President Paul Kagame has described the existing relationship between China and Africa as one based on equality, mutual respect and “a commitment to a shared wellbeing.”
The Head of State was addressing leaders from across Africa and China at the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) summit that is underway in the Chinese capital, Beijing.
The forum, seventh of its kind, is a platform where all African countries and China meet periodically to see how to collectively strengthen ties with an aim of building a shared future.
“The relationship between Africa and China is based on equality, mutual respect, and a commitment to shared well-being. This was our starting point eighteen years ago, when the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation was established,” said President Kagame, who is also the Chairperson of the African Union.
According to the President, ever since the first forum, China’s actions have demonstrated that a stronger Africa is seen as an opportunity to invest in, rather than as a problem or a threat.
“China has continued to lead the way in showing what is lost in not engaging and partnering with Africa,” he said.
The President said that the Forum has grown into a powerful engine of cooperation, fully aligned with Africa’s Agenda 2063 and the Sustainable Development Goals.
Since its establishment 18 years ago, FOCAC has achieved a significant mark of China-Africa cooperation, with trade volume between China and Africa amounting to 170 billion U.S. dollars in 2017.
This represents a major increase from the just over 10 billion dollars in 2000, according to figures from Chinese Ministry of Commerce.
The summit was co-chaired by Chinese President Xi Jinping and his South African counterpart, Cyril Ramaphosa.
President Kagame said: “The expanded cooperation framework presented by President Xi fully reflects our common understanding of the future of our community”.
“We will intensify work on industry, ICTs, infrastructure, and trade. We will also open up new pathways of collaboration on environmental protection, healthcare, people-to-people exchange, and peace and security,” he added.
The Head of State said that Africa’s growing ties with China does not come at anyone’s expense, adding that the gains accruing from the ties are enjoyed by everyone who does business on the continent of Africa.
“It is also incumbent upon us to articulate our continent’s priorities clearly and consistently, with a focus on connectivity to global markets,” the President urged his fellow African leaders.
President Kagame also welcomed the mega infrastructure initiative that was launched by China last year.
“Africa’s wish is to be a full and integral part of the Belt and Road Initiative,” the President said.
The initiative seeks to build a network of infrastructure connecting China to Asia, Europe and Africa in the form of highways, bridges, sea ports and industrial parks among other projects.
“I am happy to inform you that the reformed African Union will serve as a more effective focal point, going forward.”
Besides being the Chair of the African Union, President Kagame was also tasked by fellow heads of state and government to champion reforms that are aimed at making the continent more efficient and which will lead to the prosperity of the African people.
Kagame also thanked the Chinese President for his personal engagement in the promotion of China-Africa ties, saying that since taking office, the latter has visited every region of the continent.
President Xi visited Rwanda in July this year as part of his latest African tour, which also saw him visit Senegal, South Africa and Mauritius.
During Xi’s visit, China and Rwanda signed 15 bilateral agreements covering a range of sectors including an agreement on mutual visa exemption for diplomatic and service passport holders, as well as agreements related to infrastructure development, civil air transport, e-commerce, culture and scientific cooperation, human capacity development, among others.