China’s Belt and Road Initiative is already getting massive African support before FOCAC starts

Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi cut deals early in Beijing on Friday, as he embarked on a state visit ahead of the 2018 Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) scheduled for September 3 and 4, which he also plans to attend. A day earlier, Cote d’Ivoire’s President Alassane Ouattara and Sierra Leonean President Julius Maada Bio were also in Beijing. They met with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Thursday and agreed to raise bilateral ties between their countries to a new level.

The Batswana president said that his country had since gaining independence from the United Kingdom, maintained good ties with China. He expressed his country’s gratitude to China for its continued assistance in areas such as infrastructure and healthcare.

“Botswana would like to congratulate and learn from China’s great achievements in development and poverty alleviation,” Masisi added.

Masisi noted that China is an important force in the international community and a key partner of developing countries. He added that his country agrees to the great concept of building a community with a shared future for humanity, supports the Belt and Road Initiative and is committed to expanding bilateral cooperation within the FOCAC framework.

Masisi’s visit is his first to China since become president of Botswana in April. It is also the first visit to China by a head of state of Botswana in 12 years.

Xi expressed appreciation that China has a good ally in Botswana, but asked that both countries increase mutual trust and deepen cooperation to raise bilateral ties to a new high, especially on issues involving their development paths, core interests and major concerns.

“China stands ready to enhance aligning development strategies with Botswana and welcomes Botswana to take an active part in the Belt and Road construction,” Xi added.

In what looked like a gradual change in China’s approach to Africa, Xi told Masisi of the need for both countries to boost people-to-people exchanges, wildlife protection, communication and coordination in international and regional affairs, jointly safeguard the rights and interests of the developing countries, advance development of a new type of international relations and build a community with a shared future for humanity, Chinese news agency Xinhua reports.

Meanwhile, Cote d’Ivoire’s President Alassane Ouattara, who called China a great friend of his country, expressed his admiration of China’s reform. He also said he was in full support of the Belt and Road Initiative proposed by Xi.

Several other African leaders, who met with Xi on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, ahead of FOCAC pledged support for China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The initiative is an ambitious effort to improve regional cooperation and connectivity on a trans-continental scale. It aims to strengthen infrastructure, trade, and investment links between China and some 65 other countries that account collectively for over 30 percent of global GDP, 62 percent of population, and 75 percent of known energy reserves.

China says its intentions are good — to enhance regional connectivity and embrace a brighter future, but others see it as a push by the Asian giant to be more influential in global affairs. The Belt and Road Initiative is geographically structured along several land corridors, and the maritime silk road. Infrastructure corridors encompassing around 60 countries, primarily in Asia and Europe but also including Oceania and East Africa.

The BRI is expected to be one of the major topics of discussion at the summit. It links China to the eastern coast of Africa through the ‘Maritime Silk Road’. The Maritime Silk Road is the maritime section of the historic Silk Road that connects China to Southeast Asia, Indonesian archipelago, Indian subcontinent, Arabian peninsula, Somalia, Egypt and finally Europe. The route flourished between 2nd-century BCE and 15th-century CE. The plan now includes Kenya, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Tanzania.

China is also expected to pledge contributions to African countries.

The 2018 FOCAC Summit is themed “China and Africa: Toward an Even Stronger Community with a Shared Future through Win-win Cooperation”.

FOCAC brings together China and the 53 African countries with which it has diplomatic relations, as well as the African Union.