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Blair highlights China's role in aid for Africa
by Staff Writers
Busan, South Korea (AFP) Nov 29, 2011

Former British prime minister Tony Blair urged world aid donors Tuesday to work more closely with China in Africa, stressing Beijing's increasingly dominant role in the continent.

Blair, speaking at a major development aid forum, said China this year would spend more on African infrastructure than the World Bank. But he also urged it to focus on political development in recipient states.

"I think it's important that we are trying to get the right cooperation partnership with China in Africa," Blair, who founded the Africa Governance Initiative, told a press conference.

"When you think that China is spending more on infrastructure in Africa than the World Bank, you realise the scale of what's going on. So that relationship with China is vital for the future of Africa."

Blair stressed that China's assistance was sometimes more efficient than Western donor nations.

"A lot of African leaders will tell you that with Western donor countries, they just end up having negotiations after negotiations after negotiations," he said. "Whereas with China, things happen."

China, seeking natural resources to fuel its booming economy, has developed close ties with nations such as Sudan and Zimbabwe whose human rights records make them pariahs to the West.

Some 3,500 delegates at the Busan forum are debating how to make aid more effective and transparent and how to work more closely with emerging economic powers like China.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will highlight "the need for... all to operate by the same standards" during a speech Wednesday, officials said.

"There are real issues of how China uses economic power and influence," Blair said.

"We need to discuss those with the Chinese government... the only stable economic development is the one that happens with political development."

But he and Rajiv Shah, head of the US Agency for International Development, voiced optimism about Africa, a continent long associated with poverty and conflict.

Now it offers "opportunities one could scarcely imagine a generation ago", the pair said in a statement.

Over the past decade, eight economies from Sub-Saharan Africa had more than doubled in size while the number of democracies there rose from three in 1989 to 23 in 2008, they said.

"In large part this progress is due to a new generation of emerging African leaders... who are shaking the old narrative of a dormant Africa and replacing it with one of optimism, determination, and progress."

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