Africa is increasingly turning not just to the
West, but eastward to China for financing to help its economic development, and
as a role model in combating the continent's poverty.
Trade links between fast-growing economic powerhouse China and Africa have
taken a leap forward since 2004, when President Hu Jintao announced a drive to
strengthen relations with the continent -- the world's poorest despite being
rich in energy and minerals.
"Clearly we all have a lot to learn from China," Liberian finance minister
Antoinette Sayeh said at a news conference in Washington on Saturday. "China has
made more progress than anywhere in the past few decades in combating poverty."
African nations are embracing China with open arms, and international lenders
like the World Bank are talking with the Chinese about working together there.
"Ghana, Uganda, Mozambique, Tanzania -- these are countries that have pretty
good economic management and in those, the World Bank is interested in working
with Chinese partners," David Dollar, World Bank China country director
Dollar said the World Bank was interested in working with the Export-Import
Bank of China in some African countries to help finance infrastructure projects
like the construction of roads and power plants.
China, A Good Partner
China announced in
January it would lend Africa US$3 billion in preferential credit over three
years and double its aid and interest-free loans. Signs are that there is more
Over the next three to four years, Zambia expects Chinese firms to invest
US$800 million in a new economic development zone near a Chinese-operated copper
mine, Zambia's finance minister Ng'andu Magande said on Saturday.
The zone will include facilities for copper processing and for the production
of cables for export back to China, and likely other markets including the
United States, he said.
China's growing role could also point to a longer-term shift in the global
pattern of trade, African officials say.
"Historically the pattern of trade has been north/south, but we think the
east/west, or south-south axis can be a good complement to this," said Rama
Sithanen, finance minister of Mauritius.
In 2006, trade between China and Africa reached US$55.5 billion, a jump of 40
percent on the previous year.
Africa's relative openness to Chinese investment contrasts with a wary
attitude in the United States, which relies heavily on China to finance its
large trade deficits but has so far shown resistance to Chinese attempts to buy
In 2005, CNOOC was forced to withdraw a US$18.5 billion takeover bid for US
energy firm Unocal Corp., due to heavy opposition from lawmakers
who accused the deal could threaten US national security and violate rules
of fair trade.
Zambia's Magande said Africa had no such concerns, and that the partnership
between the two nations was based on long-term mutual interests.
"It's not a military issue and it's not a political issue. It's a development
issue," said Magande. "China is a good partner."