China is set to announce new aid to African nations when President Xi Jinping visits Zimbabwe and South Africa next month, a senior Chinese official said on Wednesday.
The trip is likely to boost China’s relations with Africa, which supplies oil and raw materials such as copper and uranium to the world’s second-largest economy.
China is Africa’s largest trading partner and the trade volume between them amounted to $220 billion in 2014, according to China state news agency Xinhua.
Zhang Ming, one of China’s vice foreign minister, said President Xi will provide further details in his keynote speech on Dec 4.
“As for whether China will continue to provide support and aid, there will be no doubt about it,” Zhang said, declining to provide further details on the aid amount and its purpose.
Xi is scheduled to meet Zimbabwe’s 91-year-old President Robert Mugabe on December 1-2, Zhang said.
He will also meet South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma on December 2-3 and co-chair a two-day summit between China and African countries in Johannesburg after the meeting.
The summit in December will be the second such high-level forum following one held in Beijing in 2006, Zhang said.
“This African trip by President Xi Jinping will be the most important, comprehensive and valuable visit in recent years,” Zhang said.
Xi visited Africa in 2013 shortly after he took office as president. Mugabe reciprocated with a visit to China in 2014 in an attempt to seek loans and investments to lift Zimbabwe’s struggling economy.
Beijing’s focus on growing trade and aid in Africa leaves it open to charges by the West of turning a blind eye to conflicts and rights abuses in the continent.
Trade with resource-rich Africa has exploded in the last decade as China feeds its industrial machine amid African demand for cheap Chinese products.
The EU has rejected what they call China’s “cheque book” approach to doing business with Africa, saying it would continue to demand good governance and the transparent use of funds from its trading partners.
Chinese firms in Africa also face criticism for using imported labour to build government-financed projects like roads and hospitals, while pumping out raw resources and processing them in China, leaving little for local economies.
China’s friendship with Africa dates back to the 1950s, when Beijing backed liberation movements in the continent fighting to throw off Western colonial rule.
ANA reports that preparations for the Johannesburg Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) were well under way, the Department for International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) said on Wednesday.
The theme of the Summit would be “Africa-China Progressing Together: Win-Win Cooperation for Common Development” and African Heads of States and government, African Union Commission representatives and heads of regional and multilateral organisations were expected to attend the Summit.
South Africa assumed the co-chair role for FOCAC for the 2012-2018 period, and the country was supposed to host the 6th FOCAC ministerial meeting, which was then elevated to Summit level.
An Inter-Ministerial Committee meeting to discuss the Summit took place in Cape Town on Tuesday, said DIRCO spokesperson Clayson Monyela.
The purpose of the meeting was to “discuss the latest developments pertaining to the programme and logistics of the Summit,” said Monyela.
Monyela added that in the lead up to the Summit, “Consultations with the co-host, the Chinese Government, as well as the African member states, continue to take place through diplomatic channels”.
The expected aim of the Summit, said Monyela, was that it would further consolidate “the growing mutual partnership between Africa and China”.
The desired outcome was to “elevate Africa-China relations and ensure mutual benefit and growth, which will result in the betterment of the lives of the peoples of Africa and China”.
The Summit, scheduled to take place December 4-5 at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg, would be preceded by a Senior Officials Meeting on December 2, followed by a Ministerial Meeting on December 3. – African News Agency (ANA)