Trilateral Partnership: EU seeks to work with China in Africa

The European Union and China put aside their rivalry in Africa and will work together to develop infrastructure and ensure natural resources are well managed says news agency Reuters.

Europe faces tough competition from resource-hungry China, which has invested billions of dollars in securing raw materials and building infrastructure.

“Africa, China and the European Union should work together in a flexible and pragmatic way to identify and address a specific number of areas that are suitable for trilateral cooperation,” the European Commission said on Wednesday.

“The three partners can jointly develop common interests and discuss global challenges while pursuing their bilateral relations,” it said in a set of proposals to EU governments and lawmakers. The EU and China should start their cooperation in Africa with concrete projects and common strategies on infrastructure, as well as cooperate on peace and security capacity-building, the EU executive said.

“Infrastructure is the backbone of development, trade and investment: developing common strategies and improving synergies between Africa, the EU and China will help meet Africa’s enormous infrastructure needs and common objectives,” the EU executive said.

A report this week from Goldman Sachs economist Dambisa Moyo estimated that 12 key African countries alone would need over $1 trillion in infrastructure investment over the next 40 years.

CHINESE INVESTMENT SOARS

China, the world’s fourth largest economy and second-largest energy user, has massively stepped up investments in Africa, often offering to build roads in return for access to oil and minerals. It signed a $9 billion mining and infrastructure deal with the Democratic Republic of Congo this year, whereas the World Bank estimates its funding for roads, railways and power projects in Africa peaked at $1 billion a year between 2001-03.

Analysts expect the international financial crisis to dry up foreign investment in Africa and weaken its traditional links with the West, driving it even further towards China and other emerging markets. The European Commission suggests that China and the 27-nation EU should work together to ensure in Africa a “sustainable management of the environment and naturals resources, (which) is key to sustained growth, combating climate change and to mutual trade interests.”

It says the EU and China should work jointly with the African Union to fight climate change and encourage the use of renewable energy. It also proposes cooperation on raising productivity in the agricultural sector. Western critics accuse China of having little regard for governance and human-rights with a check-book diplomacy driven by its search for oil and minerals, that could plunge the poor continent back into a new round of unsustainable borrowing.

But some African leaders say China is a less intrusive partner than the EU and delivers on what it promises quickly. Africa, the EU and China should have joint meetings to coordinate their strategies, the EU executive says. The EU and China are respectively the first and the third commercial partners of, and investors in, Africa, the European Commission said.

Sino-African trade reached $74 billion in the first eight months of this year, up 62 percent from a year earlier. Trade between Africa and the EU reached 112 billion euros in the first five months of this year.

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