China pledges US$60bn in African aid

‘NO STRINGS ATTACHED’::The money comes on top of the US$60 billion China offered in 2015, while African leaders defended the pledges against criticisms of a debt trap


Tue, Sep 04, 2018 - Page 6

Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) yesterday told African leaders that China’s investments on the continent have “no political strings attached,” pledging US$60 billion in new development financing, even as Beijing is increasingly criticized over its debt-heavy projects abroad.

Xi offered the funding at the start of a two-day China-Africa summit that focused on his cherished Belt and Road Initiative.

The money — to be spent over the next three years — comes on top of US$60 billion Beijing offered in 2015.

The massive scheme is aimed at improving China’s access to foreign markets and resources, and boosting Beijing’s influence abroad.

It has already seen China loan billions of dollars to countries in Asia and Africa for roads, railways, ports and other major infrastructure projects.

However, critics say the Chinese leader’s pet project is burying some countries under massive debt.

“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).

“China does not interfere in Africa’s internal affairs and does not impose its own will on Africa,” he said.

“China’s cooperation with Africa is clearly targeted at the major bottlenecks to development. Resources for our cooperation are not to be spent on any vanity projects, but in places where they count the most,” he said.

However, he admitted that there was a need to look at the commercial viability of projects and make sure preparations are made to lower investments risks and make cooperation “more sustainable.”

Belt and Road “is not a scheme to form an exclusive club or bloc against others. Rather it is about greater openness, sharing and mutual benefit,” he said.

Later, at the start of the forum, Xi announced US$60 billion in funds for eight initiatives over the next three years, in areas ranging from industrial promotion, infrastructure construction and scholarships for young Africans.

He added that Africa’s least developed, heavily indebted and poor countries would be exempt from debt they have incurred in the form of interest-free Chinese loans due to mature by the end of this year.

A study by US think tank Center for Global Development found “serious concerns” about the sustainability of sovereign debt in eight Asian, European and African countries receiving Belt and Road funds.

South African President Cyril 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.”

During a visit to China last month, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed warned against “a new version of colonialism,” as he canceled a series of Chinese-backed infrastructure projects worth US$22 billion.

Ahead of FOCAC, Rwandan President Paul Kagame, currently the chair of the African Union, also dismissed the concerns, telling Xinhua news agency talk of “debt traps” were attempts to discourage African-Chinese interactions.

At the last three-yearly gathering in Johannesburg in 2015, Xi announced US$60 billion of assistance and loans for Africa.

Nations across Africa are hoping that China’s enthusiasm for infrastructure investment will help promote industrialization on the continent.

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari is to oversee the signing of a telecommunication infrastructure deal backed by a US$328 million loan facility from the Export-Import Bank of China during his visit, his office said.

Xi said that Belt and Road complies with international norms, and China “welcomes the participation of other capable and willing countries for mutually beneficial third-party cooperation.”