Home / Events / ISS International Conference, Addis Ababa: China-African Union collaboration in peace and security in Africa (BY INVITATION ONLY)
ISS International Conference, Addis Ababa: China-African Union collaboration in peace and security in Africa (BY INVITATION ONLY)
Date: 22 May 2012
Venue: , Boll Room, Sheraton Hotel, Addis Ababa


International Research Symposium jointly organised by the Embassy of the People`s Republic of China and the Institute for Security Studies, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia


May 22, 2012

Lalibela Ballroom III, Sheraton Hotel

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia


Ambassador Olusegun Akinsanya, Regional Director, ISS Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Ambassador Akinsanya, the regional director of the Institute for Security Studies (ISS), started the symposium by welcoming all the participants. He stressed the importance of the theme of the conference as being timely and appropriate. He noted that China, as the second largest economy in the world, engaged Africa in trade, foreign direct investments, financial support, Infrastructural development and deployment of private capital for socio-economic development purposes, without strings attached. The Ambassador mentioned the ISS` mission to provide platforms for reflection on the agendas of the African Union (AU) and regional economic communities (RECs), including related interests. In this regard, he stated, the topic of the symposium could serve as an academic exercise for both sides to move the peace agenda forward.

H.E Ambassador Xie Xiaoyan, Embassy of the People`s Republic of China in the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia

On behalf of the Chinese Embassy, the ambassador expressed his thanks to all the delegates for attending the symposium and strengthening the Sino-AU cooperation on peace and security in Africa. He pointed out the factors that made peace and security issues more acute in the region and stressed the need to overcome these problems. He further commended the AU`s efforts in tackling conflict through its established collective security mechanisms. Ambassador Xiaoyan highlighted the fact that China regarded the AU as a key cooperation partner. It was also determined to continue giving support to the practice of African solutions to African problems, safeguarded African legitimate rights and interests, and supported AU-led peacekeeping through capacity-building programmes. He also acknowledged the AU`s efforts in mediating and resolving conflicts in the region. The Ambassador pointed out that the Chinese special representative for African Affairs had been actively engaged in those mediations and resolution processes, in particular on the issue of Sudan and South Sudan.  


Professor Yang Lihua

Professor Lihua, a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of West Asian and African Studies, began her keynote speech by highlighting her enriching experience from her visit to various African countries. She noted that the basic objective of her address revolved on how Africa could keep the momentum of peace and development in the global arena. She also pointed out that Africa`s status in the emerging multi-polar world was rising. It was also argued that although the continent was facing various challenges, it had unprecedented opportunities for development. She followed this with indications of positive advancement since the beginning of 21st century such as improved political stability and governance, wide acceptance of people-centered development, economic integration and gender equality as principles. Professor Lihua concluded by pointing out ways in which Africa could maintain its momentum in terms of peace and security:

  • International cooperation is necessary in security areas. Mandated nations, the UN and AU can play a constructive role in peacekeeping and reconstruction. International systems should put more emphasis on building capacity in the African security structure.
  • Foreign military intervention should be excluded by all possible means when solving internal conflicts.
  • The Sino-AU relations in peace and security areas should give emphasis mainly to capacity building; including assistance in peacekeeping, post-conflict reconstruction and emergency humanitarian assistance, bilateral cooperation in defence and justice to combat international crimes, sharing of information and training, supporting conflict prevention and solutions under the AU principles, cooperating in maritime security to combat piracy, treat root causes of conflict by strengthening economic cooperation and harmonization,  and promote  harmonisation and inclusiveness in building a new world order for world peace and development.


Session I


Review of early experiences, current challenges and opportunities on China-Africa relations

Dr Debay Tadesse, Senior Researcher, Conflict Prevention and Risk Analysis Division, ISS, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia  

Dr Tadesse started his presentation by discussing the important changes that were occurring in the area of partnerships in Africa. He stated that the Declaration of the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in 2000 established a new type of strategic partnership between China and Africa featuring political equality and mutual trust, economic win-win co-operation and cultural exchanges. The forum was the first of its kind in the history of China-African relations. Moreover, the relationship had now developed into a model of South-South cooperation. This model, he stated, had been highly advocated by African leaders as a means of mutual benefits. The speaker highlighted the phenomenal economic growth of China in the last three decades and its growing presence in Africa, where it had been outbidding Western contractors on major infrastructure projects and providing incentives to bolster its competitive advantage.

