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A review of FOCAC side-events 2015

The Johannesburg Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Summit 2015 can be characterised as a mega event that took place at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg at the behest of Chinese, African and African Union (AU) leaders and officials. The main events can be encapsulated as follows:

The sixth ministerial conference (mainly for ministers of foreign affairs and finance) co-chaired by South African International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on December 3, and the second FOCAC heads of state and government Summit, co-chaired by Presidents Jacob Zuma and Xi Jinping on December 4-5.

However FOCAC has another important dimension that often falls through the cracks when all the focus is trained on the two main announcements resulting from FOCAC conferences, namely the action plan and the declaration. This dimension is the multiplicity of FOCAC side events which can in turn be segmented into state-driven side events or sub-conferences and non-state driven events convened by civil society organizations (CSOs) – in the broadest sense of the term. The 2015 Summit theme “Africa-China Progressing Together: Win-Win Cooperation for Common Development” was supplemented by many other sub-themes utilised by various actors.

This post reviews the various side events and their organisers outside the main 2015 Johannesburg Summit. Well before the Summit, organisations were convening meetings to try and understand FOCAC or to lobby for the inclusion of their agendas. Some organisations below feature more than once, but rather than focus on each organisation and what it did or got involved in, this post undertakes a chronological analysis and lets the organisations and their agendas emerge in order.

 

State-led side-events

Following on South African President Jacob Zuma’s December 2014 visit to Beijing, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was hosted in South Africa by colleague Maite Nkoana-Mashabane on April 14, the first high level preparatory exchange in the lead-up to the Summit.

South Africa’s Free State province launched a China Week in line with 2015 as the Year of China in South Africa led by Premier Ace Magashule. Present at the launch event on April 17 in Bloemfontein (Mangaung) was a Chinese delegation including Chinese diplomats in South Africa, businesspeople, representatives of four Chinese provincial governments (Jiangsu, Jiangxi, Fujian and Zhejiang), representatives of Chinese universities (Wuyi, Nanjing Agriculture University, Yangzhou University, Fujian Agriculture and Forestry University, Nanchang University, Jiangxi University of Technology and Zhejiang Agriculture and Forestry University) and their South African counterparts. The event was framed as part of the upcoming FOCAC summit.

On June 15 South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa graced the occasion of a China-South Africa Business Forum shortly before he left for China on a bilateral mission. Ramaphosa foresaw that FOCAC6 would “demonstrate how cooperation is evolving to encompass new areas of mutual concern” between China and Africa in areas such as peace and security and cross-continental infrastructure. He saw many opportunities for South African companies.

A key development was President Zuma’s visit to Beijing in early September to attend China’s 70th Anniversary of the End of the Occupation of China and the Second World War during which discussions on FOCAC with his host President Xi took place. It was during this trip that the dates and elevation of the FOCAC ministerial conference to a Summit was announced jointly by foreign ministers Nkoana-Mashabane and Wang on September 4.

As preparations gained momentum, South Africa’s Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO, hereafter Ministry of International Relations) issued bids for service provision for FOCAC on October 18, followed by a tender briefing session on October 21 with expression of interest closing on November 9. The service provision was for branding of venues and Summit materials.

DISCOP Africa 2015: http://discopafrica.com/exhibition/

DISCOP Africa 2015: http://discopafrica.com/exhibition/

On November 5 the biannual pan-African film and television deal-making event, DISCOP Africa, was held in Johannesburg with strong African and Chinese attendance.  At the event gala, South Africa’s Minister for Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa was joined by Chinese ambassador to South Africa Tian Xuejun as well as Angelina Wong of China Central Television and Grant Meldrum of StarTimes among others. The event framed ‘China as the country of honour’ with a notable presence of a Chinese film and television delegation and with discussions for co-productions. It was seen as an important event in 2015, “the year of China in South Africa”, following on 2014 which was “the year of South Africa in China”. It was revealed that the year of China in South Africa would culminate in the “establishment of a Chinese cultural centre in South Africa”.

