Diskussion über Themen der Entwicklungszusammenarbeit (EZ) in/mit Westafrika einschließlich (und vor allem) der politischen sowie sozio-ökonomischen Bedingungen in den Ländern und was EZ bewirken kann -- oder auch nicht -- oder ob sie aber nicht sogar schadet. ACHTUNG: In Ermangelung von Kommentaren lediglich Beiträge zu EZ-Themen. _________________________________________________________________

21. Januar 2006

West Africa: China Tours Region to Boost Strategic Ties

UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
NEWS, January 20, 2006
Posted to the web January 20, 2006, Dakar

China's foreign minister this week wound up a tour of West Africa, sealing deals and promising millions of dollars for the region, where the economic powerhouse has been increasingly active in recent years.

Over eight days Li Zhaoxing visited Cape Verde, then Senegal, Mali, Liberia and Nigeria - armed with a new 'win-win' Africa policy aimed at reinforcing economic and diplomatic links with the continent, where China's trade has quadrupled over the past five years.

The new strategic plan has been embraced by African political and economic leaders who see in the superpower's own development experience clear lessons for the continent.

"Africa has everything to gain in working with the country that is the driving force of the world economy," said Moubarak Lo, former economic advisor to the Senegalese prime minister, now head of an economic consultancy firm in the capital, Dakar.

"This country that came out of poverty can bring a bit of a human touch [to its relations with Africa] I think China is sincere in wanting to create a mutually beneficial partnership, based on its own model of development, which vies with models of the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund."

But some analysts warn that the boost for development might be bad news for democracy. China has pledged its assistance "with no political conditions" - the only prerequisite being support for Beijing's one-China policy.

No conditions linked to human rights or democratic practices can mean support to African nations with a less-than-sterling record, observers say.

"There are black spots in democracy and human rights issues," said Olly Owen, Africa analyst at the London-based research group Global Insight. Citing the pressure for more democracy that western donors are putting on Zimbabwe as an example, he said "China might be willing to step in, which might be a bad thing for democracy."

Development help will be job one however for Liberia's President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, whose inauguration on 16 January the Chinese foreign minister attended.

China has had medical workers and agricultural experts in the war-wrecked country since peace found a home there in 2003. Li and Sirleaf met and committed to boost their already close cooperation in the country that will be looking to the world to help rebuild itself from the ground up.

On Monday, Li and Liberian Vice-President Joseph Boakai signed an agreement under which the Chinese government will provide US $25 million towards Liberia's reconstruction programme and an interest free loan of US $5 million over 10 years.

Li's West Africa tour began on 12 January in Cape Verde - with which China has had diplomatic relations for 30 years. The Cape Verdian presidential and parliamentary buildings were constructed by China, as was its first dam.

Li granted the volcanic island nation a no-interest loan of $2.5 million to complete the construction of a hospital in the capital, Praia, according to a statement by the country's foreign minister.

Debt elimination and new funds were on offer at Li's next stop, in Senegal. The Chinese diplomat announced the cancellation of $18.5 million in debt, offered $3.7 million in funding for hospitals, roads and other infrastructure, as well as $200,000 to the thousands of Senegalese left homeless by flooding late last year.

For Senegal it was the first high-level China visit since the two resumed diplomatic relations in October after Senegal dropped its ties with Taiwan. Beijing had cut diplomatic relations with Senegal when Dakar recognised Taiwan 10 years ago.

The visit to Dakar - where markets are full of Chinese goods and the Chinese are leaders in business and the fishing and public works sectors - saw the reopening of the country's embassy in Senegal and a promise of 80 to 90 study grants for Senegalese students - including 21 forced out of Taiwan last year.

China is also ever-present in Mali, where Li signed an economic and technical cooperation pact worth $3.7 million with his counterpart, Moctar Ouane, who noted during the visit that China had already cancelled a debt in Mali of about 68 million in 2001.

Li's visit to Nigeria - Africa's largest oil producer, seventh worldwide - coincided with China's acquisition of a 45 percent stake in an oil block off the coast of Nigeria at $2.3 billion.

Li invited African leaders to the China-Africa summit to take place later this year in Beijing. Forty-five African countries participated in the first such forum, in 2000, hiking up China's trade with the continent.

China's trade with Africa - while only three percent of the country's foreign commerce - was worth $37 billion in 2005, according to Beijing figures released last week.

China imports raw materials such as wood, minerals, gas and oil, while exporting to the continent electronic equipment and other high technology items. There are 78,000 Chinese workers in Africa and direct investments on the continent are at $175 million, the government says.

In its new Africa policy China calls itself "the world's largest developing country," saying it seeks to establish "a new strategic partnership with Africa marked by equality and mutual trust on the political front, with cooperation conducted on a basis of 'win-win' economic relationships with reinforced cultural exchanges."

China says it is committed to facilitating the flow of African products to the Chinese market - notably by eliminating tariffs, encouraging Chinese businesses to invest and set up in Africa and cancelling debts.

Analysts say the potential mutual benefits in a Sino-African partnership are clear.

"The whole China-Africa relationship can be mutually advantageous in a way that China sets it up in the new policy document," said Owen of Global Insight.

"The advantage to China is direct and immediate - securing privileged access to resources and avoiding future price hikes," he said. For Africa, access to financial and technical aid, unencumbered by some of the conditions of other world donors.

At the same time, Owen said, some African industries have been undercut by cheap Chinese exports so their interest in trade-boosting ties might be limited.

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations ]

Copyright © 2006 UN Integrated Regional Information Networks. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com)

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