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China's Mission to Honor Sino-African Forum Pledges
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Following on from the sweeping pledges it made at the Sino-African Forum, 2007 will see China sign debt relief agreements with 33 African countries, the Ministry of Commerce (MOC) said in Beijing Monday.


The move came a day ahead of President Hu Jintao's departure for an African tour which will see him visit Cameroon, Liberia, Sudan, Zambia, Namibia, South Africa, Mozambique and the Seychelles.


The ministry did not disclose the total value of the loans, which matured at the end of 2005, to be written off. The nations concerned are all either heavily indebted or stand among the world's least developed nations, it said.


According to the ministry, China plans to double the amount of free aid and interest-free loans it provides to African countries over the next three years to assist with social, cultural and public welfare projects.


Preferential loans worth US$3 billion will help African countries develop infrastructure, purchase technological equipment and establish production enterprises.


A 50,000-square-meter international convention center, set to be completed by 2010, will be constructed free of charge for the use of the African Union.


China will further boost cooperation with African countries in human resources, agriculture, medical care, social development and education over the next three years.


General or special hospitals with 100 to 150 beds will be built for countries that have poor medical facilities and anti-malarial medicines will be provided to 33 countries.


In a bid to increase cultural exchanges, China will dispatch three hundred young volunteers w to English-speaking countries like Ethiopia and Zimbabwe and French-speaking countries over the next three years.


China also plans to lift the level of education in African nations by building a total of 100 primary schools before 2009, each of which will be able to accommodate 300 pupils.


The country has invested in 800 aid projects in Africa over the past 50 years, including 137 agricultural projects and 133 infrastructure projects, according to MOC statistics.


People across 43 African countries have been treated by medical teams comprising up to 16,000 Chinese personnel. In the past three years alone, China has trained more than 30,000 Africans.


"The aid was offered sincerely and selflessly to meet the needs of African countries. There were no political strings attached nor interference in internal affairs," said an official with the MOC.


The MOC said China also encourages Chinese companies, both private and state-owned, to work in Africa on industrial projects such as house construction, petrochemicals, electric power, transportation and telecommunications.


Last year, the turnover of Chinese enterprises in these areas amounted to US$9.5 billion, helping raise local employment, said the MOC.


Trade between China and Africa rose 40 percent to a record US$55.5 billion in 2006. China's exports to Africa increased 43 percent to US$26.7 billion, while imports were up 37 percent to US$28.8 billion.


To expand African imports, China has waived tariffs on 190 goods produced in 28 of the least developed African countries.


China's direct investment across 49 African countries reached US$6.64 billion last year.


(Xinhua News Agency January 30, 2007)

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