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China issues white paper on Africa trade
August 29, 2013, 5:48 am

China turned Africa's largest trade partner in 2009 [Getty Images]

China became Africa’s largest trade partner in 2009 [Getty Images]

China on Thursday issued a white paper on the China-Africa trade relationship.

The paper details Chinese trade and investment in Africa, including agriculture and infrastructure since 2009.

In 2012, the total volume of China-Africa trade reached $198.49 billion, a year-on-year growth of 19.3 per cent, according to the paper.

The white paper, titled China-Africa Economic and Trade Cooperation, published in both English and Chinese versions, was released by China’s State Council.

Asserting that China-Africa trade is balancing global economic development the paper argued for further promoting of South-South cooperation.

“China-Africa economic and trade development has improved people’s livelihoods and diversified economic development in African countries, and provided strong support for China’s socio-economic development,” the white paper says.

China became Africa’s largest trade partner in 2009.

China’s direct investment in African countries increased from $1.44 billion in 2009 to $2.52 billion in 2012, representing a significant annual growth rate of 20.5 per cent.

On the other hand, investment from African countries in China totalled $14.24 billion in 2012, surging 44 per cent from 2009.

China has faced a barrage of criticism from Western media and leaders about its growing presence in Africa.

US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton in 2011 had warned about China’s “neo-colonialism” in places like Africa. She had also said that US diplomats in Africa had been asked to scrutinise and assess Chinese projects in the countries to which they are assigned.

The white paper released on Thursday refers to this tug-of-war saying Chinese presence in Africa is based on a “win-win partnership”.

“China tries to offer what assistance it can to Africa without setting any political conditions, and to benefit African people through developmental advances”, says the white paper.

In an interview to the Financial Times earlier this year, South African President Jacob Zuma had warned western companies of changing their attitude to Africa or lose out on opportunities to China.

“I’ve said it to the private sector from the western countries: ‘Look. You have got to change the way you do business with Africa if you want to regain Africa. If you want to treat Africa as a former colony…then people will go to new partners who are going to treat them differently’,” said President Zuma.

Zuma said western financial institutions had “squeezed Africa”. “Instead of saying: ‘Let us help you’, they come and they say: ‘Change your economic structure. Don’t do this. Do that.’

“Now we are dealing with a new partner who is not putting all these strings attached.”

US President Barack Obama had also admitted, during his trip in June this year to the continent that the US could lag behind even as Africa finds new partners in countries like China, India and Brazil.

The paper released on Thursday reveals over 2,000 Chinese enterprises are investing in more than 50 African countries investing in varied sectors like agriculture, mining and construction to manufacturing, financing, logistics and real estate.

China has tried to enhance Africa’s “self-reliance”, especially in agriculture, it says.

Xi Jinping had referred to this during his Africa trip in which he reconfirmed China’s commitment to provide another $20 billion in financing to Africa.

“The development of China will be an unprecedented opportunity for Africa, and Africa’s development will be the same for my country,” he told lawmakers in the Congo Republic.

According to new research by Washington-based Center for Global Development and AidData, the largest number of Chinese aid projects in Africa is in the health sector, totaling 149 projects accounting for $676 million.

Earlier in August this year, China has adopted a Beijing declaration to outline the future commitment of China in Africa’s health sector.

With inputs from Agencies