29 October 2006

Africa: Mbeki to Attend Africa, China Summit

President Thabo Mbeki is to attend a forum on China and Africa scheduled to begin in Beijing, China, next Saturday.

The two-day Forum on China-Africa Co-operation (FOCAC) Summit of Heads of State and Government is a mechanism for collective dialogue and multilateral cooperation, concentrating on issues of economic and social development between Africa and China.

The 2006 Summit, themed "Friendship, Peace, Co-operation and Development," will be preceded by a meeting of African Ministers of Foreign Affairs and their Chinese counterparts on 3 November.

President Mbeki's participation in the summit is within the context of consolidating South-South co-operation and the New Africa-Asia Strategic Partnership (NAASP).

South Africa and China are in addition members of the Group of 77 + China, which is the largest coalition of developing countries outside of the United Nations (UN).

South Africa chairs the G-77 + China currently.

The Summit will include a roundtable discussion in addition to a high level dialogue between government and business leaders from the two regions.

It is expected to explore opportunities for concrete and practical cooperation on Nepad and the 18 economic and social development fields identified in the Beijing Declaration of 2000 and the Programme for China and Africa Cooperation in Economic and Social Development (2000).

Delegates are also expected to explore other areas of cooperation identified in the Addis Ababa Action Plan 2004-2006 adopted in 2003.

The Summit will thereafter adopt a Declaration and an Action Plan for 2007 to 2009.

South Africa's department of foreign affairs said China had traditionally played a role in Africa supporting liberation movements.

Spokesperson Ronnie Mamoepa said the country represented an enormous opportunity for South Africa and Africa, but at the same time posed certain challenges.

"The sheer size of the Chinese market, its untapped potential, its population size, its explosive growth, its membership of the UN Security Council and its emergence as a major global power all present opportunities," said Mr Mamoepa.

China is also a key player in the expansion of South-South cooperation to maximise opportunities presented by globalisation and reduce the negative effects.

"China can be a key ally in the fight to reform the international political, financial and trade architecture," he said, referring to the World Trade Organisation, (WTO), the United Nations (UN) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Mr Mamoepa added China also supported African efforts to safeguard peace and stability by sending peacekeepers to Africa in the past, in Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for example.

"They have reduced the debt owed to China by African LDCs [Least Developed Countries] by $1.27 billion. They have set up an African Human Resources Development Fund, sponsored vocational courses for African trainees and contributed to the African Capacity Building Foundation," said Mr Mamoepa.

All these developments have since culminated in the adoption of "China's African Policy" in January 2006.

In addition, Mr Mamoepa said there was "definite" scope for using FOCAC to support the priority sectors identified under Nepad and for cooperation on concrete, identified projects to promote regional integration agenda.

"As far back as November 2002 in Addis Ababa, there has been a recognition and acceptance of the importance of harmonising, synchronising and aligning FOCAC and Nepad," he explained.

China has also contributed US 500 000 Dollars to the Nepad Secretariat for use in certain projects.

Mr Mamoepa said it was also interesting to note that China's support for Nepad had also been reflected in the Joint Statement of the 9th European Union-China Summit in Helsinki in September.

He said another point of intersection could be found in the context of the NAASP launched in Jakarta, Indonesia, in April 2005.

"In this context, the NAASP Declaration adopted by our Heads of State and Government at the Asia Africa Summit specifically aligned the China-Africa Cooperation Forum to the NAASP and acknowledged NEPAD as the framework for engagement with Africa," Mr Mamoepa said.

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