- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 16, 2007

An increasingly optimistic Africa welcomes Chinese investment as a way to continued improvement in living standards, social development and economic growth, a conservative Washington think tank says.

A report released by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) says Africa emerged from its post-colonial era and that the main challenge now facing the continent is to engage in the global economy.

“The relationship between Africa and China has moved to a higher level and it is clear that the interest has changed toward investments [rather than aid],” said Joe Mollo, a former Lesotho diplomat who spoke at an AEI conference last week.

“African nations look towards China and see political stability and economic growth. … Next it will be increased export as a way of enhancing international trade — Africa is benefiting from this,” said Mr. Mollo, who has served as an ambassador in Denmark and South Africa.

Unlike the West, China does not see Africa as a broken continent in need of constant aid, but rather as a good future investment, said Deborah Brautigam, a professor at American University’s School of InternationalService who spoke at the conference.

She said 50 years of a very successful aid program, at times covering every African nation, has put China in a good position to increase its trade and cooperation with African countries.

“China has a much more long-term perspective than the West,” she said, noting that the number of Chinese enterprises in Africa has increased significantly.

Alongside its investments and trade deals, China added to its already generous aid program, promising to double its aid by 2009. It also doubled the number of scholarships offered, sent an engineering unit to Darfur, Sudan, and has become more involved with U.N. peacekeeping operations in the region, she said.

Witney Schneidman, who served as deputy assistant secretary of state for African affairs during the Clinton administration, challenged the common assumption that Chinese and American interests in the region conflict.

“There are diverse opinions but they can be resolved to benefit Africa,” Mr. Schneidman said.

The current deputy assistant secretary, James Swan, said in February that Chinese involvement in Africa is not “inherently threatening to U.S. interests.”

“There are a number of areas where we believe we may be able to cooperate with China in Africa — for example, by finding complementarity in our aid programs, continuing support for peacekeeping operations and looking for opportunities to collaborate in the health sector,” Mr. Swan said.

Michael Spicer, chief executive officer of Business Leadership South Africa, said there “needs to be a balance between aid and investment” to help the African economy stabilize and grow.

He called for an open dialogue among China, Africa and the United States, with emphasis on business principles such as transparency and good corporate governance.

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