China announces $60 billion for Africa development

Chinese President Xi Jinping announced the provision of aid money while at a China-Africa summit in Johannesburg, reiterating China's economic and trade relationship with the continent.

REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko
China's President Xi Jinping (L) shakes hands with Zimbabwe's President (R) Robert Mugabe while South Africa's President Jacob Zuma looks on during a Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Sandton, Johannesburg, December 4, 2015.

While at a China-Africa summit in Johannesburg, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced the provision of $60 billion in aid money for Africa.

"To ensure the successful implementation of [new development projects], China has decided to provide a total of $60 billion of funding support," Mr. Xi told the summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation.

"These plans (are) aimed at addressing three issues holding back Africa's development, namely inadequate infrastructure, lack of professional and skilled personnel, and funding shortages," he continued.

The aid money will primarily take the form of grants, scholarships, and zero-interest loans designed to assist in training and educating Africans. China is also keen to continue its long-term investment in building factories and roads.

China has been investing its finance and personnel in Africa for more than a decade. In 2009, it became Africa’s largest trading partner, and those ties have only continued to strengthen over time, totaling approximately $200 billion in 2013.

Despite its enormous financial stakes, China appears interested in taking a different economic tack than the United States or Europe in how it chooses to invest in and build an economic relationship with Africa.

China has reiterated time and time again that it is interested in developing Africa’s social infrastructure without being seen as, or becoming, a colonial power like previous investors in the continent.

Its investment model is also different than the Western one: China does not stipulate how its financial contributions should be used for humanitarian purposes.

Xi said that despite the $60 billion in aid money, China would continue to stay out of local politics on the continent.

"China strongly believes Africa belongs to the African people and African problems should be handled by the African people,” he said at the summit.

But critics of this structure say that it allows those cash flows to come into Africa unregulated and allowing unelected leaders to maintain power.

In February, a panel headed by the United Nations and the African Union, and led by former South African President Thabo Mbeki, found that the lack of regulations and rules about the use of foreign aid money has allowed companies and government officials in Africa to spirit $60 billion a year out of the continent.

“We are talking about large volumes of capital that could play a great role in addressing Africa’s development challenges,” Mr. Mbeki told The Wall Street Journal.

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