Business / Economy

In step with the growth of Africa

By Jiang Xueqing (China Daily) Updated: 2014-11-25 08:13

Development fund has played a significant role in enhancing China's image on the continent, reports Jiang Xueqing.

Chinese direct investment in Africa has greatly expanded in the last few years, exceeding $25 billion by the end of 2013, compared with just $9.33 billion in 2009. Today, more and more companies are doing business in Africa in sectors such as financial services, telecommunications, energy, manufacturing and agriculture.

With the rapid growth of investment in Africa, Chinese companies have an increasing demand for overseas project financing, investment banking and financial intermediary services. But domestic banks are a step behind the nation's companies in their "going global" outlook, said Chi Jianxin, chairman of the China-Africa Development Fund, which aims to stimulate and facilitate Chinese investments in Africa.

Domestic banks have extended their reach in Africa slowly. Many, for instance, lack overseas branches, which has made it difficult for Chinese companies to carry out plans to develop overseas, Chi said. Chinese companies also cannot use their assets generated through overseas investments as collateral for loans, making it difficult for them to raise funds for projects abroad.

Many companies feel that their achievements are falling short of their ambitions in handling such issues as financing, mergers and acquisitions, asset hedging and hedging against foreign currencies.

"Financial institutions should accelerate their overseas networks and become heavily involved in project financing, clearing and settlement services, investment and acquisitions as well as asset hedging as China initiates a new round of opening-up," Chi said. "They should lead corporate investment into regions and industries that not only meet requirements of foreign trade policies but also have higher profit potential."

The China-Africa Development Fund was established in 2007 after a summit in Beijing of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in November 2006. Initiated by China Development Bank Corp, the fund started from $1 billion and added $3 billion in its second phase. It is expected to reach $5 billion in the near future.

Since its establishment, the China-Africa Development Fund has invested in nearly 80 projects worth $3 billion and has allocated more than $2 billion. The projects mainly cover power generation, agriculture, infrastructure, manufacturing and construction materials sectors.

It is forecast that once the projects are all implemented, they will benefit more than 1 million African residents, achieve more than $2 billion in annual export earnings and increase tax revenues by more than $1 billion a year.

China-Africa Cotton Development Ltd, jointly founded in 2009 by the China-Africa Development Fund and two other companies in Shandong province, has invested nearly $60 million for a controlling interest in cotton projects in African countries such as Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The company has set up seven cotton ginneries, two oil-pressing factories and a cottonseed processing plant in Africa involving more than 200,000 farm households. It buys 100,000 metric tons of seed cotton a year and has hired 3,300 staff members from the continent.

Lyu Zhengyi, head of the fund's representative office in Johannesburg, said the fund has committed about $500 million in southern Africa to projects that have employed 8,300 people, 98 percent of whom are African residents.

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