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FOCAC at 20: Deborah Brautigam Looks Back at Two Decades of China-Africa Summits


This year marks the 20th anniversary since the first triennial Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) summit convened in Beijing. Now, preparations are underway for the next FOCAC gathering, scheduled to take place in Dakar, Senegal — although whether it will be an in-person or online gathering will likely depend on the pandemic.

Johns Hopkins University Professor Deborah Brautigam, also the director of the China-Africa Research Initiative, is one of the few scholars who’s been in the field since that first FOCAC took place in Beijing. She spoke with The Diplomat’s Editor in Chief Shannon Tiezzi to reflect back on two decades of China-Africa summits and where she sees relations between these two regions heading.

Key Highlights From Deborah Brautigam’s Interview With The Diplomat About FOCAC

  • WHAT’S THE POINT OF FOCAC?: “The Forum provides a way for Chinese and African officials to strategize about continent-wide areas where Chinese engagement can contribute to African development aspirations. It has evolved into a platform for deal-making, as well as a highly anticipated venue for Chinese leaders to announce specific pledges for development assistance and investment.”
  • WHAT SHOULD WE EXPECT FROM FOCAC 2021?:  “Health cooperation will likely continue to be on the agenda. We’re also likely to see continued emphasis on industrial cooperation, given the good fit between Chinese needs and African needs. New commercial loans will be downplayed, and the Chinese will emphasize grants and foreign aid resources. Rather than loans, I anticipate increased emphasis on equity investment, perhaps through public-private partnerships in areas like power production and toll roads.”

Read the full interview with Deborah Brautigam on The Diplomat website.

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