U.S. – Africa Business Forum – New York City
President Barack Obama spoke at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum at The Plaza Hotel in New York, Sept. 21, 2016. Addressing forum participants, Obama said Africa is "home to some of the fastest-growing economies in the world."
While there may be conflicts, poverty and disease in Africa, President Barack Obama says the broader trajectory of the continent is unmistakable: “Africa is on the move."
At the U.S.-Africa Business Forum in New York, Obama said Africa is "home to some of the fastest-growing economies in the world and a middle class projected to grow to more than a billion customers - an Africa of telecom companies and clean-tech startups and Silicon savannahs, all powered by the youngest population anywhere on the planet.”
Seeking trade partnerships
Obama told the business forum that everywhere he travels in Africa, “from Senegal to South Africa, Africans insist they do not just want aid, they want trade. They want partners, not patrons.”
And that is what the forum, hosted by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker was all about - helping investors and entrepreneurs from both continents connect, as Obama explained: “This is a U.S.-Africa business forum. This is not charity. All of you should be wanting to make money, and create great products and great services, and be profitable, and do right by your investors. But the good news is, in Africa right now, if you are doing well, you can also be doing a lot of good.”
Obama said during his eight years as President, he has sought to transform the relationship between the U.S. and Africa to one of equal partners. He said this is his last U.S.-Africa Business Forum as President, but he will likely be back as a private citizen.
Apart from increased private investment, the U.S. government has also expanded its presence and economic engagement in Africa
Since 2008, the Commerce Department has doubled its presence on the continent, opening new offices in Angola, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Mozambique, expanding its presence in Ghana, and re-establishing a presence at the African Development Bank.
Made in Africa Beneficiary of AGOA
Next time you pick up sporting gear or a pair of jeans in a U.S. mall, do check the label. It may have been made in Lesotho, a small, mountainous and land-locked country completely surrounded by South Africa, with a population of around two million.
Lesotho is a beneficiary of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which allows over 6,400 products from eligible sub-Saharan African countries to enter the U.S. market duty-free. The country has made big strides in the garment industry with U.S. exports estimated at US$330 million in 2015, against US$140 million in 2000. Today, according to the Lesotho Textile Exporters Association, about 80% of Lesotho's textile and garment exports go to the U.S. With 44,000 employees, the garment industry is the country’s largest private sector employer.
There are other ‘Made in Africa’ success stories that have emerged since AGOA was introduced in 2000 and extended by 10 years in September 2015. According to the 2016 AGOA report released by the Office of the United States Trade Representative, non-oil exports to the United States under AGOA nearly tripled from $1.4 billion in 2001 to $4.1 billion in 2015. Automobiles from South Africa and apparel from Kenya, Lesotho, Mauritius, and Swaziland were the leading exports.
The gains from AGOA are undeniable, despite criticisms that the agreement favors petroleum products and that it excludes some agricultural products in which Africans have a comparative advantage. There have also been concerns that the export of Africa’s agricultural products to the United States is made even more difficult by complex health and food safety regulations. This, however, has not stopped bolder, export-ready, African countries from capturing shares in the U.S. market. In July, for instance, Namibia became the first African country to be eligible to export boneless (not ground) raw beef products to the US.
A key challenge for Africa will be to ensure that its industries that have thrived under AGOA do not collapse, that the thousands of jobs created in the automobile and automobile parts, apparel, fruit and nut, cocoa, footwear, and flower industries are sustained and continue to grow beyond 2025.
This will demand that Africa strengthens its skills base and capacity to compete. Failure to do so could see competitors such as Vietnam erode its growing market share in especially textiles and apparel should the United States ratify the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. The US textile and apparel market is estimated at US$350 billion. Africa, despite its large potential, supplies a paltry one per cent of this. A challenge for the continent is use the next nine years up the end of AGOA in 2025 to build competitive industries in the sector. A country that could emerge as key player is Ethiopia.
A 2015 McKinsey survey of 40 global chief procurement officers in the apparel industry, for the first time named Ethiopia as a possible global sourcing destination. Like with many other African countries, the challenge for Ethiopia is to shift from being of the world’s leading sourcing options to becoming a priority.
For responsive countries, AGOA has provided invaluable lessons that Africans can use to stimulate the growth of their export industries and seize market share elsewhere. It has also helped enhance intra-African trade by enabling producers in different countries to create new value chains that deliver mutual benefit. Botswana, for instance, now exports leather to South Africa where it is processed into upholstery for luxury car exports to the United States.
