Xi Jinping offers $60 bn Africa aid

Uhuru in China for trade talks days after hosting UK PM Theresa May

Uhuru in China for trade talks days after hosting UK PM Theresa MaySource Facebook

Asked about concerns over Africa's rising debts to China, the banks said those still are relatively small and most countries can repay them.

President Cyril Ramaphosa used his opening address at the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation summit in Beijing on Monday to champion Africa's call for fair trade between the continent and the world's second largest economy. Last year, China-Africa trade volume was $170 billion. President Xi stressed that out of the $60 billion that were on offer, $15 billion would be disbursed as aid, interest-free loans and concessional loans.

"As it is, nearly all African countries have loans or grants from China, so it would make economic sense to repay in yuan", said MEFMI spokesperson Gladys Siwela-Jadagu.

But Rwandan President Paul Kagame, who now chairs the African Union, said that rather than viewing the investment as a "debt trap", other countries should be asking why they're not giving Africa as much assistance as China.

China has used previous summits to announce big financing commitments to the continent, but this year's forum has added weight, given mounting scepticism in the West about Beijing's global ambitions.

At a business event ahead of the summit, Xi said China had "full respect for Africa's own will" and wasn't interested in forming an "exclusive club".

Speaking to leaders from more than 30 African countries at Beijing's Great Hall of the People, Xi said China's investment and engagement on the continent would continue, with no political strings attached to Beijing's investments in Africa.

Africa is a vital front in Xi's fight against such skepticism, receiving $12 billion of Chinese lending in 2015, compared with just over $100 million in 2000, according to data from the China-Africa Research Initiative.

But critics say that, with many of its infrastructure projects, China is luring needy countries into "debt traps".

"Africa is not a zero sum game". "China dreams of national renewal and Africa of unity and invigoration and a day will come when both aspirations will be achieved", said Xi.

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He said the forum "refutes the view that a new colonialism is taking hold in Africa as our detractors would have us believe" because there was evidence of "tangible and lasting benefits to the African and Chinese people".

But he added that China and Africa should work towards a more balanced trade relationship.

"Unilateralism and protectionism are on the rise".

"We have benefited a lot from China's support in our social and economic programs, and that has continued to strengthen the partnership between China and Rwanda", Kagame told the Chinese state-run People's Daily.

The money would be focused on infrastructure to help speed African countries' development, not on "vanity projects", Xi said.

He said that his country would support Africa's goal to achieve general food security by 2030, and work together to implement cooperation on agricultural modernisation programme.

Djibouti has become heavily dependent on Chinese financing after China opened its first overseas military base in the Horn of Africa country a year ago, a powerful signal of the continent's strategic importance to Beijing.

For two days in a row, every headline on the front page of the state-run People's Daily started with the words "Xi Jinping..." as the president met with the leaders of countries from Angola and Gabon to Mauritius and Senegal. A total of 50 security help programmes would be implemented, ranging from United Nations peacekeeping missions to fighting piracy, he said.

Cheng Cheng, a researcher at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University, said Africa's growing population and expanding middle class made it a huge market for Chinese exports. A trade facilitation initiative to increase imports from Africa was also on the cards including 50,000 government scholarship and 50,000 training opportunities for seminars and workshops.

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