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African service sector an opportunity for companies

By Qin Zhongwei | China Daily | Updated: 2013-02-28 00:39

Beijing is encouraging Chinese enterprises, especially private ones, to be more involved in the vast African service sector, a senior Chinese diplomat said on Wednesday.

Lu Shaye, director-general of the Department of African Affairs of the Foreign Ministry, made the remarks during an online chat with netizens on He said China will work more closely with the continent to bolster its security and prosperity.

The prospect of investing in Africa's service sector is promising, Lu said, noting that Western companies currently dominate that market.

"The key is whether our companies have the courage and capability to explore the market," he said, adding that he hopes China will create more favorable policies for private enterprises to do so.

Chinese investments in Africa nowadays are more diversified, according to Yao Guimei, a researcher on the African economy at Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

The service sector will be a new highlight during the next wave of investment.

"There could be more to do for service industries such as tourism, air transportation and financial services, which will help ease the trade deficit between China and Africa," she said.

An earlier IMF forecast said that from 2011 to 2015, seven of the world's top 10 fastest growing economies will be in Africa.

The continent's great potential also offers opportunities for China and other countries. Annual trade between China and Africa is approaching $200 billion each year. Chinese investment in the continent amounted to $17 billion, according to Lu.

More Chinese tourists are also interested in seeing the land with their own eyes, Lu said.

Around 100,000 Chinese people visit South Africa each year, and the number of tourists visiting the Seychelles, a much smaller African country, has risen to 4,000 a year, with the number still growing quickly.

In order to help Chinese understanding of the continent, Lu's department also registered a Weibo account a year ago, providing information and interacting with the public.

China will play a more constructive role in helping build a peaceful and prosperous Africa, as the ties between the two sides have been integrated more than ever before, Lu said.

He applauded as "successful" the recent trip of Zhong Jianhua, China's special representative on Africa, to Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Rwanda, and said China will be more active mediating regional affairs and finding solutions to security issues, which also serves China's interests.

Lu refuted accusations by some Western media that counterfeit drugs made in China were exported to Africa, posing a treat to the public health. "The accusations are groundless and untrue," he said, noting that Chinese medicine is popular among African patients.

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