|Africa News Digest
China Drives Economic Growth in Africa
May 20 (EIRNS)There is a resurgence of economic activity in Africa because of trade and development collaboration with China. According to the African Economic Outlook published by the OECD and the African Development Bank, growth will continue to increase throughout 2007 and 20008.
Beijing has already written off almost $1.5 billion in debt to Africa, and says it will write off a similar amount again. Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao told a meeting of the African Development Bank in Shanghai May 16 that, "We are truly sincere in helping Africa speed up economic and social development for the benefit of the African people and its nations."
"Africa needs to rely on itself to sustain development, but international support and systems are also indispensable," he said, adding: "We call on the international community to deliver on aid pledges to Africa and reduce and cancel African debt." He also called for increased market access and technology transfers.
More than 700 Chinese companies are active in Africa now. China's trade with the continent has quadrupled in the past six years to $55 billion.
The Daily Telegraph's Ambrose Evans-Pritchard on May 16, also took note of effects of China and other Asian countries on African economies: "In a sign that funds now view Africa as the next boom story, foreign direct investment (FDI) has tripled in five years to $30.6bn, the fastest growth rate for any region in the world. Exports to China alone touched $25bn in 2006, up 1,200% in a decade."
China Hits Criticism of Its Role in Africa Head-On
May 20 (EIRNS)The issue of the conflict in Darfur, and China's collaboration with the Sudan government have been the subject of lot of teeth-gnashing in the Western media. But, according to a May 15 AP wire in Forbes, Li Ruogu, chairman of the state-owned China Exim Bank, which handles most of China's overseas aid loans, said robust economic growth through trade and investment would reduce such conflicts by raising incomes and improving quality of life.
"Chinese aid and investment will in the long run help in the resolution of the Darfur problem," Li said at the African Development Bank meeting. Accusations against China over Darfur were "totally groundless," he told reporters.
Li's China Exim Bank has approved more than $6 billion in projects for Africa, while bilateral trade has grown by about 30% annually in recent years, hitting $55.5 billion last year, according to the African Development Bank. Beijing says it wants annual trade to reach $100 billion by 2020.
China recently appointed a special representative for Africa to focus on Darfur. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu said May 15 in Beijing that China has been "playing a constructive role" in settling the Darfur conflict. Chinese-funded dams and other projects are also said to be potentially threatening to Africa's environment and local populations, by forcing people to move. One such project is the Merowe Dam in Sudan.
Finding the criticism of China preposterous, a May 14 AFP wire from South Africa, carried in Sudan Tribune on May 16, points out that China is not the only investor in Africa that is motivated by self-interest. South African sources said human rights concerns about China's activity in Africa come mostly from economic rivals whose own democratic records leave much to be desired. "Investments from China suffer similar defects to investments from other countries," South African Institute for International Affairs trade research fellow Peter Draper told AFP. "It is not the only country interested in African resources." Africa's generally positive attitude towards China's rising profile was partly due to it being "thoroughly sick of the West and its lecturing on what to do to develop," Draper added.
Ismail Momoniat, head of economic policy and international financial relations at the South African Treasury, said he failed to understand much of the concern, adding: "China has never colonized an African country. Developed countries deal with oil producing countries all the time that are not necessarily democratic. Why is that not an issue?"
Algeria, U.S. To Sign Nuclear Accord
May 20 (EIRNS)Algeria's Energy and Mines Minister Chakib Khelil announced, after talks with U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman in the United States, that Algeria and the United States will sign a nuclear agreement when a U.S. expert delegation comes to Algeria on June 9, according to press reports in Algeria May 9. A senior member of the U.S. Department of Energy is to be a member of the delegation. Khelil said that, "The two sides will work toward organizing exchanges of experience, knowledge, and experts, as well as carrying out joint programs," according to a an AP release reporting the development today. The accord will cover cooperation in the area of civil nuclear energy, including joint programs.
Since achieving independence from France in 1962, Algeria has had a deep interest in developing a nuclear energy capability. It already has two small experimental reactors, one of 3 MW built by Argentina, and another of 15 MW, built by China. According to Algerian sources, the country wanted to build a nuclear power reactor in the 1980s, but an international propaganda campaign, similar to the current one against Iran, suppressed the realization of its plans. This new accord could pave the way for Algeria to acquire a nuclear power reactor.