Speech: Five Steps for Africans to seize the FOCAC 2021 Opportunity

 In speech

Speech by Development Reimagined CEO, Hannah Ryder, at the 2nd China and International Development Forum, hosted by CAITEC.

Full Speech Below

Distinguished guests, Your excellencies, Vice President Yu Zirong, Chairperson Mao Xiaojing, Director General Wu Peng, Your Excellency Osman, Deputy Director General He Song, Resident Representative Trankmann, Director He Yuan, distinguished fellow speakers, ladies and gentlemen, good morning and a huge thank you to CAITEC for the kind invitation to Development Reimagined to join this 2nd edition of the China and International Development forum today. It gives me great pleasure to join you virtually this morning to take stock and plan ahead for the most effective and impactful Africa-China cooperation.
In November 2021, I and my team stood in the meeting halls of the eighth Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in Dakar, Senegal, waiting eagerly for new targets to be announced by President Xi and President Macky Sall as co-chairs of the forum. We were aware that these targets would shape the China-Africa relationship for the next three years and up to 2035.
Immediately after the Forum’s close, a flurry of headlines reported on a supposedly “underwhelming” $40 billion financial commitment from China. The overall implication was that the 2021 FOCAC reflected a weakening China-Africa relationship.
But as we have all discussed here, the headlines missed a huge chunk of the picture – not taking into account the key negotiated documents agreed during the meeting and I would suggest were based on implicit problematic analysis that both African countries and China itself are ‘high risk’ when it comes to financial lending and other relationships such as trade.
In fact, the analysis of my firm Development Reimagined is that is clear that there are two trends likely to continue. First, the post-2021 Africa-China relationship will intensify and second, the relationship can and I sincerely hope will become more African-led.
Many of the speeches so far have discussed and shared how the cooperation will intensify, so let me focus my remarks now on how the relationship can become more African-led, and as Ambassador Osman mentioned in his speech, and building on the point he identified that Agenda 2063 and its implementation frameworks are now at the centre of FOCAC, how African governments, businesses and citizens can work together and with Chinese stakeholders most effectively to implement the FOCAC commitments.
While there is a great deal of work to do, I believe five specific steps are necessary to seize the opportunity from the FOCAC commitments made. Although there are many more steps to be taken, these five can be thought of as key strategic priorities.
First, the FOCAC Action plan rightly recognises the “persistent infrastructure gap” in Africa and commits to helping close the gap through concessional finance. This is the right way to go. Regional infrastructure projects will be key to meeting African pre-COVID19 growth goals, the external cost of which the African Development Bank estimate at up to $68 billion to $108 billion a year, even without taking account of climate change and post-COVID-19 recovery needs.  The AU’s Programme for Infrastructure Development (PIDA) has been sourcing high priority regional infrastructure projects on the continent. DG Wu Peng already mentioned the need to extend railways across East Africa, which if linked would facilitate low-carbon cross-border flows of goods and people and create huge spill-over effects in terms of employment. This is also the case in West Africa too and beyond. For instance, extending the Lagos railway line to Benin’s capital, to serve Togo and Ghana’s capital cities, and even further across the West coast, would have similar effects. The Grand Inga Dam, a cross-regional energy project envisioned decades ago, still requires financing support, and will not only meet gaps in access to energy for households but provide crucial, consistent and green electricity for manufacturing, necessary for the value-addition on the continent that Africa’s development plans necessitate. Thus, a key first step is African coordination to put forward priority, green regional projects for China’s concessional support, and begin work to structure these in the best manner, to minimise risk and maximise returns.
Second, Africans, via the Africa CDC in particular, need to take action to see the vision of 400 million locally manufactured Chinese COVID-19 vaccines as well as other medicines and equipment on the continent. Local manufacturing is a major priority for Africa, given that Africa imports 99% of its vaccines. This is due to a huge number of structural problems, many of which will not be solved just by new investment and are not only in Africa’s control, such as intellectual property constraints, but nevertheless, there is clearly a major opportunity to be grasped. We have already seen some positive developments in Egypt, but the Africa CDC has already begun to map out other priority countries for manufacturing, sharing this information with Chinese counterparts and facilitating joint ventures in this area will be crucial in 2022.
Third, African organisations will need to make proposals for how China can see through some of the financial commitments it made at FOCAC. In this regard two sub-actions are crucial.

