SHARM EL-SHEIKH, Nov 8 – Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao pledged to give African countries 10 billion dollars in concessional loans as a two-day Forum on China-Africa Cooperation opened in Egypt on Sunday.
"We will help Africa build up its financing capabilities… we will provide 10 billion US dollars for Africa in concessional loans," Wen said at the start of the forum in the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.
He also pledged to cancel debts of African countries to increase his country’s role in the continent.
The Asian giant pledged 5.0 billion dollars in assistance at the last Forum on China-Africa Cooperation summit, held in Beijing in 2006, and has signed agreements to relieve or cancel the debt of 31 African countries.
"China is ready to deepen practical cooperation in Africa," Wen said, adding that China was prepared to take on a role in "the settlement of issues of peace and security."
He also said China would set up environmental programmes in the continent, including 100 clean energy projects.
Chinese firms have been pouring investments into oil and other raw materials in Africa to fuel the Asian country’s booming economy.
Over the past five years, Chinese direct investment in Africa has soared, from 491 million dollars in 2003 to 7.8 billion dollars in 2008, according to official Chinese figures.
Total trade between China and Africa surpassed 100 billion dollars in 2008, a tenfold increase in eight years.
Booming trade ties have been accompanied by China also building schools, hospitals and clinics to fight malaria and offering scholarships for Africans to study in China.
But Beijing’s growing economic role in the poverty-ridden continent has also been met with some scepticism and criticism.
China has been accused of throwing a lifeline to pariah regimes accused of massive human rights violations, such as the government of Sudan’s President Omar al-Beshir, who is wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court.
Chinese officials say they follow a policy of non-interference in the domestic affairs of African countries, and deny that Chinese investments and loans come with strings attached.
"Africa is fully capable of solving its own problems, in an African way," Wen said in his speech.
"China has never attached any political strings… to assistance to Africa," he said, adding that trade is based on "win-win programmes… and transparency."