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Eighth Ministerial Meeting of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation “FOCAC”

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The conditions of convening (the Eighth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation “FOCAC”) on November 29-30, 2021, in the Senegalese capital, “Dakar”, reflect the challenges faced by the two parties after the spread of the conditions of the Corona pandemic “Covid-19”. We find here that the “Forum on China-Africa Cooperation “FOCAC” has inaugurated on October 2000 in a move that is in line with the requirements of the times, and reflects the common desire of the Chinese and African peoples to achieve peace, development and cooperation under the new circumstances. Over the course of more than 21 years, since the establishment of this forum, the cooperation mechanism between the Chinese and African parties has continuously developed, and made important achievements. This eighth ministerial meeting is held to review all opportunities for China-Africa cooperation, to open new horizons for the China-Africa strategic partnership and to emphasize the establishment of the (China-Africa Free Trade Area). The two sides will have to work out a future plan for cooperation between them in the next stage, to lay solid foundations for a new and greater development of China-Africa relations post (Covid-19) pandemic.

   So, the Egyptian researcher can identify the main objectives for helding the the (Eighth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation “FOCAC”) on November 29-30, 2021, and the main agenda, planning and pledges for the benefits of the African continent and its people, as follows:

First: Agenda of the Eighth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC)

   Therefore, the most prominent points on the agenda are the fruitful cooperation and continuous support between the countries of the African continent and China. China is the largest developing country in the world, while Africa is the continent with the largest number of developing countries.  Hence, we find that the most prominent areas of current cooperation between the Chinese and African sides, are:

 1- Strengthen strategic alignment and political coordination and advance China-Africa cooperation in building the “Belt and Road”.

 2- Linking the “Belt and Road Initiative to the African Union Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development of the United Nations” closely with all development strategies of African countries.

 3- Giving priority to the implementation of (the eight goals of China-Africa cooperation), which are:

(industrial development, enterprise connectivity, trade facilitation and green development, capacity building, health, public communication, and peace and security)

  This will surely increase the opportunities and impetus for China-Africa cooperation.

 4- Focusing on deepening the Sino-African partnership (as an important part of South-South cooperation), and these relations bring opportunities for Africa to add a new dynamism to the global economy.

 5- The China-Africa Cooperation Forum plays a greater role in (fighting poverty – raising Africa’s capacity for self-development – developing the green economy – enhancing human communication between the two parties).

 6- The African Union, with the support of the United Nations, works resolutely for cooperation between China and Africa, and makes joint efforts with both sides to achieve (permanent peace, development and prosperity in the world, especially the developing countries).

 7- The Chinese and African sides unanimously agree on (cooperation, win-win and common development), with the Chinese side continuing to adhere to the concept of transparency, justice and mutual benefit, and working with the African side to enhance mutual trust between China and Africa, thus pushing the relations of partnership and comprehensive strategic cooperation between China and Africa to progress in a more depth and effectiveness way, with steady and continuous steps.

    In this way, it can be considered that China-Africa cooperation as a model of international partnership is part of international cooperation with Africa, which adheres to the criteria of (mutual benefit and win-win, openness and inclusiveness, learning from each other, employing the advantages of each and uniting efforts, jointly contributing to peace and development in Africa). Therefore, the Chinese strategy is based on respecting the sovereignty of African countries, listening to their views, paying attention to their positions, and fulfilling promises towards them.

 Second: The most prominent areas of China-Africa cooperation Forum within the framework of the “FOCAC”

   There are many areas of cooperation between China and the countries of the African continent within the framework of joint efforts with the “Forum on China-Africa Cooperation” FOCAC, and the most prominent areas of China-Africa cooperation, are:

First: Expanding cooperation in (investment and financing fields to help Africa achieve sustainable development). In this context, China pledged to provide $60 billion in loans to African countries to develop the infrastructure, agriculture, manufacturing, and small and medium-sized businesses sectors in Africa.

