China plans to further boost its soaring $100 billion trade with Africa, the government said Thursday, defending its sometimes criticised presence on the continent as mutually beneficial.
Chinese demand for oil, gas, iron ore and other raw materials for its rapidly growing economy has spurred trade and investments in Africa in recent years.
A central government report released Thursday said that in the first 11 months of this year, China-Africa trade volume reached $114.81 billion, a 43.5 percent year-on-year increase. That follows a decline in 2009 due to the global financial crisis.
That growth is likely to gain traction in the coming years as the “economic and trade cooperation is bright” between the two sides, said the “China-Africa Economic and Trade Cooperation” report prepared by the State Council Information Office.
“As economic globalisation progresses, the economic and trade cooperation between China and Africa will definitely gain momentum to reach a larger scale, broader scope and higher level,” it said.
Beijing is encouraging Chinese companies, flush with cash from the country’s economic boom, to invest in Africa in an effort to diversify an economy driven by exports and outside investment. China’s interest in Africa has largely targeted oil, gas and mining but is expanding to manufacturing, real estate, infrastructure and other sectors.
But the influx of Chinese investors has brought about tensions and criticism over control of Africa’s resources, worries about unfair business tactics and complaints that local communities get too little of the economic rewards.
In October, two Chinese mine bosses in Zambia were charged with attempted murder after shooting miners during a pay dispute. Chinese companies have invested nearly $3 billion in Zambia, a major copper producer, according to the Zambian government.
While the report did not address local disputes, it defended China’s presence in Africa, saying Beijing’s efforts are fair, mutual beneficial and provide balanced trade and economic cooperation with African countries.
Chinese enterprises “adopt open, transparent… ways of cooperation to jointly exploit and utilise resources with African countries and international enterprises against monopoly and exclusiveness,” the report said.
Some experts said Africa’s openness to Chinese investment is partially because its trade does not come with criticism of human rights records and other political issues.
“African countries also like that Chinese are less critical of their internal political affairs and there’s less bureaucracy so projects and deals are executed a lot faster,” said He Wenping, director of African studies at the Institute of West Asian and African Studies in Beijing.
In 2009, China’s direct investment in Africa reached $9.33 billion with the majority directed at mining followed by manufacturing, the report said, a jump from $490 million in 2003.