The speaker has also outlined some of Westerners` skepticism towards China`s involvement in Africa as a ‘new scramble for Africa`, viewing it through a reinvented Cold War prism. According to the speaker, Western commentators suggested that China returned to Africa to seek energy, raw materials and trade and to advance narrow geopolitical interests. Dr Tadesse argued that Africa had for a long time been a primary source of natural resources, including oil, for the West. To this end, China`s engagement with African countries has often been portrayed as a threat to Western interests. He also pointed out that for the first time after the end of the colonial period a major power saw Africa not as a charity case, but as an exceptional strategic and business opportunity.

Finally, he stated that China`s burgeoning influence around the globe had captured the attention of governments, the private sector and civil society.  With a large population and recent high economic growth rates, China now comes only second to the United States in its consumption of oil. Based on current projections, Chinese demand for oil and consumption of mineral resources is expected to grow exponentially in the foreseeable future. 

The current challenges facing African security and the constraints of ‘African solutions to African problems`

Professor He Wenping, Senior Research Fellow, Institute of West Asian and African Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences

Professor Wenping, a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of West Asian and African Studies, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, highlighted the historical trends of security during and after the Cold War period. She noted that Africa`s security had been neglected by Western powers, as had the tragedies in Somalia in 1993 and Rwanda in 1994. Post 9/11 saw the rising of non-traditional security threats such as terrorism, HIV/AIDS, transnational crime, etc. The emergence of these threats led Western powers to shift their attention to Africa`s security again, mainly due to ‘the war on terror` and oil. 

Professor Wenping further illustrated the current security threats in Africa. There is co-existence between traditional and non-traditional security threats, for example civil wars and large-scale violence, inter-state threats and the use of force, socio-economic issues such as poverty, bird flu (Nigeria, Niger, Egypt, Ethiopia and Cameroon), international terrorism and transnational organised crime.

Role of China in preventing conflicts in Africa: a developmental perspective 

Eleanor Maeresera, African Forum and Network on Debt and Development (AFRODAD)

This presentation discussed the role of China in preventing conflicts in Africa from a developmental perspective. Ms. Maeresera briefly discussed the underlying causes of conflict in the region. She emphasized that it was the African people who suffered due to the outcomes of the divergences in interest regarding power, resources, values, status, and identity, among many others. Due to a lack of infrastructural capacity and recognition as being fair arbitrators, neighbouring countries were overlooked as mediators of peace in the African context. In this regard, Ms. Maeresera mentioned that the AU came in to play in preventing conflict with the support of regional bodies. Regional blocs could have unprecedented contributions through their proximity, capacity and better understanding of dynamics of the region. However, Ms. Maeresera argued that some of the regional communities could have stakes in a particular conflicts and their involvement could complicate the process. As a result, China`s direct involvement in conflict prevention, considering its historical ties and current engagement with Africa, was vital. 

The speaker discussed the new partnership between China and Africa. She pointed out that economic transactions provided the most important focus of China`s increasing interaction with Africa. One-third of China`s oil is imported from Africa. Moreover, Africa imports machinery, transportation equipment, communication and electronic equipment from China. China is now the largest African partner and surpassed the US in 2009. 

Ms. Maeresera also thoroughly assessed the impact of the partnership. Chinese firms have been accused of hiring Chinese labour instead of locals when implementing projects in Africa. Observation of and adherence to internationally agreed laws and standards have also been weak. She asserted that the rising prices of commodities, especially oil, had positively benefited oil-producing countries. The non-interference policy – ignoring human rights, human security and concentrating on economic and material rights when investing in African countries, some which are said to be undemocratic – has also been criticised. She further pointed out that the influx of cheap Chinese goods ranging from clothing, textile, domestic goods and other manufactured goods on the market was said to be forcing African manufacturers out of business.  Maeresera shed light on the up-side of the Sino-Africa relationship by tracing debt relief for over 13 countries, totalling US$1,27 billion, in 2007. Moreover, thousands of Africans have been educated in China and hundreds of doctors and advisors are sent each year to the continent to help those in need.   

Reflection on Sino-African cooperation: the perspective of cultural security

Professor Zhou Haijin, Institute of African Studies, Zhejiang Normal University

In this presentation, Professor Zhou Haijin emphasised understanding culture and coexistence. In her words, ‘culture is the soul of the people and the state`. Historically, the Western world failed to recognise the values, ideas and identity of the African people. The professor noted that the development of African society was not only economic and political but included the long process of civilisation, renovation and state structure. Therefore, the time was appropriate for Africa to achieve cultural prosperity, independence of thought, knowledge and innovation, which were the important aspects of African peace and security.

Professor Haijin stated that the best way to increase China-Africa socio-economic cooperation was to strengthen and use the cultural bedrock. China can also share those of its values that will inspire the African people, such as the quality of leaders, responsiveness to events, pragmatism in the face of adversity, mobilisation of the country`s resources, sacrifices required from some sections of the population, choice of policies on public management and cooperation with other states, and currency protection. These stand to be the key indicators of China`s fast development.

Session II:

Exploring the possibility of Cooperation between China and AU on the African Early Warning System

Professor Xia Liping, Vice Director – general, the Department of Diplomacy and Foreign Affairs Management

Professor Liping began by highlighting ways in which China and Africa could collaborate with each other on developing and improving early warning systems. She said that the number of Chinese tourists to international destinations had been increasing since it joined the WTO in 2001. Chinese consular protection was also increasing. The professor pointed out that, compared to overseas nationals in other continents, people in Africa were facing challenges, and 30% of the early warning messages were aimed at Chinese citizens in sub-Saharan Africa. China`s consular protection system was improving at a fast pace. Professor Liping argued that the early warning system was instrumental for decision making and prevention of conflicts. It was also important to coordinate citizens and raise awareness of potential threats in the region.

She proceeded to outline the structure of the Chinese early warning system. The system has two important ministries, namely the Ministry of Commerce and Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Each ministry has a website to issue early warning messages on security. Chinese consular and embassies have their own websites to keep informed about the insecurities in the continent. According to the speaker, the second channel was regular and irregular meetings among embassies, enterprises and overseas communities in the relevant country. The third channel was the joint early warning system in the form of governmental instruction.

Chinese potential for preventing an oil war in the Sudan

Dr Samson S. Wassara, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Juba, South Sudan

Dr Wassara noted that China came into the spotlight given its involvement in the Sudanese oil industry, and liberation movements regarded it as helping the Sudan to suppress them. China`s Western predecessors such as the US and Canada underwent similar difficulties with liberation movements in the Sudan. After the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) and secession of South Sudan, China has found itself drawn into disputes centred on oil, borders and territory.

It was observed that as the conflict between the Sudan People`s Liberation Army (SPLA) and the government of Sudan was reaching an advanced stage of negotiation in Kenya, a fresh conflict broke out in Darfur that coincided with the Chinese discovery of oil in southern Darfur. The conclusion and the implementation of the CPA didn`t bring along the desired peace. Disputes over Abyei, borders and oil remained a thorny issue until the partition of the Sudan in July 2011.

African solutions to African problems: contents, practice and constraints

Dr. ZHANG Chun Senior Fellow, Deputy Director Centre for West Asian and African Studies, Shanghai Institute for International Studies (SIIS)

Dr Chun pointed out that a new opportunity window was opening for the principle of ‘African solutions to African problems` (ASAP). This was due to many factors. Firstly, ASAP was at a crossroads because of the recent turmoil in Libya and North-South Sudan; secondly, ASAP had a bright future because of the rising of Africa; thirdly, the transformation of international system opened another window of opportunity for ASAP and this year was the 10th anniversary of AU, which called for reviewing and planning ASAP.

The origin of the principle was noted by Dr Chun, which could be traced back to the 1960s. Recently the emergence of new internal wars in Africa after the end of the Cold War necessitated continental and regional capability building for crisis management and solution. The process also called for ideas such as ‘African Renaissance`. Externally, Western powers and multilateral institutions were reluctant to continue engaging with Africa. In addition, alternative partners have not emerged yet.

It was pointed out that in terms of content, three main aspects should be considered. Firstly, ASAP was essentially an issue of self-determination; secondly, ASAP was mainly about security but it included other concepts as well; and thirdly, ASAP meant a kind of division of labour.

Session III:

Role and experience of the African Union and the regional economic communities (RECs) in the China-Africa partnership

Relation/cooperation between African and China

Dr Admore Kambudzi

Secretary, Peace and Security Council, African Union Commission

Dr Kambudzi pointed out that Africa was heavily contested given its geographical, natural and human resource vastness. Countries like India and China have seen an opportunity in the continent and developed a partnership. China has been investing in the US, Canada, Europe, as well as in Asia. Recently Africa has become a recipient of Chinese investment and serves as viable market.

He said Africa had built partnerships with its traditional as well as non-traditional partners. With the traditional partners such the United States and European countries, Africa has a vast experience hence it`s aware about what to expect and what it will gain. On the other hand, Africa has diversified its partnership with non-traditional partners such as China, South Korea and South American countries. Even if non-traditional partnerships have been declining, Africa and China`s partnership has been growing at a fast pace.

Sub-regional organisations` relations with the African Union in conflict resolution in Africa: the case of ECOWAS in the solution of West- African conflicts

Professor Wang Xuejun, Associate senior researcher

The paper examined the multi-level security governance structure, which includes the global, regional, sub-regional and national level, that is aimed at addressing conflict across the continent. African regional and sub-regional organisations in particular were used as illustrations of the practical applications of African ownership in addressing African conflicts.

It was noted that even though the AU was a senior regional organisation it did not intend to manage all the security issues of the entire continent on its own. Hence the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA), developed by the AU, has allocated considerable responsibility to RECs to address conflicts emerging in different parts of Africa.

Role and experience of regional economic communities (RECs) in China-Africa relations

Ms Raheemat Omoro Momodu, ECOWAS Liaison Officer, African Union

ECOWAS-China partnership

Ms Momodu focused her paper on business and private sector cooperation, as well as the development partnership between ECOWAS and China. It has been noted that the cooperation started from a development partnership because it tackled the root causes of conflict. The focus on peace and security, unlike the development partnership, mainly centred on disaster management.

ECOWAS and China started their business forum in 2008 and focused on various areas of investment, among others energy, mining, pharmaceuticals, construction and textile. As a result many agreements and MoUs have been signed. Structures and support facilities were part of the agreement as well. The MoUs included technical components such technology and IT. The implementation was carried out through the opening of a West African office in China.

Session IV

Security situation in the Horn of Africa and the role of China

Dr Xiao Yuhua, Research Fellow, Institute of African Studies, Zhejiang Normal University

The paper mainly focused on insecurity rather than security and on problems rather than solutions. It was noted that the region faced a food crisis. During the economic recession in 2011, countries in the Horn of Africa experienced rapid economic growth. However, given the existing regional instability and poor governance, there were imbalances within the countries of the region. 

For example, Ethiopia`s economic development was more promising than that of other countries in the region such as Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan and Eritrea, which had been struggling with poor governance affecting their developmental agenda implementation. Dr Yuhua pointed out that Ethiopia had made it clear in its national development planning that development would be government controlled. The focus has also been on infrastructure development. Ethiopia was able to secure funds from its traditional and non-traditional partners. Hence development had been fast tracked.

The challenges associated with the secession of South Sudan were also examined. The dispute between the two Sudans regarding the distribution of oil royalties persisted. South Sudan has stopped its production of oil. It is difficult to foresee a compromise in the near future between the two countries. Both countries` economies have been adversely affected.

Role and experience of regional economic communities (RECs) in China-Africa relations

Mr. Kizito Sabala, Political Officer, IGAD Liaison Office, Nairobi, Kenya

It was observed that the rise of China-Africa relations over the past decade in matters of politics and economics through investment projects, bilateral trade flow and development assistance could grow only in an environment of peace.

The speaker noted that RECs in Africa offered greater opportunities to resolve African security challenges than individual states given that they were building blocks to the APSA. They had peace and security mandates and were normative institutional structures, which were acceptable at both continental and regional levels. With limited capacity they could provide capacity building and support. It was pointed out that RECs could be considered an alternative opportunity for a better negotiating position with traditional Western donors and to amplify Africa`s voice in international forums.

Mr Sabala said that the engagements between the AU and RECs should be appropriate to the conditions and the realities of the political, security and economic terrain of Africa, the history of Africa with the West, the history of China in Africa, the emerging powers and Chinese policies towards Africa. China`s growing role in Africa and its effects on both factors that drive conflict and those that promote peace are important elements that should be taken into consideration.

Role of China in preventing conflicts in Africa: an African perspective

Dr Alfred Omenya, Eco-Build Africa, Nairobi, Kenya

Dr Omenya stated that the cooperation between China and Africa began during the period of African liberation, sharing an ideological basis against suppression and oppression. In the aftermath of independence, particularly in the 1980s, China`s engagement basis to African countries was ad hoc. China has become one of the biggest trade partners in Africa, whereas trade with other partners like the US is experiencing negative growth. China has also been active in providing loans to African countries. China`s increasing investments in Africa`s oilfields, roads and telephone networks appear to have helped the currencies of many African nations. It also helped Africans to get access to consumer goods. However, the influx of cheap goods was forcing many African retailers & manufacturers out of business.

It was noted that China, flouting a United Nations arms embargo, supplied arms to belligerent groups in Sudan, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which had worsened the already conditions in those countries. However, he added that China was increasingly engaging itself in peacekeeping missions and had begun sending troops to UN peacekeeping operations in Africa, which was a very positive turn of events.


Dr Mehari Maru Taddele, Programme Head, Conflict Prevention and Risk Analysis, ISS, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

It was noted that the conference was an outcome of the cooperation between the Chinese Embassy and the ISS. Appreciation was extended to the participants and panellists, the interpreters and the Sheraton Hotel.

It was pointed out that the conference was fruitful in terms of the ideas expressed. It is important to see the Sino-African relation in the global context and China is one of the key players in the African peace and security and socio-economic development. China is in competition with other actors, which has an impact on the behaviour of China itself and other actors. It was also noted that China was engaging in Africa for the long term. Hence we should not only consider what has happened but also what`s going to happen in the future. Africa has provided a vast market for Chinese commodities and this relation ensures a long-term partnership. Africa needs the support of China and this has been manifested in different instances where China is a financier of different projects in Africa.

It was pointed out that ‘African solutions to African problems` should not be an isolationist slogan. African conflicts, even if they have local manifestations and are mainly intra-state conflicts, elicit internationalised responses. However, local actors could not handle these responses and this required support from partners such as China. The focus of the partnership should be not only on development but also the promotion of democracy. He concluded by pointing out that, regarding the funding issue, Africa should not depend on foreign aid to set its priorities.

Ambassador Sun Shuzhong, African Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People`s Republic of China

Appreciation was extended to the participants.

It was noted that the symposium was important for the exchange of ideas on peace and security between China and Africa. It provided an opportunity to enhance cooperation. It was pointed out that delegates presented the role of the RECs in China and Africa relations. Challenges and opportunities faced by the cooperation were explored as well. They had drawn conclusions and forwarded recommendations and suggestions regarding cooperation. Hence the symposium achieved its proposed objectives.

He said that many African countries were able to maintain stability and the role of the AU and RECs had been important for the maintenance of peace and security. This engagement has been positive in terms of promoting African solutions to African problems.

He concluded by suggesting that panellists should be able to identify better ways of enhancing China-Africa cooperation. There should be stronger research regarding peace and security and regarding the relation between the two. The cooperation should be perceived in an objective and rational manner. There also should be an exchange of ideas between academics and think tanks from both sides.


Boll Room
Sheraton Hotel
Addis Ababa

Mrs. Beakal Bisrat
Phone: +251 11 372 1154
Fax: +251 11 372 5954


Dr. Debay Tadesse
Phone: +251 11 372 1154
Fax: +251 11 372 5954
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