China is Africa's 'best friend in history'

Updated: 2013-03-24 15:20


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ABUJA - With bilateral ties spanning 50 years and continuing to grow strongly, China has proved to be a true friend for Africa, a renowned Nigerian expert has said.

Usman Muhammad, a senior lecturer at Nigeria's University of Abuja, told Xinhua in a recent interview that China had proved to be a formidable supporter of Africans' aspirations and struggle for self-determination, and Africa's best friend in history.

China is Africa's 'best friend in history'

"When you talk about China, you talk about a sympathetic friend. A friend that stands by you, and for you, in times of need," said the scholar, adding China's friendship was evidenced in history, as it had been there for the struggles of Nelson Mandela, and all African people, against apartheid in the second half of the 20th century.

Muhammad said that in contrast to the West, China had gone farther in breaking language barriers and building up time-honored partnerships with the francophone, anglophone and Portuguese-speaking countries of the continent.

He said China-Africa relations were an excellent example of win-win cooperation, making the debate on the nature of China's rise and presence in Africa meaningless, adding that African countries need to tap the business opportunities provided by China's economic growth.

Muhammad said China's investment in Africa focused on many sectors, such as construction, agriculture and even education. Most states in southwest Nigeria now plan to include the Chinese language in school curricula, which is important because breaking language barriers would promote cultural understanding between China and Nigeria.

Official statistics show that in 2011, China-Africa trade volume rose 31 percent year on year to $166 billion, of which $93 billion were African exports to China.

In Muhammad's view, the ties between China and Africa gained steam after the founding of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in 2000.

Muhammad suggested African political leaders and legislators visit China more often, in a bid to "appreciate what they have in common with China" and learn how China became economically self-reliant and even one of the world's most important players in decades.

"The gap between the developing and industrial economies is too huge. But once you have a model to copy, you're safe," he said.

Muhammed said there were fair opportunities of cooperation for China and Africa to exploit and push exchanges to a new high.