African Development Bank boss defends China on increased lending to Africa

Concern about the abundance of Chinese lending to African nations is overblown, and the country is a good development partner for the world’s poorest continent, the head of the African Development Bank (AfDB) has said.

China this year surpassed the US and former colonial powers in Europe as the biggest source of funding to African nations.

In 2015, Africa received $12 billion (Sh1.2 trillion) in loans from China compared with $100 million (Sh10 billion) in 2000.

Still, critics have warned against African countries - like Zambia - becoming over-indebted or swapping future output of commodities in exchange for funds on overly favourable terms.

“Africa should not be afraid of China, its a very good learning experience for Africa, lifting 400 million people out of poverty,” Akinwumi Adesina, the AfDB head, said late on Tuesday in Johannesburg.

“African countries are mature enough to negotiate with China about their needs, which is to close infrastructure gaps.”

While the lender was discussing deals worth $40 billion (Sh4 trillion) at an investment conference in the South African city, it was pushing African countries to also seek other funding partners.

Governments should take care not to get involved in “asymmetrical negotiations” with China and to make sure environmental and labour concerns are addressed, but on balance the engagement with China is accelerating development, he said.

“Sometimes there is too much hullabaloo about it,” Adesina said.

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