Fri, Nov 03, 2006 - Page 4 News List

Oil deals are the Africa summit's proper agenda


The official theme of the China-Africa summit this weekend is "friendship, peace, cooperation and development," but a fifth word seems to be missing from huge banners hung up around Beijing: oil.

More than 2,500 separate business deals will be negotiated at the three-day event in Beijing starting today, according to Chinese officials, and it is highly likely that some of the biggest will revolve around oil.

More than 40 African leaders will be in Beijing for the event, representing some of China's most important oil suppliers.

China imported 38 million tonnes of crude oil from Africa last year, or 30 percent of its total imports, according to state figures.

Those numbers have grown rapidly as Beijing looks increasingly to African oil to help fuel double-digit growth in China's economy.

By the start of this year, China had investments in 27 major oil and natural gas projects in 14 African countries, and in recent months it has taken further stakes in Kenya, Angola and Nigeria.

Analysts warn China could be on a collision course with the West over competing interests for energy resources in Africa.

Concerns have also been raised by critics about its willingness to do deals with countries such as Sudan, whose oil is off limits to US firms over transparency and human rights issues.

"I'm very concerned that it could become a major source of confrontation," said David Zweig, from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

"Remember that World War I started over expanding powers seeking resources, particularly in Africa," he said.

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