The second Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Agriculture (FOCACA) held in Sanya, south China’s Hainan Province, from 13 to 15 November 2023 has emerged as a catalyst for enhanced food cooperation between China and Africa. The outcomes of this pivotal event deepened the commitment of the two sides to cooperation, focusing on mutual benefit, sustainable development, and common prosperity.
China’s exemplary development journey, marked by lifting millions out of poverty through a people-centred approach, serves as a beacon for Africa’s own development aspirations. The forum emphasised the central role of people in policy formulation and implementation, mirroring China’s successful trajectory.
Aligned with the AU’s Agenda 2063, the master plan for Africa’s development, the forum emphasised expanding cooperation, boosting crop yields, achieving modernisation, and ensuring food security through solidarity. China, with only 7 percent of the world’s arable land, supports a staggering 22 percent of the global population, showcasing the effectiveness of its agricultural practices. China’s grain output has consistently increased over the years since its economic opening up and agrarian reforms.
Africa is host to a similar number in terms of population, but has an astounding 60 percent of the world’s uncultivated arable land, which shows the enormous agricultural potential of the continent.
Oryza glaberrima, commonly known as African rice, was first grown by the West African Jola people 3,000 years ago, who still live in Senegal, the Gambia and Guinea-Bissau. This indigenous African rice is pest-resistant, drought-resistant and climate-resistant, and can easily be grown commercially, which can further strengthen Africa’s food security, generate export earnings, and create jobs along the agro-processing supply chains. The development of indigenous African crops is certainly an area that FOCACA should focus on, as it could lead to the development of new and innovative agricultural products.
Exports to China
To create a favourable condition for the trade of agricultural products, China introduced a zero-tariff policy for 98 percent of taxable items from certain African countries.
Avocados, beef and soybeans from South Africa, coffee from Ethiopia and chilli from Uganda are some of the products being sourced from African nations. China is not only providing immediate assistance, but also focusing on knowledge transfer. China has established agricultural technology demonstration centres in 23 African countries.
These centres conduct hands-on trainings for African agricultural technicians. More than 300 advanced agricultural technologies have been introduced in Africa through these centres, benefiting more than 1 million small household farmers in Africa.
China’s Minister of Agriculture Tang Renjian revealed that 34 agricultural cooperation agreements with 19 African countries and organisations have been signed in the past 10 years, which have resulted in multi-sectoral cooperation and mutual benefit. Agricultural trade is expected to exceed $10 billion in 2023, a clear indication of the growth of ties between China and the African continent.
Farming and agro-processing are directly related to climate change. The need to create and adopt environmentally friendly farming methods and produce food that contributes to people’s health and well-being has become an ongoing priority. Eco-friendly processing and packaging are essential for mitigating climate change.
The forum was held in Sanya in Hainan Province, an island in south China and a tropical getaway that is now an important free trade port. Liu Xiaoming, Hainan governor, highlighted the potential of the free trade port and proposed several ideas on trade and investment within the already established structures of China-Africa cooperation. Samba Ndiobena Ka, Senegal’s minister of agriculture and rural equipment, highlighted the immense value of the forum and the positive direction it is taking.
The author is Director of Diplomatic Society of South Africa. African Times published this article in partnership with ChinAfrica Magazine