Chinese President Xi Jinping has pledged £46 billion in financing for projects in Africa.
The projects are in the form of assistance, investment and loans, and are part of China’s efforts to link the continent’s economic prospects to its own.
Speaking to a gathering of African leaders in Beijing, Mr Xi said the figure includes £11 billion in grants, interest-free loans and concessional loans, £15 billion in credit lines, £7 billion for “development financing” and £4 billion to buy imports from Africa.
No details were given on specific projects, although Mr Xi said China was planning initiatives in eight areas, including providing £114 million in emergency food aid, sending 500 agricultural experts to Africa, and providing scholarships, vocational training and trade promotion opportunities.
The pledge comes on top of a 2015 promise to provide African countries with £46 billion in funding that Mr Xi said had either been delivered or arranged.
Mr Xi also promoted Beijing’s initiative to build ports and other infrastructure as a tool for “common prosperity” in a world facing challenges from trade protectionism.
Addressing businesspeople prior to the formal opening of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, Mr Xi said the Belt and Road initiative (BRI) will expand markets. He tried to mollify concern that Beijing wants to build strategic influence, promising Chinese investment comes with “no political strings attached”.
African and other Asian leaders have welcomed Belt and Road but some projects have prompted complaints about debt and other problems. The initiative involves hundreds of projects, most of them built by Chinese contractors and financed by loans from Chinese state-owned banks, across an arc of 65 countries from the South Pacific through Asia to Africa and the Middle East.
In a major blow to China’s ambitions, Malaysia recently cancelled Chinese-financed projects worth more than £15 billion, saying they were unnecessary and would create an unsustainable debt burden. Deeply indebted Pakistan is also reportedly reconsidering some projects in the multibillion-pound China-Pakistan Economic Corridor that is a key link in the BRI.
The Beijing forum brings together leaders from China and more than 50 African countries. Dozens of African leaders met with Mr Xi ahead of the conference.
Mr Xi made no mention of the political and debt concerns that overshadow some BRI projects. But Chinese officials have previously rejected accusations that projects leave host countries too deeply indebted to Chinese lenders.
“China’s investment in Africa comes with no political strings attached,” Mr Xi said. “China does not interfere in Africa’s internal affairs and does not impose its own will on Africa.”