Second: Continuing to increase aid to Africa, including humanitarian and medical aid, after (Covid-19), so that the African peoples benefit from the fruits of development.  Hence, China will work to (increase the number of model centers for agricultural technology in Africa, train 30,000 Africans) in various specialties, provide thousands of government scholarships, and send 1,500 doctors from its medical missions to help eradicate epidemics and combat endemic diseases, viruses, Ebola and the coronavirus, as well as helping African countries build meteorological infrastructure and protect and manage forests.

Third: Supporting the African integration process to help the continent raise its development capacity.  In this context, China has established with Africa (Partnership Relations and Cooperation in the Implementation of Cross-Border and Regional Infrastructure Projects).

Fourth: Consolidating the friendship between the Chinese people and the African peoples to lay solid popular foundations for the common Sino-African development, by inviting China to launch the “Chinese-African People’s Friendship Campaign”, establish the “China-Africa Media Exchange Center” in China, and continue to implement the “Sino-African Joint Research Programme”.

Fifth: Strengthening peace and stability in Africa to create a secure environment for development in Africa.  This is through China’s launch of the “China-Africa Partnership and Cooperation Initiative to Strengthen Peace and Security”, and the Chinese government’s training of more African Union officials in (the field of peace and security affairs, conflict avoidance, development and peacekeeping).

     Accordingly, we can arrive at an important analysis, which is that the launch of the Sino-African development initiatives for cooperation within the framework of the “FOCAC Forum on China-Africa Cooperation” comes within the framework of the strategy of “South-South” cooperation efforts, as an exemplary cooperation between the Sino-African parties, especially with (the prominent role of Chinese banks and companies in financing and building power stations, railways, highways and ports, as well as communications infrastructure, fiber-optic cables and smart cities in African countries), and if these Chinese initiatives continue to implement their goals, China will be able to stimulate global and then African economic growth  China will meet the needs of developing countries for the long term.

Third: Evaluating the model and experience of the Ministerial Meeting and Sino-African Cooperation “FOCAC”

   By evaluating the model of China-Africa ministerial cooperation, the leaders of the Chinese and African sides have reached important consensus on all important issues with their unified voices. Therefore, the previous summits and ministerial meetings between China and the African Union were crowned with complete success and bore abundant fruits, and recorded a new historical page for Chinese-African relations, and formed (a new modern milestone for the model of South-South cooperation).  Among the most important messages, achievements and experience gained from previous ministerial meetings and summits between China and Africa,  as follows:

 1) We find the interest of the leaders of the Chinese and African sides to hold intense bilateral meetings or reciprocal meetings and visits, with the keenness of a number of leaders of African countries and governments to visit China (to exchange views in depth on bilateral relations and issues of common interest, especially those related to trade issues and joint investments between the two parties).

  2) Although more than 21 years have passed since the establishment of the China-Africa Cooperation Forum, it came in line with the trend of the times and developed with the progress of China-Africa cooperation, and it has become more mature and complete with the passage of time, and it has become (a landmark for international cooperation with Africa and a model for South-South cooperation).  .

 3) Here, the “Eighth Ministerial Meeting of Africa and China” aims to strengthen the comprehensive strategic partnership and cooperation relations between China and Africa from a new historical perspective, and open a new historical path for it, with joint efforts made to activate and strengthen the (China-Africa Cooperation Forum), and for (implementation of the outcomes of the summit of the previous “FOCAC” to support cooperation with Beijing in a comprehensive and effective manner, bringing (tangible benefits to the peoples of the Chinese and African sides).

 4) When we evaluate the most important measures taken by the Chinese government in the eighth ministerial meeting, in addition to the previous meetings that brought China together with African leaders and at the level of ministerial meetings, we find that they are represented in (five priority areas for China and Africa), revolving mainly around: strengthening peace and development in Africa, and pushing forward the China-Africa strategic partnership to new forms for the new era.

  What is remarkable about this in most of the previous ministerial meetings and summits between China and the countries of the African continent, is the great Chinese interest in the development of African human resources, and the great Chinese welcome to receive African delegations, most of whose members are young people to be trained in various fields, and it has (exceeded the total number of Africans who received trainings in China to almost 5,000 students, compared to just dozens of students before the establishment of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation).

