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China’s new mission in Africa

Tuesday, May 06, 2014 - 02:22

May 6 - Trips by Chinese leaders to Africa are often marked by big natural resource deals, but as Sonia Legg reports this time China is keen to show it’s not just interested in mineral and energy wealth.

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It's a major break with protocol - China's Premier has brought his wife with him on an official visit to Africa. It's the first appearance of Cheng Hong, a Professor of English at the Capital University of Economics and Business - useful skills when it comes to doing business abroad. But Li Kequiang's latest trip isn't just about securing lucrative contracts for Africa's rich mineral resources. This time China's looking longer term - offering aid and technology. (SOUNDBITE) (Mandarin) CHINESE PREMIER, LI KEQIANG, SAYING: "Financial support is vital for practical co-operation. China has decided to increase its commitment to providing credit lines to African countries by 10 billion U.S dollars to reach a total of 30 billion." Ethiopia is the first of four countries on Li's itinerary. Kenya, Angola and Nigeria are the others. He'll attend Africa's version of the World Economic Forum in Nigeria's capital. And will no doubt be welcomed by many in Africa seeking economic growth. Aly Khan Satchu is an economic analyst in Kenya. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ALY KHAN SATCHU, ECONOMIC ANALYST, SAYING: "The Chinese basically have very deep pockets and are able to put their money to work. So for a leader of a country, China can be a game changer because you could have your projects which were fantasy projects ten years ago but the Chinese can come in and say -- okay we think it's a good idea, let's do it and I think that is what the African leaders appreciate. Plus China has an attitude towards governments that may be western policy -- western governments don't have." Much of Africa's infrastructure has been built with Chinese money $1 billion has been spent in Ethiopia alone - with roads, rail and telecoms the key sectors. Their involvement isn't always welcome. Some say the pursuit of raw materials has held back Africa's economic development. But others see it as a counterbalance to western influence, and expect a more balanced trade relationship to emerge. (SOUNDBITE) (English) ALY KHAN SATCHU, ECONOMIC ANALYST, SAYING: "It hasn't evolved into a grown up relationship, if you look at the stock market, the stock market still today 52, 54 percent of the companies are owned by British companies. There is not a single Chinese stock holder that I know, the Chinese investment arm which is the sovereign investment fund I don't know if they have invested on the continent." This latest visit may mark the start of a change of investment strategy by China. And that could be the real game changer.

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China’s new mission in Africa

Tuesday, May 06, 2014 - 02:22