Not to be left behind, the predominantly opposition-led government of Western Cape conducted an official tour of China led by premier and recent former Democratic Alliance leader Hellen Zille, returning on November 17. “We are confident that our visit inspired an interest in our region, and that many of the companies attending the Johannesburg Summit will consider adding the Western Cape to their itinerary,” an official who accompanied Zille said.

The preparatory Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) meeting held on November 25 in Cape Town provided insights on how the South African government organised the Johannesburg FOCAC Summit. This followed a similar meeting held on November 6 to coordinate with China the invitation of African leaders to the Summit “through diplomatic channels”.

Wang Yi at the Lanting Forum 2015.

Wang Yi at the Lanting Forum 2015.

Named after the Blue Hall at the Chinese foreign ministry headquarters in Beijing, the Lanting Forum is an initiative serving as a “platform for communication and exchanges between government, the business community, academia, media and public”. On November 26 Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi gave the keynote address at the forum in what amounted to a Chinese curtain raiser to the Summit. The theme of the forum was “President Xi Jinping to Chair the Johannesburg Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC)”.

Brand South Africa organised tours for visiting African and Chinese journalists with press releases undertaken by among others the Dakar-based African Press Organization (APO). On November 27 journalists visited Chinese companies based in Johannesburg and the Johannesburg Securities Exchange (JSE) in tours organised by Brand South Africa and South Africa’s Department (ministry) of Trade and Industry (DTI). On November 30 Brand South Africa collaborated with the National Research Foundation (NRF) to organize trips to the Hartebeesthoek Radio and Astrology Observatory (HartRAO) west of Johannesburg; the Square Kilometre Array (SKA), the ambitious South African project aimed at building the world’s largest telescope; and the Maropeng Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site in Gauteng. On December 1 Brand South Africa collaborated with Gauteng Tourism Authority to take the journalists on tours of iconic sites namely Soweto (the Mandela Museum and Hector Peterson Memorial) with the customary lunch at the famous Vilakazi Street in Orlando West, Constitutional Hill and an open-topped bus ride around the Johannesburg CBD, among other sites.

In terms of arrangements for the upcoming FOCAC Summit, South Africa’s National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NATJOINTS) was deployed from November 28 with Chairperson Lieutenant General Elias Mawela leading a delegation to the Sandton Convention Centre and surrounding areas. It was pointed out that delegates would be accredited at the nearby Raddisson Blue Hotel at the Sandton Gautrain Station or the Ditsong National Museum of Natural History. Plans were put in place for crowd, traffic and protest action management.

While most FOCAC side-events were dubbed ‘conferences’, the “inaugural China Africa media summit” saw 200 African and Chinese media owners, editors and reporters from 120 media organisations descend on Cape Town on December 1. The tone was set by South Africa’s Minister of the presidency Jeff Radebe, “You are here to deliberate on a very important and fitting subject matter, that is: A new Win-Win Media Co-operation between China and Africa”, i.e. the theme of the event. Sponsored by China’s Information Office of the State Council (IOSC) and represented by Jiang Jianguo, Chinese Minister in charge of media matters, the importance attached to this event could be seen in the fact that statements by presidents Jacob Zuma and Xi Jinping were read at the opening.

On December 2 senior African and Chinese government officials and ambassadors met in Sandton, Johannesburg, led by South African deputy minister for International Relations Nomaindia Mfeketo and Chinese counterpart Zhang Ming. This was the eleventh FOCAC Senior Officials Meeting, at which it was revealed that at the tenth senior officials meeting in December 2014 a proposal for the elevation of the FOCAC conference to a heads of state Summit had been made. A key revelation from the reporting of this event is that the senior officials are really the workhorses of the FOCAC mechanism. Indeed, it is at this meeting that the final details of the FOCAC6 declaration and action plan eventually announced by Presidents Zuma and Xi were finalised.

