China Emphasises Win Win Cooperation With Africa

Cyril Ramaphosa

In recent months, Beijing has faced criticism about its debt practices from countries ranging from Australia to India, with even some Chinese academics airing doubts at home.

"China's investment in Africa comes with no political strings attached", Xi told a high-level dialogue with African leaders and business representatives hours before the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC).

Xi said China would increase cooperation with the continent, including expanding imports of products beyond resources. President Xi stressed that out of the $60 billion that were on offer, $15 billion would be disbursed as aid, interest-free loans and concessional loans.

He also announced an additional $60 billion of loans and other financing to follow on a similar amount promised three years ago.

While Beijing-backed investment has provided African governments much-needed infrastructure without the West's political and fiscal demands, it has also generated complaints about China's preference for loans and reluctance to use local labor. He announced a $60 billion funding package to African countries, some of which is yet to be fully implemented.

At a business event ahead of the summit, Xi said China had "full respect for Africa's own will" and wasn't interested in forming an "exclusive club".

China has established 54 Confucius Institutes and 27 Confucius classrooms in 41 African countries.

Xi spent the weekend in one-on-one meetings with African leaders who arrived early for some face time with the head of the world's second-largest economy.

Sudan President Omar al-Bashir, who has been in power for almost 30 years, is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes over killings and persecution in Sudan's Darfur province between 2003 and 2008.

Africa is growing in strategic importance for China, with the People's Liberation Army opening its first overseas naval base in Djibouti previous year.

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The ECOWAS chairman said that member states will continue to pay emphasis on encouraging more foreign direct investment in the sub-region.

"China-Africa cooperation must give Chinese and African people tangible benefits and successes that can be seen, that can be felt", he said.

Xi made no mention of the political and debt concerns that overshadow some BRI projects. "We do not want a situation where there is a new version of colonialism happening because poor countries are unable to compete with rich countries", he said during a visit to Beijing. The least developed African countries will be exempted from paying exhibition stand fees, he said.

Xi said during the next three years and beyond, China would carry out eight major initiatives with African countries.

Ramaphosa urged China to focus more on the nature of and quality of its investments in Africa and not just natural resources.

"We're particularly pleased that President Xi and the government of China is open to this, and in fact encourage trade between Africa and China should be balanced, so that we have a win-win outcome that benefits both".

South African leader Cyril Ramaphosa who was also the co-chairperson of the session, said FOCAC refutes the misconception by some quarters that it is a new form of colonialism in Africa, pointing out that the Forum is on the contrary beneficial to the people of China and Africa.

Chinese state media has been aggressively explaining why such investment is good for the continent - and positioning Xi as the champion of the African people.

He pointed out that energy, transport, telecommunications and tapping cross-border water resources would be on China's radar in the next phase of Africa's infrastructural forays. Chinese loans can help African countries improve their infrastructure, it said.

"China does not interfere in Africa's internal affairs and does not impose its own will on Africa", he said.

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