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African Development Bank Opens Annual Meetings in Shanghai
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The African Development Bank (AfDB) on Wednesday opened its annual board meetings in Shanghai, a move widely seen as bolstering China-Africa cooperation..

In his address to the opening ceremony, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said the current annual meetings would surely boost the AfDB's growth, strengthen its role and increase its influence.

This is the first time the annual meetings are being held in Asia, and only the second time outside Africa.

While reviewing the traditional friendship between China and Africa, Wen said the Chinese government and people are committed to Africa 's peace and development.

Since the nation started to establish diplomatic relations with African countries in the 1950s, China has built more than 900 infrastructure and public projects in Africa, he said.

China also extends zero-tariff treatment to the exports of some underdeveloped African countries to China and offers greater market access to African products, Wen said.

To enhance bilateral partnership, China announced further measures including more aid and wider market access to Africa, during the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation held last November.

China will fully deliver on the commitments and is working with the African countries to implement the measures, Wen said, urging exploration of new ways of cooperation to bring about mutual benefit.

Wen also called for better project evaluation and higher efficiency of investment and loans, adding that governments should provide more guidance for businesses.

The Chinese government is also ready to strengthen cooperation with other countries and international financial institutions including the ADB, Wen said.

Themed "Africa and Asia: Partners in Development," the two-day meetings will focus on infrastructure development in Africa, regional integrity, and poverty relief.

Around 2,000 people attended the opening ceremony, including Rwandan President Paul Kagame, President of Cape Verde Pedro Pires, and President of Madagascar Marc Ravalomanana.

Zhou Xiaochuan, governor of the People's Bank of China, the central bank, and Donald Kaberuka, president of African Development Bank, also attended the opening ceremony.

"Since its inception, the African Development Bank has made a lot of achievements in poverty reduction, development, and African integration," Zhou said.

"I'm confident that these annual meetings will become a fresh starting point for all parties to intensify cooperation and promote development in both Asia and Africa," Zhou added.

"Africa is better poised for economic prosperity and better governance than it has been for decades," said Kaberuka, the ADB president, who forecast the economic growth of Africa at above 6.5 percent in 2007.

Kaberuka called for sustained development of the African economy, which currently has "serious cause for concern" including lack of progress in part of the continent, vulnerable and low-based economic facets, and a relatively quickly-growing population.

Founded in 1964, the AfDB has 77 members from Africa, America, Europe, and Asia. China became a member in 1985.

(Xinhua News Agency May 16, 2007)

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