African leaders in China for more loans as trade imbalance persists

Dwayne Harmon
September 3, 2018

The Chinese president was speaking at the opening of the China-Africa summit in Beijing. The initiative involves hundreds of projects, a lot of them built by Chinese contractors and financed by loans from Chinese state-owned banks, across an arc of 65 countries from the South Pacific through Asia to Africa and the Middle East.

"Applications for attendance significantly surpassed our expectations", Jiang Zengwei, head of China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, said Friday at a press briefing.

Sun Baohong, Chinese ambassador to Kenya, said late August that China has become one of the most favorable destinations for Kenyan students.

China will this week host a forum where development projects for the next three years will be discussed.

Ramaphosa said the objectives behind the China and Africa economic cooperation extended beyond the Chinese and African people and included the aspiration to build a shared future for all mankind through leadership, vision and partnership.

Ahead of the presidential address, Chinese officials had cited a 2017 study by McKinsey, a USA consulting firm, which had spotlighted that China has become Africa's most important and unrivalled economic partner.

Over the past 18 years, achievements have been made in political, economic and people-to-people exchanges between China and Africa. China defends continued lending to Africa on the grounds that the continent still needs debt-funded infrastructure development.

The summit will link the Belt and Road Initiative with the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the African Union's Agenda 2063 and individual countries' development plans to explore new territory for Africa's revival. "There are many valuables lessons that Africa can learn from china's impressive growth model, particularly in using its capacity and natural resources as a catalyst for growth".

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"China's cooperation with Africa is clearly targeted at the major bottlenecks to development".

China also says it will wipe clean the debt for certain African countries when interest-free loans come due later this year.

Apart from military aid to the African Union, Beijing will support countries in the Sahel region and others bordering the piracy-ridden Gulf of Aden and Gulf of Guinea. It also showed China's shift in focus from energy and mineral imports from the continent.

China has been Africa's biggest trading partner for the last nine years, with trade volume growing 14 per cent to US$170 billion last year.

Liu said China-Africa people-to-people exchanges should pay special attention to the needs of young Africans since they account for a large percentage of the population and face challenges such as unemployment.

South Africa's Ramaphosa defended China's involvement on the continent, saying FOCAC "refutes the view that a new colonialism is taking hold in Africa as our detractors would have us believe".

It is the only African state to maintain diplomatic ties with Taiwan.

As Chinese manufacturers move to making higher-value products, "the slack that is produced as a effect can be taken up by African economies", according to Tshabalala.

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