Chinese President Hu Jintao has pledged $20 billion in loans to Africa at the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Beijing.
The pledged loan, double the amount China committed in 2009, will continue to focus on infrastructure, which many argue benefits Chinese companies and laborers more than Africa. Infrastructure in the region is “generally built with Chinese labor,” according to The New York Times.
But also included in the pledge are training, scholarships, medical care and programs targeted at providing clean water to the region and forest protection. This is a “notable” change, according to Li Xinfeng, an African studies scholar at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, as quoted by NYT.
Criticism has long rained down on China’s no-strings attached approach on aid to Africa. Unlike many Western donors, China does not link its aid to human rights or governance issues — something several African leaders seem to appreciate.
“We are particularly pleased that in our relationship with China, we are equals and that agreements entered into are for mutual gain,” South African President Jacob Zuma said at the meeting.
Despite the criticism, China doesn’t seem bent on changing course anytime soon. China would continue to give “genuine support to African countries’ independent choice of development path,” Hu said, as quoted byThe Associated Press.
Some may see Zuma’s comment as blind faith. China has been seen as reaping rewards from its aid to the region, especially in terms of oil and natural resources.
But Zuma was quick to caution Africa in its partnership with the emerging power, which is now the region’s top trading partner. Chinese trade to Africa reached $166 billion in 2011, according to statistics from China, NBC News reports.
Zuma voiced the two parties’ “unsustainable” trade pattern. Much of Chinese trade to Africa includes manufactured goods, while Africa supplies the country “large volumes of raw materials,” The Wall Street Journal reports.
“Africa’s past economic experience with Europe dictates a need to be cautious when entering into partnerships with other economies,” he said.
Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex senior reporter based in Manila. Since 2011, she has covered a wide range of development and humanitarian aid issues, from leadership and policy changes at DfID to the logistical and security impediments faced by international and local aid responders in disaster-prone and conflict-affected countries in Africa and Asia. Her interests include global health and the analysis of aid challenges and trends in sub-Saharan Africa.
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