By Amin Kef Sesay
The Chinese Ambassador to Sierra Leone, H.E. Hu Zhangliang, in a statement to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of China-Africa Cooperation stated that in October 2000, China and African countries jointly established the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) which ushered in a new era of historical development of China-Africa relations.
He disclosed that this year marks the 20th anniversary of FOCAC adding how not long ago, H.E. President Xi Jinping of China and H.E. President Macky Sall of Senegal, the current African Co-Chair of FOCAC, issued a joint congratulatory message on this significant occasion.
“Over the past two decades, a total of three Summits and seven Ministerial Conferences of FOCAC have been successfully held. Under the FOCAC mechanism, China-Africa relations and cooperation have been constantly enriched with fruitful outcomes produced,” the Ambassador also revealed.
He noted that the concept of “China-Africa community with a shared future” has been deeply rooted in the hearts of both Chinese and African people.
In 2019, the stock of direct Chinese investment in Africa, he said, reached US$49.1 billion, up by nearly 100 times from the year 2000.
China-Africa trade reached US$208.7 billion in 2019, 20 times that of 2000 and China’s contribution to Africa’s economic growth has been over 20% for several consecutive years, he said.
According to Ambassador Hu Zhangliang, being the largest developing country and the continent with the largest number of developing countries, China and Africa enjoy huge complementary advantages, which greatly boosted their cooperation in various fields.
He went on to state that China-Africa relations have been elevated from “a new type of partnership” to “a new type of strategic partnership” and now to “a comprehensive strategic and cooperative partnership”.
For the past two decades, he intimated, FOCAC has been a dynamic platform for dialogue and an effective mechanism for practical cooperation between China and Africa.
It has been a pacesetter for upholding multilateralism and achieving mutual benefits and by taking the “FOCAC Express Train”, China-Sierra Leone friendship has also embarked on a new journey.
China-Sierra Leone mutual trust has been enhanced over the past 20 years through high level visits and other harmonious exchanges, he also stated.
He said from participating in the First Ministerial Conference in 2000, to the attendance of H.E. President Julius Maada Bio at the FOCAC Beijing Summit in 2018 and the Honorable Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Mrs. Nabeela Tunis at the Coordinators’ Meeting on the Implementation of the Follow-up Actions of the Beijing Summit in 2019, Sierra Leone has always been an active member of FOCAC.
“Over the past two decades, China and Sierra Leone have maintained close exchanges and frequent high-level visits. Three Sierra Leonean presidents visited China five times. There have also been over 20 important exchange of visits by Presidents’ special envoys/special representatives, Vice Presidents, Speakers of Parliament and Foreign Ministers between the two sides,” he intimated and added that a good number of Sierra Leonean Ministers were invited to visit China.
“These high-level visits not only set the direction for the development of China-Sierra Leone relations, but also laid the foundation for enhancing mutual political trust and promoting the comprehensive strategic cooperative partnership between the two countries,” he said.
He furthered that by implementing relevant FOCAC projects and initiatives, the two-way people-to-people exchanges have also been on rapid increase.
Various seminars, training courses, think tank exchanges, cultural visits and other activities have been conducted, effectively consolidating public support for the friendly and mutual beneficial cooperation between China and Sierra Leone, he stated.
The Ambassador said China-Sierra Leone win-win cooperation has been deepened and expanded over the past 20 years through joint efforts and contribution. FOCAC has brought important opportunities for China-Sierra Leone cooperation, he informed.
He said over the past two decades, China-Sierra Leone economic and trade cooperation has made great progress.
“The bilateral trade increased from over US$8.6 million in 2000 to US$510 million in 2019,” he said adding that despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, the trade volume between the two countries still hit US$320 million in the first eight months of 2020.
He said China has been Sierra Leone’s largest trading partner for more than ten years in a row disclosing how China’s high-quality and cost-competitive products have enriched Sierra Leone’s market, saved Sierra Leonean people’s expenses, and helped improving production conditions and economic efficiency for Sierra Leone.
At the same time, dozens of Chinese companies have come to invest in Sierra Leone, creating about 4500 direct jobs and injecting vitality into the development of infrastructure, transportation, telecommunications, tourism, manufacture, fishery and mining etc, the Chinese Ambassador to Sierra Leone continued.
He said projects under the Chinese Government assistance such as the Office Building of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bo Stadium, hydro-power stations, hospitals, schools, roads, bridges, vehicles, rice aid, medical and health assistance and agricultural technical cooperation etc. have been implemented.
More than 500 Sierra Leonean students were awarded Chinese Government Scholarships to study in China, and over 5100 personnel from all walks of life in Sierra Leone have been invited to China to attend various short-term training courses, the Ambassador informed.
He said such practical cooperation has given a strong boost to Sierra Leone’s economic and social development, contributing to the enhancement of welfare of the Sierra Leonean people.
“China-Sierra Leone friendship has grown stronger over the past 20 years as the two sides rendering precious support to each other. China and Sierra Leone have always stood together to overcome one challenge after another. When FOCAC was just founded, China worked with the international community to help end the civil war in Sierra Leone, support the post-war reconstruction, and assist the consolidation of peace and stability. When Ebola epidemic broke out in 2014, China rushed to the rescue immediately by sending more than 300 Chinese doctors and nurses to Sierra Leone and supplying planeloads of medical equipment, which contributed immensely to the final victory over the epidemic,” he highlighted.
He added that in 2017, when the tragic mudslide hit Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown, the Chinese side provided urgent humanitarian assistance and took an active part in the relief work.
“At the initial stage of China’s hard battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, H.E. President Julius Maada Bio sent a message to H.E. President Xi Jinping expressing sympathy and solidarity, the Parliament of Sierra Leone awarded a certificate of solidarity to the National People’s Congress of China and passed a special resolution to support China’s fight. Friends from various circles in Sierra Leone also showed their solidarity with China,” he acknowledged.
He pointed out that on her part, in spite of huge difficulties and pressure in pandemic prevention and control at home, China made every effort to help Sierra Leone fight against the pandemic.
The Ambassador said the Chinese side has provided several rounds of urgent donation of most needed medical supplies to help Sierra Leone enhance her prevention and control capacity.
According to his statement, the three Chinese medical experts teams sent to Sierra Leone under the Chinese Government aid program have been working day and night with their local counterparts in virus detection, patient treatment and technical training.
He said in the international arena, China and Sierra Leone have been working closely on issues of common concern and upholding justice and shared interests.
“Sharing weal and woe, China and Sierra Leone have proven themselves to be genuine friends,” he noted.