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Upcoming FOCAC meeting comes at critical time to spur Sino-Africa ties: AU official

ADDIS ABABA, (The Southern African Times) – The upcoming meeting of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) would take place at a critical moment for strengthening Sino-Africa ties across various sectors, a senior African Union (AU) official has said.

In a recent interview with The Southern African Times, AU Commissioner for Infrastructure and Energy Amani Abou-Zeid emphasised the need to make use of the approaching FOCAC meeting slated to be held in Senegal later this year for even stronger relations.

“The FOCAC this year comes at a critical time. It is critical and timely, because all the events that happened last year since the eruption of the pandemic have also made us rethink our approaches, strategies and our priorities for the coming years,” said Abou-Zeid.

The commissioner believes that energy, infrastructure and the digital economy are potential areas for enhancing Africa’s connectivity and integration and boosting bilateral partnerships, which thus will come to the spotlight during this year’s FOCAC meeting.

In February, the African continent launched the Program for Infrastructure Development-Priority Action Plan (PIDA-PAP2), which will run from 2021 to 2030. “We are talking about 69 regional projects that address issues of all modes of transport, address energy, and also inter-connections,” Abou-Zeid said.

“Our expectation, also what we are going to put forward and share in the FOCAC, is to formulate a China-Africa infrastructure cooperation plan aligned to the second phase of the PIDA priority action plan,” she said.

In Abou-Zeid’s view, augmenting partnerships in infrastructure is important for the development of the African Continental Free Trade Area, which went into operation in January. “More than ever, issues of regional transport are coming to the fore, and we need to expedite and fast track the programs for transport,” she said.

Noting both sides’ intention to cooperate in the Single African Air Transport Market project, an initiative of the AU to advance Africa’s civil aviation industry, Abou-Zeid called for further cooperation between the Chinese and African civil aviation authorities.

“It is also highly important to establish the Africa-China Energy Partnership with a secretariat to assist the African Union Commission to move forward the Africa energy agenda,” she said, adding, “This is something that we started during the last FOCAC and I hope this time we will establish the secretariat.”

She highlighted China’s supportive role in the AU’s 50-year continental development Agenda 2063, saying, “For us at the African Union Commission, we do appreciate the approach adopted by China to advance the partnership based on African priorities and the Agenda 2063.”

“We do appreciate the commitment of China in bridging infrastructure gaps in terms of transport projects at national levels in roads, railways, ports, and airports,” she continued.

The commissioner also thanked China for its efforts to help Africa improve infrastructure connectivity.

“The approach taken (by China) to build local capacity through transportation and engineering technologies, the exchanges and trainings that we had, and the promotion of African technical capacity are also the areas that are appreciated,” Abou-Zeid added.

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