   If trade is one of the most important indicators of the development and strength of the relationship between the Chinese and African sides, the growth of the volume of trade exchange between the Chinese and African sides is a testament to the great boost witnessed by Chinese-African relations in recent years.

Associate Professor of Political Science, Faculty of Politics and Economics / Beni Suef University- Egypt. An Expert in Chinese Politics, Sino-Israeli relationships, and Asian affairs- Visiting Senior Researcher at the Centre for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES)/ Lund University, Sweden- Director of the South and East Asia Studies Unit

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Africa

West Africa: Extreme poverty rises nearly 3 per cent due to COVID-19

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Food insecurity is affecting millions of people in Burkina Faso. © UNICEF/Vincent Treameau

Extreme poverty in West Africa rose by nearly three per cent in 2020, another fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, a UN-backed report launched on Thursday that looks at the socio-impact of the crisis has revealed. 

The proportion of people living on less than $1.90 a day jumped from 2.3 per cent last year to 2.9 per cent in 2021, while the debt burden of countries increased amid slow economic recovery, shrinking fiscal space and weak resource mobilization. 

More than 25 million across the region are struggling to meet their basic food needs. 

Gains annihilated 

The study was published by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), in partnership with the West Africa Sub-Regional Office for the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) and the World Food Programme (WFP). 

Sekou Sangare, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Agriculture, Environment and Water resources, said the pandemic has, in particular, annihilated benefits gained in fighting food insecurity and malnutrition. 

“Even if we are happy with the governments’ response through the mitigation actions they have taken, we have to worry about the residual effects of the health and economic crisis as they are likely to continue disturbing our food systems for a long time while compromising populations access to food, due to multiple factors,” he said

The report highlights the effects of measures aimed at preventing coronavirus spread, such as border closures, movement restrictions and disruption of supply chains. 

Forced to sell 

These measures had an impact on income-generating activities, and on food prices in markets, with small traders, street vendors and casual workers most affected. 

The deteriorating economic situation has adversely affected food security and nutrition in West Africa.  

More than 25 million people are unable to meet their basic food needs, a nearly 35 per cent increase compared to 2020. People have been forced to sell their assets and livelihoods in order to get enough to eat. 

The situation is most severe in those areas affected by conflict, such as the Lake Chad Basin region, the Sahel, and the Liptako-Gourma region, which borders Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. 

Strengthen social protection 

The partners hope the report will encourage public and private response to address the pandemic’s negative impacts on the people of West Africa. 

Chris Nikoi, WFP’s Regional Director for West Africa, underscored the need for immediate and concerted action. 

“This report clearly shows the urgent need for Governments and partners to deliberately increase investments to strengthen and increase social protection programs, social safety-nets such as school meals, and other livelihoods-enhancing programs with particular emphasis on women and youth,” he said. 

The Director of the ECA’s Sub-Regional Office, Ngone Diop, pointed to one of the strengths of the partnership, namely the ability to carry out an online survey which mobilized nearly 8,000 respondents. 

Moreover, she said “basing our analyses on primary, first-hand data from households directly impacted by the health crisis makes it possible to offer decision-makers at the regional and national levels with relevant and better-targeted policy options.” 

Responding to needs 

Since the outbreak of the pandemic nearly three years ago, ECOWAS and its partners have implemented several economic and financial measures to respond to the increasing needs in the region.  

ECOWAS Member States, with support from WFP and other technical partners, have also expanded social protection programmes, as well as food distributions, for the most vulnerable communities.  

For example, In Mali and Niger, they are supporting some 1.4 million people and helping to strengthen national social protection systems. 

“WFP is committed to engage more with ECOWAS in enhancing coordination and facilitating experience sharing among countries, with the aim to ensure social protection systems in the region support food security and nutrition and provide resilience to shocks,” said Mr. Nikoi. 

