Sun | Oct 13, 2019

Xi pledges U$60b in financing for Africa

Published:Monday | September 3, 2018 | 11:03 PM
Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou, left, shakes hands with Chinese President Xi Jinping as they pose for photographs during the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation held at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Monday, September 3, 2018. (AP Photo/Andy Wong, Pool)

Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday pledged US$60 billion in financing for projects in Africa in the form of assistance, investment, and loans as China furthers efforts to link the continent's economic prospects to its own.

Speaking to a gathering of African leaders in Beijing, Xi said the figure includes US$15 billion in grants, interest-free loans, and concessional loans; US$20 billion in credit lines; US$10 billion for "development financing;" and US$5 billion to buy imports from Africa.

In addition, he said that China would encourage companies to invest at least US$10 billion in Africa over the next three years.

China's outreach to Africa aims to build trade, investment, and political ties with a continent often seen as overlooked by the United States and other Western nations. That has provided lucrative opportunities for Chinese businesses, while African nations are often happy to accept China's offers that come without demands for safeguards against corruption, waste, and environmental damage.

No details were given on specific projects, although Xi said that China was planning initiatives in eight areas, including providing US$147 million in emergency food aid; sending 500 agricultural experts to Africa; and providing scholarships, vocational training, and trade promotion opportunities.

The pledge comes on top of a 2015 promise to provide African countries with US$60 billion in funding that Xi said had either been delivered or arranged.

Also on Monday, Xi promoted Beijing's initiative to build ports and other infrastructure as a tool for "common prosperity" in a world facing challenges from trade protectionism.

Addressing businesspeople prior to the formal opening of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, Xi said the "Belt and Road" initiative would expand markets. He tried to mollify concern that Beijing wants to build strategic influence, promising that Chinese investment comes with "no political strings attached."

"Unilateralism and protectionism are on the rise. Economic growth lacks robust drive," Xi said in a speech. "China-Africa cooperation under the BRI is a way to common prosperity that brings benefits to both our peoples."

African and other Asian leaders have welcomed "Belt and Road" that but some projects have prompted complaints about debt and other problems. The initiative involves hundreds of projects, most of them built by Chinese contractors and financed by loans from Chinese state-owned banks, across an arc of 65 countries from the South Pacific through Asia to Africa and the Middle East.

In a major blow to China's ambitions, Malaysia recently cancelled Chinese-financed projects worth more than US$20 billion, saying that they were unnecessary and would create an unsustainable debt burden. Deeply indebted Pakistan is also reportedly reconsidering some projects in the multibillion-dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that is a key link in the BRI.