SHARM EL-SHEIK, Egypt - China’s premier yesterday pledged $10 billion in new low interest loans to African nations over three years, offering the beleaguered continent sorely needed cash while dismissing criticism that Beijing’s motives in Africa are far from altruistic.
Wen Jiabao’s promise at the start of a two-day China-Africa summit was warmly received by African leaders and officials, most of whose nations confront a miasma of despair accentuated by a global financial crisis only now showing signs of abating.
“The Chinese people cherish sincere friendship toward the African people, and China’s support to Africa’s development is concrete and real,’’ Wen said at a forum that attracted leaders such as Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir - who faces an international arrest warrant - and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe. Both are heads of state out-of-favor with the West.
Wen said China wants to help Africa build its financing capacity and would provide $10 billion in concessional loans - ones with generous terms.
As part of an eight-point plan, he said China would also forgive government debts of the poorest African nations that have relations with Beijing and would build 100 new clean energy projects for the continent. It would also gradually institute a zero-tariff policy on 95 percent of goods from some of the poorest countries.
The latest offer marks a doubling of the $5 billion loan pledge China made in 2006 to African nations. In the past eight years, trade between China and Africa has surged tenfold to almost $107 billion by the end of 2008.
But China’s inroads into Africa have drawn accusations by some in the West that the Asian powerhouse has ignored Africa’s needs and the dismal rights records of some nations while looking only to sap the continent of the resources it needs to fuel its bustling economy.