China signs deals with Ethiopia as Premier starts Africa tour

By Aaron Maasho

ADDIS ABABA¬†(Reuters) –¬†China¬†signed a raft of agreements with¬†Ethiopia¬†on Sunday as Premier¬†Li Keqiang¬†arrived for the first leg of his four-nation¬†Africa¬†tour aimed at shoring up burgeoning Sino-Africa¬†ties that saw their trade top $200 billion last year.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (L) and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn address a meeting at Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, May 4, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer
Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (L) and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn address a meeting at Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, May 4, 2014. REUTERS/Stringer

This is Li’s first visit to¬†Africa¬†since he became premier last year, and follows a trip to the continent by President¬†Xi Jinping¬†in March 2013, when he renewed an offer of $20 billion in loans to¬†Africa¬†between 2013 and 2015.

Africans broadly see China as a healthy counterbalance to Western influence but there are growing calls from policymakers and economists for more balanced trade relations.

In Ethiopia, Chinese firms have invested heavily in recent years with their worth swelling well over $1 billion in 2014, according to official figures.

Beijing¬†is also a key partner in¬†Ethiopia’s bid to expand infrastructure such as roads, railways and telecom services.

Chinese ministers and company executives accompanying Li signed 16 deals with their Ethiopian counterparts, including loans and cooperation agreements for the construction of roads and industrial zones.

“This right track in the relationship between us has been laid. I am sure it will lead us to stronger growth in our ties,” Li told a press conference.

Huawei¬†Technologies Co Ltd [HWT.UL] – the world’s second largest telecom equipment maker – and¬†ZTE¬†Corp are currently working to introduce a high-speed 4G¬†broadband network¬†in the capital¬†Addis Ababa¬†and a 3G service throughout the country.

Officials said both firms have now signed an $80 million deal to lay optical ground cables to form a nationwide network.

NO COLONIAL AMBITIONS

China has a relationship with Africa which pre-dates its current resource-hungry economic boom.

In previous decades,¬†China’s Communist leaders supported national liberation movements and newly independent states across the continent.

Li’s tour, which will also take in¬†Nigeria,¬†Angola¬†and¬†Kenya, comes virtually on the 50th anniversary of then-Premier¬†Zhou Enlai’s landmark trip to 10 African nations from December 1963 to January 1964.

Beijing¬†has been accused of holding back the continent’s economic development by focusing on the pursuit of raw materials rather than the creation of local jobs and markets.

Keen not to be perceived as an imperial master, Li said China was willing to sit down with African countries to resolve any issues that arose over investment projects.

“I wish to assure our African friends in all seriousness that¬†China¬†will never pursue a colonialist path like some countries did, or allow colonialism, which belongs to the past, to reappear in¬†Africa,” the official news agency Xinhua quoted Li as saying ahead of his arrival in the Ethiopian capital.

Visited 35 times, 1 visit(s) today