China and Senegal signed five trade pacts on Friday as Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) pressed on with an African tour to boost commercial ties and deflect criticism that Beijing exploits the world’s poorest continent.
According to the Senegalese presidency, the two sides inked a deal to set up a joint body to deepen economic, commercial and technological cooperation.
Under another pact, China extended loans for new buses. A third agreement was a contract for China to buy peanut oil, the presidency said, but did not say how much the deals were worth.
Neither Hu nor Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade spoke with reporters and no press conferences are planned during the visit.
Earlier on Friday, Hu spoke in Mali of the need for China to strengthen relations with Africa during this time of economic crisis.
“We are both developing countries facing the international economic crisis, we should strengthen our relationship. China will continue its aid to Mali,” he said at a foundation stone ceremony for a bridge on the River Niger in Bamako.
China is criticized in the West over its drive to secure natural resources from African states, including from regimes spurned by the West, and Hu has been anxious on his trip to push forward talk of investment and debt-relief.
China’s economy has boomed over recent years, driving oil and other commodity prices to record highs in a scramble for raw materials. The African continent has become a key focus in its efforts to secure supplies.
Beijing is often accused of giving little in return and Hu’s trip to four less resource-rich African nations — Mali, Senegal, Tanzania and Mauritius — has been seen as a move to counter such claims.
Official Chinese figures show trade between China and Africa jumped 45 percent last year, with Chinese exports to the continent up 36.3 percent and its imports, mainly oil, soaring 54 percent.
Western critics of China’s growing role in Africa accuse Beijing of acting in a colonial fashion, focusing only on its own interests, and dealing with outcast regimes such as in Sudan.
Beijing has strongly rejected such criticism, insisting that its involvement is even-handed and of mutual benefit to it and its African partners.
Although relatively small, Mali and Senegal still have significant resources.
Dakar and Beijing re-established diplomatic ties in 2005 after a 10-year hiatus over Senegal’s recognition of Taiwan. Hu’s visit is widely seen as a reward to Dakar for returning to the fold of its “one China” policy.
Hu was to meet senior Senegalese politicians yesterday morning before visiting the site of a new national theater being built with Chinese aid and going on to Tanzania. He will wrap up his tour in Mauritius.