Hu Jintao to unveil Beijing's new policy towards Africa

Chinese President Hu Jintao will unveil Beijing’s new policy towards Africa in a speech to parliament in Gabon, where he is due to arrive on Sunday on the second leg of a three-nation tour of the continent.

Hu, who is due to travel here from Egypt, will on Monday give a speech to Gabon’s National Assembly which “will be directed at all of Africa” and will outline “China’s new policy towards” the continent, said Ambassador Fan Zhenshui.

“We have entered a new era, the 21st century, and Chinese leaders have changed,” said the ambassador.

“There will certainly be changes in the broader picture of cooperation between China and Africa,” said Fan.

The main thrust of cooperation will remain “the promotion of economic development in African countries.”

During his visit, Hu will also hold talks with his Gabonese counterpart, President Omar Bongo, and will be guest of honour at a gala dinner, an official programme of the Chinese leader’s visit issued by Bongo’s office said.

Gabon was chosen as the only sub-Saharan stopover on Hu’s tour of Africa, the third and last stop of which will be Algeria, because of “the great influence it has on this zone in Africa” and Gabon’s economic stability, said Fan.

Bongo, who has ruled the former French colony since 1967, played a key role in trying resolve conflicts in west Africa in recent years, offering among others to mediate in the conflict that broke out in Ivory Coast in 2002 and to restore constitutional order in Sao Tome and Principe after a short-lived coup there last year.

The importance attached to Hu’s trip by the Gabonese authorities has been highly visible in the streets of Libreville in the days leading up to the landmark visit, with public works companies operating flat-out to polish up the capital’s appearance.

Potholes on the roads that Hu is likely to take through Libreville have been filled in, pavements repaired and buildings painted.

The rare patches of green in the city have had their plantlife pruned and trimmed for the Chinese chief’s visit. The lawn opposite Bongo’s office which had been allowed to grow unchecked for months and had reached billowing heights has been mown, clean and close.

Street sweepers have been busy, cleaning up, in particular, the coast road that leads to the airport.

Huge posters of Bongo and Hu adorn advertising placards in the capital, and another poster wishes readers “Happy New Year” in French and Chinese.

On every flagstaff where Gabon’s green, yellow and blue flag usually flutters, China’s flag of four yellow stars against a red background has also been hoisted.

Shortly after he arrives at Libreville’s international airport, Hu will be given the keys to Libreville by the capital’s mayor Andre Dieudonne Berre. - AFP

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