Chinese-African Summit Yields $1.9 Billion in Deals

By Chen Aizhu and Lindsay Beck
Monday, November 6, 2006

BEIJING, Nov. 5 -- Chinese and African leaders wrapped up a summit on Sunday with deals worth $1.9 billion and assurances from China that it would not monopolize Africa's resources as it builds influence across the continent.

The agreements, signed between 12 Chinese firms and various African governments and companies, followed Chinese President Hu Jintao's pledge on Saturday to offer $5 billion in loans and credit, and to double aid to Africa by 2009.

In a joint declaration ending the summit, delegates announced a strategic partnership and "action plan" that charts cooperation in the economy, international affairs and social development.

"We propose to enhance South-South cooperation and North-South dialogue to promote balanced, coordinated and sustainable development of the global economy," said Hu, reading out the declaration.

Delegates from nearly 50 African countries descended on Beijing for the weekend summit, the largest China-Africa gathering since the 1949 founding of Communist China.

The deals reached Sunday include commitments from China to build expressways in Nigeria, lay a telephone network in rural Ghana and erect an aluminum smelter in Egypt, the state-run New China News Agency reported.

China is eager to secure oil, gas and mineral resources from Africa to fuel its rapid economic expansion.

But China has come under fire from critics who say it is doing business with African countries without regard to governance or human rights and in the process bolstering governments that the West has tried to isolate.

Ethiopian Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin rejected such criticism, saying that the relationship was helping to fight poverty in Africa and that the continent needed cooperation without political conditions.

"This has nothing to do with turning a blind eye to the predicaments of Africa," he said at a news conference. "It is to promote human values, including human rights. Is not the right to development a human rights issue?"

The summit was also an opportunity for China to prove its credentials at hosting a major event ahead of the 2008 Olympics.

Beijing was decked out in banners proclaiming the Sino-African friendship, strict traffic measures kept the city's notoriously clogged roads running smoothly, and the estimated 1,700 delegates were treated to gala song and dance performances.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company