Partnership on Digital Innovation Expands Substance of China-Africa Community with Shared Future

Ma Xinmin
Chinese Ambassador to Sudan

China will work with African countries to formulate and implement the “China-Africa Partnership Plan on Digital Innovation”, China’s Assistant Foreign Minister Deng Li announced at the opening ceremony of the recently held China-Africa Internet Development and Cooperation Forum. As a new initiative aimed at practical cooperation between the two sides, it will foster new growth drivers for Africa’s economic and social progress, create new opportunities for China-Africa practical cooperation and enrich the vision of building a China-Africa community with a shared future.

China-Africa cooperation on digital innovation could hardly be better timed. While presiding over the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity Against COVID-19 in June 2020, Chinese President Xi Jinping stressed China’s willingness to explore broader cooperation with Africa in such new business forms as digital economy, smart city, and 5G. Early this year Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi proposed China and Africa to cooperate in building a “Digital Africa” during his visit to Africa. Faced with the severe challenge posed by the pandemic, China and Africa have looked out for each other and stayed together to overcome difficulties as a community with a shared future. Digital technologies including telemedicine, big data, and high-speed communication networks were used as a potent weapon in COVID-19 response.

Meanwhile, as the pandemic fueled the rapid development and wide application of digital technologies, the digital economy has been providing an important impetus to global economic recovery. E-commerce, mobile payment, and artificial intelligence will undoubtedly be leveraged as a key tool to help African countries with their economic rebound.

Given the tremendous potential, huge demand, and broad prospects of China-Africa cooperation in digital fields, the “China-Africa Partnership Plan on Digital Innovation” is most opportune and relevant, and is expected to be a godsend for African countries to rise from COVID-19 at an early date.

China-Africa cooperation on digital innovation will pursue actual effects. Both history and reality tell us time and time again that China’s proposals for cooperation with African nations are never empty visions that stay only on paper, but have always been delivered, once made, with tangible benefits for African countries and people. Intending to serve their economic development and improve the well-being of their people through win-win cooperation, China devises the “China-Africa Partnership Plan on Digital Innovation” that highlights six core partnership areas:

  1. Strengthening the digital infrastructure to unclog the information artery of economic and social development
  2. Growing the digital economy to promote the integrated development of digital technologies and the real economy
  3. Promoting digital education to overcome the “talent bottleneck” that constrains digital innovation
  4. Promoting digital inclusiveness to benefit the wider African public
  5. Jointly upholding digital security and enhancing digital governance capacity
  6. Building cooperation platforms to promote digital progress through exchanges.

These anticipated core areas are conducive to expanding our practical cooperation to emerging sectors and thus propelling industrial transformation and upgrading on the African continent. Training a growing number of African-born innovative talent will enable African countries to achieve high-quality and sustainable development.

China-Africa cooperation on digital innovation will be fulfilled with concrete actions. China has successfully built, in collaboration with South Africa, the first standalone commercial 5G network in Africa, while Senegal’s national data center constructed with funding and technical support from China has been officially put into service.

The Chinese-company-initiated Electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP) provides a better way to introduce African products into the Chinese market. The “Seeds for the Future” program initiated by Huawei and the “Africa Netpreneur Prize” initiative launched by Alibaba are an approach to help train internet talent for Africa. Shortly after the “China-Africa Partnership Plan on Digital Innovation” was proposed, the launching ceremony of the Report on Chinese Investment in Africa and the African Products Online Promoting Season under the framework of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) were held in succession, applauded and attended by a large number of enthusiastic participants from African countries.

Next, through other activities that have been scheduled, including the second China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo and China-Africa Beidou Cooperation Forum, China will work with Africa to make plans for the digital cooperation initiatives to be launched in the next three years, which will be included in the outcome document of the next FOCAC meeting. Every initiative concerning China-Africa cooperation in digital fields is made based on the present reality and the long-term horizon and has yielded preliminary results. All these initiatives will surely continue to play a bigger part in Africa’s prosperous development and the upgrading of China-Africa relations.

Actions speak louder than words, and intrinsic character overweighs extrinsic brilliance. Looking ahead, with concrete effort, China will cooperate with Africa on the “Digital Africa” initiative to help it get aboard the fast train of the information era to bridge the digital divide, which will allow African people to avail themselves of the opportunities created by the digital economy, produce digital technological achievements and draw a blueprint for digital development. This will contribute to improving the well-being of African people and forging an even stronger China-Africa community with a shared future.

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