Address by H.E. Li Keqiang
Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China
At the 24th World Economic Forum on Africa
Abuja, 8 May 2014
Your Excellency Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab,
Your Excellency President Goodluck Jonathan,
Your Excellencies Heads of State and Government of African Countries,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure to attend the World Economic Forum on Africa. I wish to express thanks to Mr. Schwab for his kind invitation, and to President Jonathan for the meticulous arrangements. The theme of this year’s forum, “Forging Inclusive Growth, Creating Jobs”, could not have been more relevant. On behalf of the Chinese government, I would like to warmly congratulate you on the convening of the forum.
Africa is an important cradle of world civilization. Over the past century, great changes have taken place on this ancient and fascinating land. The people of Africa have taken their destiny in their own hands and achieved national liberation and independence. And since the beginning of the new century, Africa has demonstrated strong economic vitality, realizing an average annual growth of over 5% for 10-plus years in a row, despite the severe challenges brought by the global financial crisis. Africa has maintained overall social stability and fast economic growth, and emerged as a continent on the rise.
Three days ago, when I spoke at the AU headquarters, I said Africa was a “pole” of the world in three ways. First, Africa, home to 54 countries, is committed to “speaking with one voice”. Africa has thus become a major pole in the world political arena. Second, Africa has an economic aggregate of over 2 trillion US dollars. Of the world’s ten fastest growing economies in 2013, seven are in Africa. Africa is, therefore, also a major pole in global economic growth. Third, there are more than 1,500 ethnic groups in Africa. Such cultural diversity on full display here makes Africa a colorful pole in human civilization. In the international political and economic landscape, it is always better to have more “poles” than fewer “poles”. The rise of Africa as a new pole will only make the world more democratic, stable, dynamic and colorful, and better facilitate peace, development and progress in the world.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Inclusive growth is a development concept widely embraced in the world. It refers to employment, fairness and balanced development in one country. It also refers to balanced development among countries and regions. To promote mutually beneficial cooperation between China and Africa, with a combined population of over 2.3 billion, contributes to the well-being of the two peoples and more balanced growth of the world economy. This in itself is the most significant inclusive growth in the world.
Africa is the continent with the largest number of developing countries. Despite the economic take-off in many African countries, daunting challenges remain, such as weak infrastructure, underemployment and poverty. China is the biggest developing country in terms of population and size. It is true that China is one of the leading economies in the world, but its ranking in the United Nations Human Development Index is still around the 100th place. China and Africa face many similar problems, and they have much to gain from each other’s development. Since the beginning of this century, China’s robust economic growth has brought along massive exports of African goods and provided support for Africa’s growth. The enormous potential in Africa’s economy has attracted Chinese investment here and provided greater room for China’s own economic development. Africa needs infrastructure and industrial development, whereas China has fairly strong capabilities in financing and construction and spare production capacity in these fields. Each has so much to offer to the other side. I am confident that cooperation based on such complementarity and mutual benefit will give an even stronger boost to China and Africa’s respective development.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As the saying goes, “Neither the pyramids nor the Great Wall was built by one individual.” Only cooperation and coordination will bring a win-win outcome. Half a century ago, during his visit to Africa, the late Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai proposed the five principles for China’s relations with African countries and the eight principles for China’s aid to Africa, to which China has remained committed ever since. During his visit to Africa last year, President Xi Jinping made a commitment to developing relations with Africa featuring sincerity, real results, affinity and good faith. China will honor this commitment, seize the new historical opportunity, and work with Africa to put in place a new framework of four principles, six areas and one platform for advancing China-Africa cooperation. To be specific, we will follow the four principles of treating each other with sincerity and as equals, enhancing solidarity and mutual trust, and jointly pursuing inclusive development as well as innovative and practical cooperation. We will carry out cooperation in six major areas, namely, industrial cooperation, financial cooperation, cooperation on poverty reduction, cooperation on ecological and environmental protection, cultural and people-to-people exchanges, and cooperation on peace and security. And we will make good use of the platform of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation. We will upgrade China-Africa cooperation in response to new development needs of Africa and elevate our new type of strategic partnership to a new level.
