5 May 2014

Africa: Dozens of Deals to Be Signed With African Countries

Photo: Herr Bert/Flickr
Chinese flag.

China is expected to sign infrastructure agreements in the road, railway, aviation and electrical power sectors with African countries this week to upgrade industrial cooperation with the continent.

Premier Li Keqiang told African reporters in Beijing that China is ready to "bring into full play its advantages and actively take part" in Africa's infrastructure development to promote connectivity.

He said China will help Africa develop labor-intensive manufacturing, which will create jobs and boost consumption. Li said China will also create new investment and financing means to help Africa address funding shortfalls.

Vice-Minister of Commerce Zhang Xiangchen had said earlier that China will sign agreements with African nations on petroleum, agriculture and infrastructure, among about 60 deals, during Li's tour. The tour will take him to Ethiopia, Nigeria, Angola and Kenya. But Zhang did not specify what kind of infrastructure agreements will be signed.

Li was scheduled to begin his eight-day maiden visit to Africa on Sunday.

Li also promised to make poverty-reduction one of the highlights of Sino-African cooperation.

China will help Africa train professionals and provide vocational education for young people to help the continent "fully and durably unleash population dividends", Li said.

He described problems encountered by companies from both sides as "growing pains" and said the Chinese government takes these issues "very seriously".

"Problems, after all, are isolated cases in the whole picture of China-Africa cooperation ... Instead of dodging or covering them up, China is willing to sit down with African countries and resolve these issues through earnest consultation in the spirit of mutual respect, pragmatism and efficiency," he said.

He urged Chinese enterprises to strictly abide by local laws and hold themselves accountable to consumers and the quality of contracted projects and goods. They should shoulder due responsibility to local communities and the environment, he said.

Li added that the principles of sincerity, equality and mutual benefit will remain constant throughout China-Africa cooperation.

Zhejiang Normal University's Center for African Studies director Liu Hongwu suggested Chinese companies diversify their investments from low-end raw materials' export to processing industries with more value-added products.

"These companies should hire more local employees, fulfill their due social responsibilities to local communities and help them train senior management personnel," he said.

In 2013, China-Africa trade reached $210 billion - 2,000 times the amount in 1960.

China has been Africa's biggest trading partner for five years running. More than 2,500 Chinese companies operate in Africa, creating over 100,000 jobs for local communities. Last year, more than 1.4 million visits by Chinese travelers generated vast exchange revenue for Africa. The International Monetary Fund reported Sino-African cooperation has contributed more than 20 percent of Africa's development.

The "China factor" has become increasingly evident in Africa's development.

Li will visit the African Union's headquarters in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa and deliver a speech on Sino-African cooperation.

He will also attend the 2014 World Economic Forum on Africa in Nigeria's capital Abuja and deliver a speech on joint development between China and Africa, China's promotion of Africa's inclusive development and international cooperation.

Liu Guijin, China's former special representative on African affairs, said the two speeches will highlight the visit.

"Delivering a speech at Addis Ababa, which is to some extent Africa's political and diplomatic capital, is like taking an oath on China's policy toward the entire continent," he said.

"The speech at the 2014 WEF on Africa is expected to become an experience-sharing session among leaders of developing countries."

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