Trade relations in focus before China's Xi gives Africa speech

DAR ES SALAAM Sun Mar 24, 2013 7:45pm EDT

1 of 8. China's President Xi Jinping (L) and his Tanzanian counterpart Jakaya Kikwete (R) walk through women waving China and Tanzania national flags at the State House in Dar es Salaam, March 24, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Thomas Mukoya

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DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) - China's trade ties with Africa will be under the spotlight on Monday when President Xi Jinping outlines his country's relationship with the continent, which Beijing is increasingly turning to for both its resources and as a market place.

Xi's tour of Africa on his first overseas trip is seen as a reflection of the strategic importance of Africa's oil and mineral resources to the world's second biggest economy.

But while seeking to build on expanding economic relations, China's new leader faces concerns in Africa that the continent is being stripped of its raw materials for export while spending heavily on finished consumer goods from the Asian economic powerhouse.

Africans generally see China as a healthy counterbalance to the West's influence but, as the relationship matures, there are growing calls from policymakers and economists for a more balanced trade deal.

One of Xi's main aims could be to ease local fears China was in Africa purely for its resources, said James Shikwati, head of the Nairobi-based Inter Regional Economic Network think tank.

Gratitude for Chinese no-strings aid to Africa is increasingly tinged with a wariness about its intentions.

"China has been giving us a lot of development support, but they obviously want something in return," said university student Lisa Mgaya in Dar es Salaam.

"We should be careful with China."


Chinese interest in Africa goes back centuries. In 1414 admiral Zheng He sailed with a fleet down the east coast of Africa to Malindi, on a voyage to proclaim the strength of China. He famously brought home a giraffe, astonishing the Chinese court.

Six centuries later, China is focused less on African exotica and more on energy and minerals. The east African seaboard is hot property after huge gas discoveries in Tanzania and Mozambique. Oil strikes have also caught China's eye.

Xi arrived in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania's commercial capital where he will deliver his speech, on Sunday and signed more than a dozen trade and cooperation deals with President Jakaya Kikwete's government.

The agreements included plans to co-develop a new port and industrial zone complex, a concessional loan for communications infrastructure and an interest free loan to the Tanzanian government. No details were given on the size of the loans or the monetary value of the projects.

He then travels to South Africa for a summit of leaders of the world's major emerging economies, known as the BRICS, on Tuesday and Wednesday, and could endorse plans to create a joint foreign exchange reserves pool and an infrastructure.

The proposal underscores frustrations among emerging markets at having to rely on the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, which are seen as reflecting the interests of the United States and other industrialized nations.

Nigeria's central bank governor, Lamido Sanusi, wrote in the Financial Times this month that the trade imbalance between China and Africa was "the essence of colonialism" and cautioned the continent was vulnerable to a new form of imperialism.

China will be keen not to be perceived as an imperial master.

"The legacy of (the) West is the feeling that Africa should thank them, and that Africa should recognize that it is not as good as the West," said Zhong Jianhua, China's special envoy to Africa. "That is not acceptable."

Xi's African tour ends in the Republic of Congo, from where China imported 5.4 billion metric tons (5.9 billion tons) of oil last year, just 2 percent of its total oil imports, but potentially the source of a lot more to feed its booming, energy-hungry economy.

(Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Writing by Richard Lough; Editing by Stephen Powell)

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Comments (4)
MikeBarnett wrote:
China will co-develop a port and industrial zone complex, and lend money for communications infrastructure and for the government. These projects will help develop trade between Tanzania and China, but Africans must USE and MAINTAIN the infrastructure for it to benefit the Tanzanians. China provides opportunities; others must make use of them to develop themselves. However, that is the best way to develop other countries because it gives people tools and responsibility for their improvement.

Ask a US dock worker about the democratic way to load and unload cargo versus the undemocratic methods. Despite western lies, idiocy, and disloyalty to the US, there are no differences. There are no ideological differences in manufacturing products, but there are ways for the West to lose business to China because of the West’s racist, neo-colonial attitudes to Africans, Arabs, Asians, and Latinos. The West cannot control how these countries develop, and they must live their own history while the West commits treason against itself.

Africa’s GDP growth rate is two to three times as fast as the US, and China’s trade with Africa grows by more than 100% every 5 years. China will continue to grow its trade with the third world at a much greater pace than the US and EU because it respects the right of Africans and others to develop their governing systems in their own manner. There may be pain for some of these peoples, but it is their pain, and it is their right to have the experience of that pain in their history.

Mar 24, 2013 5:05pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
instead of yankee go home the africans will be protesting yellow devils go home when they realize the chinese are only there to suck their continent dry of its raw materials. all those chinese infrastructure projects funded by china are for their selfish ends.

Mar 24, 2013 5:21pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
mgunn wrote:
Projecting are we? (on sucking the continent dry) Infrastructure projects are beneficial period even if for selfish needs, moreover its consensual as the terms are all negotiated and agreed upon (everyone doing this is an adult aren’t they) unlike colonialism which was totally the opposite, through force.

Mar 24, 2013 8:32pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
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