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Pragmatic Proposals to Optimize Russia’s Pledged Rehabilitation of Ethiopia

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A girl stands outside her home in the Tigray Region, Ethiopia. © UNICEF/Tanya Bindra

Russian Ambassador to Ethiopia Evgeny Terekhin pledged that his homeland will help rehabilitate his hosts after getting a clearer understanding of the full extent of the damage that the terrorist-designated Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) inflicted on the northern part of the country throughout the course of its approximately half-year-long occupation of the Afar and Amhara Regions. China’s Xinhua recently cited official Ethiopian government statistics about this which claim that the Amhara Region suffered damages upwards of approximately $5.7 billion.

According to their data, the TPLF partially or fully damaged 1,466 health facilities and vandalized water, electricity, and transport infrastructure. 1.9 million children are out of school in that region after more than 4,000 schools were damaged by the group. Over 1.8 million people were displaced from the Afar and Amhara Regions while 8.3 million there are suffering from food insecurity. The scale of this humanitarian crisis is massive and the direct result of the US-led West’s Hybrid War on Ethiopia that was waged to punish the country for its balanced foreign policy between the US and China.

It’s here where Russia can rely on its recent experiences in helping to rehabilitate Syria and the Central African Republic (CAR) in order to optimize its pledged rehabilitation of Ethiopian. Those two countries are much more war-torn than Ethiopia is, the latter of which only saw fighting in its northern regions instead of the entirety of its territory like the prior two did. The most urgent task is to ensure security in the liberated areas, which can be advanced by summer 2021’s military cooperation agreement between Russia and Ethiopia.

This pact could potentially see Russia sharing more details of its earlier mentioned experiences in order to enhance the Ethiopian National Defense Force’s (ENDF) security and stabilization operations in the northern part of the country. Syria and the CAR survived very intense Hybrid Wars that utilized cutting-edge military tactics and strategies against them similar to those that were subsequently directed against Ethiopia by the TPLF. It would help the ENDF to learn more about the challenges connected to ensuring security in areas that have been liberated from such contemporary Hybrid War forces.

The next order of business is to help the many victims of that country’s humanitarian crisis. Russia’s experience with assisting Syria in this respect, which suffered one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises in decades, can be of use to Ethiopia. This is especially the case when it comes to aiding its internally displaced people. Their immediate needs must be met and maintained, which might require urgent support from that country’s trusted partners such as Russia. Provisioning such in an effective and timely manner can also improve Russia’s international reputation too, especially among Africans.

Northern Ethiopia’s post-war rehabilitation must be comprehensive and sustainable. The country’s Medemer philosophy — which has been translated as “coming together” – will form the basis of these efforts. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed touched upon this in his 2019 Nobel Peace Prize speech and his book of the same name that was released earlier that year. Its English translation hasn’t yet been published but Medemer was explained at length by high-level Ethiopian officials during an early 2020 US Institute of Peace panel talk and in Ethiopian writer Linda Yohannes’ insightful book review.

An oversimplification of it in the economic context is that Medemer preaches the need for comprehensive, inclusive, and sustainable growth through public-private and other partnerships that bring prosperity to all of its people, which in turn strengthens socio-political relations between them. It seeks to apply positive aspects of foreign models while avoiding the bad ones. The Medemer mentality aspires to balance cooperation with competition, constantly improving itself as needed, in order to synchronize and synergize Ethiopia’s natural economic advantages in people, location, and resources.

In practice, this could see Russian public and private companies partnering with Ethiopia’s primarily public ones to rehabilitate the northern regions’ damaged infrastructure. Since sustainable growth is one of Medemer’s key concepts, the country’s Russian partners could also train more laborers, social workers, teachers, and doctors throughout the course of these projects while offering scholarships to some internally displaced youth for example. In that way, Russia and Ethiopia could truly embody the Medemer spirit by literally bringing their people closer together as a result of these noble efforts.

