11/06/2009, 00.00
CHINA – AFRICA

Wen Jiabao in Africa on a trade road map

China’s prime minister, along with the commerce and foreign ministers, are set to open the Forum on China-Africa Co-operation. Chinese direct investments in Africa jumps from US$ 491 in 2003 to US$ 7.8 billion in 2008.
Cairo (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Premier Wen Jiabao landed in Egypt this morning to attend a summit with African leaders as Beijing bids to expand its diplomatic and economic influence on the resource-rich continent. Wen will hold talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif before the Forum on China-Africa Co-operation begins on Sunday in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

Chinese companies have been pouring investments into oil and other raw materials in Africa to fuel the mainland’ booming economy.

At the last China-Africa summit in Beijing in 2006, China pledged hefty aid and vowed to step up its trade relations with the continent, an strategy that continues.

“China's aid and assistance to African countries is long-term and continuous,” foreign minister spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said, adding that a co-operation road map for 2010-2012 would be adopted at the meeting.

Direct Chinese investment in Africa soared from US$ 491 million in 2003 to US$ 7.8 billion last year. Trade between the two has increased tenfold since the start of the decade.

Wen was accompanied by Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and Commerce Minister Chen Deming, along with other senior officials and business leaders, state news agency Xinhua reported.

Some Western analysts have accused China of supporting African governments such as Sudan and Zimbabwe that violate human rights and crack down on minorities.

Other observers have said that closer ties between the two sides are focused on industries that can enhance African development in areas like agriculture, electric power, transportation and water drainage.

For China apologists, Beijing was a key player in ending the six-year war between the Sudanese government and rebels in Darfur.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame has also defended Beijing's role in Africa, whilst slamming Western nations and firms for polluting the continent.

“The Chinese bring what Africa needs: investment and money for governments and companies. China is investing in infrastructure and building roads,” he said. In contrast, the West's involvement “has not brought Africa forward.”

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