Sunday, November 1, 2009

China to map out Africa strategy at forum in Egypt

By CHRISTOPHER BODEEN (AP)

BEIJING — China will set the future direction of its burgeoning ties with Africa at a multinational forum in Egypt this month, Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi was quoted as saying on Sunday.

Premier Wen Jiabao plans to attend the Nov. 8-9 Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in the resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, Yang said in an interview with the official Xinhua News Agency.

No details were given, but at the last forum in 2006, China pledged to double assistance to Africa by 2009, provide $5 billion in preferential loans and credits, cancel debts and establish a $5 billion fund to encourage Chinese investment.

Yang said those goals had all been met, while the upcoming meeting marks "another important occasion to boost China-Africa friendship and cooperation."

China's trade with Africa has soared by a factor of 10 since 2001, passing the $100 billion mark last year. Estimates of Chinese investment in Africa range upward from $6 billion as China tries to lock up oil, gas and other key resources for its resource-hungry economy. Estimates for total loans, investment and aid donations — often difficult to distinguish from each other — run closer to $50 billion.

Chinese companies, most of them backed by the state, have been credited with building crucial infrastructure and providing easy loans and assistance for some of the world's poorest nations.

However, Beijing's policy of not tying assistance to political and economic reform has been criticized for enabling corruption, inefficiency and bad governance.

China also requires countries receiving aid to cut ties with Taiwan, and critics say its close relations with Sudan have allowed the regime in Khartoum to carry out atrocities in the Darfur region.

A $7 billion mining deal between Guinea's repressive military regime and a little-known Chinese company announced last month underscored for many China's full-throttle rush into Africa and its willingness to deal with brutal and corrupt governments.

The government says it was not consulted on the Guinea deal, and its current status is unknown.

Elsewhere in the interview, Yang said China would "continue to fulfill its due international obligation and responsibility and continue to contribute to the economic and social development of Africa."

He called on all nations, especially those in the developed world, to fulfill their commitments to help Africa out of poverty.

"The world's prosperity and development will not be realized without Africa, and to help Africa achieve development is the common responsibility of the international community," Yang said.