* Xi visits Africa on first trip abroad as president
* China consumes Africa's oil, raw mineral resources
* Africa opening itself up to new imperialism -banker
* West says China turns blind eye to human rights
By George Obulutsa and Fumbuka Ng'wanakilala
DAR ES SALAAM, March 24 Chinese President Xi
Jinping began on Sunday a tour of Africa that underlines the
continent's strategic importance to China both for its resources
and as a market place, signing more than a dozen trade and
cooperation deals with Tanzania.
Visiting, Tanzania, South Africa and Republic of Congo on
his first trip abroad as president following a visit to Russia,
Xi is expected to build on expanding economic relations that
many Africans see as a healthy counterbalance to the influence
of the West.
He might also address concerns in Africa that the continent
is exporting raw materials while spending heavily to import
finished consumer goods from the Asian economic powerhouse.
"He will be looking to tone down the feeling that China is
just here to exploit resources. I think that is going to be his
main job," James Shikwati, director of the Nairobi-based Inter
Regional Economic Network think tank, told Reuters.
The agreements with Tanzania 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.
On Monday Xi will deliver his first policy speech on Africa.
He will then head 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 industrialised nations.
The east African seaboard is hot property after huge gas
discoveries in Tanzania and neighbouring Mozambique. Chinese oil
company CNPC this month acquired a 20 percent stake in the Eni
Mozambique offshore project worth $4.21 billion,
linking one of the planet's biggest untapped gas resources with
the fastest growing gas consuming country.
Oil strikes in the region have also caught China's eye. But
across eastern Africa, poor infrastructure and inadequate
regulation risk delaying large scale oil and gas production.
China has built roads, railways, and landmark buildings
across Africa to win access to its oil and minerals like copper
"China is what we call an all-weather friend," said teacher
Mwajuma Swai. "They don't flip-flop like the West and they don't
give us a string of conditions for aid and trade."
But China's increasing presence in Africa has prompted
concern as well as gratitude.
Nigeria's central bank chief, Lamido Sanusi, said Africans
should wake up to the realities of their "romance with China."
"So China takes our primary goods and sells us manufactured
ones. This was also the essence of colonialism," Sanusi wrote in
the Financial Times this month. "Africa is now willingly opening
itself up to a new form of imperialism."
"We must see China for what it is: a competitor."
Sanusi's comments were echoed in the streets of Dar es
Salaam, decked out with Chinese flags for Xi's visit.
Businessman Hamisi Mwalimu said: "We need a smart partnership
where both Tanzania and China benefit. Right now, they're
getting a much better deal than us."
At a China-Africa summit last year, Xi's predecessor Hu
Jintao pledged to help Africa export manufactured products, not
just raw materials, and to import from the continent.
Hu also offered $20 billion in loans to African countries
over a three year period, boosting China's good relations with
the continent and unsettling the West which criticizes Beijing
for overlooking human rights abuses in its business dealings
Such criticism draws rebukes from China that the West treats
Africa as though it were a colony.
"Africa wants to be treated as an equal, and this is what
many Western countries do not understand, or are at least are
not willing to do," Zhong Jianhua, China's special envoy to
Africa, told Reuters in an interview this month.
Zhong acknowledged Chinese companies faced criticism for
using Chinese workers on African infrastructure and mining
projects. Beijing estimates almost 1 million Chinese are working
"We have told Chinese companies that they cannot just use
Chinese workers," Zhong said. "I think most Chinese firms now
Yet not all African governments appear that worried with the
use of Chinese workers, especially for infrastructure projects.
"China isn't coming to Congo to create jobs," Republic of
Congo Ambassador to China, Daniel Owassa, told Reuters.