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African Union chairman looks to future

Conde says continent missed three industrial revolutions, but it must not miss the fourth

Africans can draw their greatest benefits from their cooperation with China once they begin to work together and speak with one voice, says President Alpha Conde of the Republic of Guinea.

Conde, who is currently the rotating chairman of the African Union, said the continent missed out on the first three industrial revolutions because of slavery and colonization. But it doesn't plan to miss the next one.

"We need to mobilize our people not to miss the fourth revolution, which is information technology and e-commerce," he told African journalists on Sept 7 during an interview on the sidelines of the China-Arab Expo in Yinchuan, Ningxia Hui autonomous region. "We need to manage our countries in such a manner that the needs of young people and women are taken into account."

The AU chairman said the continent is resolute about learning from China, a country, he said, that has suffered "semi-feudal rule and half-colonization" but is now the second largest economy in the world.

"Our cooperation with China covers wide range of issues including agriculture, education and improvement of the industrial chain," he said.

Conde recently attended two separate international trade and economic cooperation events hosted by China. From Sept 3 to 5, he was a guest of President Xi Jinping at the 9th BRICS Summit held in Xiamen, Fujian province, as the bloc opted to add a new dimension of inclusiveness through its BRICS Plus strategy.

At the China-Arab Expo, he signed several cooperation agreements on behalf of his country.

African Union chairman looks to future

"The Belt and Road Initiative is a major financial and infrastructure plan that will become even stronger, and Africa needs to continue to carry out structural reforms and adapt to the investment needs of the world. Only economic globalization can bring progress to African countries," Conde said of China's Belt and Road plan.

But he expressed concern over the continent's sourcing and utilization of aid, and the on-the-ground support given to the continental bloc.

"Our major challenge is making use of all that is offered and ensuring that promises are fulfilled. Fortunately for us, China always keeps its promises," he said of Beijing's support for African countries.

"The problem with the African Union is that many people on the continent do not identify with it. Of what use is an institution in which the people have no sense of belonging? We want the people to identify with the AU, especially our youth and women," Conde said.

The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation is moving from strength to strength since its first summit in 2012 held in Beijing. And the 2015 forum in Johannesburg, South Africa, further enhanced economic, trade and people-to-people exchanges between African countries and China, as President Xi pledged a $60 billion development funding package to the continent.

Conde said that solving the continent's energy problem and deepening cooperation with China would enhance various sectors, including mining and agriculture, and create employment for young people.

This, he said, would avoid young Africans risking their lives by crossing the Mediterranean Sea to get to Europe.

He is optimistic that the continent's economic potential is "awakening and on a track of progress and development".

"If African countries make good use of industrial policies, young people who have enthusiasm for innovation will make use of the economic development," he said.