Li's first visit this year is to Africa

Updated: 2014-05-02 09:24

By Zhao Yinan (China Daily Africa)

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Premier to draw country and continent together in trip to Ethiopia, Nigeria, Angola and Kenya

China is due to sign agreements with African nations on petroleum, agriculture and infrastructure during Premier Li Keqiang's maiden visit to Africa since taking office.

Vice-Minister of Commerce Zhang Xiangchen said China will sign about 60 agreements with governments during Li's tour, which will take him to Ethiopia, Nigeria, Angola and Kenya.

Zhang did not reveal the total value of the agreements, but said they would lay a sound basis for future China-Africa relations

Li will arrive in Ethiopia on May 4 on the first leg of his eight-day tour before traveling to Nigeria, Angola and Kenya on his first overseas trip this year.

In Ethiopia, Li will also visit the African Union commission and meet its chairwoman, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma. In Nigeria, Li will attend the 2014 World Economic Forum on Africa.

Soon after taking office last year President Xi Jinping chose Africa as the destination for his first trip as head of state.

Experts said the two visits in consecutive years underscore the eagerness of China and Africa to strengthen their ties, and the tour would draw China and Africa closer together and produce more economic opportunities for both sides.

China has been Africa's largest trade partner since 2009. The number of Chinese companies investing in the continent has reached 2,500. Trade and economic cooperation will be a major feature of Li's tour, although China-Africa ties reach far beyond economic cooperation, Zhang said.

He said Africa is becoming increasingly attractive to investors with a more stable political situation, rich natural resources and demographic dividends.

Guo Xiangang, vice-president of the China Institute of International Studies, said the tour sends a message to the world that China and Africa are in "a community of shared destinies".

African economies are performing strongly, and Africa's trade with China is worth around $200 billion annually, Guo said.

The choice of Africa as Li's first overseas destination this year shows that China cherishes its friendship with Africa, he said.

When Xi visited Tanzania, South Africa and the Republic of Congo in March last year, he referred to "sincerity", "real results", "affinity" and "good faith" when talking about China's Africa policy.

Guo said that agreements, particularly relating to trans-regional infrastructure projects with Chinese technology and construction teams, are likely to be reached during Li's trip.

A joint working group on trans-national infrastructure construction cooperation was set up in April in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa.

At its first meeting, Zhang from the Ministry of Commerce said poor infrastructure has become an obstacle to Africa's development, while China has great experience in the construction of transportation, energy and telecommunication infrastructure.

"China has the experience and capabilities to contribute to Africa's development," he said.

Guo from the China Institute of International Studies said when China proposes an infrastructure project to promote regional connectivity, it usually comes with a range of support measures, such as preferential loans and help with maintenance and training, in order to make the projects more feasible.

(China Daily Africa Weekly 05/02/2014 page2)