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CHINAFRICA
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Sudan eyes closer economic partnership with China

Ambassador of Sudan to China Omer Mohamed Ahmed Siddig

 

07 February 2024

This year marks the 65th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic relations between China and Sudan. The two countries have enjoyed friendly cooperation throughout these years, and have broadened engagements in various fields in recent years. In an interview with ChinAfrica, Sudan’s Ambassador to China Omer Mohamed Ahmed Siddig talks about the need to lift the relationship to a new high. Edited excerpts of the interview follow:

ChinAfrica: How has the China-Sudan relationship progressed since the establishment of the diplomatic relations 65 years ago?

Omer Mohamed Ahmed Siddig: This year we are celebrating the 65th anniversary of the establishment of the diplomatic relations between China and Sudan. We highly value this relationship, because China for us is a trusted partner - politically, economically, and culturally.

The relations have steadily grown during these 65 years. We have numerous strategic agreements for economic development, and China now is involved in a number of developmental projects in the country, perhaps the biggest of which is in the oil industry. Now we have a very good oil industry thanks to China. Another area is infrastructure. The Friendship Hall, an international conference centre in Khartoum, was built by China as early as in the 1970s and still stands as one of the greatest monuments of friendship between China and Sudan. China has built a number of dams and bridges on the rivers across Sudan.

A number of Chinese companies are involved in the agriculture and mining fields. They are doing business in Sudan in a very respectable manner. It is a win-win situation. It is not like other countries, which want to take all things, but don’t want to give out to the local population. Chinese projects have social impact. They develop the areas, and provide schools, hospitals, water and sanitation. That is development for the local communities. China built one of the best bridges in my town, where I come from, and a more than 300-km road in the 1970s. That road is still one of the best in the country. And the bridge is still one of the best in the country. It’s called Hantoub Bridge.

View of the Chinese-built Duweim Bridge in Sudan on 3 November 2011 (CNS)

 

I think during the past 65 years, the relations between the two countries have deepened in the political, social and economic fields. And now there is more cooperation in the social or educational field. There is a Confucius Institute in our national university, the University of Khartoum, which provides Chinese language classes, and I was told by one of my professors that the number of Sudanese students who want to study Chinese has exceeded the capacity of the institute. That shows how people are eager to study the Chinese language.

Furthermore, in terms of education, China has provided thousands of scholarships for Sudanese students who are now studying in Chinese universities. Some of them have obtained high academic qualifications and are now among the leading figures in Sudan.

In addition, there are also intermarriages. We have families with Chinese and Sudanese spouses, and those families are living very peacefully and very successfully. Their children are highly educated and highly successful.

In short, these 65 years have witnessed the deepening of the relations in all fields.

Sudan is one of the first countries to join the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). How do you evaluate the development of the BRI in the past 10 years?

Ten years have passed since the start of the initiative. We in Sudan think this is a very good initiative. As you said, Sudan was among the first countries to join the initiative. It is not only for the economic field, but also social, educational and cultural fields.

By the way, we discovered a chinaware in one of the pyramids in northern Sudan, and that was dated almost 2000 years back. Everybody was asking how this piece came from China. It was actually through the old Silk Road, which crosses Asia and goes to Europe and north Africa. So, our relations are very old. Now the BRI is reviving the old exchanges in cultures, commerce and trade between countries. And China has the economic capabilities to do that.

Sudan is situated somewhere in the heart of Africa. It connects North Africa, Central Africa, Southern Africa, East Africa and West Africa. Any means of transportation within the African continent has to go through Sudan. Now we have some joint projects with regional countries. We have a plan to build a railway line from Sudan to Chad. There is also a plan for a road from Alexandria in Egypt to Sudan and going down to the rest of Africa. Therefore, we think this is a very sound initiative, which will boost economic and cultural exchanges.

Local employees package drugs at Shanghai-Sudan Pharmaceutical Co. in northern Khartoum, capital of Sudan, on 24 April 2022 (XINHUA)

 

Maintaining world peace is one of the major challenges facing the international community. What significance do you think the Global Security Initiative (GSI) proposed by President Xi Jinping has on world peace and development?

This is another very clear and timely initiative which came exactly at the right moment, and this actually shows the difference of mentality. The Chinese think about peace and stability, while other big countries think about war and destruction.

I think all the points included in the GSI are very sound. If we now look at the situation in Ukraine, for example, if the international community had adopted the GSI, we could have gotten rid of that conflict. What is important in the GSI is the call for peaceful settlement of conflicts. We have a myriad of conflicts in the world, be it internal, between neighbouring countries or between different regions. So, the call for a peaceful settlement of conflicts is ideal and is actually what the United Nations Charter stipulates for.

The other issue is respecting the interests of other countries, and not thinking that because you are a big country, you can do whatever you want in the world. Every country has to bear in mind that responsibility. Therefore, we think the GSI is the best and the only way of avoiding conflicts in the world.

In order to bring relations between our two countries to a higher level, what aspects do you think both sides should make efforts in?

I think our political relations are very good, and we get support from China, be it in regional or international forums, the UN or the Human Rights Council. We always support China on South China Sea and Taiwan issues. We always call for one-China policy because China for us is one.

Then there is exchange of ideas between the leaders of two countries and between the embassies. We have very good contacts with different departments and different ministries in China.

So, what is needed now is to augment the economic relations. Because to have good relations you need to have joint interests, and joint interests can only be created through economic contacts and economic engagements. That can help to strengthen political relations.


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