Meanwhile, the African Development Bank (ADB.org) will continue to play its part by building infrastructure to improve Africa’s competitiveness in U.S. markets. This will include promotion of regional integration that enhances trade and skills for greater global competitiveness. Equally important, within Africa is the creation of solutions for export-oriented small and medium enterprise (SME) to help bridge the unmet demand for trade finance in Africa, currently estimated at US$ 120 billion. Work in this direction is already well underway. Established in February 2013 the Bank’s Trade Finance Program (TFP) has already supported more than 85 domestic banks in 27 African countries, catalyzing approximately US$3.4 billion of trade in vital sectors such as agriculture, manufacturing and construction and energy. More than 60% of the transactions supported are on account of SMEs. Furthermore, the Bank’s emphasis on regional value chains in its “Industrialize Africa” strategy recognizes the opportunities that anchor industries in one country can provide to industries in neighboring countries.
African governments are aware of the challenges. At the September 2016 Ministerial AGOA Forum, African trade ministers recognized the urgent need to plan ahead. They committed to the creation of a task force to outline strategies for US-Africa trade and investment relations beyond 2025. This is a good start. Now, the clock is ticking and the bell signaling the end of AGOA privileges will soon resonate across Africa. We must be ready when it rings.
The Routes Africa 2016 Meetings
Promise of Africa’s Open Sky
Conference report by R. S. Mracký – The African Times/USA Editorial Board Director
The just concluded Routes Africa 2016 airline industry meetings hosted in Tenerife, Canary Islands, the importance of Africa’s aviation to the growth of the Continent was made very clear.
In comparison to other regions of the world Africa realizes the smallest percentage of the world air travel market - however the industry’s importance to the overall economic development of Africa is one of the more important aspects of its economic growth and future.
Africa currently accounts for only 2.2% share of the world market (79.5 million passengers, this an increase of 1.8% compared to region’s passengers in 2014).
To get the full overview of the airline business of Africa you must add Africa’s overseas air arrivals which total about 90 million. Of these 34 percent, about 31 million flyers, make an indirect journey to get to their Africa destination, primarily via connecting hub airports – Dubai, London, Frankfurt, Istanbul and in most cases via non-Africa carriers.
Africa does have its own legacy carriers that fly the overseas routes – most notably, the Ethiopian Airlines, South African Airways, Royal Air Moroc, EgyptAir and Arik Air and their international passenger numbers are included in the above totals.
Another important revenue and economic development service to Africa is air freight – movement of goods to both the African and overseas markets. Currently continental Africa’s air freight traffic, compared with world traffic stands at 1.5% of the world total. It would seem that the industry needs to address this incredibly important service and use it as a more pronounced leverage with individual governments and authorities for achieving the economic targets of Agenda 2063.
Against these numbers the major topic or “how to” of the the Routes Africa Strategy presentations and meetings was the need for open skies, liberalization and connectivity – discussion and developmental concepts that reflect the vision outlined by the African Union’s (AU) Agenda 2063, as well in the 1999 Yamoussoukro Decision, which called for the liberalization and open sky policy to be enacted by all the African states.
Interestingly and concurrent to the Routes Africa meetings in Tenerife were the announcements of the no-visa requirements by Ghana for visitors from any AU country, and the AU announcements and preparations for the introduction of the new all-Africa e-passports – developments which would suggest a more open Africa boarders and one would assume its skies.
In terms of the airline industry the all-Africa passport premise and promise will need to be matched by every one of the AU 54 member nations handling of their open sky and airline policies – in the spirit of “open skies” and liberalization envisioned, and agreed to in the Yamoussoukro Decision.
As one of the Routes Africa speakers reminded the attending industry leaders: “The slow implementation of the Yamoussoukro Decision on the part of individual countries continues to be an Achilles’ heel for the industry, inhibiting its ability to meet growing needs of the Continent.”
And as Raphael Kuuch, IATA VP for Africa stated: “The Yamoussoukro Decision was an era ahead of its time. We were actually pioneers with the liberalization, but our airlines and governments were not prepared to deliver on the aspirations.”
Interestingly, this was also emphasized by Hon. Dr. Mzembi, the Chairman of the Commission for Africa, at the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), who in Washington DC, at working group meetings with Africa Travel Association (ATA) on the future of tourism in Africa, repeatedly emphasized “open skies and open borders” as a key way to increase tourism to Africa and within the Continent. In addition to the e-passport, he envisions a kind of “African Schengen visa,” allowing for more open travel between African countries by overseas visitors.
