* Xi oversees agreement on about a dozen new deals
* Africans see Chinese presence as counterbalance to West
BRAZZAVILLE, March 29 (Reuters) - China’s newly appointed President Xi Jinping wrapped up a six-day tour of Africa on Friday in Republic of Congo, where he signed off on infrastructure projects and pledged deeper cooperation between his country and the continent.
Thousands of people, many wearing T-shirts bearing the president’s likeness, turned out under a blazing equatorial sun to welcome the new Chinese leader to the former French colony’s sprawling riverside capital, Brazzaville.
Xi, who in previous stops along the week-long trip has attempted to outline his African policy as a partnership among equals, used a speech before Congo’s parliament to point to China and Africa’s mutual reliance for their future success.
“The future, the development of China will be an unprecedented opportunity for Africa, and Africa’s development will be the same for my country,” Xi told lawmakers.
“We expect to work together with our African friends to seize upon historic opportunities and deepen cooperation ... in order to bring greater benefit to the Chinese and African peoples,” he said.
China is offering $20 billion of loans to Africa between 2013 and 2015, and many governments welcome Beijing’s growing business-focused presence on the continent as a welcome alternative to Western influence.
China imports oil from Congo, and on Friday, in line with promises to deepen the relationship with African partners, Xi oversaw finalisation of nearly a dozen new deals.
He agreed to finance a $63 million project to construct a river port in Oyo, the hometown of Congo’s President Denis Sassou N‘Guesso, where the government plans to develop a new special economic zone.
Other projects to receive Chinese backing include a 19-megawatt hydroelectric power station in the northwest, and the construction of a new port capable of handling mineral ore shipments in Congo’s economic capital, Pointe-Noire.
China also agreed to around 15 billion CFA francs ($29.36 million) in grants and zero-interest loans, and will build 200 homes and a school in the capital’s Mpila, which was largely destroy when a weapons depot exploded there last year.