  • First, the question of the allocation of the $10bn of Special Drawing Rights that China committed to Africa – accounting for an unprecedented 25% of China’s own allocation – is crucial. This was a very welcome announcement that has emphasised China’s willingness to support African countries with the fiscal space they need to manage COVID19, which has been a major problem and will remain so in 2022. Just in the first few months of COVID19 in 2020, my firm calculated that African governments spent 68 billion USD to address the pandemic. They have spent a lot more since, meaning that every RMB, dollar or euro of support that comes is welcomed. Options for the reallocation include the African Development Bank, as well as the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank, the New Development Bank, China Exim Bank, and more. These organisations should take the opportunity to urgently put forward to China proposals for how reallocated SDRs could generate even more economic recovery, to have the greatest impact.
  • Second, regional and national African Financial Institutions such as Afri Exim Bank and others – who know African businesses and investment landscapes best – need to come forward with proposals for how they can deliver the $10bn USD China has suggested is spent to target Small and Medium Enterprises. African financial institutions have the potential to reach thousands not just hundreds of African SMEs, who again continue to suffer significantly due to COVID19 but are also crucial to African growth going forwards.

Fourth, African governments and businesses need to be even more proactive when it comes to exporting to China. Certainly, policy-wise we need to take up Director General Wu Peng’s question of how a preferential trade agreement linking to the African Continental Free Trade Area can be made acceptable within WTO rules. I hope the economic working group with the AfCFTA already established can take this as a priority, and I and my colleagues are willing to support that process. In the meantime, African governments and export agencies in particular need to understand and take advantage of the new green lanes for agricultural products, and in this regard, let me also as a Kenyan, just mention how pleased I am to know Kenyan fresh avocados may well soon be sold in Chinese supermarkets. I hope many others in East Africa and beyond will have this opportunity as well. Beyond this, as Africans, we also need to work to understand the Chinese market trends better, initiate the process to register geographical indications of African products such as Ethiopian coffee so as to protect their value when sold in China, and initiate proposals for e-commerce hubs also envisioned in FOCAC which can be an efficient way to send African products to China. As many of you may know my firm has a specialised market entry programme for high-value, sustainable African products to China, through which we introduced close to 20 innovative African brands to the Chinese market, including by participating in the China Africa Expos in 2019 and 2021. Initiatives like this need to grow, strengthen and proliferate, and we welcome both African and Chinese partners in this endeavour.
Fifth and finally, African governments and businesses need to start to promote a much wider and diverse set of investment opportunities and potential projects for PPPs in a more targeted and proactive manner. There are hundreds of existing special economic zones that need a diverse range of Chinese factories to relocate into them, while being upgraded. We must present these zones to the Chinese private sector – not just our overall, broad investment conditions, and also tackle challenges such as security concerns proactively, without overdoing narratives of “risk” that evidence suggests leads to an unfair “Africa risk premium” applied by many foreign investors. In addition, while PPPs are in many cases an exciting prospect, the African experience of PPPs in the 1980s and 1990s with other development partners was very mixed, in many cases highly problematic. We do not want to see the negative history repeated. Therefore we must understand our own experience – what did work and why, and also understand China’s own experience with PPPs domestically in order to understand how to work with China on PPPs – it will not necessarily be the same as other foreign investors. I have seen some excellent examples of PPPs in China, and so I certainly believe there is huge potential in African countries, including in digital connectivity which has become even more crucial in COVID-19 times, but as I said this must be targeted and adapted to each country’s conditions.
While I have presented these five suggestions, I would like to emphasise that this is just the start, there are many other actions required as well, and of course Chinese stakeholders will be crucial. My task here, as an African and as the head of an African firm in China, is to explain what Africans can do and encourage us to work together strategically and in a streamlined way. Win-win cooperation is just that. It requires efforts on both sides.
Ladies and Gentlemen, distinguished guests, the fact is that FOCAC 2021, with the targets announced in speeches and the four agreed documents, could set China to be Africa’s top development partner across several sectors, including making China Africa’s top vaccine donator as well as supplier, Africa’s largest export destination, our largest investor in the continent, and providing the highest proportion of SDR reallocations to Africa. But Africa is also an exciting proposition for China. As the 9th largest economy in the world, and with our aspiration to become the 3rd largest economy in the world, encapsulated in Agenda 2063, with our growing domestic market, our incredible natural resources and our manufacturing potential, to an objective development partner, building stronger relationships with African countries is what is colloquially known as a “no-brainer”. African stakeholders must now take advantage of these aspirations, and by doing so also cement the continent’s place as a crucial partner to China and beyond, and by doing so ensure Africa is not just imagined globally as a poor and vulnerable continent to support, but in fact reimagined as a stronger, essential force and partner for good in the world.
Thank you for your time and attention! Asanteni, and xie xie dajia.