The all-Africa passports will definitely boost the Continent’s socioeconomic development, reducing trade barriers and allow people, ideas, goods, services and capital to flow freely across borders, however this needs to be matched and made practical by having the airline industry able to assist in opening the boarders of Africa’s 54, or actually 57 nations.
All the current developments and the points raised and discussed during the Routes Africa 2016, would lead any observer to realize that Africa’s airline industry needs to be allowed its growth and be viewed as an important economic development tool in realizing the Agenda 2063 vision.
AFDB President’s Warning of Africa's Rising Debt
As a more subdued African Development Bank (AfDB) annual meeting opened in Lusaka, Zambia, the multilateral lenders’ President issued a warning about mounting debt levels across Africa.
“Indebted Africa cannot be a rising Africa,” said AfDB President Akinwumi Adesina during the opening plenary, surrounded by Presidents including Zambia’s Edgar Lungu and Rwanda’s Paul Kagame.
During the heady days of the commodities super cycle, many African sovereigns tapped international debt markets for the first time issuing some $26bn in Eurobonds.
However, today rising interest rates and increasing fiscal pressures mean debt servicing – especially when dollar denominated – is becoming increasingly burdensome.
“African economies are not unravelling, they remain resilient,” Mr. Adesina asserts. However, he warns that they “must not get into a debt crisis, [having] rushed to global debt markets to issue bonds”.
Global headwinds are a factor, including the commodity price slump, China’s slowdown and climate shocks. The meeting’s host, Zambia, has been hard hit by low copper prices and the El Nino drought conditions that have put the food security of millions at risk.
Electricity shortages and high government expenditure on subsidies have not helped matters.
Beginning in 2010, Zambia borrowed some $3bn on international markets, much of it going to finance the budget deficit which grew to 8 percent of GDP in 2015. The currency, the kwacha, has lost nearly half its value since mid-2014, while yields rose over 12 percent in the year to May.
This precarious fiscal situation has pushed the government into negotiations with the IMF for a loan, following similar initiatives by Ghana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
However, program with closely contested presidential elections in Zambia scheduled for September, a deal is unlikely before the results are in.
Government officials claim a deal is possible by December if the incumbent, president Edgar Lungu, is re-elected. Analysts do not expect a deal before Q1 2017 at the earliest.
Rising debt loads in Africa bears uncomfortable echoes to the era before debt forgiveness programs were initiated in the early 2000s. Then, many African countries found themselves facing insurmountable piles of debt while cut off from international creditors.
Debt forgiveness, high commodity prices and China’s demand for raw materials all came together to create what Oxford academic Paul Collier calls “the benevolent decade” in Africa.
That era now seems to be over, and the return of the IMF to the region is a sign of the increasingly precarious fiscal situations facing many African countries.
“We are not at the levels that we experienced in the late twentieth century at all, it is not crisis time yet. But it is the right time to look forward and say how do we make sure we avoid getting back to that,” says Henri-Bernard Solignac-Lecomte, head of EMEA at the OECD Development Centre.
“This is where, unfortunately, better management of the windfall revenues in the good years would have paid off,” he adds.
Mr. Adesina, for his part, recommends that countries look more seriously at leveraging domestic resources including remittances, sovereign wealth funds, and domestic tax revenues to help avoid the debt trap.
He also calls for leveraging finance from private equity funds and ending illicit financial flows out of the region. The UN Economic Commission for Africa estimates some $50bn per year flows out of Africa through illicit channels, shrinking tax revenues and dwarfing aid.
Africa Loses More Money to Illicit Financial Flows Than It Receives in Foreign Aid
This is an analysis and report by Lily Kuo as published by Quartz Africa
A huge trove of leaked documents from a Panamanian law firm that’s a major player in offshore tax havens has revealed the secret companies controlled by members of the African elite, from Kenya’s deputy chief of justice and Rwanda’s former intelligence chief to the son of former United Nations general secretary Kofi Annan.
Every year, Africa loses between $30 and $60 billion to illicit financial flows (pdf, p. 34), according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). A “major enabler” of these flows, UNECA says, are offshore tax havens like Panama, the British Virgin Islands, Seychelles, and other jurisdictions that happen to feature prominently in the “Panama Papers” leak.
There are legitimate uses for privacy-shielding offshore companies, and the firm from which the leak sprung, Mossack Fonseca, says it has operated “beyond reproach in our home country and in other jurisdictions where we have operations.”
