China, ECOWAS sign development pacts
From Oghogho Obayuwana, Abuja
CHINA does not seek the economic takeover of the West African region but is poised to assist in the realisation of the development of badly needed infrastructure as well as interconnectivity of the area.
The Vice Minister, Ministry of Commerce of the People’s Republic of China, Li Jinzao, made the declaration yesterday in Abuja while signing an agreement on infrastructural development and economic cooperation with the leadership of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Under the terms of the agreement, China is to carry out two specific requests of the ECOWAS. They are the building of the trans-West African highway (which will go through nine states) and the construction of the ECOWAS headquarters building extension in Abuja.
Fielding a question from The Guardian at the high-level meeting on Economic, Trade, Investment and Technical Cooperation yesterday in Abuja, Jinzao said: “Chinese assistance is on humanitarian basis. We supported after and during the liberation struggles and during the fight against colonialism in the 1960s and early 70s. China also supported Tanzania and Zambia to construct the Trans Sahara railway line and we did not do this in order to get anything in return.
“China has made sacrifices for Africa and our gain is justice and common experience of human beings, in sharing in the common aspiration of Africans. From the time and now, China sees itself and the countries in Africa as both developing countries in poverty and that Africa is even more critical.”
Early this year, China announced the donation of its newly built $200 million state-of-the-art headquarter complex to the African Union. Nigeria also recently confirmed that it was taking a $1.1 billion loan from China, fuelling fresh fears about the Chinese grand design to penetrate African economies for a hidden futuristic gain.
Fielding questions, Jinzao said further: “Our gain is not in material or financial terms but the satisfaction that we are contributing to the progress and development of other people. Over the past decade, China has provided grants to African countries and has announced debt cancellations. There are no political strings attached to our assistance packages and China does not seek to interfere in the domestic affairs of the nations that we have economic cooperation with”
The ECOWAS-China deal is part of the general Chinese development cooperation with the sub-regional organisation, chief of which is to help develop infrastructure partnership by mandating Chinese companies and financial institutions to develop priority projects. It also stems from some of the general understanding reached in July this year during the China-African Forum in Beijing.
On this, the Chinese minister maintained yesterday that “China is willing to support this area of interest (infrastructure). All that is required is for there to be an understanding and support for the projects by the nine states that the road project would be linking.”
In his remarks, the ECOWAS Vice President, Toga McIntosh, said: “We do hope that in the implementation of the agreement, both sides would work diligently to allow for adequate access to the $20 billion of credit line provided by the government of China to African countries to assist us in developing infrastructure, agriculture, manufacturing and small and medium sized enterprises. We shall work hard on this and working together, West Africa as a region, stands to gain from our strategic partnership arrangement with our Chinese brothers and sisters.”
On the sustainability of the partnership, he said: “West Africa-China relationship is a win-win situation. We are prepared to work. The Chinese are already hardworking people. Now, if you have a partner who goes to work and thinks hard and you sleep off and metaphorically go to the drinking bar and drink yourself to stupor, that other partner would win.”
According to him, ECOWAS’ inspiration in working with China is “drawn from the knowledge that established Chinese companies and financial institutions are called upon to take part in transnational and trans-regional infrastructural development in Africa.”