Chinese relations with Africa are set to grow next year, with both sides considering upgrading a ministerial-level forum to a leadership summit, a senior Foreign Ministry official said.
Lin Songtian, director-general of the Department of African Affairs, told China Daily on Dec 24 that the past year has seen relations develop rapidly.
Both President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang visited Africa in 2014, and 13 African leaders came to China.
Sino-African trade was $180.6 billion from January through October 2014, a 4.5 percent increase compared with the same period last year, Lin said, as he predicted that the figure will pass $200 billion for the entire year.
Infrastructure has played a key role in relations. The November agreement to create a 1,402 km coastal railway in Nigeria is China’s single largest overseas project.
Meanwhile, the Mombasa-Nairobi railway in Kenya and the Addis Ababa-Djibouti rail projects in East Africa are progressing smoothly.
With the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation ministerial conference to be held in South Africa in 2015, more infrastructure projects are around the corner, Lin said.
Lin said China will get actively involved in highway, railway, telecommunications, power and other projects in Africa in 2015 to facilitate regional connectivity, with aviation cooperation and a high-speed railway network a focus.
The forum, in its 15th term, could be upgraded to a summit between leaders, said Liu Hongwu, director of the School of African Studies at Zhejiang Normal University.
Liu’s view was echoed by Lin Songtian, who said the upgrade is under serious consideration and will be discussed by the forum and the ministry.
The forum, which takes place every three years, is a framework to deepen the China-Africa partnership, strengthen economic and trade cooperation, and explore a common path that reflects both China’s and Africa’s realities.
Agriculture, food security, healthcare and education, will be the forum’s focus in 2015, Lin said.
“Cooperation on healthcare should be emphasized. Poor medical and health conditions in Africa have been exposed during the fight against Ebola,” Liu said.
“Systems, ideas and experience concerning communication and social mobilization that China gained in fighting SARS should be shared with African countries as providing emergency aid is only a palliative.”
China has provided four rounds of emergency aid worth $120 million and sent 600 medical personnel to Ebola-affected areas.