Building capacity to help Africa trade better

China-Africa: high time for a common integrated African policy on China


China-Africa: high time for a common integrated African policy on China

China-Africa: high time for a common integrated African policy on China
Photo credit: Riccardo Gangale | Bloomberg

The Institute for Global Dialogue, in partnership with the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung and the Wits Africa-China Reporting Project (ACRP) held a one-day symposium at the University of the Witwatersrand on 20th July 2017, on the theme China-Africa: high time for a common integrated African policy on China.

The symposium drew on South Africa’s hosting of the Johannesburg Summit and 6th Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in December 2015.

The event marked the 15th year since the initiation of the FOCAC mechanism in 2000 and nearly a decade since the Beijing Summit of 2006. The 2nd FOCAC Summit adopted two outcome documents, namely the Johannesburg Declaration and the Johannesburg Action Plan (2016-2018), laying out comprehensive plans for China-Africa relations and practical cooperation for the next three years through a range of new ideas and policies.

As current co-chair of the Forum, South Africa is uniquely positioned to guide the consolidation of the African agenda in China-Africa engagements, including the realisation of greater synergy between the outcomes of Johannesburg and Africa’s Agenda 2063.

In line with increasing calls for a unified African policy and strategy, this symposium presented a platform to critically examine the prospects of a Pan-African policy and strategy to guide Africa’s engagement with China, in addition to taking stock of the implementation of the Johannesburg Action Plan.

This proceedings report presents a synthesis of the discussions at the seminar and summarizes key policy recommendations and implications.

Closing Remarks

Africa does not have a China policy; moreover, several African countries do not have their own declared foreign policies, which are available to the public, Mr. Barry van Wyk, Project Coordinator, ACRP, said.

The symposium was able to make progress in developing African positions towards China but not in terms of an overall African policy towards China. It may be noted that one of the biggest challenges to Africa is to act in a strategic manner, as a region and continent. Mr. van Wyk further asked if it is possible for Africa to be expected to speak with one voice and to integrate more closely. Furthermore, if Africa had a common position, would particular actors or individuals lead such an integration of African policy; and whether or not the private sectors of China and African countries could be mobilised.

It may be possible to address these questions by attempting to formulate common African positions on specific issues of common interest, and then to build from there. It is important to start with what African states agree on. What might emerge from this discussion is not necessarily a common African policy but a common African framework that utilises a multi-pronged approach. For this to be achieved, various African networks like this one here today can be integrated and operationalised to feed into a common African framework. This framework may include specific issues of common interest, such as environmental issues and industrialisation, which may highlight that African agency can take a unified position.

The onus is on Africa to get its house in order and to develop concrete plans towards engagement with China. In addition, it is essential to make use of empirical knowledge, which informs the Africa-China relationship and allows stakeholders to make constructive decisions. As part of this effort, Africans should enquire into what such an African policy would look like, and how to best embody African agency by means of a coherent road map, particularly because much of the current discourse, taxonomy and paradigms are based on colonialism. Africa must base its deliberations on a thorough understanding of China and Chinese culture so it can then approach China in a more prepared manner. Africa has various structures in place to engage with China, notably FOCAC.

However, it is becoming vital for Africa to question whether or not it must look beyond FOCAC and OBOR, and if these institutions that can facilitate African agency appropriately. In carrying the agenda forward, it was emphasized that the networks that are formed around the symposium would continue practically via working groups to develop a coherent document and involve more stakeholders, thus aiming to make a decisive impact on developing an African framework towards China by the next FOCAC meeting in 2018.

Download the Proceedings Report: China-Africa: High time for a common integrated African policy on China (PDF)


Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Tel +27 21 880 2010