The strong focus on agreements between the African continent and China at the FOCAC Summit may for some observers have obscured the deals between South Africa and China. On December 2 Presidents Zuma and Xi held a bilateral meeting at the seat of South Africa’s political power, the Union Buildings in Pretoria, where they signed 26 agreements worth R94 billion. Apart from the re-engineering of the Joint Working Group which is the cross-cutting mechanism for project implementation, several overarching MoUs were signed by respective ministries and agencies. These included:

  • The Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road
  • Strengthening ocean economy cooperation
  • Waiving of visa requirements for diplomatic and official passport holders
  • Health and medical sciences
  • Science parks
  • Establishment of a China Cultural Centre in South Africa
  • Infrastructure and information communication technology
  • Anti-monopoly and commercial competition
  • Customs and trade and education and training

The specific deals that were signed included the following:

  • Eskom Holdings Soc Ltd and State Grid Corporation of China (energy)
  • US$500,000,000 loan agreement between China Development Bank Corporation and Eskom
  • US$2.5 Billion insurance support by Export and Credit Insurance Corporation of China (Sinosure) to SA’s logistics corporation Transnet
  • China Construction Bank Corporation and Industrial Corporation of South Africa Limited (industrial infrastructure and manufacturing)
  • Beijing Automotive Group (BAIC) and the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC) (vehicle manufacturing plant in Durban or East London)
  • State Nuclear Power Technology Corporation (SNPTC) and the South Africa Nuclear Corporation (NECSA)
  • China State Council Information Office and the NASPERS Group SA (media and communications)

On December 3 in Johannesburg ChinAfrica magazine, an imprint of China International Publishing Group which also publishes the long-running Beijing Review magazine, launched a FOCAC special issue in an event organised by the China Information Office of the State Council and the South Africa media multinational Naspers. Representatives of these organisations, notably Jiang Jianguo, IOSC Minister, and Naspers Chairman Nolo Letele spoke of evolving friendship in the Africa-China media sphere. Available for free distribution at the main FOCAC event, the FOCAC special edition featured articles by Chinese ministers, African and Chinese experts and human interest stories all lauding the Africa-China relationship. It was announced that 211,000 copies would be distributed via Naspers’ distribution channels.

On the evening of December 3 President Jacob Zuma hosted a welcoming banquet for Chinese and African dignitaries at the Sandton Convention Centre. In his speech, Zuma struck a chord for the partnership by quoting a Chinese saying: “When people work with one mind, they can even remove Mount Taishan”, and concluded with the famous Chinese ‘ganbei’ toast.

On December 3 President Xi met separately for bilateral discussions with African leaders: Guinean President Alpha Conde whose country received Chinese assistance during the recent Ebola virus outbreak; Ismaïl Omar Guelleh of Djibouti, with whom China has recently signed an agreement for the establishment of a naval base; Jose Eduardo dos Santos of Angola, whose country is a source of sizeable Chinese oil imports; and Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya, where China is building a multi-billion railway. Xi also had a one-on-one bilateral meeting with Ali Bongo Ondimba of Gabon, John Dramani Mahama of Ghana, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita of Mali, Filipe Nyusio of Mozambique, Faure Gnassingbe of Togo and African Union Commission Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. It is worthwhile pointing out that Xi also met with Africa Union Chairman Robert Mugabe in Harare on December 1 during a state visit ahead of his arrival in South Africa.

On December 3 a deal was signed between China’s Information Office of the State Council led by Minister Jiang Jianguo and the prominent South African bookseller, Exclusive Books, led by CEO Benjamin Trisk. The event, held at Hyde Park in Johannesburg, doubled up as the launch of a one-week exhibition of Chinese books. Literature was described as a bridge for enhancement of relations, particularly in the field of culture.

On December 4 Presidents Zuma and Xi were joined by AU Chairman and Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe as well as AU Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma for the fifth China-Africa Business Forum shortly before the second and last day of the formal summit. The Forum was hosted by South Africa’s DTI. In attendance was a high powered delegate-list of some 400 captains of industry with the event marking the launch of the China-Africa equipment manufacturing industry exhibition. The exhibition drew paying and/or subsidised participants from Africa and China across several industries including electro-technical, manufactured products, capital equipment, oil and gas, energy and renewable energy, infrastructure, ICT, mining and minerals beneficiation. The South African events company 3D Group was involved in organising aspects of the exhibition on behalf of the Chinese Ministry of Commerce.

