China's Xi cheers African leaders with pledge of $60 bln for development
By Joe Brock and Stella Mapenzauswa
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Chinese President Xi Jinping told African leaders on Friday his country would pump $60 billion into development projects, cancel some debt and boost agriculture under a three-year plan that will extend Beijing's influence in the continent.
Xi said China would not interfere in African countries' internal affairs, a stance that drew applause from leaders such as Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe who have faced Western criticism of their human rights record.
But China too has irked some Africans in the past for using Chinese firms and labour to build state-funded roads and railways in Africa while buying up commodities and leaving little for local economies, an image Xi is keen to change during a two-day conference in South Africa that ends on Saturday.
"To ensure the successful implementation of these 10 cooperation plans, China has decided to provide a total of $60 billion of funding support," Xi told the summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation.
Despite its own slowing economy, Xi said China would step up investment in factories manufacturing goods for export in Africa, in addition to building roads, ports and railways on a continent long seen as a major commodities source for China.
South African President Jacob Zuma, co-chair along with Xi of the summit, said African countries needed Chinese help to process their abundant natural resources, which he said had made the continent vulnerable to exploitation in the past.
"That way what is buried in the belly of the soil will translate into benefit for the bellies of our citizens."
Commenting on Xi's plans, Standard Bank China analyst Jeremy Stevens said: "I think it’s significant in the sense that it confirms China’s longstanding agenda on the continent ... despite the economic difficulties (in China)." Continued...