China keeps its eye on Africa

Windhoek – China’s new President, Xi Xinping, last week made his first official engagement with Africa just a month into his tenure, signalling a possible consolidation of ties with the continent under his watch.
His first official trip abroad was to Russia, which was a significant statement, and coming to Africa immediately afterwards indicates that the continent remains high on China’s economic and political foreign policy objectives.
President Xinping was on a three-nation tour in which he was scheduled to visit Congo-Brazzaville, Tanzania and then South Africa. He was to attend the BRICS summit in Durban.
President Xinping was quoted by the international media saying: “Relations with all African states whether big or small, rich or poor is very commendable for China. We need to show that the engagement between China and Africa is different from (…) that enjoyed by the West.”
Congo-Brazzaville has recently discovered potentially lucrative oil deposits and China will be keen to stake its claim in this area. In Tanzania, discoveries of methane gas could be the big prize for China; while the BRICS Summit in South Africa was billed by analysts as the latest international marker of China’s growing global influence through the signing of an agreement on establishment of a multilateral lending institution to rival the IMF and World Bank.
“China-Africa co-operation has been growing at a high rate in the few years,” President Xinping said.
China accounts for the second-highest FDI into Tanzania after British investors, and apart from methane gas, Beijing is understood to also be interested in that country’s iron ore, infrastructure development and agriculture.
Chinese investors poured millions of US dollars in construction of a railway link between Tanzania and the DRC, where the East Asian giant also has massive economic interests.
China has a long history as an ally of Africa. For much of the end of the 20th century, these relations were mainly political in nature but since the turn of the millennium, ties have taken on a major economic hue.
That country’s government and businesses from China are now the biggest investors in Africa, with stakes in energy, mining, construction and agriculture.
The Chinese government recently said imports from Africa have grown twenty fold to about US$113 billion in the past ten years, and growth is expected to maintain more or less the same trajectory in the near future.

April 2013
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