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The 12th Ambassador Lecture was held by the CAI

Writer:Guo Jia Date:10/18/2021

On September 14, 2021, the 12th Ambassador Lecture was held online and offline. The main venue of the lecture was set up at the China-Africa Institute (CAI). H.E. Ambassador Rahamtalla M. Osman, the Permanent Representative of the African Union to China, was invited to deliver a keynote speech entitled "The Synergy Between The Belt & Road Initiative And The African Union Agenda 2063". Li Xinfeng, Executive President of the CAI and Zhou Yunfan, Vice President of the CAI attended the lecture. Nearly 70 experts and scholars from the China-Africa Institute and related colleges and research institutions took part in the lecture on the spot and online as well. Wang Xiaoming, Vice President of the CAI presided over the lecture.

H.E. Ambassador Osman’s quoted H. E. President Xi Jinping’s description of China-Africa relations in 2013 as an opening," Africa-China relations have not grown to this stage overnight, nor are they gift from some third party. Rather, they have been nurtured and built, step by step, by our two sides over the years as we met challenges and faced difficulties together." H.E.Ambassador Osman believes that this statement had accurately described the foundation of the relations and it embodies a vision for its future prospects.

H.E.Ambassador Osman combed the background and history of the African Union and its "Agenda 2063". The basic idea is instilled in the Pan- Africanism discourse which advocates for the unity of the African people in and outside the continent. This ambitious aspiration was voiced by the late Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, the first president of Ghana after independence who called for a confederated African States. The first step to realize this vision was the creation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in Addis Ababa in 1963. The OAU since its inception was actively engaged in the liberation of the remaining colonized African countries namely the Portuguese colonies in South and West Africa and the emancipation from the Apartheid regime in South Africa. This period witnessed the prominent assistance extended by China to the liberation fronts which later resulted in their liberation from the colonial rule in the 1970s of the last century. The role of the OAU was not confined to politics but it also covered the socio-economic spheres in an attempt to foster and integrate the continent. To this effect it adopted many plans including inter-alia, the Lagos Plan of Action for the economic development of Africa (1980-2000), this plan was later replaced by the Abuja Plan of Action (1991). Both plans envisioned integration which should culminate in the Africa Economic Community (AEC). When the OAU was replaced by the African Union in 2002, the African leaders adopted an ambitious program entitled AU Agenda 2063 as a vehicle or locomotive for the Africa Integration and prosperity under the banner "The Africa we want."

Subsequently, Ambassador Osman introduced the seven Agenda 2063 Aspirations:

Aspiration 1: African prosperity based on inclusive growth and Sustainable Development

 Aspiration 2: An integrated continent, socio-politically united on the ideals of pan-Africanism and the African Renaissance.

Aspiration 3: Good governance, respect for human rights, justice, and the rule of law

Aspiration 4: Continental peace and security

Aspiration 5: Cultural renaissance and identity, common heritage, shared values, and ethics Aspiration

Aspiration 6: African-driven development, reliant on the potential of African people

Aspiration 7: Africa as a united and influential global player and partner

Functionally, Agenda 2063 lays out key objectives to be completed in a First Ten-Year Implementation Plan (FTYIP). Within the Ten-Year Plan, six specific continental frameworks have been developed. These areas of economic activity are considered vital in enabling AU member states to attain the SDGs.

I. Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Program (CAADP)

II. The Program for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA)

III. The African Mining Vision (AMV) 2009-2050

IV. Science Technology Innovation Strategy for Africa (STISA)

V. Boosting Intra-African Trade (BIAT)

VI. Accelerated Industrial Development for Africa (AIDA)

H.E.Ambassador Osman believes that both BRI and AU Agenda 2063 were launched in same year 2013. The objectives were to a large extent have a number of straight lines or paths which intersect each other. He believes that the implementation of the AU Agenda 2063 and BRI offers an opportunity for the direction of Chinese investment along appropriate, AU- determined, channels as set out in its Aspirations.

