DAKAR (AFP) - China’s President Xi Jinping inked a clutch of trade accords on Saturday (July 21) on the first visit by a Chinese leader to Senegal in almost a decade.
Senegalese President Macky Sall welcomed his counterpart to Dakar for afternoon talks before Xi continues a tour of the region Sunday, heading to Rwanda, then South Africa on Tuesday ahead of a BRICs summit of developing nations starting on Wednesday.
Although details of the accords signed were not immediately forthcoming, Sall told reporters both leaders held talks on “bilateral cooperation, Sino-African relations and international current affairs”, hailing China as “one of the great economies of the modern era.”
He said China’s progress along the development path was a “message of hope” showing that “under-development is not fatal and the battle for progress is above all won by (having) a combative spirit.”
Xi responded in kind, telling Sall: “Every time I come to Africa I can measure the great dynamism of this continent.”
He added he had great faith in the future of Beijing’s cooperation with its African partners as it becomes a primary investor on the continent.
A report last year by Ernst and Young named China the single largest contributor of foreign directive investment with 293 projects embarked upon since 2005 for an outlay of US$66.4 billion (S$90 billion).
One piece of Xi’s business Saturday involved the formal handover to his host of the keys to a Chinese-built wrestling venue, the sport being hugely popular in the west African nation.
China is already Senegal’s second-biggest trading partner behind France, with bilateral trade surpassing US$2 billion in 2016, according to official data.
The country’s main exports to China are nuts as well as the metals, zirconium and titanium.
Chinese imports are steadily gaining ground meanwhile, rising from 227 billion CFA francs (S$560 million) in 2013 to 367 billion last year, construction materials leading the way as Chinese companies increasingly work on state projects.
Chinese firms have built a major slice of recent Senegalese infrastructure including sports stadia in Dakar, roads, a theatre, a national wrestling arena and a museum of black civilisation.
Since diplomatic relations were restored in 2005 Chinese investments in Senegal have surpassed 1.8 billion euros.