To realize inclusive economic growth, one needs to give priority to infrastructural development, in particular transportation. This is the basis on which the economy of developing countries takes off. China will continue to prioritize infrastructural development in its cooperation with Africa. We will work with Africa to promote connectivity on the African continent based on the action plan on transnational and trans-regional infrastructural cooperation formulated by China and the AU. Coming out of my meetings with African leaders, I see the two sides may cooperate on three major networks.
First, a network of high-speed railway in Africa. During our meeting a few days ago, AU Commission Chairperson Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma talked about the African dream of the century to connect the capitals of all African countries with high-speed rail. Africa accounts for 23% of the world’s land area, yet only 7% of the world’s total railway mileage. Thirteen African countries still have no access to railway. China will help make this dream come true by carrying out all-round cooperation with Africa in planning, designing, equipment making as well as construction and management of high-speed railway. China is ready to set up a high-speed railway R&D center in Africa to help it complete this mega railway project in Africa. We can start with sub-regions in these efforts.
Second, a network of expressway in Africa. Africa has great potential in road development, as its highway and expressway densities only account for one quarter and one tenth of the world average. Quite a few African leaders have expressed interest in broadening cooperation with China in building expressways and an expressway network. China welcomes such aspirations and is ready to step up cooperation with Africa to connect current expressways in Africa to form a continental network over time.
Third, an aviation network in Africa. The market demand for aviation has been growing fast in Africa. Yet there has been a big supply gap in terms of airports and air routes, in particular regional air services. China, on its part, has the capacity and experience in airport construction and management. China’s own regional jets will be able to meet Africa’s market demand. China has put forward the China-Africa Regional Aviation Cooperation Plan. By setting up joint aviation companies, providing regional jets, training aviation technical personnel, and building supporting facilities, the plan will help promote the development of aviation in Africa. In addition, China is ready to cooperate with Africa in promoting power, telecommunications and other infrastructural development. As one Chinese saying puts it, “A workman must first sharpen his tools if he is to do his work well.” China is ready to provide financial, personnel and technological support to the building of an infrastructural network in Africa. This is our promise and the Chinese government will honor its promise with good faith.
I wish to stress here that cooperation between China and African countries is based on good faith and complete openness. China is ready to share its advanced and applicable technologies and management expertise with African countries without any reservation. China is open to joint venture or cooperative venture with the African side on all projects that it participates in constructing or operating. China is also ready to step up its collaboration with international organizations and relevant countries to explore trilateral and multilateral cooperation based on the principles of “African needs, African consent and African participation” and make a joint contribution to Africa’s development.
Africa’s rejuvenation hinges, in the final analysis, on industrial development. China supports the relocation of labor-intensive industries to Africa on a priority basis and the localization of Chinese companies to create more non-agricultural jobs, especially those suited to the young people. Several days ago, I visited a project invested by a Chinese company and I found that 90% of its staff were local employees. This is what the Chinese government welcomes and encourages. At the same time, China supports Africa in increasing its food production and developing high-efficiency agricultural processing, and will share with it seeding and other technologies without reservation. China will also help Africa extend its energy and resource sectors to upper-stream and lower-stream links, so as to process more resources locally, turn its natural endowment into economic strength and enhance its capacity for self-generated development.
To take others’ concerns as one’s own and offer timely assistance when others are in need is how the Chinese conduct themselves. Though still a developing country, China has nonetheless turned itself into a major economy. China will, as always, continue to increase its assistance to Africa in both quantity and quality to the extent of its ability, ensuring that more than half of its foreign aid will go to Africa, and to such areas as poverty-alleviation, agriculture, health services, clean water, disaster prevention and reduction and others where Africa needs help, with a view to helping African people improve lives. China will continue to send medical teams to Africa which will reach out to local hospitals and rural areas. I wish to reiterate that China will never attach political conditions to its assistance to Africa, never use its aid programs to interfere in the internal affairs of African countries and never ask anything impossible of or unacceptable to Africa.
