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Africa ripe for investment opportunities, say Shanghai experts
By Wang Ying (China Daily)
Updated: 2009-09-29 08:23

SHANGHAI: Inspired by China's economic growth despite the global financial recession, African countries have reached a consensus to learn and benefit more from the robust economy.

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A delegation with representatives from nearly 40 African countries, and two international organizations - the Africa Development Bank and the League of Arab States - attended the Touchroad China-Africa Invest Forum in Shanghai Monday. The forum focused on opportunities and challenges of investing in Africa.

Many people stereotype Africa as a piece of underdeveloped land, plagued by poverty, disease and violence, but He Liehui, founder of the forum, objected to such labelings.

"It is far from being the truth if you know enough of the continent. There are lots of misunderstandings there. Not all countries in Africa are poor, and some nations' GDP per capita is higher than that of China," he said.

Actually, many Chinese companies have noticed the opportunities in the resource-rich continent and invested extensively there. Chen Jian, vice-minister of commerce, said China has invested in 49 African countries.

"Since bilateral trade volume exceeded $10 billion in 2000, the annual growth rate averaged 32 percent, and last year reached a record high of $106.8 billion," Chen said.

As one of the most economically active cities in China, Shanghai has apparently sensed its opportunities. Zhao Kangmei, deputy director with Shanghai Municipal Commission of Commerce, said in the first eight months this year, 28 percent of the new overseas projects Shanghai signed came from Africa.

During the forum, several African officials served as spokespeople for their homeland. General Pape Khalilou Fall, ambassador of Senegal, said their country has a healthy and competitive economy.

"Senegal provides good human resources, complete banking service, Internet and telephone service, as well as a good legal framework," he told China Daily.

"We welcome investment in all sectors, telecommunication, infrastructure, fishing and agriculture, etc. But more importantly, as the Chinese saying goes, 'Don't give me a fish, but teach me how to fish,'" he said.

"In addition, Senegal is a gateway to 15 countries in West Africa, so investment there means great opportunities in the other 53 African countries," he added.

The nonprofit forum of Touchroad China-Africa Invest was first held in March 2008 with 18 nations participating. Many delegation groups had reached deals on site, He said.

"Sure we will continue the forum next year and build it into a highly efficient Sino-African trade platform, and through the platform we try to boost the friendship and economic ties of the two sides to a new high," He said.