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Chinese aid good for Africa: ministers

by Staff Writers
Washington, Usa (AFP) April 16, 2011
African officials said Saturday they need Chinese aid because they cannot get support from traditional partners, and called Western criticism of China's huge Africa support program unfounded.

"Most of our countries cannot access the markets to borrow. We are forced to turn to sources of concessional financing, which are now very, very limited," said Togo's Minister of Finance Adji Oteh Ayas at the IMF-World Bank meetings in Washington.

He called developing Africa's increasing reliance on Chinese financing "a very good thing," even though Western critics have described it as exploitative, providing China with valuable commercial inroads into the continent.

But he acknowledged there was not much choice.

"We are forced to fall back on Chinese loans, which are concessional and affordable for our country," he said at a news conference.

His counterpart from Chad, Ngata Ngoulou, said the Chinese offered a solid, inexpensive funding opportunity for much-needed but high-cost infrastructure.

He cited an oil refinery and a cement factory in Chad being built with Chinese support.

"If we had gently approached our traditional partners," he said, "they would have discouraged us."

Low-cost Chinese financial support helps African countries avoid pumping up their debt levels with expensive borrowings, the ministers said.

But their traditional supporters, Western governments, have criticized the absence of conditions attached to the Chinese support -- such as reform and transparency requirements.

"The important thing is that the debt we incur is viable. That means something," Ngoulou said.

"It is no longer like the '60s and '70s when the borrowings were simply squandered," he said.

Now, "when we go into debt for an industrial project, there is no reason that the project itself does not help repay the debt," he said.

"Even if the Western criticism is fair enough, still I do not think this is a bad thing for Africa," said Togo's minister.

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