Africa’s losses to illegal financial flows negate the impact of economic growth on the continent. (Indeed, these illicit activities appear to rise in lock-step with economic growth.) They also cancel out the amount of foreign aid the continent receives—the OECD estimates that illicit financial flows from Africa are three times the amount of official development assistance it receives. The Tax Justice Network, an activist research group, says these flows are 10 times the amount of aid (pdf, p. 64).
For the past year, journalists led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, acting on the leak first received by the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, have been analyzing millions of documents from Mossack Fonseca that link 72 current and former heads of state to shell companies and other obscure offshore vehicles.
Rwanda and Ethiopia Inventing a New Africa
Rwanda and Ethiopia have suggested new development models they believe can help Africa break away from the prescribed Western models.
Leaders of the two countries and those from other states agreed that Africa should stop being bullied into "accepting policies that misrepresent us and do us harm in the end."
Speaking at a high-level inaugural symposium organized by the 'Meles Zenawi Foundation' in partnership with African Development Bank, on August 2015, Rwanda's President Paul Kagame said that time has come for Africa to stop being "a place where experiments are being carried out."
The discussion, under the theme "The African Democratic Developmental State", was inspired by ideals from late Ethiopian Prime Minister, Meles Zenawi, who believed that Africans needed to shape their own destiny by "doing things their own way."
He believed that: "In spite of the monstrous homogeneity in policy stance that we have allowed ourselves to be shackled with, there is some space for policy experimentation and diversity commensurate with our diverse circumstances."
Current Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn said that, "We must have a new beginning for Africa."
The dialogue pondered on perceived contradictions between Zenawi's philosophy of 'developmental state' and democracy.
"They are actually mutually reinforcing – sustainable socio-economic development gives rise to greater democracy. Political rights can best be exercised and enjoyed in a climate of growing prosperity and improved quality of life," Kagame said.
Kagame told over 200 participants attending the symposium in Rwanda's capital Kigali that, "Those who tell us the state is bad for us mean that they will fill the void and become the state and run the markets."
Ghana's Vice-President, Kwesi Amissah-Arthur attended the event, which was moderated by Former US State Department Secretary for African Affairs, Jendayi Frazer.
The outgoing African Development Bank President, Dr. Donald Kaberuka, said that "nobody should dictate the continent...no one knows how development happens."
Kaberuka said that from 1980 the World Bank forced Africa to take up the dead paradigm of eliminating governments from the development process, but it's time "every country decides what works for it."
For Africa to achieve its aspirations, Kagame said, it "must stop taking lessons from the outside."
"The problem is people provide the definition, thinking of their own interests, not where it will be exercised."
Climate Finance Readiness in Africa
The African Development Bank-managed Africa Climate Change Fund (ACCF) was established in 2014 with a EUR 4.725 million contribution from Germany with the objective to scale up climate development in African countries by increasing the mobilization of international climate finance. It provides support for activities ranging from strengthening capacity of African institutions to access and manage climate finance, to developing impactful projects and programs that will attract climate finance from the Green Climate Fund and other sources. According to the Secretariat of the ACCF, there are 20 projects in the ACCF's pipeline that are currently undergoing appraisal, and there are plans attract further funding and scale the ACCF up to a multi-donor trust fund.
ACCF initial two projects include:
A grant of USD 404,000 from the ACCF to support the government of Mali in developing strategic programs for a climate resilient and green economy in two key sectors, to elaborate a strategy for financing its transition to green and climate resilient growth, and to attract private sector investment in this transition. It will furthermore strengthen the capacity of the Malian Agency for Environment and Sustainable Development (AEDD), the executing agency for the project, in the management of climate finance.
A second grant of USD 420,000, to be executed by the AfDB, will enable up-to-date information on climate change vulnerabilities, greenhouse gas emissions, and opportunities for climate change adaptation and mitigation to be produced for 54 African countries, tailored to the specific information needs of each country. It will further develop a global platform for sharing and updating the information in the profiles, and provide training for staff of economic and planning departments in African countries to understand and apply the data. The project will equip African countries with strengthened data and capacity to strategically plan for long-term climate change interventions and to access international climate finance.
Both projects are aligned with the African Development Bank's Strategy 2013-2022 which focuses on the twin objectives of inclusive and green growth across the continent, as well as with its Climate Change Action Plan 2011-2015. “The approval of the first two projects marks a significant milestone for the ACCF, which is an important instrument in helping African countries to access climate finance to enable a transition to climate-resilient, low carbon development,” said Alex Rugamba, Director of the Bank's Department of Energy, Environment and Climate Change.
