China-Africa summit rejects debt criticism

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Beijing (AFP)

Chinese and African officials on Tuesday rejected criticism of Beijing's debt-laden overseas development projects as they wrapped up a summit that included a new $60 billion assistance pledge for the continent.

President Xi Jinping hosted leaders from across Africa amid criticism that his country's Belt and Road global trade infrastructure project is worsening debt problems in some countries.

"Everything we do with China is perfectly under control, including on the financial and debt side," said Senegal's President Macky Sall, whose country took over the chairmanship of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) for the next three years.

"We shouldn't let our conscience be disturbed by criticism made regarding the nature of our relations with China," Sall said in remarks alongside Xi and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa to close the FOCAC summit.

Xi opened the meeting on Monday with an offer of $60 billion in funding for projects over the next three years, saying there were "no political strings attached" while warning against spending on "vanity projects".

The financing includes $15 billion in grants, interest-free loans and concessional loans, $20 billion in credit lines, the creation of a $10 billion fund for development financing and a $5 billion special fund to pay for imports from Africa.

Chinese companies were encouraged to invest at least $10 billion on the continent.

China also said it would write off the debt of some of the poorest African countries, without specifying which nations might enjoy the debt relief.

China's special envoy for African affairs, Xu Jinghu, said Beijing would be "very conscientious" in its cooperation with Africa and conduct feasibility studies before choosing projects.

"China has not increased the debt burden of Africa," she told reporters.

"The reasons behind the African debt are quite complex. It has been accumulated for a long time," Xu said, adding that the prices of raw materials exported by Africa have fallen and reduced countries' revenues.

"There are many countries in Africa. Even for the countries that are heavily indebted, China is not the main creditor. So it doesn't make sense and it's groundless to put the blame on China for the African debt," she said.