China will spend $60 billion to finance projects in Africa, President Xi Jinping announced yesterday.
The funding will be provided as government assistance and as investment and financing by financial institutions and companies, Xi said in a keynote speech at the opening ceremony of the 2018 Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation.
He also said China would exempt certain African countries from outstanding debts incurred in the form of interest-free Chinese government loans due by the end of 2018.
The exemption, he said, will be granted to Africa’s least developed countries, heavily indebted and poor countries, landlocked and small island developing countries that have diplomatic relations with China.
He added that China would implement eight major initiatives with African countries in the next three years.
This will cover fields such as industrial promotion, infrastructure connectivity, trade facilitation, and green development.
He warned however that Chinese funds were not for “vanity projects” in Africa but are to build infrastructure that can remove development bottlenecks. The Chinese President told Chinese firms to respect local people and the environment.
Speaking at the business forum before the start of a triennial China Africa summit, he said “China does not interfere in Africa’s internal affairs and does not impose its own will on Africa.
“What we value is the sharing of development experience and the support we can offer to Africa’s national rejuvenation and prosperity,” Xi said.
“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,” he said.
China has denied engaging in “debt trap” diplomacy but Xi is likely to use the gathering of African leaders to offer a new round of financing, following a pledge of $60 billion at the previous summit in South Africa three years ago.
African presidents in attendance include Nigeria’s Muhammadu Buhari, South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa, Egypt’s Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, Zambia’s Edgar Lungu and Gabon’s Ali Bongo.
There are some controversial guests.
Sudan President Omar al-Bashir, who has been in power for nearly 30 years, is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes over killings and persecution in Sudan’s Darfur province between 2003 and 2008.
Xi told him on Sunday that “foreign forces” should not interfere in Sudan’s internal affairs, China’s Foreign Ministry said.
China loaned around 125 billion dollars to the continent from 2000 to 2016, data from the China-Africa Research Initiative at Washington’s Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies shows.
State media has accused the West of sour grapes over China’s prominent role in Africa and has angrily rejected claims of forcing African countries into a debt trap.
“In terms of cooperation with China, African countries know best,” widely read tabloid the Global Times wrote in an editorial on Monday.
“Western media deliberately portray Africans in misery for collaborating with China and they appear to have discovered big news by finding occasional complaints in the African media about Sino-Africa cooperation,” it said.