China offers Africa billions, 'no strings attached'

S Buhari arrives Beijing for China Africa summit

President Xi Jinping told African leaders on Monday that China's investments on the continent have "no political strings attached", pledging $60 billion in new development financing, even as Beijing is increasingly criticised over its debt-heavy projects overseas.

The financing will be provided in the form of government assistance as well as investment and financing by financial institutions and companies, Xi said in a keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the 2018 Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation.

"China's cooperation with Africa is clearly targeted at the major bottlenecks to development".

The two-day China-Africa summit is expected to focus on Xi's cherished Belt and Road initiative, a global trade infrastructure program.

African and other Asian leaders have welcomed "Belt and Road" but some projects have prompted complaints about debt and other problems.

The delegations are largely led by Presidents or Prime Ministers who started arriving in China since late last week.

South African leader Cyril Ramaphosa who was also the co-chairperson of the session, said FOCAC refutes the misconception by some quarters that it is a new form of colonialism in Africa, pointing out that the Forum is on the contrary beneficial to the people of China and Africa. "Our growing relationships with China do not come at anyone's expense".

Xi said during the next three years and beyond, China would carry out eight major initiatives with African countries.

Xi, addressing leaders at Beijing's Great Hall of the People, said the new £45 billion ($60 billion) will include £11.6 billion ($15 billion) of aid, interest-free loans and concessional loans, a credit line of £15.5 billion ($20 billion), a £7.7 billion ($10 billion) special fund for China-Africa development, and a £3.8 billion ($5 billion) special fund for imports from Africa.

Xi further announced that China will support the youth from Africa by offering them scholarships, training high calibre young people from the continent and launching Africa innovation centre and that of environment.

According to data from John Hopkins University's China Africa Research Initiative, China has already loaned around $125 billion to the continent between 2000 and 2016.

On peace and security, Xi said China will set up a China-Africa peace and security fund and continue providing free military aid to the African Union.

"Africa is still at the initial stage of industrialization, and the process is very likely to collapse without sustainable investment growth", the state-linked Global Times reported Monday.

China has been Africa's top trading partner for nine consecutive years.

"It is through platforms like [this forum] that we should work to balance the structure of trade between Africa and China", Ramaphosa said.

Xi said the plan, for which Beijing has pledged $126 billion, would help provide more resources and facilities for Africa and would expand shared markets.

"We respect, love and support Africa", he said, adding that China would never interfere with the African people's chosen developmental path or its internal affairs, including through imposing its will.

President Buhari said there is an excellent relationship between China and West African countries. This, he said, would help African countries in infrastructure planning, design, construction, operation and maintenance, particularly in the sectors of railways, roads, regional aviation, ports, electricity and telecommunications.

"This obviously limits ability African countries to extract full value of abundant natural resources and create work for its people".

Locals in other countries have complained about the practice of using Chinese labor for building projects and what are perceived as sweetheart deals for Chinese companies.

Kagame noted that FOCAC has grown into an engine of meaningful cooperation between Africa and China.

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