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Chinese investment positive for Africa, U.S. senate was told

11-02-2011 14:01 BJT

WASHINGTON, Nov. 1 (Xinhua) -- Chinese investment in Africa has had a positive impact on Africa in the long run, a U.S. senate committee was told on Tuesday.

"In terms of China's long-term investment in the continent, and its impact in the long term, I think I am going to basically give a positive response to that," David Shinn, former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia and Burkina Faso, testified at a hearing of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

"If the African countries don't have much-improved infrastructure, they are never going to improve their economies. They cannot continue at the level of what they were ten years ago in terms of infrastructure," he said.

"So in that sense, China has done them a favor. So I think across the board, the effort that China has done to invest in the continent...has generally been a plus."

Shinn said the Chinese people have invested heavily in infrastructure in Africa, because "that is precisely what the Africans have requested."

"Africans are requesting an improvement in the infrastructure at a time when the West has basically opted it out," he said, citing the "classic example" of Angola when its prolonged civil war ended at the beginning of this century.

He said at the time, Western countries showed "no interest" in helping Angola rebuild its infrastructure while China was the only country that offered to do so.

As China's presence in Africa grew in recent years, it was frequently subject to unfair criticism from the Western media which labeled the Chinese aid to Africa as acts of "neocolonialism" that undermine democracy and human rights on the continent.

However, Dr. Deborah Brautigam, a professor at American University, told the Senate committee that those accusations lacked foundation.

"There is no evidence across the continent that political rights and freedoms have declined in general between 2000 and the present," said Brautigam, who has done extensive research on China's activities in Africa.

"In countries where Chinese engagement is larger, there is also no evidence that there is any systematic impact on human rights, political liberties and freedoms," she said.

Noting that a lot of Africans have been employed by Chinese companies, the professor said, "This is again contrary to common wisdom that they don't hire Africans."

"The longer Chinese companies are present in Africa, the larger the portion of employees they hire tend to be Africans, because this makes economic sense for them," she said.

Brautigam also said that singling out China on issues like labor standards and corruption is "unhelpful" as China is still a developing country which has a lot in common with other rising economic powers such as India and Brazil.

Regarding reports accusing China of leading the "land grab" in Africa, Brautigam said, "What we are finding is that there is no evidence of very large Chinese engagement in Africa to grow food to ship back to China."

"I think ultimately Africans in the future have to pay for their health care in the long term. They are going to have to build up their business sectors. They are going to be able to tax them. They are going to be able to get the revenue," she said.

She argued that the Chinese approach, with a focus on infrastructure and business engagement, is moving toward that kind of future.

Editor:Wang Xiaomei |Source: Xinhua

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