**The End**


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Research Analyst

Edmond is a research analyst who is passionate about sustainable development, innovation, and the environment. Passionate about climate financing, he firmly believe there is a more reliable system to promote equality, growth, and welfare in societies without affecting the ecosystem. Through his skills, knowledge and experienced gained over 7 years, he wants to make an impact in the world of development. Edmond holds a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from Korea Development Institute and a BA Degree (Honors) in Business from University of Derby.


    Founder and CEO

Hannah Ryder is the Founder & CEO of Development Reimagined. A former diplomat and economist with 20 years of experience, named one of 100 most influential Africans in 2021, she is also Senior Associate for the Africa Program of the Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS), sits on the Board of the Environmental Defence Fund, and is a member of UAE's International Advisory Council on the New Economy. Prior to her role at DR, Ms Ryder led the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s work with China to help it scale up and improve its cooperation with other developing countries, including in Africa. She has also played various advisory roles for the UN and OECD and co-authored the seminal Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change in 2006.


Deputy Director

Leah Lynch is Deputy Director of Development Reimagined (DR), and head of the China office. Leah has over 10 years of experience in development and has lived in China for over 8 years. Leah has also travelled extensively around Asia and Africa for research. Leah supports the strategic direction of the team across China, with a mission to deliver high quality research on sustainable development and poverty reduction. Leah is also Chair of the Sustainability Forum at the British Chamber of Commerce in China, providing direction on sustainability initiatives for British and Chinese business. Leah has also consulted on various evaluations on UK aid (ICAI) and is a specialist on development cooperation from the UK and China. Leah has also consulted on various UN projects, including providing support to the UN China team during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Prior to DR, Leah was at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) China, supporting the UN’s portfolio on communication strategies, China’s South- South Cooperation and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Before UNDP, Leah lived and worked in Kenya developing sustainable water policies for the Kenyan government.


China-Africa Policy Analyst

Yike Fu is a Policy Analyst and has been responsible for leading numerous areas of work, including on debt analysis in Africa and beyond, and China-Africa trade and investment logistics and analysis. She is the co-author of “African Debt Guide”, in which she challenged the narrative that Africa is in the midst of a new debt crisis by analysing data back to the 1970s and adopting new metrics to present the real story behind the data. She also developed a benchmark to compare the financial distribution of development partners such as the UK, US, Japan, France and China in Africa. Prior to her role at DR she worked at the International Finance Corporation and African Union Representational Mission to the US. She holds a Masters in International Affairs from George Washington University.


Research Analyst

Judith is a Research and Policy Analyst, where she specialises in Africa-China relations, international development, and diplomacy. During her time at Development Reimagined, Judith has co-authored several articles published in The Diplomat on debt and China-Barbados relations and was quoted by China Daily in a piece on Women Rights in China. Previously, Judith worked as a research analyst for an Advocate and Commissioner and Oats office in Kenya.


Policy Analyst

Ovigwe specialises in geopolitics with particular reference to Africa in a changing Global Order. He is adept at critically analysing the politics of contemporary development processes and providing insight into the geopolitical interests that influence them. His work includes research, publications, tailored briefings and advising on global and regional trends, and issues at the nexus of geopolitics and development. Ovigwe appears frequently in media around the world such as Al Jazeera, TRT World, SABC, CGTN, BBC Radio, and other platforms.


Policy Analyst

Jing leads China-African health and agriculture cooperation research at Development Reimagined, having managed our FOCAC Policy Analysis and Advocacy project. She is also the co-author of “China-Africa Health Cooperation under FOCAC Umbrella”, in which she analysed China’s commitments around health cooperation since the first FOCAC summit and deepdived into four African countries’ health overview, challenges and cooperation with China as cases studies. Before DR, Jing worked at GIZ Cambodia on M&E of a disability advocacy project. She also worked as a translator with Chinese medical team in Benin.


Trade Policy Analyst

Patrick is an International Trade Policy and Trade Law Expert with over 5 years of experience. His expertise includes trade law, trade policy analysis and regional integration. He is currently engaged with Development Reimagined as a Senior Trade Analyst and was the lead author of Development Reimagined's recent Report on Africa-China Relations titled "From China-Africa to Africa- China: A Blue Print for a Green and Inclusive Continent-Wide Strategy Towards China." and “Reimaging FOCAC Going Forward.” Patrick has previously consulted for the East African Community, UNECA and for the Kenya Ministry of Trade.


Senior Policy Analyst 

Rosemary is our Senior Policy Analyst. She is a skilled policy analyst and has previously worked as a UK civil servant. She is studying Human Rights at Birkbeck, University of London with a research focus on international law in the context of health crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic.


