Comorian President Azali Assoumani: Africa can rely on China

In this episode of the CGTN series, Leaders Talk, Wang Guan interviews Azali Assoumani, President of the Union of the Comoros, who is also this year’s rotating Chair of the African Union (AU). The president of the Indian Ocean island country was interviewed in South Africa’s largest city, Johannesburg, where he was attending the BRICS Summit in late August, alongside the related China/Africa Leaders Dialogue.

President Assoumani was very positive both about the role in international affairs currently being played by the BRICS cooperation mechanism as well as for the prospects of an expanded BRICS Plus, which was first proposed by China. Citing the two examples of the disproportionate control exercised by the western powers over the traditional international financial institutions, as well as the allocation of Covid vaccines, he notes that he had discussed the latter issue with his South African counterpart Cyril Ramaphosa several times. Africa, he points out, has the ability to produce its own vaccines, an area where South Africa, Senegal, Morocco and Egypt, among other countries, have already taken a continental lead.

The Comorian leader was also emphatic on the need for industrialisation, so that Africa can export finished goods and not just raw materials. While the era of political colonialism may be largely over, that of economic colonialism is not. Often Africa exports raw materials and then imports finished goods made from them at ten, twenty or even thirty times the original export price. He therefore endorses the priorities China has set for its economic cooperation with Africa, namely industrialisation, agricultural modernisation and upscaling of the African workforce.

On agricultural modernisation, he highlights the centrality of both food processing and storage, the latter being of particular importance given the propensity of many African countries to drought and to resultant famine.

The president is also an advocate of the growing trend towards dedollarisation. Noting the successful development of the BRICS-initiated New Development Bank (NDB), he says this shows that BRICS countries could also find their way towards a common currency.

Assoumani praises China’s long standing commitment to Africa and notes that the Asian country has been fuelling Comoros’ deveopment. China was one of the first countries to recognise Comoros when it finally won independence from French colonial rule in 1975. China has always supported and stood by Comoros, he says. Therefore Comoros must also do everything it can to support China. Drawing on a popular Comorian saying, he asserts that China is now becoming a wall on which not just his country, but Africa and indeed the whole world can rely.

Africa and China, he notes, have a bond of brothers. Some other countries may be jealous of this relationship, but they, too, could enjoy a similar relationship if they treated their African counterparts as friends and brothers.

Located at the northern end of the Mozambique Channel in the Indian Ocean, Comoros consists of four main islands and numerous smaller islands. However, France remains in colonial occupation of Mayotte, one of the major islands, making this issue part of the unfinished business of African decolonisation. France has even vetoed UN Security Council resolutions that would affirm Comorian sovereignty over the island. The CGTN commentary correctly refers to Mayotte as part of the sovereign territory of the Union of the Comoros.

The full interview with President Assoumani is embedded below.

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