Africa-China Relations: Unpacking FOCAC 2018

On the 11 October 2018, The University of Johannesburg Confucius Institute (UJCI) and Oxfam Pan Africa in collaboration with the UJ Library hosted a seminar entitled: The Future of Africa-China Relations: Conclusions from FOCAC 2018, at The Auckland Park Kingsway Campus Library.

Drawing participation from a diverse set of scholars, representing various parts of the continent, the seminar looked to unpack the outcomes of the Forum for China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) 2018 Summit in historical perspective and took stock of some of the features of China- Africa relations in bilateral and multilateral terms amidst a changing global order. Infrastructural partnerships; trade; increasing growth of private sector investment in Africa; and governance issues, were just some of the hot topics discussed at this rigorous discussion.

The seminar further explored the extent to which China can be seen as a partner in Africa’s priority areas (as articulated in Agenda 2063). Agenda 2063 is a strategic framework for the socio-economic transformation of the continent over the next 50 years. It builds on, and seeks to accelerate the implementation of past and existing continental initiatives for growth and sustainable development.

Dr David Monyae (Co-Director: UJCI) welcomed guests and members of the audience, maintaining that Agenda 2063 should form the basis of which to understand Africa’s relationship with China.

The seminar included two sessions with presentations made from a panel of experts followed by a question and answer session. Session 1 looked at Bilateral Focuses with insight from Ethiopia, Kenya and South Africa.

Prof Messay Mulutenga (College of Development Studies, University of Addis Ababa) explored Sino-Ethiopian Trade and Investment Relations, particularly the economic implications for both countries.

”Chinese investments have created vital infrastructure, jobs for thousands of Ethiopians and valuable skills and technology transfers. While this is a tremendous opportunity, at the same time it presents Ethiopia with significant challenges, namely to adapt Chinese resources and technologies to local circumstances and local priorities.”

Dr Westen Shilaho (Research Fellow, SARChI Chair: African Diplomacy and Foreign Policy) offered an East African perspective maintain that while Kenya and China have both benefited from their partnership- it is unquestionably China who have largely profited.

”Kenya needs to reap the benefits of educational opportunities and skills transfer schemes between these two countries, and use them to develop its own capacity to undertake mega projects instead of outsourcing them to China and the West.”

Session 2 focused specifically on FOCAC 2018 and the Opportunities and Challenges it presents.

Zambia’s Mr Chalimba Phiri, provided some key insights into his country’s growing relationship with China, offering a more optimistic view of the partnership. However, he did concur with Dr Shilaho that African nations should be more cognisant of entering into such agreements.

”I am not concerned with our growing partnership with China. A loan is a loan, whether it comes from the West or East. However, what is important is that the rules of engagement and terms of agreement with China is of critical performance. We need leadership and politicians who can put together a deal with investors that are prudent and in the best interest of the people of Zambia.”

The Forum for China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) is a multilateral platform for collective, pragmatic consultation and dialogue established jointly by Chinese and African leaders in 2000 in order to further strengthen the friendly cooperation between China and Africa under the new circumstances, to jointly meet the challenge of economic globalisation and to promote common development.

The inaugural FOCAC ministerial meeting was held in Beijing on the 10th – 12th October 2000. The meeting charted the direction for the development of a new, stable and long-term partnership featuring equality and mutual benefit between China and African countries. 53 African countries have established diplomatic relations with China and the Commission of the African Union.


The University of Johannesburg Confucius Institute (UJCI) is one of five Confucius Institutes in South Africa, and one of several hundred Confucius Institutes at universities and other educational institutions around the world. Like its sister institutions, its mission is to promote the study of Chinese and an interest in Chinese culture. The UJCI is a partnership between the University of Johannesburg, the Confucius Institute Headquarters in Beijing, and a Chinese partner university, Nanjing Tech University.


Dr Westen Shilaho
Dr Westen Shilaho (Research Fellow, SARChI Chair: African Diplomacy and Foreign Policy)


Prof Messay Mulutenga
Prof Messay Mulutenga (College of Development Studies, University of Addis Ababa)


Prof Peng Yi
Prof Peng Yi: UJCI Co- Director
Share this

Latest News

All News