All the while, Russia’s international media flagships of RT and Sputnik should be active on the ground documenting the entire experience. The immense influence that Moscow has in shaping global perceptions can be put to positive use in exposing the foreign-backed TPLF’s countless crimes against humanity in northern Ethiopia. This can powerfully counteract the US-led West’s information warfare campaign against its government, which misportrays the TPLF as innocent victims of the “genocidal” ENDF, exactly as similar Russian media efforts have done in debunking Western lies against Syria.

The world wouldn’t only benefit by learning more about the US-led West’s lies against Ethiopia, but also in seeing how effectively Russia is working to reverse the damage that their TPLF proxies inflicted in the northern part of that country. Russia is also a victim of their information warfare campaign, which misportrays the Kremlin as a dangerous and irresponsible international actor. The truth, however, is that Russia is a peaceful and responsible international actor that has a documented track record of cleaning up the West’s Hybrid War messes in Syria, the CAR, and prospectively soon even Ethiopia too.

Upon taking the lead in rehabilitating northern Ethiopia, Russia should diversify the stakeholders in that country’s prosperity in coordination with its hosts. It’s in Ethiopia’s interests as well to receive assistance from as many responsible and trusted partners as possible. Russia can help by requesting that relevant aid and multilateral rehabilitation efforts be placed on the agenda of the proposed heads of state meeting between the Russian, Indian, and Chinese (RIC) leaders that presidential aide Yury Ushakov said was discussed for early 2022 during President Putin’s latest video call with President Xi in December.

The RIC countries stood with in solidarity with Ethiopia at the United Nations in the face of the US-led West’s subversive attempts to weaponize international law against it. They’re strong economies in their own right, not to mention through their cooperation via BRICS and the SCO, the latter organization of which also has anti-terrorist and other security dimensions. These two multipolar platforms could potentially be used to extend economic, financial, humanitarian, and security cooperation to their Ethiopian partner to complement bilateral and trilateral efforts in this respect.

Russia’s increasingly strategic ties with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) could also lead to Moscow working more closely with Abu Dhabi on related rehabilitation matters with their shared partners in Addis Ababa. Observers shouldn’t forget that Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Zayed (MBZ) played a crucial role in brokering peace between Ethiopia and Eritrea in 2018. He even awarded their leaders his country’s highest civil honor when they both visited the UAE that summer. Furthermore, Al Jazeera alleges that the UAE has maintained a humanitarian (and possibly even military) air bridge to Ethiopia.

Regardless of whether or not the military aspect of this reported bridge is true or not, there’s no denying that the UAE has emerged as a major stakeholder in Ethiopia’s success. It deposited $1 billion in Ethiopia’s central bank in summer 2018 as part of its $3 billion aid and investment pledge at the time. The UAE also plans to build an Eritrean-Ethiopian oil pipeline in order to help the latter export its newly tapped reserves in the southeast. Additionally, DP World signed a memorandum with Ethiopia in May 2021 to build a $1 billion trade and logistics corridor to separatist Somaliland’s Berbera port.

Considering the closeness of Emirati-Ethiopian relations, it would therefore be fitting for RIC to incorporate the UAE as an equal partner into any potential multilateral plan that those countries might come up with during their proposed heads of state summit sometime in early 2022. It enjoys excellent relations with all three of them so it’s a perfect fit for complementing their shared efforts. Plus, the UAE has the available capital needed to invest in high-quality, long-term, but sometimes very expensive infrastructure projects, which can ensure northern Ethiopia’s sustainable rehabilitation.

It’s pivotal for Russia to prioritize its pledged rehabilitation of Ethiopia ahead of the second triennial Russia-Africa Summit that’s expected to take place in October or November after fall 2019’s first-ever summit saw Russia return to Africa following a nearly three-decade-long hiatus. Coincidentally, Ethiopia requested last April to hold the next event in Addis Ababa. That would be a sensible choice since its capital city hosts the African Union headquarters, has sufficient infrastructure, and can serve most of the continent through its Ethiopian Airlines, which regularly wins awards as Africa’s best airline.

