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Senegal leader seeks private investment

Updated: 2014-02-21 09:48
By Li Lianxing ( China Daily Africa)

 Senegal leader seeks private investment

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Senegal's President Macky Sall inspect a guard of honor during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Feb 20. Petar Kujundzic / Reuters

West African nation's president expresses desire to expand business relations

China already plays a key role in Senegal's economic development, but the African country seeks more cooperation from China's private sector, Senegalese President Macky Sall said after arriving in Beijing on Feb 16 for a three-day state visit.

Sall is the first African leader to China at the invitation of President Xi Jinping this year.

Sall said China has become one of the biggest development partners on the African continent, allowing countries, including his, to diversify their outside ties and seek new opportunities.

"Today we want to focus on how China will support the development of Senegal," Sall said, referring to an "ambitious program" that will be presented to the international community.

Senegal is looking for annual growth of 7 to 8 percent to establish itself as an emerging country by 2017.

Sall said cooperation with more companies from China is vital for job creation and infrastructure development.

"When energy costs are very high, it affects the competitiveness of Senegal's economy. We therefore need financial support from our traditional Western partners, as well as from China, and from both public and private sectors, to develop in these areas," he said.

Senegal has identified areas in which "the public sector can intervene" and others where the country will seek private investment, he said.

"We have also defined the public-private partnership program," Sall said, "and I believe the Chinese private sector has a role to play."

He added that "We are ready to work together" as economic growth will require a combined effort.

Sall visited China as Senegal's prime minister in 2006, and he hoped to consolidate the existing "excellent" relationship through this week's state visit and seek more cooperation opportunities to boost regional development in Africa.

He said cooperation with China is mutually beneficial and waved off suggestions that China is engaging in a new kind of colonialism in Africa or is unfairly taking resources from his country.

"Africa today has matured and it's able to defend its own interests, even under the framework of China-Africa relations," he said.

But Sall also admitted that there are obstacles hindering foreign investment in French-speaking countries, but the situation would be mitigated by appropriate policies.

"The exchange between China and Francophone countries is much weaker than that with the Anglophone countries," Sall said. "I think this can be explained by the language barrier because the Chinese diaspora communicate mostly in English.

"It is also true that we have a lot of legislation that is not favorable to investment. We are aware of this and we have tried to create a business-friendly environment through regional mechanisms such as the Organization for Harmonization in Africa of Business Laws in the Francophone zone."

He said the bilateral relationship with China since the resumption of diplomatic ties in 2005 has been particularly fruitful in the fields of infrastructure, medical care and agriculture.

In addition, China has helped Senegal rehabilitate or build 11 regional stadiums. "These will help Senegalese youth and sports personalities, boosting their capacity and improving their performance," he said.

"In cultural infrastructure, we have the magnificent Grand Dakar Theater that is also the fruit of Chinese cooperation, and the Black Civilization Museum whose foundation was laid by my predecessor Abdoulaye Wade."

He said China has agreed to fund a national wrestling arena, which is a popular sport in Senegal.

A Chinese television series, Mao Doudou and Her Sweet Days, was dubbed in French and first aired on Senegal Public Television. It offered a window for the local audience to understand Chinese culture.

Sall said he expected more cultural exchanges between the two sides, saying that "culture is the Alpha and Omega".

"We have a cultural cooperation with China that dates back many years," he said. "China is a country that has a long history of culture and civilization and I think they should be encouraged.

"A Chinese Cultural Center will give us an opportunity and a place for the development of this bilateral partnership in cultural aspects such as dance and music, and there are a lot of things to do given that Senegal also has a rich cultural history."

lilianxing@chinadaily.com.cn

 

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