THE XV BRICS Summit, held in Johannesburg on 22-24 August was not just a gathering of nations; it was a confluence of visions aimed at reshaping global cooperation and development. One of the notable aspects of this summit was the welcoming of new members into the BRICS fold. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Arab Republic of Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Argentina, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and Ethiopia, among others, joined the existing members, underscoring the global significance of the BRICS platform. The expansion was not just a numerical increase but a strategic step towards creating a more comprehensive and representative alliance.
Central to this summit was Chinese President Xi Jinping’s keynote speech during the China-Africa Leaders’ Dialogue. His speech, titled “Joining Hands to Advance Modernization and Create a Great Future for China and Africa,” encapsulated his vision for stronger China-Africa cooperation and its potential impact on global development. Africa, often referred to as the “hopeful continent” in the 21st century, has seen remarkable progress in the past decades. President Xi acknowledged this transformation, praising African countries’ strides towards unity, integration and independence. With the Organization of African Unity marking its 60th anniversary, this moment serves as a testament to the continent’s resilience and progress.
China’s Africa policy, encapsulated in the principles of sincerity, real results, amity and good faith, has been a driving force behind the cooperation between the two regions. This policy, advocated by President Xi a decade ago during his first foreign visit to Africa, has laid the foundation for a partnership that has weathered global challenges, including the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The spirit of solidarity and cooperation that underpins China-Africa relations has elevated the partnership to new heights, setting the stage for the realization of a high-level China-Africa community with a shared future.
President Xi’s speech identified three key themes that would guide China-Africa cooperation and contribute to global development: (i) Advancing a Just and Equitable International Order: President Xi’s call for the unity of developing nations against vestiges of colonialism and hegemonism resonates strongly in an era where a multipolar world order is emerging. This united stance fosters a world characterized by justice, fairness and respect for national sovereignty. (ii) Safeguarding Global Peace and Security: The shared commitment of China and Africa to resolve differences through dialogue and cooperation reflects the broader international need for comprehensive security models. The African aspiration to silence the guns aligns with China’s approach of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security, contributing to global stability. (iii) Building an Open and Inclusive World Economy: President Xi’s emphasis on openness and cooperation is a call for collective action to overcome the challenges of isolationism and protectionism. By advocating for shared benefits and the inclusion of developing countries in the global economy, China seeks to drive economic growth that is sustainable and mutually beneficial.
President Xi’s vision for China-Africa cooperation does not exist in isolation but is deeply interwoven with China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) which has achieved remarkable success over the past decade. The BRI, launched in 2013, is a testament to China’s commitment to global development through enhanced connectivity, trade and infrastructure projects. Its expansion into Africa, with projects spanning transportation, energy and telecommunications sectors, has contributed significantly to the continent’s modernization and development agenda. President Xi’s emphasis on cooperation mechanisms, such as Belt and Road cooperation and the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), further underscores the symbiotic relationship between BRI and the shared vision of China-Africa cooperation.
The success of the BRI is a testament to China’s ability to foster inclusive and mutually beneficial partnerships across regions. As President Xi aptly noted, “What we need is to remove barriers rather than erect walls, open up rather than close off.” This principle aligns perfectly with the BRI’s focus on connectivity and cooperation that transcends geographical boundaries and promotes shared prosperity.
President Xi’s vision also extends to three specific plans aimed at nurturing Africa’s growth: (a) Initiative on Supporting Africa’s Industrialization: China will enhance its resources for cooperation with Africa, particularly in growing its manufacturing sector and realizing industrialization. This initiative, aligned with the goals of the African Continental Free Trade Area, can elevate Africa’s economic diversification. (b) Plan for China Supporting Africa’s Agricultural Modernization: Through increased agricultural investment, technological collaboration and capacity-building, China aims to contribute to the transformation and upgrading of Africa’s agricultural sector. This initiative has the potential to bolster food security and economic sustainability across the continent. (c) Plan for China-Africa Cooperation on Talent Development: By offering training, technical assistance and educational exchange programs, China aims to bolster Africa’s human resource capacity and support its innovation and education sectors.
President Xi’s proposal to enhance the voice of African countries in multilateral financial institutions and advocate for the African Union’s full membership in the G20 reflects China’s commitment to empowering Africa on the global stage. To encapsulate, the XV BRICS Summit not only marked the expansion of a geopolitical alliance but also served as the nexus for forging shared values and aspirations. President Xi’s visionary discourse, articulated during his keynote address, lays down the architectural framework for the synergy between China and Africa, resonating with worldwide imperatives of a just international order, global tranquillity, security and all-encompassing economic advancement. With the resounding accomplishments of the Belt and Road Initiative forming the backdrop, President Xi’s impassioned plea for unity, collaboration and reciprocal prosperity holds the key to a forthcoming epoch defined by interwoven connections, cooperative ventures and prosperity that transcends boundaries. As China and Africa march in harmonious stride, they illuminate an extraordinary paradigm of international partnerships underscored by mutual esteem, empathy and the shared pursuit of collective advancement.
—The writer is a Pakistani Climate Youth Leader, UN SDGs Advocate and an expert on Youth Development in the Global South.
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