On the same day (December 4) President Xi had two sets of diplomatic meetings. First, he held separate bilateral meetings within presidents Hage Geingob (Namibia), Muhammadu Buhari (Nigeria), Ikililou Dhoinine (Comoros) and Egyptian Prime Minister Sherif Ismail. Second, he had a group meeting with African presidents: Denis Sassou Nguesso (Republic of the Congo), Yoweri Museveni (Uganda), Joseph Kabila (Democratic Republic of Congo), Ikililou Dhoinine (Comoros), Salva Kiir Mayardit (South Sudan), Hery Rajaonarimampianina (Madagascar), Ameenah Gurib-Fakim (Mauritius), Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn (Ethiopia), Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili (Lesotho), Head of Government Abdelilah Benkirane (Morocco), Prime Minister Anastase Murekezi (Rwanda), Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi (Botswana) and Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan (Tanzania).

On December 5 President Xi had a group meeting with 17 African Presidents namely Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo (Equatorial Guinea), Idriss Deby (Chad), Macky Sall (Senegal), Ellen Johnson Sirleaf (Liberia), Thomas Boni Yayi (Benin), Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz (Mauritania), Alassane Dramane Ouattara (Cote d’Ivoire), Mahamadou Issoufou (Niger), Jorge Carlos Fonseca (Cape Verde), Peter Mutharika (Malawi), José Mário Vaz (Guinea-Bissau), Edgar Lungu (Zambia), Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal (Algeria), Prime Minister Mahamat Kamoun (Central African Republic), First Vice President Bakri Hassan Saleh (Sudan), Vice President Victor Bockarie Foh (Sierra Leone) and Second Vice President Joseph Butore (Burundi).

The side-event that spoke to cultural ties was the evening gala on December 5 with the theme “China-Africa moments” featuring performances by some 200 African and Chinese artists. Revelers including presidents, government officials and corporate dignitaries sampled “ancient Chinese elegance” and “rich African flavor” interspersed with martial arts, puppet shows and choirs.

On December 11 President Robert Mugabe extolled the importance of China’s support to Africa through FOCAC at a Zimbabwe ruling party Zanu-PF annual congress in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. “Africa’s heart was beating low all along. But your coming and your programs have brought new blood into our hearts and the pulse of our hearts is now vigorous,” he said of China.

Non-state-led side-events

The Wits China-Africa Reporting Project, a media and journalistic initiative based at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, commenced FOCAC Themed Grants for African journalists in March 2015. Journalists were awarded grants to undertake investigative reporting on the implementation of the FOCAC V (2012) Action Plan. The themes focused on the “under-reported areas of the China-Africa relationship” including education and human resources development, research and science and technology, public health, natural resources and sustainable development, peace and security, media and communications and culture.

The South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) organized a by-invitation-only workshop in April for African and Chinese think tanks aimed at increasing collaboration, dialogue and exchanges. Entitled “Priorities, challenges and opportunities for Africa: Sustainability through partnerships with China?” the workshop was part of a broader initiative addressing the question ‘What does Africa want (and need) from China?’ The workshop brought together representatives from think tanks, academia, the AU and NEPAD, the African Development Bank and the South African government. One of the objectives was to contribute ideas towards greater involvement of the African side at the forthcoming FOCAC Summit.

The Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) held a meeting with the Chinese Law Society and the National Prosecution Authority (NPA) on August 17 in preparation for the co-hosting of the FOCAC Legal Forum in late November that brought together lawyers from Africa and China discussing the “China-Africa Joint Dispute Resolution Mechanism” and legal dimensions of trade among, other issues. The “China-Africa International Arbitration Centre” was also established on August 17, officiated by South African Deputy Minister for Justice and Constitutional Development.

The Centre for Chinese Studies (CCS) hosted a conference under the theme “FOCAC: Creating a platform for Africa’s sustainable development” August 26-27 in Cape Town, arguing that the mechanism had “become diversified and various actors [had] become involved; therefore a comprehensive approach [was] needed” in preparing for FOCAC. Funded by the Chinese Embassy in South Africa, the conference was undertaken in partnership with the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies (SIIS). The conference tackled peace and security, economics and sustainable development and the UN post-2015 agenda and brought together familiar names in the Africa-China academic field such as David Shinn of George Washington University, He Wenping of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and CCS interim director Ross Antony.

