China pledges 'all-out' help to Africa

China on Monday offered full assistance to Africa in agriculture and infrastructure following its pledge of $10-billion in concessional loans to the continent’s states.

The Beijing government is “committed to ... going all-out to assist African countries in improving their agricultural production and infrastructure,” Chinese Commerce Minister Chen Deming said.

Chen said that China would send 50 groups of agricultural experts “for transferring ... agro-technology” and train 2 000 agriculture professionals from Africa.

Speaking at the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Egypt’s Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh, he also pledged assistance in the building of schools, hospitals, highways and power projects.

The forum kicked off on Sunday with Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao pledging $10-billion in concessional loans to Africa among a series of measures to be implemented before the next forum due in 2012.

The Asian giant pledged $5-billion in assistance over three years at the last meeting, held in Beijing in 2006, and has signed agreements to relieve or cancel the debt of 31 African nations.

It will also provide a $1-billion loan for “for small and medium-sized businesses,” Wen said.

“China is ready to deepen practical cooperation in Africa,” he said on Sunday, adding that Beijing was prepared to take on a role in “the settlement of issues of peace and security”.

Wen said the new measures would focus on reducing poverty and assistance in infrastructure and agriculture, while China is also vowing to remove tariffs on most goods from the least developed African countries.

China’s Assistant Commerce Minister, Fu Ziying, said on Sunday that China would build a permanent exhibition centre for African products.

It will also set up “three to five modern logistical centres to help African entrepreneurs to increase logistical capacity to ship out African products,” Fu said.

The pledges have been received with enthusiasm by African delegations, but China is fighting off accusations that it is only interested in Africa for its resources.

An Assistant Foreign Minister, Zhai Jun, insisted that China was not seeking to impose its “hegemony” on the continent.

China “will not treat Africa in an imperialist way.
China will not be pointing fingers or bullying African countries,” he said on Sunday, adding that his country would not “practice colonialism in African countries”.

Ahead of the launch of a more robust diplomatic involvement in African conflicts, he denied that China throws a lifeline to leaders accused of human rights violations such as Sudan President Omar al-Bashir.

The forum was to wrap up later on Monday after a series of meetings between Chinese delegations and teams from about 50 African countries drawing up an action plan for the next three years.—AFP

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