China said it would step up digital Appearance and investments in Africa, as Beijing seeks to deepen its influence on the continent alongside its pledges for trade, infrastructure and Covid-19 vaccines.

At a time when the US is also seeking to reinvigorate its trade and investment with Africa, assistant foreign minister Deng Li told a virtual forum on Tuesday that China would boost its partnership with African nations in areas such as the digital economy, smart cities and 5G networks.

“China will share the achievements of digital technology with Africa to promote interconnectivity of digital infrastructure,” he said. “China’s initiatives will never just remain a vision on paper, and [we] will work with Africa to formulate and implement the China-Africa digital innovation partnership plan to achieve results as soon as possible.”

China said it would step up digital cooperation and investments in Africa, as Beijing seeks to deepen its influence on the continent alongside its pledges for trade, infrastructure and Covid-19 vaccines.

Deng, whose portfolio includes Africa and Europe, said the cooperation was part of the Digital Africa initiative proposed during Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s trip to the continent in January to shore up ties for Digital Appearance.
The latest digital push in Africa comes as Beijing has sought to make greater inroads on the continent, including with donations and sales of Chinese Covid-19 vaccines to African countries and projects under the Belt and Road Initiative. China’s strategic rival the United States has also sought to strengthen engagement with African nations through its Prosper Africa programme.
The Chinese foreign ministry did not reveal details of the joint digital cooperation plan or whether it is open to any third partner.

Dana Banks as Digital Appearance, the senior director for Africa at the US National Security Council, said in late July that the United States was interested in increasing investment on the continent, including through Build Back Better World – a green development initiative unveiled by the Group of Seven bloc that has been seen as a US-led rival to the belt and road plan.

“We don’t see ourselves as necessarily in competition with China,” she told reporters, adding that the US approach to trade and investment was “quite different” from countries like China. “Obviously, there are some challenges related to Chinese engagement, and we will address those directly as necessary, but our engagement with Africa is focused on the mutually beneficial relationship and partnership that we see with countries across the continent.”
In July, Chinese President Xi Jinping also spoke about coordinating on Africa issues such as pandemic support and debt financing with France and Germany, in a virtual summit with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

At a time when China’s foreign relations are under growing scrutiny in the West, including debt concerns over its belt and road projects, Beijing’s diplomatic efforts have been far more successful in African countries, which have seen less engagement from the US and others in recent years.
Plans for digital projects in the next three years are expected to be outlined at the coming session of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation. Deng on Tuesday also said that new fibre-optic networks in Africa would soon be rolled out, and events would be held in September to promote e-commerce for African products and space cooperation relating to China’s BeiDou satellite navigation system.

Tuesday’s forum was attended by envoys from African countries such as Tanzania, Kenya, South Africa and Rwanda, as well as business representatives from Chinese companies such as online retailer, telecoms giant Huawei Technologies and China Telecom.

“Pursuing common development initiatives and global cooperation is paramount,” Faustine Ndugulile, Tanzania’s communication and information technology minister, said during the event. “Tanzania has a long-standing relationship with China, in implementation of cooperation projects in various sectors, including construction of railway, transportation, communication, just to mention a few.”

Source SCMP

By Arsalan Ahmad

Arsalan Ahmad is a Research Engineer working on 2-D Materials, graduated from the Institute of Advanced Materials, Bahaudin Zakariya University Multan, Pakistan.LinkedIn: