FOCAC provides opportunity for us to discuss key priorities, says Dr Alie Kabba

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September 4, 2018

By Joseph S. Margai in Beijing

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L-R: Dr. Alie Kabba, Sierra Leone’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Ernest Mbaimba Ndomahina, Sierra Leone’s Ambassador Designate to China

Sierra Leone’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Dr. Alie Kabba, has said that the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) provides a great opportunity for both the Chinese government and their African counterparts to sit together and discuss key priorities.

Dr. Kabba, who was speaking to this medium in an exclusive interview on Sunday, 2nd September, in Beijing, also said, “the Beijing 2018 FOCAC is a way of deepening ties both in Africa and China.”

“We are confident that at the end FOCAC we are going to emerge stronger and better in terms of relationship and cooperation between Africa and China. China has always been a good friend of Africa. For us in Sierra Leone, in particular, we have established over 47 years of relationship with China. And so, our presence here is an affirmation of the deep standing friendship between our two peoples,” he said.

The Foreign Affairs Minister said his expectation was that during the FOCAC summit several areas of cooperation would be discussed, adding that China is very active in all key areas in Sierra Leone’s economy, agriculture, infrastructure, communication, education, health, electricity, among others.

He also stated that the summit would build on previous achievements, noting that he’s confident that this particular summit would lay the foundation for major engagement and cooperation between Africa and China.

Dr. Kabba, who was part of a delegation led by Retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio that met with President Xi Jinping, leading to the signing of several bilateral agreements, remarked that President Bio’s state visit to China was an important occasion for the two leaders.

“The meetings were very productive and I was able to sign four agreements. Those agreements reflect wide areas of cooperation between the two countries. They include agreements on fisheries, agriculture, education, etc., and when you look at those agreements you can sense the signal of a deeper relationship between China and Sierra Leone,” he said and added that President Bio has prioritized the relationship between his country and China since he took over office.

He noted that Sierra Leone, under the leadership of President Bio, would continue to be a friendly nation and to count on China to fill in the void in terms of development.

Asked if he thought China’s development model would be replicated in Sierra Leone, including frustrating rural-urban migration, which will subsequently decongest cities in the country, Dr. Kabba said President Bio has emphasised that his delegation was in China to learn the Chinese experience.

“That is why we are joined by our Minister of Planning and Economic Development to understand how China is being able to make great strides in such a short time since her reforms and opening up. We have visited places to see for ourselves, we had gotten the idea of how to manage growing population, and also responsibly managing the environment, and investing smartly in the economy to lift people out of poverty,” he noted.

He added that the delegation has learned a lot from the state visit and that there are elements of the Chinese model they hope will be applicable in Sierra Leone.

“I’m very sure that in the coming years in Sierra Leone we will see a lot of those lessons reflected in our development priorities, especially in the area of planning, and how we are going to manage the growing population of our cities, and also the infrastructure that we need to connect our people together,” he stated.

In the area of people-to-people exchange between China and Sierra Leone, the foreign affairs minister said the fact that Sierra Leoneans have been able to engage with their Chinese counterparts to share and learn new ideas was a welcoming thing.

“Every year, China provides scholarship for our well-deserving students to come and study in Chinese universities on varieties of academic courses. The Chinese also have opportunities to go to Sierra Leone. We have medical corps that visits the country on a yearly basis, to provide medical assistance in the health care sector. I can also say that throughout the year we have short training opportunities for technical cooperation between us,” Dr. Kabba said.