It is essential to pursue environmental protection while promoting development. We will focus on China-Africa cooperation in green and low carbon development and make sure the Chinese companies operating in Africa fulfill their social responsibilities. We must crack down hard on such illegal activities as rosewood and ivory smuggling. The Chinese government will provide Africa with assistance worth 10 million US dollars to protect its wildlife resources and biodiversity and promote sustainable development on this continent, and this is also conducive to global biodiversity.
Business ties and people-to-people exchanges are two closely-related and mutually reinforcing wheels that move China-Africa cooperation forward. China will work together with Africa to further expand trade and investment between the two sides, advance cultural and people-to-people exchanges, deepen cooperation in science and technology, education, culture, media and sports, expand exchanges between women and youth communities, promote cooperation on maintaining peace and security and combating terrorism, and strengthen ties between parliaments, political parties, social groups, think tanks and private sectors, so that the two ancient civilizations will enhance each other’s charm through mutual learning and exchanges. I am convinced that with China-Africa friendship as the axle, and driven by the two wheels of business ties and people-to-people exchanges, China-Africa cooperation will go more steadily and further on a fast track of development.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
One cannot talk about China-Africa cooperation without mentioning China’s current economic performance and trend. With rapid economic growth in the past three decades and more, China has become the second largest economy in the world. But it remains the largest developing country and its per capita GDP is only over 6,000 US dollars, lower than the world average. Development is very uneven between its urban and rural areas and between different regions, which is typical of a developing country. For example, the annual net income of China’s 600 million plus rural population is less than 1,400 US dollars in per capita terms, and by World Bank standard, 200 million of them are still living below the poverty line. Another example, over 60% of China’s population live in central, western and northeastern regions whose per capita GDP is only about half of that in the coastal region. China has a long way to go before it realizes modernization.
China’s economy grew by 7.7% in 2013 and 7.4% in the first quarter of this year. This is considered medium-high growth either compared with our past performance or with other countries. There is nothing unusual in the moderation of growth speed. With an economic aggregate of 9 trillion US dollars, an annual growth of 7.5% of the Chinese economy will produce an increment of 700 billion US dollars, equivalent to the size of a medium developed country. China continues to enjoy a solid foundation of sustained growth. The development gaps between its urban and rural areas and between different regions also represent potential for development. The Chinese economy has huge development space and room for growth.
China has enjoyed many years of double-digit growth. The other reason we are shifting gear is that we want more than before to enhance the quality and efficiency of growth and make growth more inclusive and sustainable. Reform is the inexhaustible driving force for development. China owes its past high-speed growth to reform; to achieve high-quality growth in the future, it will still rely on reform to unleash greater market vitality and energize the creativity of the entire population. Structural adjustment is beneficial for the present and even more so for the future. More broad-based economic growth will be achieved if we adopt structural reform to advance structural adjustment, improve industrial structure, promote a new type of people-centered urbanization, and extend development in a phased way from the coastal areas to the interior. Improving people’s well-being is vital for increasing consumption and domestic demand. We will deepen reform of the income distribution system, expand the middle income group, build a social safety net, boost consumption of the 1.3 billion Chinese and promote social development. All these are bound to give strong impetus to China’s economic development.
China’s development today focuses on more employment, balanced development, equity and justice, better lives for the people and social progress. This is what inclusive growth is all about. We have the confidence and capability to meet the expected growth target of around 7.5% for this year and maintain such a medium-high growth for a fairly long period to come. This is good news for African countries and the world at large.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The development courses of Nigeria and many other African countries all herald very bright prospects of Africa. Looking across the whole African continent, we can see not only the splendid Nile River, the majestic Mount Kilimanjaro and the vast Sahara Desert, but more importantly a vibrant and promising land. As an ancient Chinese saying goes, “When united with one heart and mind, success is secured.” We will work shoulder-to-shoulder with African people as equals and carry out sincere cooperation to scale new heights in African development and make more contribution to global prosperity, progress and lasting peace.
To conclude, I wish the forum a complete success.