Partnership with China 'benefits Africa'

CHINA - Partnership between China and African countries will benefit Africa's economic development, a South African official said as the US Secretary of State made what appeared to be veiled attacks on China while visiting the continent.

Hillary Clinton arrived in Senegal on Wednesday, on the first stop of an 11-day tour of Africa. It is the highest-level visit to the continent by a US official since June, when Washington issued a strategy for Africa that calls for greater access to investment between the United States and African countries.

Clinton told a university audience that the US was committed to "a model of sustainable partnership that adds value, rather than extracts it" from Africa.

Unlike other countries, the United States "will stand up for democracy and universal human rights even when it might be easier to look the other way and keep the resources flowing," she said.

Although Clinton did not mention any country by name, her remarks were widely interpreted as a swipe at China, which eclipsed the US as Africa's biggest trading partner three years ago, reported the Guardian, a London-based newspaper.

Analysts view Clinton's visit as an attempt to compete with Sino-African cooperation, which has been growing rapidly in recent years despite continuing criticism from Western countries, which say China is practicing neocolonialism in Africa.

Malusi Gigaba, South Africa's minister of public enterprises, believes a strong partnership between China and his country will "achieve a great deal" for Africa's economic development.

"Africa has a lot of potential for investment in energy, rail, road and infrastructure. We need about $93 billion dollars to address our infrastructure needs on the African continent," Gigaba told China Daily in a recent interview in London.

Gigaba's views came a few days after President Hu Jintao announced in Beijing that China will provide $20 billion in loans to help African countries develop infrastructure, agriculture, manufacturing, and small and medium-sized enterprises.

Africa needs infrastructure that connects the countries on its own continent, as well as with the world, in order to boost trade within the continent and with other emerging markets, according to Gigaba.

"South Africa is a gateway into Africa," he said. "Working in partnership with China, with Chinese State-owned enterprises as well as Chinese businesses in general, we can achieve a great deal for Africa economically."

In 2011, China's non-financial direct investment in Africa increased 58.9 per cent year-on-year to $1.7 billion, according to the Ministry of Commerce.

By the end of 2011, Chinese investment in Africa reached $14.7 billion, up 60 per cent compared with 2009.

"As China strengthens its ties with Africa and trade keeps expanding, Chinese enterprises will increase their investment in Africa in the near future," said Wang Cheng'an, executive vice-president and secretary-general of the Professional Committee of Competition Policy and Law under the China Society for World Trade Organization Studies.

Chinese investment in Africa has boosted economic development and local tax revenue and employment. Moreover, China's direct investment in Africa will increase its exports of machinery and technology to Africa, Wang said.

Cheng Tao, an expert on African studies at China Foundation for International Studies, said China has been treating African countries equally and offering aid without additional conditions.

"China respects African countries' sovereignty and never intervenes in their internal affairs, which forms a sharp contrast with the colonialism that has been practiced by Western countries," Cheng said.

In addition to China and South Africa, Gigaba suggested there should be more investment within the BRICS economies - Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa - to "change the world's economic balance of power".

"They've got to play the role to increase investment because if we can succeed to increase investments among ourselves and in our different regions, we will establish emerging markets as a powerful economic force in the world," Gigaba said.

"Even now, the economic balance is changing, but we need to do more to change it even further," he added.

The role of BRICS economies in the global economic landscape has been on the rise in recent years, as major developed economies struggle to emerge from economic turmoil.

Acknowledging the framework's focus on business, trade and investment, Gigaba said he sees "the BRICS in the future developing into a strong political voice in the global environment", even though it's "not a priority" for now.

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