The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC)

Updated on December 2016

What is FOCAC?

  • FOCAC is a Forum that is held in China or an African country on an alternating basis.
  • It was founded in October 2000 at the first ministerial conference in Beijing.
  • The FOCAC is part of a growing trend of South-South Cooperation that provides an alternative to traditional development assistance mechanisms.
  • Objective: Strengthen Sino-African economic cooperation and trade relationships to establish a new international order that will better reflect the needs and interests of China and Africa.
  • The Forum meets every three years and has held meetings in Beijing in 2000; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 2003; Beijing in 2006; Sharm El-Sheik, Egypt in 2009; Beijing in 2012 and Johannesburg, South Africa in 2015. The 7th Ministerial Conference of FOCAC will be held in the People’s Republic of China in 2018.

Source: FOCAC website, Ferchen (2013), Austin Strange et al. 2013

Member States

  1. Algeria
  2. Angola
  3. Benin
  4. Burkina Faso
  5. Botswana
  6. Burundi
  7. Cape Verde
  8. Cameroon
  9. Central Africa Republic
  10. Chad
  11. Comoros
  12. Congo
  13. Congo (DRC)
  14. Coté d’Ivoire
  15. Djibouti
  16. Egypt
  17. Equatorial Guinea
  18. Ethiopia
  19. Gabon
  20. Gambia
  21. Ghana
  22. Guinea
  23. Guinea-Bissau
  24. Kenya
  25. Lesotho
  26. Liberia
  27. Libya
  28. Madagascar
  29. Malawi
  30. Mali
  31. Mauritania
  32. Mauritius
  33. Marocco
  34. Mozambique
  35. Namibia
  36. Niger
  37. Nigeria
  38. Rwanda
  39. Sao Tome and Principe
  40. Senega
  41. Seychelles
  42. Sierra Leone
  43. Somalia
  44. South Africa
  45. South Sudan
  46. Sudan
  47. Tanzania
  48. Togo
  49. Tunisia
  50. Uganda
  51. Zambia
  52. Zimbabwe
  53. The Comission of the African Union

Structure and Values

FOCAC has 5 guiding values that embody the spirit of South-South cooperation: equality and mutual benefit; diversity in form and content; emphasis on practical results; pursuit of common progress; and amicable settlement of differences (Source: FOCAC website). Commitments made during the forum are divided into five broad cooperation areas as follows:

  1. Equality and mutual benefit;
  2. Diversity in forma and content;
  3. emphasis on practical results;
  4. pursuit of common progress;
  5. amicable settlement of differences.

Summary of Main Commitments of FOCAC

Commitments made during the forum are divided into five broad cooperation areas as follows:

  1. Political: Increased diplomatic visits between China and African countries.
  2. Social development: Medical technology and training; increased scholarships for African students and schools built in Africa; joint environmental research.
  3. Economic: Increased trade, foreign investment and official development assistance. Agricultural technology and knowledge sharing with focus on FAO programs.
  4. Cultural: Increased Chinese tourism to Africa, cultural exchange through arts and youth festivals, and women’s cooperation.
  5. Security: Military assistance, intelligence exchange, international law research, preventing transnational crime and anti-terrorism.
  1. Trade
  • China has granted tariff exemption treatment to 95% of exports from the least developed countries in Africa.
  • The two sides will scale up trade and try to elevate the China-Africa trade volume to US$400 billion in 2020 from US$220 billion in 2014 ensuring that the rate of growth is maintained in overall trade figures and that balance in trade is the desired outcome.

Concentration of trade with China as a % of total country´s trade value (2015)


Source: CIA World Factbook)

Growth of Merchandise Trade between FOCAC countries and China

Source: World Bank)

  1. Foreign Direct Investment
  • Total Chinese Foreign Direct Investment in Africa between 2005 and 2016 was estimated at US$293.36 billion by the Heritage Foundation.
  • Chinese side will scale up its investment in Africa, and plan to increase China’s stock of direct investment in Africa to US$100 billion in 2020 from US$32.4 billion in 2014.
  • Construction is underway for the six Chinese overseas economic and trade cooperation zones in countries including Zambia, Mauritius, Nigeria, Egypt, and Ethiopia. These cooperation zones offer incentives such as tax holidays and import tax waivers to attract Chinese companies and other Foreign Direct Investment. Some of the zones have witnessed progress in attracting investment, with businesses moving in and production getting started. In addition to investment the zones are expected to provide employment and technology transfer to further economic development.
  • Special loan of US$1 billion for African Small Medium Enterprises development will be gradually expanded to $6 billion.
  • The Chinese side will set up a China-Africa production capacity cooperation fund, with an initial pledge of US$10 billion, to support China-Africa industry partnering and industrial capacity cooperation.

China’s FDI in Africa by volume and distribution

Source: Heritage Foundation

  1. South-South Cooperation
  • China had delivered to African countries US$2.647 billion of concessional loans to support 54 projects in 28 countries and US$2 billion in preferential export buyer’s credit to support 11 projects in 10 countries.
  • The Chinese side will gradually expand the China-Africa Development Fund from US$5 billion to US$10 billion.
  • Chinese financial institutions will set up more branches in Africa.
  • China will provide a credit line of US$20 billion to African countries.
  • The Chinese side will offer African countries US$35 billion of loans of concessional nature on more favorable terms and an export credit line.
  • The Chinese side will exempt the outstanding intergovernmental interest-free loans due by the end of 2015 owed by the least developed countries, land-locked countries and small island developing countries in Africa.