The interest that Ethiopian Ambassador to Russia Alemayehu Tegunu recently expressed in courting more Russian investment ahead of the next summit goes perfectly well with Russian Ambassador to Ethiopia Terekhin’s vow to heighten cooperation between those countries’ ruling parties. This in turn raises the chances that the present piece’s proposals could hopefully serve as the blueprint for beginning relevant discussions as soon as possible on Russia’s pledged rehabilitation of Ethiopia with a view towards achieving tangible successes ahead of the next Russia-Africa Summit.

That timing is so important since Russia mustn’t miss the opportunity to showcase its bespoke “Democratic Security” model in Ethiopia. This emerging concept refers to the comprehensive thwarting of Hybrid War threats through economic, informational, military, and other tactics and strategies such as the action plan that was proposed in the present piece. “Democratic Security” approaches vary by country as evidenced from the differing ones that Russia’s practicing in Syria and the CAR, but the concept could attract many more African partners if it’s successful in Ethiopia by next fall’s summit.

Russia must therefore do everything in its power to bring this best-case scenario about. Rehabilitating Ethiopia won’t just improve millions of lives, expose the war crimes committed by the US-led West’s TPLF proxies, and enable Russia to showcase its “Democratic Security” model to other African countries, but ensure that the continent’s historical fountainhead of anti-imperialism and pan-Africanism survives its existential struggle. Upon that happening, Ethiopia can then serve to inspire a revival of these ideas all across Africa through its complementary Medemer concept and thus strengthen multipolarity.

From our partner RIAC

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Decade of Sahel conflict leaves 2.5 million people displaced

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Two displaced women sit at a camp in Awaradi, Niger. © UNOCHA/Eve Sabbagh

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) called on Friday for concerted international action to end armed conflict in Africa’s central Sahel region, which has forced more than 2.5 million people to flee their homes in the last decade.

Speaking to journalists in Geneva, the agency’s spokesperson, Boris Cheshirkov, informed that internal displacement has increased tenfold since 2013, going from 217,000 to a staggering 2.1 million by late last year.

The number of refugees in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger now stands at 410,000, and the majority comes from Mali, where major civil conflict erupted in 2012, leading to a failed coup and an on-going extremist insurgency.

Increase in one year

Just last year, a surge in violent attacks across the region displaced nearly 500,000 people (figures for December still pending).

According to estimates from UN partners, armed groups carried out more than 800 deadly attacks in 2021. 

This violence uprooted some 450,000 people within their countries and forced a further 36,000 to flee into a neighbouring country.

In Burkina Faso alone, the total number of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) rose to more than 1.5 million by the end of the year. Six in ten of the Sahel’s displaced are now from this country.

In Niger, the number of IDPs in the regions of Tillabéri and Tahoua has increased by 53 per cent in the last 12 months. In Mali, more than 400,000 people are displaced internally, representing a 30 per cent increase from the previous year.

Climate, humanitarian crisis

Meanwhile, the humanitarian situation is rapidly deteriorating with crises on multiple fronts.

Insecurity is the main driver, made worse by extreme poverty, and the COVID-19 pandemic. The effects of the climate crisis are also felt more strongly in the region, with temperatures rising 1.5 times faster than the global average.

Women and children are often the worst affected and disproportionately exposed to extreme vulnerability and the threat of gender-based violence.

According to the UNHCR spokesperson, “host communities have continued to show resilience and solidarity in welcoming displaced families, despite their own scant resources.”

He also said that Government authorities have demonstrated “unwavering commitment” to assisting the displaced, but they are now “buckling under increasing pressure.”

Bold response

UNHCR and humanitarian partners face mounting challenges to deliver assistance, and continue to be the target of road attacks, ambushes, and carjacking.

In this context, the agency is calling on the international community to take “bold action and spare no effort” in supporting these countries.

UNHCR is also leading the joint efforts of UN agencies and NGOs to provide emergency shelter, manage displacement sites and deliver vital protection services, including combating gender-based violence and improving access to civil documentation.

In 2021, more than a third of the agency’s Central Sahel funding needs were unmet.

This year, to mount an effective response in Burkina Faso, Niger and Mali, the agency needs $307 million.

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