By Michael Martina and Carien du Plessis
JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) -China’s leader Xi Jinping told African leaders at a meeting on the sidelines of the BRICS summit on Thursday that China would launch initiatives to support Africa’s industrialisation and agricultural modernisation.
“China will better harness its resources for cooperation with Africa and initiatives of businesses to support Africa in growing its manufacturing sector and realizing industrialisation and economic diversification,” Xi said without providing details.
Xi’s pledge was made as the BRICS Summit wrapped up, during a meeting with leaders and ministers from the African Union and 11 African countries including Libya, Nigeria, Senegal and Zambia.
The BRICS members – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – on Thursday agreed to admit six new countries including Egypt and Ethiopia.
China’s top Africa diplomat Wu Peng said this week that African countries wanted China to shift its focus from building infrastructure on the continent to local industrialisation.
China’s official Xinhua news agency said the country would expand the scale of African agricultural products exported to China and aim to help Africa achieve food self-sufficiency.
Some analysts noted that China’s funding for infrastructure had already fallen.
“If African leaders are lobbying China for less infrastructure project financing, they are pushing on an open door,” said Brad Parks, head of AidData, a research lab at U.S. university William & Mary that tracks Chinese overseas lending and grants.
“In 2009, it issued grants and loans worth $88 billion to support infrastructure projects in Africa. However, by 2021, its grant and loan commitments for infrastructure projects in Africa amounted to only $24 billion,” Parks said.
David Monyae, director of the University of Johannesburg’s Centre for China Africa studies, said that with over-capacity in China it made sense for companies to move factories to Africa, adding that many were already doing well in industrial zones in Ethiopia and Kenya.
“They’re moving fast, they’re ready, they have the capital and the skills. They are first movers anyway,” he said.
(Reporting by Michael Martina and Carien du Plessis, Writing by Rachel Savage, Editing by Jonathan Oatis and David Gregorio)