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China trade unsustainable: African leader

The South African President Jacob Zuma today sounded a note of caution on the increasing commerce between Africa and China, saying the current pattern of trade was unsustainable in the long term.

world Updated: Jul 20, 2012 00:50 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis

The South African President Jacob Zuma on Thursday sounded a note of caution on the increasing commerce between Africa and China, saying the current pattern of trade was unsustainable in the long term.

Zuma was delivering his speech at the ongoing 5th Forum on China-Africa Cooperation and his statement came soon after President Hu Jintao pledged USD 20 billion as loans to African countries over the next three years besides saying, "both sides should oppose the big bullying the small, the strong domineering the weak and the rich oppressing the poor."

In the audience was UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon besides the leaders and ministers from 40 African countries.

Trade between China and Africa hit $166 billion in 2011, an increase of three-times since 2006, with a trade surplus in Africa's favour due to exports of raw materials such as crude oil and copper. China is a major exporter of cheap manufactured goods to Africa, such as electronics and clothes.

China's investment in Africa is estimated at $15 billion over the past decade in more than 50 countries. It's growing rapidly as Chinese companies build infrastructure across the continent, from dams and airports to mines, wind farms and sports stadiums.

China has also built over 100 schools, 30 hospitals, 30 anti-malaria centers and 20 agricultural technology demonstration centers in Africa.

Nigeria announced the signing of a $1.5bn railroad project to be built by the state-owned China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation late on Wednesday night. The Communist country's presence in African counties has also triggered controversy especially over corruption, labour issues and aiding countries run by repressive regimes.

"China's commitment to Africa has already been demonstrated through tangible and concrete results, particularly in terms of human resource development, debt relief, and investment. On the other hand, Africa's commitment to China's development has been demonstrated by the supply of raw materials, other products, and technology transfer. As we all agree, Your Excellency, this trade pattern is unsustainable in the long term," Zuma said.

Giving the example of Africa's relationship with Europe, Zuma said: "Africa's past economic experience with Europe dictates a need to be cautious when entering into partnerships with other economies…We certainly are convinced that China's intention is different to that of Europe, which to date continue to attempt to influence African countries for their sole benefit."

In his speech, Hu said China will focus on five priority areas like investment in infrastructure and agriculture, people to people interaction and on creating a peaceful and stable environment for development.