World Bulletin / News Desk
Chinese President Hu Jintao on Thursday offered $20 billion in loans to African countries over the next three years, boosting a relationship that has been criticised by the West and given Beijing growing access to the resource-rich continent.
The loans offered were double the amount China pledged for the previous three-year period in 2009 and is the latest in a string of aid and credit provided to Africa's many poverty-stricken nations.
The pledge is likely to boost China's good relations with Africa, a supplier of oil and raw materials like copper and uranium to the world's most populous country and second-largest economy.
But the loans could add to discomfort in the West, which criticises China for overlooking human rights abuses in its business dealings with Africa, especially in Beijing's desire to feed its booming resource-hungry economy.
Hu brushed off such concerns in his speech at the Great Hall of the People, attended by leaders including South African President Jacob Zuma and Equatorial Guinea's Teodoro Obiang Nguema, a man widely condemned by rights groups as one of the world's most corrupt leaders.
"China wholeheartedly and sincerely supports African countries to choose their own development path, and will wholeheartedly and sincerely support them to raise their development ability," Hu said.
China will "continue to steadfastly stand together with the African people, and will forever be a good friend, a good partner and a good brother", he added at the summit held every three years since 2000.
Hu also pledged to "continue to expand aid to Africa, so that the benefits of development can be realised by the African people". He did not provide an amount.
Hu said the new loans would support infrastructure, agriculture, manufacturing and development of small and medium-sized businesses in Africa.
"CHEQUE BOOK" APPROACH
Critics say China supports African governments with dubious human rights records as a means to get access to resources.
The EU has rejected what they call China's "cheque book" approach to doing business with Africa, saying it would continue to demand good governance and the transparent use of funds from its trading partners.
"Africa's past economic experience with Europe dictates a need to be cautious when entering into partnerships with other countries," Zuma told the forum.
"We are particularly pleased that in our relationship with China we are equals and that agreements entered into are for mutual gain," Zuma added.
"We certainly are convinced that China's intention is different to that of Europe, which to date continues to intend to influence African countries for their sole benefit."
China's friendship with Africa dates back to the 1950s, when Beijing backed liberation movements in the continent fighting to throw off Western colonial rule.
GROWING TRADE LINKS
Chinese state-owned firms in Africa also face criticism for using imported labour to build government-financed projects like roads and hospitals, while pumping out raw resources and processing them in China, leaving little for local economies.
"Certainly quite a number of us are thinking we need to move into more value addition," South African's Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies told Reuters.
"We need to export mineral products in a more processed form ... We need to bite this bullet very seriously."
Trade has jumped in the past decade, driven by Chinese hunger for resources to power its economic boom and African demand for cheap Chinese products.
Industrial and Commercial Bank of China 601398.SS, for example, the world's most valuable lender, has invested more than $7 billion in various projects across the continent.
The hackers broke into a database storing details of people who had registered for ECB conferences, visits and other events, the bank said.
Russia generated $356 billion from oil, gas exports last year, data shows.
While stopping far short of targeting physical energy supplies, EU ministers for the first time this week raised the idea of restricting Russian access to oil and gas technology.
They were among nine organisations and three people added to the EU's Syria sanctions list, published in the bloc's Official Journal
Land reform remains a sensitive issue in South Africa, where 20 years after the end of apartheid the white minority still holds around 87 percent of commercial farm land.
Talks are reportedly underway for a number of investment projects, including in pharmaceuticals and automotive assembly, but no final investment agreements are expected this week.
The yuan will be the world's third largest currency after the U.S. dollar and euro, a Chinese report predicts.
Unemployment currently stands at 12.7 percent in Kenya and affects 30 percent of the country's population
GM so far this year has recalled about 14.7 million vehicles worldwide with switch-related issues and has linked at least 16 deaths to those issues.
The deal includes hydropower and nuclear power plants in the South American country.
State-run think tank Korea Institute for Defense Analyses (KIDA) reported earlier this month that a twin-engine version of the fighter jet is expected to cost around 8.5 trillion won
Western officials have repeatedly warned Iranian counterparts over the past six months that more economic pain is a risk for an OPEC member whose oil exports have already shrunk to a fraction of what they could have been
The EU's employment commissioner said he has asked to meet with Microsoft to discuss the social impact of the layoffs.
Although China has promised to invest in Brazil for years and failed to deliver, the pace of deals is picking up with a focus on deficient infrastructure.
The financial aid would be used for rebuilding houses and public buildings, the rapid restoration of water and energy supplies and urgent assistance for those still without proper shelter.
Washington and Brussels say Moscow has been fanning separatist violence in eastern Ukraine and broadened their sanctions, sending Russian shares and the rouble currency down.