The first China-Horn of Africa Peace, Governance and Development conference kicked off in Addis Ababa on the 20th and 21st of June 2022, drawing representatives from the People’s Republic of China, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan and Uganda. Ethiopia successfully hosted the regional conference which was concluded by issuing a joint statement on 11 important common stands adapted by the participating countries.
The conference was the first of its kind convened immediately after China appointed a veteran diplomat Xue Bing as a Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa. Given the challenges encountered on peace, good governance and development issues, the conference was timely and relevant to address the existing trends of tensions resulted from the growing interventions, poverty and challenges the countries in the region face in meeting the growing needs of their respective populations.
In previous developments, from 2000 to 2021, four forums of China Africa conferences were conducted with a major goal of cementing Sino African multi-faceted relations based on mutual support, cooperation and promotion of joint development programs across Africa. This initiative taken by China to foster the China-Horn of Africa Peace, Good Governance and Development Conference vividly depicts China’s commitment to the peaceful development and security of the countries in the region, which is now marred with conflicts, proxy wars and climate change induced drought and escalation of global economic crisis following the current Russia-Ukraine war.
During the occasion, Ambassador Xue Bing China’s Special Envoy to the Horn of Africa disclosed that China wants to support countries in the Horn of Africa to address the challenges of security, development, and governance and pursue a path of unity and self-improvement. In connection with this, the Special Envoy underscored that Ethiopia should play a constructive role in promoting peace in the Horn of Africa as it is an anchor state in the region. Apart from their long standing comprehensive relations, Ethiopian and China have upgraded their relations to a strategic level, which denotes that the time tested relations between the two countries is far more exemplary for the countries of the Horn of Africa.
Chinese foreign policy of non-interference into the internal affairs of countries and its recognition for mutual respect and development enables countries of the Horn of Africa region to come together and resolve their multi-faced problems in a more pragmatic manner.
Already China has huge investment programs in Africa, demonstrating commitment in supporting peace, good governance, security and development endeavors of the Horn countries.
The Belt and Road Initiative, is China’s signature vision for reshaping its global engagements. Many countries, including African countries, have so far signed on to the Belt and Silk Initiative. Some 50 Chinese state owned companies are implementing 1,700 infrastructure projects around the world worth about $900 billion.
Countries of the Horn of Africa, most of who have signed on the program are expected to join their human and material resources for their mutual development. In this regard, Ethiopia has been taking a number of initiatives for promoting carbon free economy in Africa in the context of Agenda 2063,and embarked on infrastructure development programs that could be of value to the economic integration in the countries of the Horn of Africa and Africa at large.
Addressing the conference, delegates underscored on the importance of a united action against the challenges facing countries of the Horn including climate change induced drought and economic effects of the current war between Russia and China. A host of other challenges including fighting off climate change, refugee issues affecting children and their mothers, multiple development challenges related to global economic crisis facing the region were the focal areas of the conference.
In its 11- point Joint Statement issued at the end of the conference, the delegates stressed the need to engage in a meaningful regional cooperation to maintain peace and security as a major precondition to accelerate economic development in the Horn of Africa, The statement noted that the youth, women and girls are bearing the brunt of current multiple crisis in the region due to gender inequalities. The parties committed themselves to respect for each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, forging concerted cooperation in combating traditional and non traditional security issues including cyber security and development of good governance. The participants appreciated China’s support for the region by providing COVID-19 vaccines.
The Statement appreciated China’s commitment and readiness to align the Belt and Road Imitative and implementation of the outcomes of the FOCAC meetings. The parties called upon the international community to support the development programs of the countries of the Horn region and called upon the international community to work together towards the peaceful resolution of the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
Moreover, the socio-economic partnership between the countries of the Horn of Africa follows the cardinal visions of the South-South Cooperation which among other things included promoting strong development partnership among underdeveloped countries in which China played a very constructive role.
Ethiopia’s economic development programs, stipulated in the ten year home grown economic development program was designed in such a way that the country can engage in mutually beneficial development programs as a tool for promoting peace and development in the country as well as promoting various integrated programs across the countries of the Horn of Africa.
It must be noted that most of the development challenges facing the Horn of Africa cannot be solved by a single handed approach by each country. The cooperation between these countries in sharing their resources and skilled manpower for mutual development is expedient.
The countries of the Horn of Africa need to speak in one voice in repulsing unnecessary pressure coming from countries that wish to demonstrate their dominance in the area. In this regard, countries of the region need to work together on common issues such as addressing conflicts and strive to ascertain sustainable peace and security in otherwise volatile and conflict ridden areas of the region.
The Peace, Governance and Development initiative forwarded by China could be implemented only if the concerned countries and their leaders are committed to the initiative and join hand to prepare joint strategies that need to be implemented in the shortest possible time.
The fact that Addis Ababa was chosen to host this historically significant conference indicates the level to which both China and the countries of the Horn region look upon Ethiopia for it has been championing the causes of peace, development and mutual trust among the countries of the region.