China strengthens Africa ties with $20bn in loans

BEIJING — Chinese President Hu Jintao yesterday offered $20 billion in loans to African countries over the next three years, boosting a relationship that has been criticised by the West, but has given Beijing growing access to the
resource-rich continent.

The loans offered were double the amount China pledged for the previous three-year period in 2009 and is the latest in a string of aid and credit provided to Africa’s many poverty-stricken nations.

The pledge is likely to boost China’s good relations with Africa, a supplier of oil and raw materials like copper and uranium to the world’s most populous country and second-largest economy.

But the loans could add to discomfort in the West, which criticises China for overlooking human rights abuses in its business dealings with Africa, especially in Beijing’s desire to feed its booming resource-hungry economy.

Hu brushed off such concerns in his speech at the Great Hall of the People, attended by leaders including South African President Jacob Zuma and Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang Nguema, a man widely condemned by rights groups as one of the world’s most corrupt leaders.

“China wholeheartedly and sincerely supports African countries to choose their own development path and will wholeheartedly and sincerely support them to raise their development ability,” Hu said.

China will “continue to steadfastly stand together with the African people, and will forever be a good friend, a good partner and a good brother”, he added at the summit held every three years since 2000.

Hu also pledged to “continue to expand aid to Africa, so that the benefits of development can be realised by the African people”. He did not provide an amount. Hu said the new loans would support infrastructure, agriculture, manufacturing and development of small and medium-sized businesses in Africa.

Critics say China supports African governments with dubious human rights records as a means to get access to resources.

The European Union has rejected what they call China’s “cheque book” approach to doing business with Africa, saying it would continue to demand good governance and the transparent use of funds from its trading partners.

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