CHINESE President Xi Jinping announced a $US60 billion aid package for Africa today, at the opening of the Forum for China-Africa Cooperation (Focac) in Johannesburg.
This amount is three times the aid package which China presented to Africa at the last Focac conference in 2012 in Beijing.
South African officials had been expecting Xi to announce $50 billion in aid, so his announcement pleasantly surprised them.
“It includes $US5 billion zero interest loans, $US35 billion on preferential facilities and export credit lines, concessional loans on more favourable terms; an increase of $US 5 billion to the China-Africa development fund and a special loan for the development of SMEs,” Xi said.
It would also include $US10 billion to boost African capacities.
The assistance would finance a broad range of assistance programmes to help Africa industrialise, modernise its agricultural production, boost the skills of its workers, build infrastructure and improve its health care.
Xi said China’s aid would be directed at solving the three main bottlenecks which Africa faced – the lack of infrastructure, skilled workers and capital.
The assistance would be guided by governments, but would mainly be implemented by business.
He said the aid would include the building or upgrading of several industrial parks and the sending of many Chinese experts to Africa.
It would also include the training of 200 000 African professional technicians by China in Africa and the creation of 40 000 training opportunities for Africans in China.
China would implements programmes to raise agricultural productions standards in 100 African villages, would send 30 teams of agricultural experts to Africa and would establish partnerships between 10 Chinese and 10 African agricultural research institutions.
China would also provide one billion renminbi in food aid to Africa to help it deal with the failed harvests this year caused by the El Ninho weather phenomenon.
Xi said China’s infrastructure-build programme would include roads, railways, ports and telecommunications to enhance Africa’s potential for sustainable development.
China would also launch 100 joint projects on clean energy, protecting wildlife and climate friendly agriculture.
And the aid would include 50 aid-for-trade programmes to improve Africa’s capacity to trade inside and outside the continent.
China would would cancel the debts of many African countries.
China would also step up its aid to Africa’s peacekeeping efforts by donating a further $60 million to help found the African Standby Force and the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crisis. (Acirc) , two African Union forces tasked with intervening in African crises to restore stability.
South Aftica President Jacob Zuma, who is co-chairing the summit with Xi, welcomed the new measures which Xi announced, saying they would lift the partnership between Africa and China to its highest level since the inception of the Focac in 2000.
“Our relationship with China is different from our relations with others in history,” he said.
Zuma particularly welcomed Xi’s announcement of measures to help African economies industrialise and to add value to their raw materials.
But the South Africa President also sent a veiled message to China – which some critics have accused of only being interested in Africa for its raw materials – by saying that although Africa’s minerals and other raw materials had helped to make it richer, “they have also made Africa vulnerable to exploitation. This is why we want to prioritise beneficiation and value added (goods), so that what is buried in the bellies of our soil will translate into benefits for the bellies of our citizens.”
“We are also keen to explore with China the long-term viability of African mining and extractive industries. This is important in the light of the declining demand for commodities,” Zuma said, referring to the slowdown in China’s economy this year, which has decreased its demand for African commodities.
“We also welcome cooperation in infrastructure development. Africa needs improved connectivity through road, rail and air. We need water and energy.”
Speaking as chair of the African Union, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe warmly welcomed what he said was Xi’s announcement of assistance to Africa in almost every facet of life.
Mugabe, 91, also had his usual dig at the former colonial powers, noting that China had never colonised Africa.
“He is doing for us what we expected from the colonisers in history to do,” said Mugabe.
“If they have ears to listen, let them hear.” – ANA