China’s presence a boon to Africa-UN adviser

BEIJING - China could make a unique contribution to raising Africa from chronic poverty, a top United Nations adviser said in Beijing on Tuesday, rejecting claims that China’s growing presence rankles many Africans.

By (Reuters)

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Published: Tue 15 Aug 2006, 9:45 PM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 2:13 PM

Jeffrey Sachs, who directs the UN Millennium Project to reduce global poverty and is a special adviser to UN Secretary General Koffi Annan, said China’s rising investment and aid across Africa were welcomed by most Africans.

“The overwhelming feeling toward China is gratitude for support,” Sachs told a forum. “China gives fewer lectures and more practical help,” he added.

As China has turned to Africa as a source of raw materials and market for cheap exports, some development advocates have said Beijing is underwriting human rights abuses, corruption and misrule through its investments, especially in Sudan.

China’s interest in the continent is undoubted.

Its trade with Africa reached $39.7 billion in 2005, a rise of 35 percent the previous year, and in the first 6 months of 2006 trade between the two sides jumped another 41.6 percent compared to the same time last year. Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao both visited the continent this year.

Beijing will also host a summit with African leaders in November in what Chinese foreign minister Li Zhaoxing last month called a “pragmatic” effort to consolidate ties.

Sachs said China’s experience of rapid economic development, massive rural population and pragmatic approach to assistance could give it a unique role in bringing modern farming, medical care and communications to the African countryside.

Making the difference

“Chinese technology could make all the difference,” Sachs said of many African countries’ stagnant crop yields.

“I believe that China has a unique role to play in this because China has the fastest escape from poverty of any sizeable country,” he added.

A Chinese diplomat responsible for African affairs, Cao Zhongmin, told the forum it was “difficult to avoid friction as trade rises” but most Chinese trade was welcomed.

But some Africans say worries about China go deeper than teething problems and threaten to make the Asian power a target of popular rancour.

Last month, miners working for the Zambian copper producer Chambishi Mining Plc destroyed property in a protest during which Chinese managers opened fire, wounding five workers, according to miners and police.

Complaints that cheap Chinese imports are extinguishing African textile and manufacturing jobs have been raised by African trade unions. And some African officials have said Chinese aid projects employ too many Chinese workers, excluding locals from opportunities.

But China’s experience of rising from economic stagnation and lifting hundreds of millions of farmers out of poverty nonetheless leave it well placed to help guide Africa, said Sachs, a professor at Columbia University.

Beijing’s s reluctance to tie aid to political demands for reform was generally an asset, not a liability, he later told reporters.

“The idea that aid should be heavily conditioned with political conditions was a mistake,” he said of the approach favoured by many Western countries.

“The best way to end conflict is to end poverty”.

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