Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao denied that Beijing was developing ties in Africa purely to satisfy its need for energy, as he headed for talks with the continent's leaders, state media reported on Saturday.
Speaking while on the plane to Egypt, where he is due to meet Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak before the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation begins on Sunday, Wen said Beijing had an important role to play in Africa's development.
"Energy cooperation is just one area" where China and Africa were working together, he said. "In no way has China come to Africa solely for its energy sources," he added, according to comments carried by People's Daily.
"The aim for China in helping Africa is to reinforce its own role in development," Wen said.
Some Western critics have accused China of worsening repression and human rights abuses in Africa by supporting countries such as Sudan and Zimbabwe in its drive to gain access to natural resources.
But other observers have said the closer ties between the two sides are focused on industries that would improve African development such as agriculture, electric power, transportation and water drainage.
China is also seen as a key player in ending the six-year war between the Sudanese government and rebels in Darfur. It is a leading weapons supplier to Sudan and importer of its oil.
Sunday's summit in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh comes as Beijing bids to expand its diplomatic and economic influence on the resource-rich continent.
Chinese companies have been pouring investments into oil and other raw materials in Africa to fuel the country's booming economy.
At the last China-Africa summit in Beijing in 2006, China pledged hefty aid and vowed to step up its trade relations with the continent.
Direct Chinese investment in Africa soared from 491 million dollars in 2003 to 7.8 billion dollars in 2008. Trade between the two has increased ten-fold since the start of the decade.