Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi played down concern over Africa’s debts with Beijing on Thursday as he arrived in Ethiopia at the start of a four-nation Africa tour.
China has funnelled cash and loans into infrastructure projects across the continent, where many African leaders consider Beijing’s terms a better deal that than those offered by bilateral Western nations.
Wang initially sidestepped concerns — often made by Western nations — about whether the debt repayments were sustainable.
“Generally, debt in Africa has been a protracted issue left from history,” Wang said. “It didn’t come up today, still less is it caused by China.”
China is the single largest bilateral financier of infrastructure in Africa, exceeding the combined total of the African Development Bank (ADB), the European Union, International Finance Corporation, the World Bank and the Group of Eight (G8) countries.
“We know that in terms of financing, some African countries have encountered difficulties,” Wang added, speaking on the first leg of a tour that will also include The Gambia, Senegal and Burkina Faso.
“China attaches great importance to that, as Africa’s good friend and brother. We’re always ready to extend a good hand when African countries need it.”
Chinese foreign investment and construction between 2005 and 2018 totalled $298 billion in sub-Sahara Africa, according to data compiled by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a conservative research organisation.
Both Wang and his Ethiopian counterpart, Foreign Minister Workneh Gebeyehu, spoke warmly of ties between their nations – and dismissed a suggestion that relations had cooled since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power last year with a sweeping reformist agenda.
“The reform process in Ethiopia – we believe it will further strengthen our ties with China,” Workneh said.
“China will continue to be Ethiopia’s strategic partner,” he added.