Trade between China and Africa has evolved significantly over the past two decades following the establishment of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in 2000.
A series of ministerial meetings have led to a growing portfolio of development projects that have positively impacted investment and trade growth.
However, the partnership needs further strengthening to achieve a sustainable win-win outcome, especially in integration of sustainable principles in investment and trade flows.
Imperative to this is ensuring that negotiations and projects remain consistent with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, the African Union Agenda 2063 and the Africa Green Recovery Plan 2021-2027.
The FOCAC 2021 Summit will be held in Dakar, Senegal this November 29-30, and comes at a time when post-Covid-19 recovery is top on the agenda of African nations. The 2021 summit presents Africa with the opportunity to negotiate for a green, sustainable, inclusive and just recovery.
Over the past 20 years, the FOCAC process has been restricted to government delegations, with little room for input from relevant external stakeholders.
This year World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and TRAFFIC organised a virtual workshop for stakeholders from across Africa, and they raised the need for the FOCAC engagement process to be more transparent and inclusive. They also called for access to relevant information by all stakeholders who are not part of government delegation but play a critical role in supporting the national development agenda.
Furthermore, stakeholders also felt that the FOCAC process needs to include an open monitoring and reporting system to ensure the Action Plan is defined, tracked and implemented.
Stakeholders were united in calling for a FOCAC Action Plan that is clear on curbing deforestation, illegal and unsustainable wildlife trade, promoting renewable energy and addressing biodiversity loss.
While recognising China’s recent nature-positive decisions to cut funding for the development of coal power and to support elimination of global illegal deforestation, stakeholders urged for a stronger focus and investment in accessible and affordable renewable energy.
The other key ‘asks’ were the expansion of the FOCAC process to external stakeholders and the employment of a two-step process in design and implementation, at a national level and continental level.
The stakeholders want the 2021 outcome to signal a strong commitment to support African countries embark on an inclusive green, post-Covid-19 recovery with enough financing and human technical capacity development such as offering scholarships to African youths.
They recognise that most of the key activities under the FOCAC 2018 Action Plan were not implemented because of the disruption by the pandemic. Thus, the recommendation for the Dakar Ministerial Conference to roll over all relevant activities to support biodiversity conservation in Africa, support for sustainable energy development, development of green projects, capacity building and appropriate technology transfers to the new FOCAC 2022-2024 Action Plan.
As stakeholders we envisage a two-step process, one, consultation involving all relevant sectoral ministries, civil society as well as the private sector and two, for a more synchronized approach to Africa’s preparation and participation in the upcoming Ministerial Conference.
While also recognising and appreciating the positive impact of China’s closure of the domestic ivory market, stakeholders called for similarly decisive action against the sale of pangolin scales, rhino horn and tiger bone.
In addition, the 2021 conference outcome should include a strong commitment to improve the management capacity of African wildlife, forestry and fisheries institutions to tackle and eliminate any and all illegal activities in the sectors.
Lastly, but there is uncertainty about the path, duration, magnitude and the impact the pandemic poses on business and investment opportunities.
Jackson Kiplagat is the head of conservation at the World Wide Fund for Nature-Kenya and Dr Taye Teferi is the policy and partnerships co-ordinator - Africa, TRAFFIC- International.