(GIN) – At a 2-day China-Africa summit held in Sharm El-Shaik, Egypt, China's premier pledged a generous $10 billion in new much-needed low interest loans to African nations over three years.
Wen Jiabao's promise at the start of a two-day China-Africa summit over the past weekend was warmly received by African leaders and officials.
An editorial in the Ugandan Daily Monitor noted: "In a time of a global credit crunch and nervous investors, China's $10 billion credit facility – which is about as much as the World Bank advanced to the whole of Sub-Saharan Africa last year – is a welcome financing opportunity for the continent."
The Chinese initiative should be applauded, the editorial noted, "but with a proviso."
"China's see-no-evil, hear-no-evil policy means that it can finance projects in African countries without asking questions about human rights or governance as many western donors do.
"Furthermore, Chinese contractors in many African countries, to wit Angola, tend to bring along many of their unskilled and semi-skilled workers to do menial work on the projects they fund, denying locals the opportunity to acquire skills.
"None of these challenges are incurable. We should welcome the Chinese investment but we must clearly define our interests and work towards aligning them with those of the Chinese – and other donors."
Another cautionary note was sounded by the Afrol website: "Chinese imports from Africa last year were worth $56 billion, but they were totally dominated by oil - $39 billion - and other raw materials. In return, Africa was flooded with cheap Chinese consumer goods also worth $56 billion, which helped Africans raise their consumption but which also choked many fragile attempts to create an indigenous African industry production."
In an apparently related matter, the US African Development Foundation in conjunction with the U.S. Embassy awarded nearly $850,000 in development assistance to grassroots groups in Mauritania. "The United States recognises the value of the dynamic ideas of Africans," said US Ambassador Mark M. Boulware, "and (with this grant) we are helping to create new businesses, new jobs, and new opportunities in Mauritania."