Participants in the second China-Africa People's Forum last week called for the establishment of a new model for NGO cooperation between China and African countries.
Trade between China and Africa has shot up from some USS10 billion two decades ago to over USS160 billion, last year
More than 300 delegates from non-governmental organisations and political, economic and media sectors of China and 35 African countries, and officials from the AU Commission, met in Suzhou, Jiangsu Province of China, to discuss ways of improving the economic and social ties between the governments and 2 billion peoples of China and the African continent.
Many of the African participants, who welcomed the forum, argued that the views of NGOs were critical if the growing economic ties between China and Africa were to be steered towards addressing the critical needs of grassroots Africa and ensure that Africans get real value for money in the support it is receiving from China to develop its economies.
Trade between China and Africa has shot up from some USS10 billion two decades ago to over USS160 billion, last year.
But participants noted the tendency of some African politicians to negotiate badly and involve themselves in corruption has the risk of checking the benefits that Africans can expect from its growing ties with its biggest foreign investor, China.
Participants talked of the need to involve civil society in negotiating the best deals for the people with the Chinese.
"We need to be proactive in getting our elected leaders to give us value for money in this exciting relationship with China. You cannot blame the Chinese for looking after Chinese interest. But, who is looking after the African interest? Are we getting value for money?" said a participant from Ghana, Asare Otchere-Darko.
Edwin Valnora, the head of Campaign for Good Governance in Sierra Leone, also lamented over the lack of fiscal scrutiny and due diligence of such agreements by her country's parliamentarians and supported the call on civil society proactivity in this regard.
Former heads of states who attended the two-day summit included, President JA Kufuor of Ghana and Olsegun Obasanjo of Nigeria.
The NGOs from China and Africa agreed to create a new cooperative model that conforms to the actual conditions of China and Africa.
Xi Jinping, Vice President of the People's Republic of China addressed the forum and UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki-Moon sent his congratulatory message.
As one of the two associate events officially incorporated into the overall framework of the 5th Ministerial Conference of FOCAC, the 2nd China-Africa People's Forum was co-sponsored by China NGO Network for International Exchanges and the AU Commission.
In light of the theme of "People's Voice, People's Friendship and Cooperation for the People", discussions were held about new ideas of win-win cooperation, new measures for common development and new forms of NGO exchanges between China and Africa.
A series of side activities were held in parallel with the Forum, such as the Dialogue on Joint Efforts for a Better Life, the Photo Exhibition on China-Africa Friendship and the Traditional Chinese and African Art Exhibitions.
Participants agreed that China-Africa People's Forum should function as an important platform for people-to-people dialogue and play a positive role in developing people's friendship, promoting practical cooperation and advancing the relationship between China and Africa.
It was also agreed that NGOs from both sides should be encouraged to carry out exchanges in the fields of culture, education, media and think-tanks in synergy with governments so as to set up a bridge between the Chinese and African peoples.
China and Africa, it was noted, should intensify their business and trade relations and deepen convergence of interests in their joint commitment to economic development and the improvement of people's livelihood.
Highlighting that the keystone for China-Africa relations lies in win-win results, the Chinese vice president said China and Africa must make full use of the new opportunities brought about by their development.
They must implement the consensus on cooperation, expand the size and optimise the structure of trade and mutual investment, and cultivate new sources for growth so as to provide a solid material basis for overall cooperation, he urged.
The first China-Africa People's Forum was held in Nairobi, Kenya, last year.