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People's Daily Online

FOCAC provides opportunities to discuss key priorities: Sierra Leone's foreign minister

People's Daily Online

By Joseph S. Margai (People's Daily Online) 18:02, September 03, 2018

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

Dr. Kabba, who spoke to this journalist in an exclusive interview in Beijing on Sep 2, 2018, explained, "the 2018 Beijing summit of FOCAC is a way of deepening ties between Africa and China."

"We are confident that at the end of FOCAC, we are going to emerge stronger and better in terms of the 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 a relationship of over 47 years with China. So, our presence here is an affirmation of the deep standing friendship between our two peoples," he said.

The Foreign Affairs minister said he expects that during this FOCAC summit, several areas of cooperation will be covered, adding that China is very active in all key areas in Sierra Leone's economy, agriculture, infrastructure, communication, education, health and electricity.

He also stated that the FOCAC summit is going to build on previous achievements, noting that he's confident that this particular summit will lay the foundation for significant engagement and cooperation between Africa and China.

Dr. Kabba, who was part of the delegation during President Xi Jinping's meeting with Sierra Leonean president, Retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio, and also signed several agreements, said President Bio's state visit was a momentous occasion for the two leaders to meet.

"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 and education, and when you look at those agreements, you can sense a deeper relationship between China and Sierra Leone," he said. He 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, is going to continue to be a friendly nation and to count on China to fill in the void regarding development.

China has witnessed great development in all areas, which is evident when visiting its municipalities and provinces, where people no longer wish to move to the country's bigger cities as they have everything they need at home.

Asked if he thinks such development would work in Sierra Leone in order to decrease rural-urban migration, which would subsequently decongest the country's cities, Dr. Kabba said President Bio has always said that his delegation came to China to learn from the Chinese experience.

"That is why we are joined by our Minister of Planning and Economic Development, to understand how China has been 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 now have an idea of how to manage growing population, and also responsibly manage the environment, while investing smartly in the economy to lift people out of poverty," he noted.

He added that they are learning a great deal from the state visit and there are essential elements that they hope will be applicable in Sierra Leone.

"I'm sure that in the coming years in Sierra Leone, we will see a lot of these lessons reflected in our development priorities, especially in the areas of planning, 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 ideas is a welcome thing.

"Every year, China provides scholarships for our well-deserving students to come and study in Chinese universities. The Chinese also have opportunities to go to Sierra Leone. We have medical corps that visit the country on a yearly basis, to provide medical assistance in the healthcare sector. I can also say that throughout the year, we have short training opportunities for technical cooperation between us," Minister Kabba said.

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