ADDIS ABABA – China Foreign Minister Qin Gang on Tuesday started his tour of Africa in Ethiopia.
Minister Qian, who was recently appointed to the post, will also visit Gabon, Angola, Benin, Egypt and the African Union Headquarters as well as those of the Arab States.
He was received in Ethiopia by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Demeke Hasen.
China Africa Affairs Director General Wu Peng, when making the announcement said, the visit makes it the 33rd year that Africa has been the destination of Chinese Foreign ministers annual first overseas visit.
The minister held talks with Ethiopia Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who said the relations between the two countries remains steadfast.
“Our discussion today has highlighted this: Our shared strategic development goals and commitment to continental and global cooperation,” PM Abiy said.
The Office of the Prime Minister in a statement said the discussions focused on strengthening the strategic cooperation between the two countries at the bilateral and multilateral levels.
“With a shared development agenda, Ethiopia and China have sustained a mutually beneficial partnership with a commitment during today’s discussions to further augment in economic and investments relations,” the statement added.
China has intensified its focus and interest in the Horn of Africa in recent years.
In February last year, China appointed Ambassador Xue Bing as the first special envoy to the Horn of Africa. Xue said being the first time China is appointing a special envoy to the region, it is a demonstration of the seriousness with which the country’s Foreign Affairs ministry takes the region.
“The Horn of Africa region is home to countries that have traditional relations with China. We are strategic partners. This area is strategically located and abundant in resources. The potential of development is huge”.
“ At the same time, there are issues of peace and security like differences over boundaries, ethnic and religious conflicts. So, peace and security is important and that is why China put forward the dialogue of peace and development to provide a platform for countries to come together to settle their differences through consultations and negotiations,” he said.
It is during the visit that China announced its first peace conference in the first half of the year.
Ambassador Xue also attacked the West, saying Horn of Africa countries are fed up with western countries’ interference.
The envoy said the Horn of Africa has suffered from external interventions from western countries for long.
“Some countries in this area [the Horn of Africa] are fed up with the foreign intervention, the preaching from Western countries. They say China respects us, treats us as equals and so they want to see China playing more active ands constructive role,” he said.
His appointment as envoy followed the exact move by the US. Other countries such as Japan and Switzerland have appointed a special envoy to the region.
Minister Qian’s visit follows previous such visits by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
In his first official visit in November 2021, Blinken toured Kenya, Nigeria and Senegal, where according to the State Department, he discussed Covid-19 pandemic and building back to a more inclusive global economy, combating the climate crisis, revitalising democracies, and advancing peace and security.
In his second visit in August 2022, Blinken visited South Africa, DRC and Rwanda.
The visit by the Chinese Foreign Minister is seen as a move to build on recent inroads and win more influence on the continent.