Nov. 7 (GIN) – At the recently concluded Forum on Africa and China Cooperation, Chinese President Xi Jinping appeared to be everywhere – shaking hands, holding one on ones, watching cultural shows and last but not least, approving generous grants.
As the conference in Johannesburg drew to a close, 48 African countries had received pledges, promises and development deals from Asia’s principal financial giant. They also received commitments to assist with peacekeeping missions and $60 million towards the building of African Union’s new 25,000-strong multinational standby force which can respond to crises across the continent.
It was a new turn in China-Africa relations which had been centered largely on trade, economics and cultural exchanges.
Additionally, China confirmed it would be setting up a logistics hub for military operations in Djibouti, signing a 10-year lease for China’s first “military location” on the continent.
In the announcement that China would double its last major aid package – from $30 billion to $60 billion – priority programs were identified, including industrialization, infrastructure and agricultural development. Also, poverty eradication and the green economy.
South African president Jacob Zuma said the continent fully supported this higher level of engagement.
“This is a significant amount,” said Zuma at the close of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (Focac) summit. “It clearly illustrates China’s commitment to ensure that China’s development takes place in conjunction with the developing countries of the south‚ particularly those in Africa.”
Some of the initiatives address issues such as people’s general well-being, public health and cultural exchanges. In a deal with one of South Africa’s largest booksellers, Exclusive Books, Chinese literature will be promoted as a way to bridge the cultural divide between China and the continent’s most developed nation.
Specific country initiatives included Nigeria’s 3,050 megawatts Mambila Power Station, considered a strategic project which was conceived in 1982 but has not taken off.
An aide to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said in a statement that the Chinese President had informed President Muhammadu Buhari of the willingness of his country to finance the whole project through a special loan agreement.
Of particular interest is the coastal railway project stretching for 1402 kilometers linking Lagos in the West with Calabar in the East; a project that is expected to be financed with a $12 billion U.S. Dollars Chinese loan and which will create about 200,000 jobs.
Another rail project that will be up for renegotiation is the 8.3 billion Dollars Lagos-Kano standard gauge modernisation project, of which only a segment, Kaduna-Abuja has reached completion stage.
Regarding Mozambique, President Felipe Nyusi reported that China has pardoned part of Mozambique’s debt by cancelling any interest on the debt that had not fallen due by 2015.
The Chinese government has also announced that the interest rates on future loans will be revised downwards, to below the current 1.5 or two per cent.
Nyusi described the summit as a success, not only because of the large number of African heads of state and government who attended, but above all because of the quality of the discussion and the results achieved.
“It wasn’t a meeting of donors, or of requests”, he said. “Partnerships were discussed. We want a partnership, real cooperation, and not just stretching out our hands”.