Chinese President
Xi Jinping “’
currently in Africa
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania — 25 March 2013 – Chinese President Xi Jinping will set out plans for mining and infrastructure development on a trip to Africa this week, as China seeks to reassure leaders on the continent who have voiced unease about his country’s trade relations.

During his eight-day trip Xi, 59, stops in Tanzania, the Republic of Congo and South Africa, where he’ll sign business cooperation deals and attend a summit of BRICS nations, reports Bloomberg News.

Trade between Africa and China doubled since 2007 to more than US$200 billion and Chinese investment stands at US$20 billion, according to Standard Bank Group Limited,  Africa’s biggest lender.

While African nations welcome the investment and the job creation that comes with it, leaders from Botswana’s Ian Khama to Nigerian central bank chief Lamido Sanusi are asking whether the relationship has benefited Africa as much as it has China. That’s a shift in tone after officials welcomed China for taking a different strategy from the West by offering investment without demanding poverty alleviation, democratic reforms or anti-corruption measures.

“There’s a belief that since Africa got a raw deal from the colonial West, then the Chinese must be Africa’s best friend,” said George Ayittey, a Ghanaian economist and president of the Free Africa Foundation, a Washington-based research institute, in a phone interview.

“But the evidence doesn’t show that, and the main criticism is that they are building infrastructure in exchange for Africa’s resources in deals that are structured to favour China.”

Xi arrived in Tanzania yesterday and met President Jakaya Kikwete before the two countries signed 16 economic cooperation agreements worth as much as US$16 billion, Salvator Rweyemamu, director of presidential communications, said in a phone interview. The country also signed a loan agreement with China Merchants Bank for a planned US$10 billion port at Bagamoyo on the Tanzanian coast, he added.
Today, Xi will deliver a major speech to reaffirm China’s policy to Africa, Chinese vice foreign minister Zhai Jun told reporters in Beijing..

“We expect him to talk about avenues of investment, trade, peace and security, and to elaborate on mining, oil and gas, energy and infrastructure development,” Tanzanian foreign minister Bernard Membe said in an interview.

Xi will also attend a two-day summit of leaders from the so-called BRICS countries — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — that begins in the South African port city of Durban tomorrow. He arrives in Congo Republic on March 29 for talks with President Denis Sassou-Nguesso, according to Congo’s Communications Ministry.

More than 50% of China’s imports from Africa in 2012 were coal and oil, with iron ore and copper making up a further 14%, Jeremy Stevens, a Beijing-based economist at Standard, said by e-mail.

This has caused some concern among African leaders. Sanusi of Nigeria, Africa’s biggest oil producer, compared China’s purchase of primary goods and sale of manufactured items to the continent to British colonial policies. Sanusi also criticized Chinese investment in Africa which, with some exceptions, he said,  failed to transfer skills to local communities.

“Africa must recognize that China, like the U.S., Russia, Britain, Brazil and the rest, is in Africa not for African interests but its own,” Sanusi said in an opinion article in the London-based Financial Times on March 11.

Botswana’s Khama told a South African newspaper last month that he was echoing comments voiced privately by other African presidents when he expressed frustration at his government’s dealings with Chinese companies. The state blames China National Electric Equipment Corporation for delays in building generators at the Moropule B coal-fired power plant that have resulted in outages in the southern African country.

“We have had some bad experiences with Chinese companies in this country,” Khama said in an interview published in the Johannesburg-based Business Day  last month: “We are going to be looking very carefully at any company that originates from China in providing construction services of any nature.”

China has more than 2,000 companies working throughout the continent, Jia Qinglin, former chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, revealed in January.

“Yes, there are some growing pains,” he said. “There are one to two million Chinese entrepreneurs. They have made a great contribution to local development, but due to various reasons, such as lack of mutual understanding, there have been some problems.”

Source: Bloomberg News. For more information, click here.