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November 9, 2009

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Wen vows US$10b in African loans

PREMIER Wen Jiabao yesterday pledged US$10 billion in low-interest loans to African nations over the next three years, saying China was a "true and trusted friend" of the continent and its people.

At a two-day China-Africa summit that began in Egypt yesterday, Wen also said that for the most heavily indebted and least-developed African nations, China would cancel their debts associated with interest-free government loans set to mature at the end of this year.

The loans offer is double that unveiled by President Hu Jintao at the last summit in Beijing in 2006.

Wen brushed aside concerns that China was only interested in Africa's natural resources.

"China's support for Africa's development is real and solid and, in the future, no matter what turbulence the world undergoes, our friendship with the people of Africa will not change," he told the summit in the resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

Besides the loans, Wen said China would help Africa develop clean energy and cope with climate change, encourage Chinese financial institutions to lend to smaller African firms and expand access for African products.

"We will help Africa build up financing capacity," Wen said at the summit. "We will provide US$10 billion in concessional loans to African countries."

Wen said while many in the world had only now begun to take note of China's role in Africa, it was a relationship that dated back five decades and included helping the countries throw off the yoke of colonialism.

"The Chinese people cherish sincere friendship toward the African people, and China's support for Africa's development is concrete and real," Wen said at the forum.

Wen said China would take eight new measures over the next three years, including helping Africa build up its financing capacity.

He said that China would also build 100 new clean-energy projects for Africa over the next three years.

Other initiatives under the plan include boosting training of African professionals, new schools, and phasing in zero tariff treatment for 95 percent of the products from the least developed countries.

Wen, joined by a host of African leaders, stressed China's involvement in Africa had allowed the continent to get on the road to growth and to begin approaching United Nations-outlined development goals.

Many of the participants agreed yesterday that China had fulfilled its pledges - comments that appeared to be a jab at Western promises that have not been matched by funding.

Wen also called for greater international help for the continent.

"China calls on the international community to enhance its sense of urgency, and support Africa's development in an even truer and more effective way."

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said developed nations had a responsibility in helping developing countries, particularly in the wake of a global financial meltdown that spilled over from the Western nations where it was born.


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