China woos Africa with financial aid and trade

Chinese President Xi Jinping says that his country's investment in Africa comes with no strings attached, ahead of a triennial China-Africa summit in Beijing.
Chinese President Xi Jinping offered another US$60 billion in financing for Africa and wrote off some debt for poorer African nations.
Chinese President Xi Jinping, speaking at the opening of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing yesterday, said China was Africa's "good friend, good partner, and good brother".
Chinese President Xi Jinping, speaking at the opening of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing yesterday, said China was Africa's "good friend, good partner, and good brother".PHOTO: EPA-EFE

African nations seeking more transfer of Chinese technology and know-how

Chinese President Xi Jinping has promised African nations a raft of goodies, including boosting infrastructure connectivity and trade, offering agricultural aid and extending US$60 billion (S$82 billion) in financing, even as these nations sought more transfer of Chinese technology and know-how.

Both South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and the African Union's rotating chair Paul Kagame had asked China and its firms to partner Africa's businesses and institutions and build their capabilities, pointing out that this was the most durable way to contribute to the continent's development.

Mr Xi and the African leaders were speaking at the opening ceremony of the two-day Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (Focac) at the Great Hall of the People.

In his keynote address, Mr Xi said China was Africa's "good friend, good partner, and good brother", adding that the way to boost cooperation was for both sides to leverage their strengths and for China to complement Africa's development through its own growth.

China has increasingly courted Africa, as it seeks out resources and new markets. Since the triennial Focac began in 2000, China has extended about US$125 billion of loans to the continent.

Yesterday, Mr Xi pledged another US$60 billion in financing, in addition to the eight initiatives to boost cooperation that he announced in his speech.

This will take the form of government assistance, investment, grants and credit lines.

Yesterday, Mr Xi pledged another US$60 billion in financing, in addition to the eight initiatives to boost cooperation that he announced in his speech. This will take the form of government assistance, investment, grants and credit lines.

This latest sum is on top of the US$60 billion promised during the last Focac summit in 2015.

Other measures include increasing imports from Africa; improving infrastructure connectivity; encouraging Chinese firms to invest in the continent; as well as setting up workshops to train African workers.

Mr Xi also called on both sides to boost cooperation on major regional and international issues, and to "seize opportunities" created by their complementary development strategies and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Africa is a key part of the BRI, an ambitious plan mooted by Mr Xi to build infrastructure such as roads, railways, ports and industrial hubs along land and sea trade routes from China to Africa and Europe.

  • The eight initiatives

  • •A China-Africa economic and trade expo will be organised to encourage Chinese companies to invest in Africa. China will also send agricultural experts to Africa, provide food aid, and launch 50 agricultural assistance programmes.

    •China will increase imports, especially of non-resource products, from Africa.

    •Beijing will work with the African Union (AU) to formulate a China-Africa infrastructure cooperation plan.

    •China will set up 10 workshops to provide vocational training in Africa, train 1,000 "high calibre" Africans and provide 50,000 government scholarships.

    •A China-Africa peace and security fund will be set up, and Beijing will continue to provide free military aid to the AU.

    •50 aid projects on green development and environmental protection will be launched.

    •50 medical and health aid programmes will be launched.

    •An institute of African studies will be set up in China.

Mr Kagame, who is the President of Rwanda, said that Africa wished to be a "full and integral" part of the BRI and that the African Union would be a focal point of the initiative going forward.

He added that building capacity of African institutions is what would make the "biggest difference" in Africa's development.

Mr Ramaphosa welcomed the initiatives announced by Mr Xi, noting that China was now a "major investor" in the continent.

But he also said that more local partnerships between Chinese and African businesses should be encouraged as the transfer of knowledge and technology will contribute to the development and sustainability of businesses and create new industries.

He noted that the current model of Africa exporting raw materials to China, and importing finished products from it, "limits the ability of African countries to extract the full value for their abundant natural resources and to create work for their people".

 
 
 
 

Platforms like Focac should be used to balance the structure of trade between Africa and China, he said.

Associate Professor Cui Shoujun of Renmin University said it was natural for African nations to look to China for capacity building, as their leaders have seen the Chinese economic model propel the country to become the world's second-largest economy.

Leaders from more than 50 African countries are in Beijing for Focac, which ends today. Both Mr Xi and Mr Ramaphosa will be chairing a roundtable discussion.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 04, 2018, with the headline 'China woos Africa with financial aid and trade'. Print Edition | Subscribe