China and Africa: dancing together towards the future

Fresh from the vibrant closing of the third Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, a lively mix of representatives from numerous African nations joined the celebration. Despite the vast oceans and towering mountains that separate them, China and Africa are grooving closer, creating a rhythm that resonates deeply with many Chinese who lovingly dub their African friends as “brothers.”

In the economic arena, the dance of cooperation between China and Africa is hitting all the right moves. Chinese investments in Africa span the stages of infrastructure development, mining, agriculture, and manufacturing, setting the dance floor ablaze with new job opportunities. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic’s curveball, China’s direct investment in Africa surged from $42.3 billion in 2020 to an impressive $49.9 billion in 2021, a sizzling 18% year-on-year increase. China continues to twirl as Africa’s top trading partner for a dazzling 14-year streak. The 2018 China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo brought a fresh beat to Sino-African trade, with the total trade volume reaching a crescendo of $282 billion in 2022. China’s exports to Africa hit a high note at $164.49 billion, while imports from Africa struck a harmonious chord at $117.51 billion.

The cultural and educational duet between China and Africa is gaining momentum. Chinese universities are hosting language courses in English, French, Arabic, Spanish, and Portuguese, shaking up the dance floor with a mix of diverse tongues covering the official languages of most African countries. More Chinese scholars are spinning their research towards Africa, introducing Chinese enthusiasts to the rich history, culture, politics, philosophy, literature, and art of the continent. The Confucius Institutes popping up in African nations are like dance instructors, encouraging African youth to learn the graceful moves of the Chinese language and even encouraging them to join the dance in China.

One standout performance in this collaborative dance is the increasingly vital healthcare duet in China-Africa relations. During the COVID-19 pandemic, China and Africa struck a harmonious chord in facing health risks together. In malaria prevention, they waltzed through successful collaborations: Chinese medical experts joined forces with teams from health departments and disease control centres in São Tomé and Príncipe, dancing through the steps of the “China Anti-Malaria Plan,” a coordinated effort focused on mass medication in specific regions. The result is a dazzling showcase, with the free Village of São Tomé achieving an eight-month streak without a single case and a pilot village near the capital reducing the annual malaria incidence from 60% to a mere 3%.

Despite a few clumsy moves targeting Chinese individuals in Africa, these criminal missteps that attempt to break the rhythm of friendship should be met with collective condemnation and swift punishment. However, the dance floor of connection between China and Africa remains resilient, unaffected by the changing tempo of the international scene or the occasional offbeat in their cooperation. Both China and Africa are two partners with a shared desire to dance towards development, and their people dream of a lively and harmonious life together. In 2013, the African Union started the “Agenda 2063,” and in the same year, China introduced the Belt and Road Initiative. As Professor Antoine Roger LOKONGO, a China expert in the Democratic Republic of Congo, aptly stated, “Ten years after the proposal of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, it has injected new vitality into Africa.” Let’s hope for more upbeat tunes in the future, with China lending its enthusiastic support to Africa on issues like debt resolution, poverty reduction, environmental protection, biodiversity, and climate change. The dance continues, and the rhythm only gets stronger.

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