China's Xi Offers $60 Billion Africa Aid

Tuesday, 4 September, 2018 - 05:00
Beijing - Asharq Al-Awsat

President Xi Jinping told African leaders Monday that China's investments on the continent have "no political strings attached", pledging another $60 billion in financing for Africa, even as Beijing is increasingly criticized over its debt-heavy projects abroad.

Xi offered the funding at the start of a two-day China-Africa summit that focused on his cherished Belt and Road initiative. The money -- to be spent over the next three years -- comes on top of $60 billion Beijing offered in 2015.

The massive Belt and Road scheme is aimed at improving Chinese access to foreign markets and resources, and boosting Beijing's influence abroad.

It seeks to link China by sea and land with Southeast and Central Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa through an infrastructure network modelled on the old Silk Road.

China has poured billions in loans for roads, railways, ports and other major infrastructure projects in Asia and Africa.

But critics warn that the Chinese leader's pet project is burying some countries under massive debt.

"China's investment in Africa comes with no political strings attached," Xi told a high-level dialogue with African leaders and business representatives ahead of the summit.

"China's cooperation with Africa is clearly targeted at the major bottlenecks to development. Resources for our cooperation are not to be spent on any vanity projects, but in places where they count the most."

But Xi admitted there was a need to look at the commercial viability of projects and make sure preparations are made to lower investment risks and make cooperation "more sustainable".

Belt and Road, Xi said, "is not a scheme to form an exclusive club or bloc against others."

Later, at the start of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), Xi announced $60 billion in funds for eight initiatives over the next three years, in areas ranging from industrial promotion, infrastructure construction and scholarships for young Africans.

He added that Africa's least developed, heavily indebted and poor countries will be exempt from debt they have incurred in the form of interest-free Chinese loans due to mature by the end of 2018.

China has provided aid to Africa since the Cold War, but Beijing's presence in the region has soared with its emergence as a global trading power.

Chinese state-owned companies have aggressively pursued large investments in Africa, whose vast resources have helped fuel China's transformation into an economic powerhouse.

African Union Commission chairman Moussa Faki acknowledged that concerns have been expressed about debt, but said "the risks must be put into perspective" as "Africa's financing needs are such that it must seize every opportunity offered to it."

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