China partnering, not plundering, in Africa

Tue Sep 15, 2009 2:01pm GMT

By Ed Cropley, African Investment Correspondent

PRETORIA (Reuters) - Beijing is worried about culturally naive Chinese companies damaging its image in Africa, but thinks the perception that it is only after cheap oil and minerals is unfair, its ambassador to Pretoria said on Tuesday.

Zhong Jianhua also said Africa was destined for an economic revolution similar to China's, and that Chinese investment and its experience of the last 30 years would help the poorest continent achieve that end.

"We saw what happened in China in the last 30 years ... Probably, the African continent is coming to that sooner or later," Zhong told Reuters in an interview. "We hope that China can give it some help."

Chinese trade with Africa has increased ten-fold in the last decade, and last year China overtook the United States as the continent's principal commercial partner, with two-way flows totalling $107 billion.

At the same time, its investment has widened from mainly resources and energy -- the raw materials for its own rapid economic expansion -- into areas as diverse as banking, telecommunications, and the building of roads and railways.

Zhong acknowledged that that expansion had not been without its problems, but said tensions were most often due to a lack of experience of foreign practices and cultures by Chinese managers working overseas for the first time.

"When Chinese companies come out of China, this world is strange to them," he said. "There a lot of things for Chinese companies to learn about."

In two incidents, five Zambians were shot and wounded in a 2005 riot over pay and safety conditions at a Chinese-owned mine, and a year later 52 were killed in an explosion at a Chinese firm making explosives for mining.   Continued...

<p>Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi reads the Declaration of the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation as other African leaders listen at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, November 5, 2006. REUTERS/Claro Cortes IV</p>
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