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China-Africa summit should prioritise security-corruption nexus

Sunday July 8 2018

 Forum on China-Africa Cooperation

Chinese President Xi Jinping. A new roadmap from the FOCAC Summit that gets under way in Beijing from September 3-4, 2018 will inevitably move China’s relation with all 55 African states to a whole new level of development. PHOTO | PABALLO THEKISO | AFP 

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Endemic corruption is feeding insecurity. Recognising that the corruption-security nexus quickly morphing into an existential threat to development and national stability, the African Union adopted the theme of “Winning the Fight Against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation” for its recently-concluded summit in Nouakchott, Mauritania, from June 25 to July 2, 2018.

The Corruption-Security nexus is also likely to feature in the meetings of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Summit in Beijing in early September 2018.

Like other investors in Africa, China is also increasingly wary that the mix of corruption and insecurity is eroding the gains made in development co-operation over the last four decades.

So far, the corruption-security nexus is featuring in discussions during the preparatory meetings of the 2018 FOCAC summit.

One of the most important supporting events of the FOCAC summit is the 7th China-Africa Think Tank Forum (CATTF) meeting, held in Beijing from July 4-5, 2018. The meeting, held under the theme: “China-Africa Relations Over the Course of Reforms and Opening Up”, highlighted the need to share “governance experiences.”

Significantly, the CATTF meeting and the 2018 FOCAC summit coincide with the 40th anniversary of the historic “reform and opening-up” under President Deng Xiaoping from 1978. Over the last four decades, Beijing’s brand of “Socialism with Chinese Characteristics” has catapulted the country to the world’s second largest economy, enabling it to lift over 700 million out of poverty.

The CATTF meeting enabled Chinese and African scholars, media personalities, policy thinkers and African diplomats to audit the impact of China’s economic reforms and opening up on Sino-Africa relations over the last 40 years.

Over the past four decades, Africa and China have expanded their people-to-people ties. Over two million Chinese and Africans are moving between the two countries every year. To expand its soft power capacity, China has opened more than 80 Confucius Institutes in 41 African countries.

Providing the contest of China’s development support to Africa is Agenda 2063, the continent’s development blueprint. Since President Xi unveiled the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2013, African countries have been part of over 60 countries benefiting from the 1.2 trillion-dollar initiative.


Projects completed under this initiative include the Mombasa-Nairobi Railway (June 2017), the Djibouti-Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) railway (January 2018) and the 186.5 kilometre Abuja-Kaduna rail line in Nigeria (July 2018).

China has become Africa’s top trading partner since 2009. According to statistics by China Customs, in January 2018, the value of China-Africa trade stood at US$16.5 billion.

China is also Africa’s largest creditor. In 2015, at the sixth Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), President Xi pledged $60 billion in commercial loans to Africa, increasing lending to at least $20 billion a year.

China and its African allies have invoked the shared history of solidarity, mutual respect, equality, and win-win scenarios to turn the tables on Western propaganda that Beijing is Africa’s new coloniser.

China has used the “peaceful development” strategy to counter both Francis Fukuyama’s “End of History” thesis and Samuel Huntington’s “clash of civilisation” argument. The idea has given rise to President Xi’s doctrine of building a “community of shared destiny” for mankind.


Through the FOCAC framework, China has helped to strengthen Africa’s Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) established since 2004 to avoid genocide and underwrite stability. In this regard, China funded the entire $200 million AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, as a fitting gift to Africa.

China’s security footprint has expanded. It has over 2,000 of its peacekeepers in five UN operations, contributing the largest troops to Africa and brokering peace behind-the-scenes.

In January 2016, China established a military base in Djibouti as part of its Belt and Road Initiative. Moreover, Beijing dispatched its health professionals to Liberia and the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2014 and June 2018 respectively to fight Ebola outbreaks.

The 2018 FOCAC Summit offers China and Africa an ideal platform to share experiences and lessons and to devise innovative frameworks of addressing civil wars, terrorism and extremism, and election-related political uncertainties and instability as well as endemic corruption now undermining investor confidence and the sustainability of development projects.


The FOCAC 2018 summit has also to address mechanisms ensuring effective management of new railways and highways to generate profits to repay debts.

Africa faces the risk of a new indebt burden to China. FOCAC 2018 needs to accelerate Africa’s industrialisation, including investing in industrial parks and new corridors of development, to enable it expand economies to repay debts.

FOCAC 2018 needs to ensure that massive resources meant for intensive infrastructure projects do not feed the beast of corruption and political patronage.

The coming FOCAC summit should come up with concrete ways to support African countries to implement the African Union (AU) Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption (2003), which addresses corruption in the public and private sectors.

Professor Peter Kagwanja is the CEO of Africa Policy Institute. This article is an excerpt from a keynote speech delivered during the 7th China-Africa think tank forum under the theme: “China-Africa Relations Over the Course of Opening Up”, Beijing, China, July 4-5, 2018