Peter Fabricius

Foreign Editor

BEIJING: Chinese President Hu Jintao offered a major new package of aid to Africa at the Fifth China-Africa Forum for Co-operation (Focac) here yesterday, including a US$20 billion (R164bn) credit line.

Addressing President Jacob Zuma, other African presidents, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon and ministers from most African nations in the Great Hall of the People, Hu said the aid measures were intended to lift relations between China and Africa up to a new type of partnership.

The main measure Hu announced was a new credit line of US$20bn to African countries to help them develop infrastructure, agriculture, manufacturing and small and medium-sized enterprises.

This would double the credit China had previously offered in the Focac process which has been going since 2000 with meetings every three years.

The boost for infrastructure would focus on transnational and transregional projects to boost Africa’s own plans for greater regional integration. China will also help integration by improving customs facilities.

And China will increase development aid, building more agricultural technology demonstration centres to increase Africa’s agricultural skills.

China also plans to implement the African Talents Programme to build cultural and vocational skills training facilities in African countries. And it will send 1 500 medical personnel to Africa and continue to provide free treatment for cataract patients.

It would also improve African skills in meteorology, and forest protection and management, Hu said.

It would also continue to drill wells to provide Africans with safe drinking water, he added.

China will also boost peace and security in Africa to provide a firm footing for development by providing finances and training to African peacekeeping missions and the development of the proposed African Union African Standby Force.

SA took over the co-chairmanship of Focac from Egypt at yesterday’s meeting and Zuma thanked China for keeping almost all of the many promises of aid it had made to Africa in the various Focac meetings.

However, he said the imbalance in trade between China and Africa was unsustainable in the long term because it comprised mainly African exports of raw materials to China and Chinese exports of manufactured goods to Africa.

But he expressed confidence that China would correct this balance as Hu had promised to do. He contrasted this faith in China with a lack of faith in Europe, saying “we are certainly convinced that China’s intention is different from Europe’s which to date continues to attempt to influence African countries for its sole benefit”.

Ban took a different tack, saying that both South-to-South co-operation – like that between Africa and China – and South-to-North co-operation – between Africa and Europe and other Western nations – each had an essential contribution to make to African development.

He also noted that Focac would next meet in 2015 which was the deadline for the meeting of the internationally agreed upon Millennium Development Goals for tackling poverty. “I urge you to focus on poverty reduction,” he told both China and Africa, adding that China could also help Africa most by strengthening African capacity through knowledge-sharing and by helping African countries build green economies.