3.1 Agriculture

  • China has pledged US$30 million in assistance under the framework of the Special Program for Food Security of the Food and Agriculture Organization and sent 665 experts to 7 countries to provide technical guidance and training.
  • Under the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Program (CAADP) China has sent 50 agricultural technology teams to Africa to help train 2,000 people and develop 20 technology demonstration centers.
  • China has initiated the “Agriculture Leads to Prosperity” project in 100 African villages

3.2 Cultural

  • Increased the number of countries with Approved Destination Status for Chinese tourists to 26. In 2014, 9.4% of China’s 100 million made Africa their primary destination. The increase represents an average growth rate of 50% every year since 2010 (Xinhua, 2016).
  • Developed various art festivals with a specific focus on involving youth such as “Meet in Beijing”- an international art festival focusing on African arts and the “Voyage of Chinese Culture to Africa” “Cultures in Focus” events and the China-Africa Youth Festival.
  • Women’s Forum sponsored by ACWF and Egyptian National Council for Women was held in October 2009 in Cairo. Women representatives from 28 African countries attended the forum and jointly released the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation – Women’s Forum Declaration 2009, marking a new milestone in China-Africa women’s cooperation.
  • The Chinese side will establish ten major “Culture Training Bases for Africa” and execute the “One Thousand People Program” for culture training in Africa.

3.3 Education

  • UNESCO established a one-to-one inter-institutional cooperation model – the 20 +20 Plan for Chinese and African Institutions of Higher Education.
  • The Chinese government will implement the “African Talents Program”. In the next three years, China will train 30,000 African professionals in various sectors and offer 18,000 government scholarships
  • China will provide US$2 million annually under the framework of the UNESCO trust fund to support education development programs in Africa.
  • The Chinese side welcomes the inclusion by African countries of Chinese language teaching as part of their national education systems and will support more African countries in their efforts to establish Confucius Institutes and Confucius Classrooms
  • China provided training for 200,000 local African vocational and technical personnel and provided Africans 40,000 training opportunities in China.

3.4 Health

  • China has provided US$1.5 million contribution to support “New Partnership for Africa’s Development” (NEPAD) projects.
  • US$72.3 million worth of medical equipment and malaria-fighting materials were provided to 30 hospitals and 30 malaria prevention and treatment centers built by China for Africa.
  • Since November 2006, the Chinese side has sent 2,700 medical workers to 42 African countries and helped relevant African countries train a total of 3,000 doctors, nurses and medical professionals.


Source: AidData

China, FOCAC and the Environment

Environmental protection has been part of China-Africa cooperation since FOCAC formed in 2000. However, the environment only became a focal point in 2012 at the fifth Ministerial conference, receiving its own section in the action plan. As trade and investment in Africa increase, there will be a greater need to monitor damage to the environment and the loss of biodiversity. Development and rapid urbanization will create greater needs for urban infrastructure, food, water and employment. Africa’s population is the most susceptible to climate change with a large population, poor soil quality and water scarcity (Burgess, 2012). Africa will need to balance sustainable development efforts with economic growth and poverty alleviation.

FOCAC Action Plans

  • Conference on China-Africa Cooperation in Environmental Protection
  • Set up the China-Africa Environment Cooperation Centre, and launch the China-Africa Green Innovation Project under the framework of “China South-South Environmental Cooperation-Green Envoys Programme”.
  • “China-Africa Joint Research Centre” project promotes cooperation in biodiversity protection, prevention and treatment of desertification, sustainable forest management and modern agriculture demonstration. The Chinese side will support Africa in implementing 100 clean energy and wild life protection projects, environment friendly agricultural projects and smart city construction projects.
  • US$2.89 billion for setting up the China South-South Cooperation Fund to support other developing countries to combat climate change, and enhance their capacity to access the Green Climate Fund.
  • The two sides will encourage the establishment of a Ministerial Forum on marine economy under the framework of FOCAC


Major obstacles to the successful development of China and Africa are the high levels of African debt, inequality and the economic downturn in China. The high levels of debt and interest repayment requirement compete with public spending on health and education. In many African countries, the level of debt inhibits social development and new infrastructure projects. The current trend has been to move from traditional lenders like the IMF to private creditors that precludes the possibility of debt forgiveness, posing a risk for Africa’s future development (Walker, 2014). Further, current aid for social development may not be reaching the poorest populations for effective poverty alleviation. Studies have shown that aid disproportionately flows to regions with richer populations (Briggs, 2015).

The current economic downturn in China is also predicted to have consequences on the development efforts of the Forum. China’s slowing growth has already affected commodity prices – Africa’s primary export and market (Pigato; Tang, 2015).

Outlook/Prospects for the future

The current development strategies of China and Africa are highly compatible: China is working towards the Two Centenary Goals and Africa is implementing Agenda 2063 and its First 10-Year Plan. Africa will need to diversify their markets to become more competitive by reducing their dependence on commodity exports. China’s investment in African countries represents a great opportunity for development of the continent, but needs to build on best practices and consider sustainability.8 Currently a lack of reliable data on China’s FDI and development assistance to Africa is hindering a more comprehensive and effective approach.