BRI makes concrete the desires of Chinese leaders for "peaceful coexistence with differences" and commitments for providing global public goods, peace, security, and sustainability. China has provided development cooperation since the 1950s when its per capita income was only one-third of Africa's. It has followed a revived Chinese value system of REN and YI which has rich meanings of several layers. One layer implies that "one wishing to be successful oneself seeks to help others to be successful; and one wishing to develop oneself seeks to help others to develop". Another layer implies that "one should not impose on others what oneself does not desire".

The BRI carries immense developmental potential for Africa in terms of industrialization, infrastructure, security as well as secondary outcomes such as intra-African people-to-people integration. For the beneficiation to take place, a concerted effort on the part of both Africa and China is needed in order to, firstly, be responsive to the demographic realities on the ground(so as to not, as was colonial infrastructure's tendency, pass over areas with demographic bulges which could be tapped), and, secondly, to respond to the already existent economic patterns (what may be called entrepreneurial infrastructure development).This will greatly be to Africa's advantage and would go a long way in ensuring that the projects, which are very much Chinese funded, are payable by Africa over time, so that it is mutually beneficial.

When talking about the importance of infrastructure, H.E. Ambassador Osman pointed out that the infrastructure loomed large due to its paramount importance to all sectors of the economy. Agenda 2063 emphasizes the need for Africa to develop world class infrastructure that crisscrosses the continent and which will improve connectivity through newer and bolder initiatives to link the continent by rail, road, sea, air and developing regional and continental power pools (Grand Inga Dam) as well as ICT.

H.E.Ambassador Osman pointed out China's advantages and problems in infrastructure investment in Africa. It is estimated that the implementation of the infrastructure projects of the AU Agenda up to 2040 will cost more than 360 billion US dollars. Given the current reality on the ground it would be impossible to attract private capital or even ODA from western countries because they are concentrating on short term returns. China is well known for agreeing to finance infrastructure projects in African countries and elsewhere. For example, research suggests that between 2010 and 2015, China financed US$13 billion in the African power sector accounting for at least 30% of new productive capacity. There are also numerous examples of African transport (rail, roads and ports) projects built with loans from China, as well as other smaller infrastructure projects built with Chinese loans or grants such as stadiums, hospitals, schools and museums. However, the process by which Chinese stakeholders are involved in PIDA is not particularly coordinated. For instance, due to different procurement processes in individual African countries, it means terms of engagement on these projects differs widely (e.g. use of local content/labor, interest rates, environmental requirements, etc.).

In the Q&A session, experts and scholars have discussed the following questions: the implementation of the "Cooperation Plan" between China and the AU on jointly promoting the BRI, the role the AU will play in it, and whether there are specific mechanisms and measures; the upcoming FOCAC; the role of the CAI in humanities exchanges and talent training; flagship projects such as the high-speed railway network in Africa; the impact of the COVID-19 on the China-Africa joint construction of the BRI and the realization of the "Agenda 2063" in Africa; The possibility of China's participation in trilateral cooperation in Africa; and China-Africa cooperation in emerging fields such as scientific and technological innovation, etc.

Finally, Wang Xiaoming pointed out in her concluding speech that the countries of the world are at different stages of development and have their own different histories and cultures, but the people of all countries share a common desire for peace and development. Agenda 2063 is Africas endogenous plan for structural transformation and a shared strategic framework for inclusive growth and sustainable development. And the ideas of the Belt and Road initiative have been verified by Chinas development and shared experience during its reform and opening up. It adheres to the principle of achieving shared growth through discussion and collaboration. So, as H.E. Ambassador Osman conveyed in his lecture that the synergy is crucial. Lets work closely together to aligning the Belt and Road Initiative and AU Agenda 2063 to strive for the peace and development for the people in China and African countries.

Copyright: China-Africa Institute