Unveiling ceremony of the book "China-Africa 500 Facts About China, Africa and Relations Between the Two" in Beijing.

Unveiling ceremony of the book “China-Africa 500: Facts About China, Africa and Relations Between the Two” in Beijing.

On September 10 a book entitled China-Africa 500: Facts about China, Africa and Relations Between the Two was launched in Beijing on the same day as a Chinese Bridge – Sino-African Friendship Knowledge Competition was held at Peking University, Beijing. The Chinese-English book was produced by the China Public Diplomacy Association (CPDA). The CPDA President (who is also a former Chinese foreign minister) Li Zhaoxing delivered a speech to the over 400 attendees, including African diplomats in Beijing (led by ambassador of Madagascar in Beijing Sikonina Victor), former Chinese diplomats who served in Africa and Sino-Africa specialists. Beijing Review, the publishers of ChinAfrica magazine also contributed to the compilation and editing of the book. The Chinese Bridge event on the other hand was organized by the Confucius Institute Headquarters (Hanban) and the follow up committee of FOCAC which is based at the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and led by the director of the African Department, Lin Songtian.

South Africa’s Human and Social Research Council (HSRC) held a symposium entitled “Governance of China and Africa relations” on September 17 with presentations delivered via web link simultaneously in Pretoria, Cape Town and Durban. Co-sponsored by the South African Department/Ministry of Science and Technology and the Chinese Embassy in South Africa, the event sought to interpret the implications of China’s One Belt One Road initiative for Africa as well as make sense of President Xi Jinping’s 2014 book, The Governance of China. Participants were from government, South Africa’s ruling ANC party, corporate entities, universities and think tanks.

On  October 12 Action Support Centre (ASC), a Johannesburg-based conflict resolution organisation, partnered with the Cape Town-based Southern African Liaison Office (SALO) and the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies for a dialogue between civil society organisations (CSOs) “to understand their opinion, expectations, and express their concerns ahead of FOCAC”. One of the products of the meeting was a piece on how China can help Africa achieve the peace and security aspects of AU’s agenda 2063 under the FOCAC architecture.

The South African financial institution Nedbank and AU’s New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) co-hosted a networking event on November 11 under the NEPAD Business Foundation (NBF) banner. The event sought to advance private sector interests and improvement of Africa-China trade relations by taking advantage of the FOCAC Summit. Under the theme “FOCAC – Enhancing China-Africa trade relations through private sector support”, this events is held annually by both organisations and was in 2015 strategically convened “in anticipation of FOCAC” with speakers including Dave Malcomson, Chief Director of BRICS and FOCAC at the South African Foreign Ministry; Kobus van der Wath, CEO of Beijing Axis; and Erwin Pon, Business Development Director at Rand Merchant Bank and Chairman of the Chinese Association of Gauteng in South Africa.

On November 12 the Wits China-Africa Reporting focused on FOCAC for its annual Roundtable with the theme “Reporting FOCAC6 – A Turning Point for Africa-China Engagement”. The event brought together international experts and African and Chinese journalists to analyse the public policy dimensions of FOCAC6 as well as reporting strategies for covering the Summit. The Roundtable saw presentations and discussions by experts drawn from diverse fields, including economics and finance, politics and international relations, media and communications and environment and natural resources. A key highlight of the event was the unveiling of a FOCAC journalists’ multi-media guide developed by the China Africa Project’s Eric Olander and Cobus van Staden (known for their weekly Africa-China podcast as well as the Reporting FOCAC website produced in collaboration with the Wits China-Africa Reporting Project) with extensive and handy information for journalists) in partnership with the Wits China-Africa Reporting Project.

On November 17 the China-South Africa Youth Volunteers Programme in Wildlife Conservation Forum was held at Tshwane University of Technology in Pretoria along with a photography exhibition. South African youth were drawn from Tshwane University while their Chinese counterparts came from Beijing Forestry University, the National Zoological Museum, Shenzhen Yantian Foreign Study School and the Black Leopard Wildlife Conservation Station NGO. In attendance were South African deputy minister for environmental affairs, Barbara Thompson and Chen Fengxue, a director of China’s State Forestry Administration. Youth awareness on the importance of conservation was emphasised at the event.

