8 September, Beijing: The 2021 International Forum on South-South Cooperation and Trade in Services took place in Beijing, China on 4 September. Under the theme “Digital Economy for South-South Cooperation”, speakers from UN agencies, the Chinese government, foreign governments and diplomats, academia and research institutes shared their insights on the progress of digital economy and on exploring new paths for bridging the digital divide through South-South and triangular cooperation.
The Forum was co-organized by the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC) and China International Center for Economic and Technical Exchanges (CICETE), and co-supported by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), World Food Programme Centre of Excellence for Rural Transformation, Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation of MOFCOM, China Agricultural University, Nankai University, School of Economics and Management of Tsinghua University, China-Africa Business Council, China South-South Cooperation Network and Global South-South Development Center Project (GSSDC).
At the opening, Vice Minister of MOFCOM, H.E. Mr. Qian Keming, pointed out that digital economy brought both challenges and opportunities. In the face of new technologies, such as big data, cloud computing, 5G and artificial intelligence, the digital divide has deepened between developing and developed countries. South-South cooperation can offer innovative and diversified paths to help the global economy become more inclusive and balanced. He noted that China will continue to leverage its strengths in digital economy and create more opportunities for South-South cooperation to share digital dividends and build a sustainable future for all.
Mr. Hou Junshu, Vice Chairman of the Standing Committee of the Beijing Municipal People’s Congress, expressed that the Municipal Government of Beijing is open to more South-South cooperation opportunities in digital economy with intergovernmental organizations and developing countries. Beijing has forged Sister-City Partnership with 56 cities in the world and deepened its exchange and relationship with Southern countries. Enterprises based in Beijing have also contributed to key development projects in the South, such as Mombasa–Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway in Kenya.
Mr. Adel Abdellatif, Director a.i. of UNOSSC, highlighted in his video message that as the world is experiencing complex economic and social effects of COVID-19 pandemic, countries, and people from both the South and North need to work together towards the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Digital technologies have offered many gains and opportunities, for instance, such adaptation allows many Southern countries to increase the delivery of high-quality health care, education, and other public services at different stages of their development trajectory. He added that at the same time, existing digital divides have been increasing during the pandemic, with many people left behind. A holistic approach is needed to promote a shared vision on digital cooperation and lay foundations for more inclusive and resilient economies.
H.E. Mamadou Ndiaye, Ambassador of the Republic of Senegal, highlighted in his video message the new opportunities brought by digital economy. It is expected that digital economy will contribute to 25 per cent of Senegal’s GDP in 2025. With the forthcoming Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) summit in Dakar, he looks forward to more cooperation and progress in areas of poverty relief, digital economy, health care and green development among Southern countries.
In the Forum’s breakout sessions, participants discussed progress on a range of topics, from digital literacy and talents to digital platforms, small and medium enterprises, value chain, renewable energy, virtual reality and toolboxes for public service and rural growth.
UNOSSC and the College of International Development and Global Agriculture of China Agricultural University virtual launched a joint publication — South-South in Action: China-Tanzania Cooperation through Agriculture and Poverty Reduction Partnerships. Another two reports were also released during the Forum: Digital Economy and China by Nankai University, and International Guide for Industrial Parks (Chinese version) by UNIDO.