” he said. “The footprints of Chinese projects are visible everywhere in Africa ... (including) infrastructural development in roads, highways, building construction, mining, and water and sanitation projects, among many others,” he said.
Mpana said the African people are striving for economic independence by building up a free trade area, after achieving political independence.
“A lot has to be done,” he said, noting that China’s investment, especially in infrastructure, helps interconnect the continent as roads, railways, airports and ports facilitate the flow of people as well as goods.
“We are relying on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI),” said Rahamtalla M. Osman, head of the African Union (AU) Mission to China, stressing that relations and cooperation with China achieve win-win outcomes.
Osman added that Africa’s integration and economic upgrading, which are one of the main issues and part of the African strategy, Agenda 2063 of the AU, will benefit the world economy, and will lead to more interaction with other economies.
He also admitted challenges in developing the free trade area, as well as in the economic development of the whole continent.
Therefore Africa “would like to benefit from the experience of China ... I’m already contacting with the Chinese authorities in order to invest in many grand projects in Africa.” Development and cooperation would be a priority for Africa, including building the free trade area as well as connectivity on the continent, said Osama Elmagdoub, Egyptian ambassador to China.
He said Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi raised these ideas at last year’s Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Beijing Summit, and the ideas were received very positively by China. “We are working on the details now to see what contract projects can be achieved,” he said.
Similarly, South Sudan’s Ambassador to China John Andruga Duku said Africa is in the process of achieving its economic independence and prosperity.
The continent had to “look for countries (for partnership) which have no colonial history (in Africa),” and it regards China as a supportive true friend, he added.However, obstacles exist, said Duku, referring to Africa’s infrastructure.
“We must have roads, we must have intercontinental roads, the roads which connect Africa, across the borders of member states,” he said.
Within the framework of the BRI and FOCAC, Duku called for doubling efforts to solidify China-Africa relations. “We see a future in the relations with China,” he said.
The AfCFTA, which will come into effect on May 30, will establish the world’s largest free trade zone by the number of countries, covering more than 1.2 billion people with a combined gross domestic product of 2.5 trillion U.S. dollars.