Président de la Commission de l’Union Africaine (depuis le 1er. février 2008)
The seminar organised by the NEPAD Secretariat, the Royal Africa Society and the South African Institute of International Affairs was opened by Prof. Firmino Mucavele, Chief Executive of the NEPAD Secretariat.
“Our seminar comes at a crucial timing”, the Professor said. “In less than 20 days we will have the third China-Africa Forum which will be held for the first time on the level of the Heads of State and Government.
“But more importantly, it comes against a backdrop of a changing geo-strategic landscape in the world economy and in world politics, with China and India becoming more and more assertive in shaping international relations.
“We are seeing fundamental changes happening around us with the rise of these ‘Asian drivers’ that not only affect the way that they relate to Africa but are also affecting the way that traditional powers are relating to the continent”.
Professor Mucavele continued :
Africa’s interaction with China is a not new phenomenon. As a matter of fact, China has known Africa since the 15th century when Chinese expeditions had discovered the continent before Western hands did. This interaction was renewed again with the birth of the Non-aligned Movement in the 1950’s.
During that period and over the ensuing decades, China provided considerable assistance as well as ideological inspiration to a significant number of African countries notably during the liberation struggle period.
Chinese companies are key players
What is new then in this relationship ? Obviously the level of economic activity of China in Africa, fueled by the Chinese economic success in the past few years, has grown exponentially and is unprecedented.
The total trade volume between China and Africa has reached US$ 40 billion in 2005, and expected to reach over $ 50 billion this year. It has more than quadrupled in the past five years.
China is now the third most important investor in Africa after the US and Europe. The Chinese presence in sectors like mining and energy is being increasingly felt as Chinese companies have become key players competing with the traditional Western companies.
Notwithstanding the energy and mining sectors that attract media attention, the Chinese presence is felt in almost all sectors of economic activity in the continent : be it in a direct or an indirect way.
This reality, of course, begs the question of the impact of that presence on realising sustainable development in the continent.
At NEPAD we view the relationship between Africa and China as a strategic partnership. A partnership that offers vast opportunities but equally poses a number of challenges that we need to tackle. In that, this partnership is not unique from any other partnership that we are engaged in.
Critical role in implementing NEPAD
The deliberations in the next two days are very important to us, as the seminar will assist the NEPAD process in strategising around its engagement with China as a long-term strategic partner that can play a critical role in advancing and indeed implementing NEPAD. It will also give us an opportunity to reflect on the upcoming China-Africa Forum and its expected outcomes.
I must also add that the seminar will not only help NEPAD to engage China but it will equally help China to hone its response to the NEPAD priorities.
The seminar is part of a larger process that is certainly influenced by the upcoming China-Africa Summit, but is by no means limited to it.
Just recently, the African Union Commission has launched a high-level task force to look into the question of building strategic partnerships with emerging powers Brazil, China and India. To this effect, we see our work as an extension to that effort by the AU Commission to ensure that NEPAD is adequately addressed in these partnerships.
Finally, we should not view our partnership with China in isolation. It should be seen as part of Africa’s overall partnership with other countries of the South, especially in the context of the New Africa-Asia Strategic Partnership (NAASP) that was initiated in the Bandung Summit last year.
Source : nepad news - 20 octobre 2006