On November 19-20 the Durban University of Technology with its Confucius Institute in the lead role hosted the “One Belt, One Road and a Prosperous Africa” conference in partnership with the HSRC, the China Institute of International Studies (CIIS) and the Ministry of International Relations, South Africa. Calculated to  contribute to the build-up for the FOCAC Summit, the objective of the event was “to carve a continental wide approach on the One Belt One Road Strategy that has been developed by China” which is also known as “the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road”. Discussions centred on the themes of industrialisation, infrastructure development, special economic zones and industrial parks, energy, green and blue economies, finance, peace and security, education and training and culture.

SAIIA media briefing "FOCAC VI, more of the same or signs of change?"

SAIIA media briefing “FOCAC VI, more of the same or signs of change?”

On November 19 the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) organised a pre-Summit media briefing at its Johannesburg offices entitled “FOCAC VI, more of the same or signs of change?” The briefing focused on “the ‘softer’ side of the FOCAC pillars” namely health, wildlife, policy learning as well as relationship building with SAIIA researchers Yushan Wu and Romain Dittgen providing expertise.

Huang Hongxiang and Edwina Zhang with the banner produced byu China House: "Chinese in Africa Say No to Illegal Wildlife Trade"

Huang Hongxiang and Edwina Zhang with the banner produced by China House: “Chinese in Africa Say No to Illegal Wildlife Trade”

Some of the pre-FOCAC Summit initiatives were creative. On the morning of November 27, a Kenyan-Chinese NGO, China House, a Nairobi-based NGO aimed at integrating Chinese immigrants in Africa, turned up at the Johannesburg offices of the Chinese ICT firm Huawei, displaying posters featuring “the brutal realities of ivory and rhino horn trade” as part of an initiative to draw the attention of FOCAC officials and Chinese communities in South Africa. Huawei staff then signed their names on a mega canvass committing not to be involved in wildlife malpractices. On the afternoon of November 27 the same group moved to the famous China Mall in the southern parts of Johannesburg aiming to spread the anti-poaching message to shop-owners and shoppers. The next stop was Johannesburg’s “new” Chinatown on November 28, a locale described as a “hub for the trade of illegal wildlife goods”, where the posters popped up and canvassing was undertaken by the Chinese community there. The China House initiative ended on November 29 with a number of members of the Chinese community in South Africa taking a learning and familiarisation trip to Vulpro, a vulture rehabilitation centre on the outskirts of Johannesburg.

Under the ongoing “China-Africa Dialogue Series”, the African Wildlife Foundation (AWF) and the Aspen Institute with the support of the World Bank organised a series of activities from November 29 to December 3 in South Africa bringing along wildlife ambassadors such as Chinese film star Wang Baoqiang and Tanzanian singer-songwriter Alikiba. Symbolically, the AWF-Aspen partnership, dubbed the China-Africa Wildlife Conservation Council, undertook a field trip by CSO and members of the media fraternity to the Kruger National Park where a FOCAC dialogue was held and a statement released urging the setting aside of marine and terrestrial wildlife protection areas. It was not just African NGOs speaking to each other as some Chinese NGOs such as the Centre for International Business Ethics were also on board. The events in South Africa were the culmination of a number of earlier activities in China, Kenya and Rwanda.

An important player in the FOCAC non-state-driven space is the global environmental civil society, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). The December 1 WWF FOCAC side event dubbed the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) (“Seizing Opportunities to Create Sustainable Development Pathways”), held in the Illovo suburb of Johannesburg, was not only a collaborative effort of their offices in South Africa (Johannesburg and Cape Town), China and Kenya, but also the culmination of several FOCAC6-focused initiatives in 2015. For instance WWF partnered with the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the Swiss biodiversity conservation philanthropy, MAVA, for a FOCAC CSO awareness workshop in Nairobi in March 2015.

