China: World must do more for Africa

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on Wednesday called on the world community to do more to help Africa as he opened the annual meeting of the African Development Bank in Shanghai.

Debt relief and technology transfers were among the tools the wealthier nations could use to help boost growth in Africa, Wen said at the start of the much-anticipated two-day gathering in China’s financial hub.

“Africa needs to rely on itself to sustain development, but international support and systems are also indispensable,” Wen told delegates.

“We call on the international community to deliver on aid pledges to Africa and reduce and cancel African debt, improve its terms and market access, and increase technology transfers.”

These steps will help Africa towards “enhancing its capacity for self-development and to achieving sustainable social and economic development”, the premier said.

While Wen opened the Shanghai gathering by pointing out what the world can do for Africa, critics have said that what Beijing really cares about is what the resource-rich continent can do for China.

For decades, China has played on its solidarity with developing African nations but in recent years it has looked to the continent as a source of oil and other natural resources, as well as a growing market for its goods.

Energy-hungry China imports about 30% of its oil needs from Africa while bilateral trade reached $55,46-billions last year, a five-fold increase since 2001, according to Chinese statistics.

Earlier this year, China’s President Hu Jintao carried out a 12-day tour of eight African nations on his third visit to the continent since he took office in 2003.

Observers have pointed out the significance of the fact that Shanghai has been chosen as the venue for the bank’s first meeting in Asia and only its second outside of Africa.

“The annual meeting will surely boost the growth of the [African Development Bank] and strengthen its role and increase its influence,” Wen said.

“Africa is facing both the opportunities of development and severe challenges ... Economic and social development is an arduous task for Africa. Many difficulties need to be overcome.”

The bank’s president, Donald Kaberuka, struck an optimistic note, saying Africa would likely see 6,5% economic growth in 2007.

“Africa is better poised for economic prosperity and better governance than it has been for decades,” he said, even as he warned of challenges such as a fast-growing population.

Chinese central bank governor Zhou Xiaochuan said China, which joined in the bank in 1985, had “earnestly honoured its obligations as a member”.

“Looking into the future, Africa and the bank still have a long way to go in poverty reduction and development,” Zhou said.

“I’m confident that with the concerted efforts of all the members, the bank will fulfil its mandate even better and play an irreplaceable role in poverty reduction and sustainable development.”—Sapa-AFP

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