Project Manager and Africa-China Communication Assistant

Jade is a Project Manager for Development Reimagined’s flagship project Africa Unconstrained, which focuses on financing needs and debt vulnerabilities of African countries. Her research focuses on China-Africa development finance alongside debt vulnerabilities, infrastructure needs and South-South cooperation. She has worked with a breadth of stakeholders from China, Africa and the wider international community, including governments, private sector, NGOs and civil society. Her writing has appeared in a number of publications, including The Africa Report, The China-Africa Project, The Diplomat and more. Jade holds a Master’s in China and Globalisation studies from King’s College London.


Programme Manager

Rosie is the Project Manager of Africa Reimagined (AR) at Development Reimagined (DR) where she supports high-end African brands with entering the Chinese market by operating services such as trademark protection, Chinese market research, Chinese partnership building, and Africa to China logistical support and import/export services. Rosie has worked with DR for over two years now with proven success in helping high-end African brands navigate the Chinese market. She is extremely passionate about her work because more African brands selling in the Chinese marketplace means African countries can export MORE value-added goods, create MORE jobs and foster MORE innovation in African countries.

Rosie is also alumni of the School of International Studies at Peking University in Beijing where she is also an editor at the Peking Africa Think Tank. PATT is led by a diverse group of scholars who specialise in African Studies within the context of Sino-Africa relations.



Lauren has lived in six countries from the Americas to Europe and Asia and speaks both French and Spanish proficiently. At Development Reimagined, Lauren’s research focuses on climate action both in the Asia-Pacific and in Africa, and how countries are using tools such as SDGs and Covid-19 action to build a more climate-resilient future. She holds a Masters in International Relations from Leiden University.



Etsehiwot holds a Masters’s degree in Development Studies from the London School of Economics. She has diverse experience in humanitarian and development issues by working in both multilateral organizations and international non-governmental organizations. Etsehiwot is currently a consultant focusing on the SDGs and development finance.


Economist Consultant

Dibekulu is an economist by training. He holds an MSc in International Development Studies from Palacky University Olomouc, an MSc in Development Economics from the University of Clermont Auvergne, and an MSc in Economics, Finance, and International Integration from the University of Pavia. At Development Reimagined, he works as an Economist consultant. He has strong data analysis skills, with research interests centring around development finance, impact assessment, food security, and agricultural insurance.


Project Manager

Osaru is a health professional with an MSc in Health Systems Policy and an interest in women’s health and population management. At Development Reimagined, she applies her health sector experience to global health research and collating locally applicable development insights from China.


Research Analyst

Ferdinando’s research at Development Reimagined is centred on South-South Cooperation dynamics, specifically on the analysis of Chinese investment and debt flows in Africa and their linkages to African industrialisation. He is currently a Yenching Scholar at Peking University, after having graduated from the University of Cambridge with an MPhil in Development Studies.


Research Analyst

David is a Research and data analyst at Development Reimagined. His scholarly focus is mostly on interdisciplinary research in demographic economics and development with interests in migration, economic development and policy, education, health and subjective well-being. He is currently a PhD scholar at Nelson Mandela University from which he also holds B.com Economics and Statistics and M.com respectively.


Research Analyst Kenya

Ivory is a Kenyan lawyer with experience in policy research and analysis. She also supports the communications team at DR. Ivory speaks English, Swahili and French.


Research And Data Analyst China 

Joy Ene is a Research and Data Analyst at DR. Joy is passionate about African/global development, poverty eradication and trade policies between underdeveloped and developing countries. She is also a fourth-year student of International Economics and Trade at the  Liaoning University, Shenyang, China. She serves as the President of the Student Union, Liaoning University, International Students chapter.


Research Analyst 

Chensi Li is a research analyst. She has previously worked for local NGOs in Nigeria and Cameroon and think-tanks in China.  Her research areas include Sino-African relations, African foreign affairs, public diplomacy, state-building and national governance.

Yixin Yu

Research Analyst 

Yixin is a Junior Research Analyst and her focus areas is on public-private partnership and entrepreneurship. She has over three years of working experience in both private and public sectors in Ethiopia. She was the China Liaison Officer for project ‘Partnership for Investment and Growth in Africa’ at International Trade Centre, where she accumulated rich experience in investment and trade promotion


Founder and CEO

Hannah Ryder is the Founder & CEO of Development Reimagined. A former diplomat and economist with 20 years of experience, named one of 100 most influential Africans in 2021, she is also Senior Associate for the Africa Program of the Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS), sits on the Board of the Environmental Defence Fund, and is a member of UAE's International Advisory Council on the New Economy. Prior to her role at DR, Ms Ryder led the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s work with China to help it scale up and improve its cooperation with other developing countries, including in Africa. She has also played various advisory roles for the UN and OECD and co-authored the seminal Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change in 2006.