Back to the WWF December side-event, discussions focused on wildlife trade, forestry, extractives, infrastructure and renewable energy with a view to “facilitate poverty alleviation, improve energy access, support sustainable management of Africa’s rich natural resources, and encourage responsible production and consumption”. Rather than being a mere talking shop, WWF strategised the side event as an opportunity to advocate inclusion of “sustainable use” rubrics in the FOCAC Action Plan, bringing on board a wide array of UN, governmental, corporate, academic and civil society voices. That the WWF Executive Director Dr Deon Nel officiated at the event demonstrated the importance placed on environmental and natural resources problem areas of Africa-China economic engagements. It would therefore be interesting to assess the extent to which WWF’s wish list ranging from responsible use and trade of natural resources to sustainable finance, clean energy and inclusivity were catered for in the FOCAC Action Plan and if so, the next steps the organisation will be taking in pushing the sometimes dicey environmental dimensions of Africa-China engagements.

On December 1, The Independent, a major South African media group, partnered with the China Public Diplomacy Association (CPDA) to hold a “China Africa Relations Roundtable Conference” bringing together serving and retired diplomats, academics and government officials from Africa and China in Johannesburg.

On December 2, the ANC’s Progressive Business Forum and China Council for the Promotion of International Trade & Investment (CCPITI) held a business seminar in Johannesburg which appears not to have been reported on much.

On December 2 four organisations came together for a wildlife workshop with the theme “Is the China-Africa nexus an emerging partnership to combat wildlife poaching and trafficking?” Hosted on the University of the Witwatersrand main campus in Johannesburg, the idea was the brainchild of Huang Hongxiang, director of China House. It was hosted by the Wits China-Africa Reporting Project with the involvement of the Washington DC animal protection organisation, Humane Society International. Two Africa-based Chinese organisations were represented, the Southern Africa Shanghai Industrial and Commercial Liaison Association, which is based in Johannesburg and has a working relationship with the ruling ANC’s Progressive Business Forum, and Global Media Max Media Group, the Gaborone-based publishers of Chinese and English language titles in a number of southern Africa countries.  Zhou Yuxiao, former Chinese ambassador to Zambia (2011-2014) shared his experience on the topic after which participating delegates engaged in vibrant debate on perceptions about large scale Chinese involvement in wildlife poaching and trafficking. Among the speakers were Alexander Rhodes (Stop Ivory and Elephant Protection Initiative); Andrea Crosta (Elephant Action League); Damien Mander (International Anti-Poaching Foundation) and Zhuo Qiang aka Simba (Mara Conservation Fund). An innovative finale to the event was the signing of an anti-poaching declaration which was to be forwarded to the FOCAC Secretariat.

On December 2 the Chinese GO Network for International Exchanges (CNIE) partnered with the Centre for Chinese Studies (CCS) of Stellenbosch University for the side-event “Voice from the People, Friendship among the People, and Cooperation for the People”. At this ‘people-to-people’ conference in Cape Town a dash of colour was on display through artistic, photo and video exhibitions, storytelling sessions as well as Africa-China people-to-people conference aimed at breaking cultural barriers. It is worth noting that CNIE officials had met with the AU’s Economic, Social and Cultural Council counterparts in Addis Ababa in November 2015 with the objective of implementing the recommendations of the fourth China-Africa People’s Forum in Yiwu, China in August 2015.

On December 3 the Wits China-Africa Reporting Project convened a lecture: “Feeding Frenzy – Fiction and Facts about China, Africa and the Media” at the University of the Witwatersrand by sinologist Professor Deborah Brautigam. Her lecture drew on her recent publication Will Africa Feed China which provides research-based arguments against the supposition that China is on a land grab mission on the continent.

On December 4 a South Africa-China Business Forum was held in Johannesburg a short distance from the Sandton Convention Centre, venue of the FOCAC Summit. It was organised by China Daily newspaper, the ANC’s Progressive Business Forum (PBF), the China-Africa Business Council (CABC) and China Africa Development Fund (CAD Fund). It was supported by the Johannesburg-based Southern Africa Shanghai Industrial and Commercial Liaison Association. The Chinese government was represented by Jiang Jianguo, Vice Minister, Publicity Department of the CPC and Director of the Information Office of the State Council, while the ANC was represented by head of communications, Keith Khoza. The event also doubled up as the launch of a voluminous book, Chinese Enterprises in Africa 2015, published by China Daily newspaper and featuring some 128 Chinese companies with a presence in Africa. Also distributed at the event was the “2015 Report on the Sustainable Development of Chinese Enterprises Overseas” published jointly by China Research Centre of the State-owned Assets Supervision and Administration Commission, Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation (Ministry of Commerce) and the United Nations Development Programme China.

