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China's Role in Africa Welcome: OECD Official
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Increased interest in Africa by emerging economies such as China and India is good news for the continent, said an official of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) on Saturday.

"It is a major event and good news for Africa to have new players entering in the playground," said Javier Santiso, OECD chief development economist.

He said criticism on China's approach to Africa is unfair.

"There is a lot of bashing exercise on relations between China and Africa. One criticism is that there is free riding by China in Africa," he said, referring to criticism that China focuses its activities on energy and raw materials.

"If we look at the numbers in detail ... it does not look that this is the case."

He said the China-Africa relationship is not focused on minerals and oil, as critics have claimed, but also on infrastructure and telecommunications.

China is also involved in agriculture in Africa, he said.

China has decided to dispatch 100 senior agricultural experts to Africa within three years, half of them will arrive by the end of this year, the Chinese government has said.

The rapid growth of China's trade with Africa indicates a diversification of Africa's trade relations, said Santiso.

China-Africa trade reached 55.5 billion U.S. dollars in 2006, an increase of almost 40 percent than 2005. Bilateral trade may exceed 100 billion dollars well before 2010, China has said.

Apart from increased activities by China and India, Brazil is also active in certain parts of Africa, Santiso said.

This huge boom of South-South connections, both in terms of trade and investment, might raise awareness of OECD countries, the United States and Japan for Africa, he said.

Luis Riera, a European Commission official on development policy, also welcomed China's involvement in Africa. He said the European Commission, the executive body of the European Union (EU), would like to coordinate with China and other major players on Africa policy.

EU leaders and their counterparts from 53 African countries are holding a summit in Lisbon, hoping to redefine relations between the two continents.

The convening of the summit, which was delayed by four years over the attendance of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, is widely seen as a result of competition from China.

A China-Africa summit was held in Beijing in November 2006.

(Xinhua News Agency December 9, 2007)

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