No headline provided

No headline provided

China has offered Africa concessional loansworth US$10(ˆ6.5) billion as part of ahost of new measures aimed at improving the economy of Africannations. The announcement was made at the opening of the Forumon China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in Sharm el-Sheikh,Egypt. Leaders of nearly 50African countries are attending the two-day conference.

China had already stated today at the 3rd Conference of Chineseand African Entrepreneurs, held immediatly before the FOCAC, thatChinese firms would be encouraged to invest in Africa, while bothsides would work together to improve the tourism,telecommunications and finance industries. China also said thatgovernments should work with businesses to ensure co-operationbetween China and Africa.

As well as the loans, made over three years, China will writeoff the debt of Africa’s poorest countries, build 100 African greenenergy facilities and systematically lower import duties on 95% ofall African products exported to China. Another promise is a loanof one billion dollars aimed at small and medium sized businessesin Africa. There will also be efforts to promote each other’sculture and increased medical assistance to Africa. Medicalassistance comes in the form of 500 million yuan (US$73.2million) of goods for the 60 hospitals and malaria centers Chinahas already built, as well as 3,000 doctors and nurses. Roads willalso be improved.

China also plans to assist with satellite weather monitoring, tohelp combat desertification and work within the urban environment,all aimed at reducing global warming. The new energy facilitieswill focus on solar, biogas and small-scalehydroelectrical installations. Another new measure is a promise toaid African farmers to ensure the continent is fed, increasing thenumber of demonstrations of agricultural technology in Africa to 20and sending 50 teams of agricultural technology experts to thecontinent. Training in agricultural technology will be provided to2,000 people.

“The Chinese people cherish sincere friendship toward theAfrican people, and China’s support to Africa’s development isconcrete and real,” said co-chair Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao as theFOCAC opened up, adding “Whatever change that may take place in theworld, our friendship with African people will not change.” Hedescribed this friendship as ‘unbreakable’. Two years ago Chinapledged US$5(ˆ3.37) billion at the lastFOCAC in Beijing and now, according to Jiabao, “China is ready todeepen practical cooperation in Africa.”

China has fulfilled its 2006 pledge, investing a total ofUS$7.8(ˆ5.26) billion in Africalast year alone. 49 African countries are represented at the FOCAC,which was created in 2000, although Jiabao noted that relationsbetween China and Africa go back fifty years. China had alreadyforgiven or reduced the debt for thirty nations at that FOCACsummit.

According to Chinese state-owned paper China Daily,trade between China and Africa increased by 45% last year, to givea total value of US$107(ˆ72.1) billion, a tenfoldincrease since 2001 and up from US$491(ˆ331) million in 2003. TheChinese have a 9.8% market share, the largest of any nation,according to the U.S.Commerce Department. China has paid for schools, hospitals,malaria clinics and Chinese cholarships for African students. 50more schools are to be built and 1,500 people trained to staffthem.

Since 2006 Chinese energy firms have committed to spend at leastUS$16(ˆ10.8) billion securingAfrican oil and gas. China’s Sinopec Group, an oil giant, bought upAddax Petroleum Corporation from its Swiss owners thatyear, gaining control of oilfields in Nigeria,Cameroon and Gabon. China promisedearlier this year to spend US$9(ˆ6) billion oninfrastructure in the Congo in exchange formineral deposits for mining operations.

Jean Ping, leader ofthe African Union, saidthe told those at the conference that the money is coming at anopportune time, because African growth was “totally compromised” bythe global financial crisis. Ping said one of the lessons learnedis that the world is paying for “the irresponsible and laxbehavior” of large financial companies whose philosophy was to makeshort-term profits.

Not all Africans are happy with China’s increasing involvementin their continent. Trade practices are a concern for some, with aview that China exploits Africa for raw materials before sellingback finished goods. Among these are Egyptian Trade and IndustryMinister Rachid Mohamed Rachid. Egypt is the richest nation in theMiddle East and is discussing this perceived issue with China.Rachid told Bloomberg “What is aworry for me is if competition is unfair. That is where we areunhappy.” Jiabao described the trade as being based on “win-winprogrammes… and transparency.”

Others in Africa are delighted with the situation. “We want moreinvestment from China,” Tanzanian PresidentJakaya MrishoKikwete told the forum. Egypt’s own President Hosni Mubaraktalked of “peace, security and growth,” and of “boostingcooperation between China and Africa.”

Jiabao also used his speech to respond to criticisms that Chinaworked with nations regardless of their human rights record, suchas Sudan, whose PresidentOmar al-Beahir iswanted on a warrant issued by the InternationalCriminal Court for war crimes. “Africa is fully capable ofsolving its own problems, in an African way,” he said, adding that”China has never attached any political strings […] to assistanceto Africa.”

Beshir thanked China in a speech for diplomatic work in Sudan,including working to defuse the Darfur conflict,which the United Nationssays has left 300,000 dead. “We express our deep appreciation forChina’s efforts in backing the comprehensive peace agreement inSudan and its peace efforts in Darfur,” he said, refering to apeace deal between the northern and southern parts of his country.”We thank China particularly for backing efforts by our countriesto achieve peace and stability in Africa’s zones of conflict.”Jiabao said China was willing to work towards “the settlement ofissues of peace and security,” in Africa.

“We thank China particularly for backing efforts by ourcountries to achieve peace and stability in Africa’s zones ofconflict.” – Sudanese President Omaral-Beshir

A further criticism has been that China has brought in Chineseworkers and used their own knowledge, instead of training locals.Jiabao’s speech indicated an intention to co-operate better in thefields of science and technology, as well as improve training forAfrican students on technical courses.

“Why do some only criticise China?” asked Jiabao. “Is this aview representing African countries, or rather the view of Westerncountries?”