Your Excellency President Mohammed Hosni Mubarak, Your Excellencies Heads of State and Government, Your Excellency Mr. Jean Ping, Chairperson of the AU Commission, Your Excellencies Heads of Delegation, Ministers and Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am delighted to join you in the beautiful coastal city of Sharm El Sheikh on the occasion of the 4th Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). This conference gives us the opportunity to renew friendship and explore ways to further cooperation. As the Premier of the co-chair country of the conference, I would like to extend, on behalf of the Chinese government, a warm welcome to all the participants and express sincere thanks to the government of Egypt for the thoughtful preparations and arrangements it has made for the conference.
Since its founding nine years ago, FOCAC has played a major role in guiding and promoting the development of China-Africa relations and become a bridge of friendship and a platform of cooperation between China and Africa. In the three years since the Beijing Summit in particular, the two sides have worked together to build the new type of strategic partnership featuring political equality and mutual trust, economic win-win cooperation and cultural exchanges. Together, we have opened a new chapter in China-Africa cooperation.
We have enhanced political mutual trust. The two sides have had more frequent high-level exchanges and stepped up diplomatic consultations and strategic dialogue. African countries have given even stronger support to China on issues concerning China’s core interests. China and Africa have cooperated and coordinated with each other on major international and regional issues and jointly safeguarded and expanded the common interests of developing countries.
We have strengthened economic cooperation and trade. Last year, China-Africa trade exceeded 100 billion U.S. dollars and the number of African countries trading with China grew to 53. China has begun construction of the six economic and trade cooperation zones in Africa. Nearly 1,600 Chinese enterprises have started business in African countries with a direct investment stock of 7.8 billion U.S. dollars. Project contracting and labor services cooperation between the two sides have been expanding, and financial cooperation is gaining momentum.
The increase in China’s assistance to Africa has produced practical results. Despite the impact of the international financial crisis and the many difficulties we face at home, we have honored the commitments we made at the Beijing Summit in an all-round way. Our assistance to Africa has been doubled. The plan to cancel 168 debts owed by 33 African countries is near completion. The 5 billion U.S. dollars of concessional loans will be fully in place soon. The China-Africa Development Fund, whose first tranche reached 1 billion U.S. dollars, has become operational as scheduled. These measures have not only added to Africa’s capacity for self-development but also helped African countries in their effort to counter the financial crisis.
We have witnessed vigorous people-to-people exchanges. Exchanges and cooperation between China and Africa in culture, education, health and human resources training have grown rapidly. By the end of this year, China will train a total of 15,000 people of different professions for African countries. Interactions among the youth, women and sister provinces and cities have been more frequent. All these developments have led to deeper mutual understanding and stronger traditional friendship between China and Africa.