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Li urges expansion of Africa relations

Updated: 2012-08-28 07:16
By Li Xiaokun in Beijing and Li Lixanxing in Nairobi ( China Daily)

Vice-premier sees number of sister cities doubling over five years

Sister-city partnerships with Africa will double in the next five years, Vice-Premier Li Keqiang said on Monday.

 Li urges expansion of Africa relations

Chinese Vice PremierLi Keqiangaddresses the opening ceremony of the 1st Forum on China-Africa Local Government Cooperation in Beijing, capital of China, Aug. 27, 2012.  [Photo/Xinhua]

Li was addressing the First Forum on China-Africa Local Government Cooperation in Beijing, and the target is viewed by analysts as confirmation that close ties between China and Africa will expand from central governments to local authorities.

"In the next five years, China and Africa will push for more sister cities and double their number," Li said.

Li Xiaolin, president of the Chinese People's Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, told the forum that 111 pairs of sister cities and provinces have been established.

The two-day forum attracted more than 70 governors, mayors and leaders of African nations. It will be held every two years.

Patrick Maluki, researcher with the Institute of Diplomacy and International Studies at the University of Nairobi, said the forum provides a platform for regions in China and Africa to share their experiences.

"Africa is experiencing profound urbanization and cities will be confronted with increasing problems," he said. "This forum will provide a chance to learn from each other, and tackle common difficulties like traffic congestion, pollution and population control.

"For instance, if Shanghai and Nairobi were sister cities we could really make major progress in city construction," he added.

Vice-Premier Li also announced that China will invite 1,000 African local government officials, entrepreneurs and people from all walks of life to China, and send a corresponding number of Chinese representatives to Africa.

Burundian First Vice-President Therence Sinunguruza told the forum his country appreciates China's help over the decades and promised closer cooperation.

"China has always stood with Burundi", even when the country suffered from serious political and economic upheaval, he said.

Trade between China and Africa in 2011 reached $166.3 billion, a 16-fold increase on 2000.

China has been Africa's largest trading partner since 2009, and more than 2,000 Chinese enterprises now invest there.

Xu Weizhong, an expert on Africa studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said cooperation among local authorities is an "inevitable trend".

"With cooperation deepening, African nations will develop connections not only with the Chinese government but also various ministries, provinces and cities," he said.

According to the China International Friendship Cities Association, 30 provinces and 398 cities in China have forged 1,906 links with 434 provinces and 1,320 cities in 130 countries.

Sister-city ties with African nations account for less than 6 percent but Sino-African ties are growing.

Media groups from China and 42 African nations gathered in Beijing earlier this month to discuss measures to deepen cooperation.

"This shows that cooperation has entered a comprehensive era, not just focusing on politics as in the 1950s or economic cooperation as in the 1990s," Xu said.

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