The South Africa Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) organised a multi-stakeholder workshop on December 3 in Johannesburg entitled “China-Africa: A maturing relationship? Growth, change and resilience”, in partnership with the UK-based DFID-ESRC Growth Research Programme (DEGRP). The workshop explored three objectives: China’s role in the global economy and Africa; diversification away from a natural resource-based economic engagement; and governance, peace and security. Participants were drawn from academia and the private sector and included such organisations as the Overseas Development Institute, Peking University (represented by former World Bank director Justin Lin), United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and Johns Hopkins University (represented by Deborah Brautigam).

On December 4 the United Nations Industrial and Development Organization (UNIDO), the China Council for Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT) and the China Africa Development Fund (CAD Fund) signed an agreement on the sidelines of the Summit. The agreement aimed “to jointly enhance inter-institutional cooperation and exchanges, create trading and investment opportunities for developing countries, and promote the economic development and industrialisation process in developing countries for the purpose of improving economic competitiveness and increasing productive employment”. Li Yong, Director General signed on behalf of UNIDO.

Chinese First Lady peng Liyuan and African First Ladies at an HIV advocacy event in Johannesburg (Source: www.nyasatimes.com)

Chinese First Lady Peng Liyuan and African first ladies at an HIV advocacy event in Johannesburg (Source: www.nyasatimes.com)

On December 5, a day after the heads of state and government convened for the FOCAC Summit, their spouses had a dialogue for an HIV/AIDS free Africa led by South African First Lady Thobeka Madiba-Zuma and Chinese First Lady Peng Liyuan. Under the banner of the Organisation of African First Ladies against HIV/AIDS (OAFLA), whose President is Ghanaian First Lady Lordina Mahama, with the support of UN agencies UNAIDS and WHO and China’s National Health and Family Planning Commission, the Red-ribbon donning event attracted 10 African first ladies. Themed “Africa-China Partnership: Caring for an AIDS-free generation”, the side-event focused on the impact of HIV-Aids on maternal and child health in Africa. It was a rendezvous of interests: Peng Liyuan is WHO goodwill ambassador for HIV/AIDS since 2013 while the African First Ladies club has focused on HIV/AIDS since its establishment in 2002. Further confluence of interests can be seen in the coincidence of the WHO Director-General, Margaret Chan being a Chinese national  and the September 2015 unveiling of the UN 2030 agenda for Sustainable Development, the successor to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) targeting among other things an HIV/AIDS-free generation.

On December 5 South African Minister for International Relations Maite Nkoana-Mashabane and her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi held a press conference essentially to speak about the success of the Summit. Although closely tied to the main event, the press conference can be considered a side-event as it happened a day after the formal summit. Interestingly, the South African and Chinese sides reported the press conference in a slightly different manner to prime their respective role in the success of the Summit.

On December 8 and 9 the “6th Africa-China Poverty Reduction and Development Conference” was held at the Gallagher Convention Centre in Johannesburg. The key drivers of this important sub-conference were the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP-China), the Department (or ministry) of Rural Development and Land Reform of South Africa, the International Poverty Reduction Centre in China (IPRCC) and the Finance Centre for South South Cooperation. This was an important event to the extent that it provided supra policy guidelines and action for poverty reduction in Africa and China. Speeches were delivered by South Africa’s rural development minister Gugile Nkwinti, China’s Vice Minister for Poverty Alleviation and Development Hong Tianyun and South African UNDP Resident Representative and UNDP China office representative Hannah Ryder. Significantly the sub-forum was themed “Towards Post-2015 Africa-China Sustainable Cooperation on Poverty Reduction and Development”, thus connecting Africa-China developmental initiatives to the broader UN transition from Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to the Sustainable Development Goals Agenda 2030 and African Union Agenda 2063. The sub-forum was a based on the “Africa-China Poverty Reduction and Development Conference” held since 2010.

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