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By unknown | Nov 09, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

SHARM EL-SHEIK - China's prime minister yesterday pledged $10billion (about R75billion) in concessional loans to African nations over the next three years.

SHARM EL-SHEIK - China's prime minister yesterday pledged $10billion (about R75billion) in concessional loans to African nations over the next three years.

Wen Jiabao said Beijing would cancel the government debts of some of the poorest of those countries, as the Asian powerhouse looked to deflect criticism that its investments in the continent were motivated purely by greed.

At a two-day China-Africa summit that began yesterday, Wen also said China would build 100 new clean energy projects for Africa over the same period as part of an effort to help the continent deal with climate change issues.

"We will help Africa build up financing capacity," Wen said at the start of the two-day Forum on China-Africa Cooperation summit in this Egyptian seaside resort.

"We will provide $10billion in concessional loans to African countries."

The pledges are part of China's increasing push into Africa, a drive that has drawn criticism from some who argue that Beijing's quest for natural resources to fuel its growing economy is ignoring the troubling human rights record of many of Africa's governments.

But Wen said while many in the world had only now begun to take note of China's role in Africa, it was a relationship that dated back five decades and included helping the countries throw off the yoke of colonialism.

"China's support to Africa's development is concrete and real," Wen said at a forum that attracted leaders such as Sudan's Omar el-Bashir and Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe - heads of state out-of-favour with the West.

"Whatever change that may take place in the world, our friendship with African people will not change," Wen said. "Our commitment to deepening mutually beneficial cooperation ... will not change, and our policy of supporting Africa's economic and social development will not change."

Wen said that as part of its support for Africa and growing trade ties with China, Beijing would take eight new measures over the next three years, including helping Africa build up its financing capacity.

Along with the loans - double the amount pledged two years earlier at a similar summit in Beijing - Wen also said that for the most heavily indebted and least developed African nations, China would cancel their debts associated with interest-free government loans set to mature at the end of this year.

The caveat was that the debt forgiveness was restricted to those nations that have diplomatic relations with China.

The steps are the latest in a growing trade relationship between China and Africa - a push that has seen trade grow tenfold in the past eight years to reach almost $107billion about (R807million) by the end of 2008.

The latest pledge for loans builds on $5billion (about R37billion) that China had pledged to the continent in 2006. - Sapa-AP


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