China is helping Africa develop, not pile up debt, Reuters quoted a top Chinese official as saying, amid criticism it is loading the continent with an unsustainable burden.
President Xi Jinping pledged US$60 billion to African nations at Monday’s opening of a China-Africa forum on cooperation, matching the size of funds offered at the last summit in Johannesburg in 2015.
“If we take a closer look at these African countries that are heavily in debt, China is not their main creditor,” its special envoy for Africa, Xu Jinghu, told a news conference in Beijing Tuesday.
“It’s senseless and baseless to shift the blame onto China for debt problems.”
China will use feasibility studies to select projects that help African countries achieve sustainable development and steer clear of debt or financial woes, she added.
“We need to take into account the fluctuations of the international economic situation, which has raised the cost of financing for these African countries, and most of them depend on exporting raw materials, the price of which, on the international market, has been falling,” said Xu, adding that the overall debt burden had built up over a long time.
China has denied engaging in “debt trap” diplomacy, and Xi said government debt from Chinese interest-free loans due by year-end would be written off for the poorest African nations.
African countries have also been trying to export more finished goods to China, rather than simply raw materials that China then processes.
China and Africa have agreed to work hard to increase Africa’s value-added exports to China, a development welcomed by Beijing, South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa said.
“They would like to see real meaningful trade taking place between Africa and China through value-added goods,” he told reporters.
China has strongly and angrily denied its ambitions in Africa have anything other than the best interests of the continent at heart.
Claims that China was an “economic predator” in Africa, pillaging natural resources and dragging it into a debt crisis, were “as false as they are sensational”, the Xinhua official news agency said in a commentary.
“Chinese loans to Africa have a lower interest rate and longer repayment period compared to the market average, and these concessional loans are primarily used to build infrastructure,” it added.
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