Li de­liv­ers high-speed rail vow to Africa

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By FU JING and LI LIANXING in Abuja, Nigeria and LI XIAOKUN in Bei­jing

Pre­mier Li Ke­qiang pledged on Thurs­day to con­trib­ute to con­nect­ing all of Africa’s cap­i­tals by high-speed rail­ways, while of­fer­ing an­other $10 bil­lion loan to im­prove in­fra­struc­ture on the con­ti­nent.

He also said China would chan­nel more than half of its in­ter­na­tional aid to African coun­tries.

Li made the re­marks in a key­note speech at the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum on Africa, dubbed “Africa’s Davos”, in Abuja, the Nige­rian cap­i­tal.

The pledge in­creases China’s credit line for African coun­tries to $30 bil­lion.

“In­fra­struc­ture con­struc­tion is a base for de­vel­op­ing coun­tries to re­al­ize eco­nomic take­off, and we will con­tin­u­ously place it as a pri­or­ity un­der our co­op­er­a­tion frame­work,” Li said. “We have found that we should in­vest our ef­forts in mak­ing Africa a well-con­nected con­ti­nent.”

Li said the con­ti­nent cov­ers 23 per­cent of the world’s land area but its length of rail­ways re­mains at only 7 per­cent of the world to­tal. Thir­teen African coun­tries still have no rail­ways.

He said China and African coun­tries would jointly launch high-speed rail­way tech­nol­ogy re­search and de­vel­op­ment cen­ters while co­op­er­at­ing on rail­way plan­ning, con­struc­tion and oper­a­tion.

Li said Bei­jing would also make ev­ery ef­fort to in­vest in high­ways and air­ports, which he be­lieves are of fun­da­men­tal sig­nif­i­cance in re­al­iz­ing African dreams.

“Af­ter in­ten­sive dis­cus­sion with African lead­ers, I pro­posed fo­cus­ing our in­fra­struc­ture co­op­er­a­tion on the three big net­works (roads, rail­ways and air routes)”, within African coun­tries, Li said, adding that African na­tions have also shown a strong will to co­op­er­ate with China on high­way con­struc­tion.

Mike Blades, head of cor­po­rate and in­vest­ment bank­ing for the East African re­gion at Stan­dard Bank Group, said: “Part of Africa’s growth con­straints is its lack of in­fra­struc­ture. You have to in­vest in in­fra­struc­ture, roads, rail­ways and power. You can’t ac­tu­ally in­vest in mas­sive man­u­fac­tur­ing if you haven’t a cer­tain level of power sup­ply.”

Dr Mar­tyn Davies, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of Fron­tier Ad­vi­sory, a leading re­search, strat­egy and ad­vi­sory firm that spe­cial­izes in emerg­ing mar­kets, said, “African states need to move be­yond com­mod­i­ty­driven growth.”

Davies said that apart from en­ergy, ur­ban­iza­tion is an­other emerg­ing driver of growth.

Li said that in all of the co­op­er­a­tion projects Chi­nese in­vestors will launch joint ven­tures with Africa and will “share our high-tech ex­per­tise with African friends with­out any reser­va­tions”.

He said third par­ties, in­clud­ing in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions and other coun­tries, were wel­come to join the ini­tia­tive. “If the African coun­tries agree, we can open our co­op­er­a­tion to oth­ers,” he said.

The pre­mier also said China would in­sist on mak­ing last­ing ef­forts to help Africans im­prove health, ed­u­ca­tion and en­vi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions with its in­creased in­ter­na­tional aid.

“More than half of our in­ter­na­tional aid will go to African coun­tries,” he said, adding that China would con­tin­u­ously of­fer help with­out any con­di­tions.

Li ar­rived in Abuja on Tues­day evening from Ethiopia on the sec­ond leg of his four­na­tion African tour, which also in­cludes An­gola and Kenya.

Liu Gui­jin, a for­mer Chi­nese spe­cial rep­re­sen­ta­tive on African af­fairs, said Li is the first Chi­nese leader to at­tend a re­gional WEF sum­mit.

“Pre­mier Li’s Africa visit ... will strengthen China-Africa re­la­tions and help steer their de­vel­op­ment in a greener, health­ier and more sus­tain­able di­rec­tion,” he said.

Nigeria sees the World Eco­nomic Fo­rum on Africa as a way to pro­mote the coun­try as a place to do busi­ness and to re­flect its grow­ing global clout.

How­ever, the event has been over­shad­owed by re­cent ter­ror­ist at­tacks and kid­nap­pings by the Is­lamic mil­i­tant group Boko Haram. Con­tact the writ­ers at fu­jing@ chi­nadaily.com.cn, lil­ianx­ing@ chi­nadaily.com.cn and lix­i­aokun@chi­nadaily.com.cn.

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