Chinese President Xi Jinping has offered to double funding for infrastructure projects in Africa, signalling unrelenting interest on the continent despite criticism of debt enslavement.
In a speech at the start of the Beijing Summit of the Focus on China-Africa Cooperation, President Xi on Monday announced there will be another round of funding worth UGX 225 trillion to go the construction of roads, railways, ports and energy generation projects— all part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
The amount means Beijing will be sending an equivalent amount to the one it released three years ago when FOCAC Summit was held in Johannesburg, South Africa.
President Xi argued the money, besides fuelling his pet project of the Belt and Road Initiative, will also help strengthen ties with Africa.
“Anyone who isolates himself on an island has no future,” he said.
“We will fully honour the promises we have made to our African brothers,” Xi said in a speech translated and circulated to African media houses.
The Chinese leader who recently whipped members of the China Communist Party to remove term limits for his tenure, said the money Beijing released in 2015 (Sh6 trillion as well) had already been disbursed on agreed projects or was in the pipeline.
The new $60 billion will be channelled to the countries with diplomatic relations with Beijing, indicating that despite the apolitical stand, there were still strings to attach to the aid and loans.
But President Xi, speaking to African leaders indicated the funding channelled to Africa, mostly as loans and grants, can already speak for itself.
“No one could, out of imagination or assumption, deny the remarkable achievements made in China-Africa cooperation.
“No one can stand in the way or obstruct international efforts to support Africa’s development. China takes as its mission making new and even greater contribution to mankind,” he said.
Beijing says it is will disburse a quarter of this money as grants, another quarts as “interest-free” loans and some Kenya Sh2 trillion as credit lines.
The rest will be channelled as funds to support Chinese imports from Africa, which are often mainly raw materials to fuel Chinese industries.
President Xi, speaking on the backdrop of critics who have cited the mounting loans as dangerous for the continent, argued the FOCAC had shielded Beijing and Africa from “slanders” of the Western world.
But even as he defended Beijing’s role in Africa, President Xi promised a waiver to some of the debts already causing problems to Africa.
The actual details may come out as the summit ends on Wednesday, but President Xi indicated that the exemption will target interest-free loans offered and which were due by December 2018.
Countries considered least developed and poor, heavily indebted, without access to the sea and the small island nations will benefit; as long as they recognise the government of the People’s Republic of China as the only Chinese government.
That means countries like Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria, which have recently borrowed from China, will not benefit.
Accused of taking away from Africa, and sitting on details of financing agreements with Africa, President Xi used the occasion to campaign for global governance reforms which he argued will provide every corner of the world with a chance to voice their concerns.
This may be interpreted as a jab at the US and the turf wars within the World Trade Organisation.
Recently, Beijing and Washington have engaged in trade tariff wars.
“China and Africa can forge a stronger comprehensive and strategic partnership. China promises to engage with Africa on a principle of sincerity and real results. China’s 1.3 billion people and Africa’s 1.2 billion want a shared future.”
FOCAC is an 18-year-old summit that often acts as a conference to share views on the two sides, every three years.
Within this time, trade between Beijing and Africa has risen to Sh17 trillion, nearly 17 times since the summit began, according to China’s Commerce Ministry.
But critics argue it is a one-sided affair: China buying raw materials from Africa and selling back nearly everything from toys and clothes to machinery and technology gadgets.