By Dan Keeler
Perceptions of poverty and corruption have long dogged sub-Saharan African countries looking for investment. But as growing interest in Africa’s economies has morphed into a frenzy of investment, a new perception gap is appearing.
Sub-Saharan Africa has long suffered from an image problem. Many companies and potential investors have perceived it as fraught with hazards such as corruption, the risk of nationalization, loose legal systems and ongoing civil conflicts. Even now, according to a recent EY (Ernst & Young) survey of global companies, more than half of the companies that are not currently operating in sub-Saharan Africa consider it to be the least attractive region in the world to do business.
But those companies are increasingly out of step with the economic reality. A substantial proportion of the world’s fastest-growing economies are in sub-Saharan Africa, and many of the countries in the region are making considerable progress in deepening democracy, building credible institutions and solid, consistent regulatory environments, and enhancing governance standards in both the public and corporate arenas. Its leading economies weathered the financial crisis far better than the developed markets, and they are less exposed to the headwinds that are impeding global growth.
Those companies that have seen the potential of the region, however, are dedicated acolytes. The same EY survey, for example, found that nearly 90% of companies that are already operating in Africa view it as the most attractive region in which to be expanding at present.
A recent tour of Africa-focused conferences and events told the same story, with standing-room-only auditoria packed with potential investors eager to take part in the region’s explosive growth. Organizers of one sold-out event in New York early last year describe in detail how they had to fight back angry latecomers who sought to crash the gate.
A quick look at some of the numbers shows clearly why those companies already active in Africa believe it presents such a compelling story. According to consultancy Bain, more than 70% of the top 50 global consumer goods companies are already active in Africa’s consumer markets. “For 20% of this top 50, Africa already represents more than 5% of their global sales…and most in that group also enjoy strong profitability,” the consultant notes.
Africa is already home to around a billion people and will soon have the largest working-age population of any region in the world. The continent’s real economic growth over the past decade has averaged between 5% and 10% a year.
Over the coming five years, the IMF forecasts that sub-Saharan Africa’s growth as a whole will range between 5.5% and 6% a year—compared with the developed world’s, which the IMF sees hovering between 2% and 2.6%.
Much of the enthusiasm for investing in sub-Saharan Africa is founded on the conviction that there is huge, untapped potential for domestic economic growth and that there is a rapidly swelling middle class that will drive up domestic consumption. Research by the World Bank, for example, shows middle-class consumption was responsible for more than 60% of the continent’s overall GDP in 2012. Bain’s 2012 report on Africa predicts that the continent’s middle class will double in size by 2020.
The consumption clearly is there, and in some cases is remarkably buoyant. According to market research firm Euromonitor, for example, Nigeria is among the world’s 10 biggest markets for Hennessy cognac. But, while the research makes inspiring reading for companies looking to sell to this growing middle class, it may also be overstating the potential. The World Bank’s definition of middle class in Africa is anyone earning from $2 to $20 a day. Although those people may be able to enjoy some level of discretionary spending, they probably won’t be buying air conditioners or washing machines any time soon, even if there were a reliable electricity supply to power them—which in much of Africa there is not.
“There is a disconnect between the reality on the ground and external perception,” says Samir Gadio, an emerging markets strategist covering Africa for Standard Bank. “For a long time people were extremely negative about Africa. Now it appears we’re shifting in the other direction. We have a big pool of investors keen to get involved, but it’s not clear that they’ve done their homework.”
Helping to lift the enthusiasm is the liquidity being pumped into global markets by the US Federal Reserve and other major central banks. The torrent of easy money has driven yield-hungry investors to pile into emerging- and frontier-markets bond issues, such as Zambia’s 2012 Eurobond, which raised $750 million at a yield of just over 5.6%, and Gabon’s recent $1.5 billion issue, which launched at 6.375%. The low yields these countries are able to offer—and the level of investor enthusiasm—illustrate how much perceptions of Africa have changed. They also demonstrate, says Gadio, that there may be “a lot of people investing without a clear understanding of what they’re investing in.”
The excitement over sub-Saharan Africa is driving up equity values too, to the point that at least one analyst, HSBC’s John Lomax, is now urging investors to be cautious of potential overvaluations in Kenya, one of the region’s most liquid markets.
Mark Florman, who helped musician Bob Geldof set up 8 Miles, an Africa-focused private equity firm, several years ago, recognizes the hype but believes it may be helpful: “When we started 8 Miles, we were struggling to find investors. Now every PE firm is trying to launch an Africa strategy,” says Florman. “But sub-Saharan Africa still needs investment, particularly from large companies. Capital is flowing into the venture capital and private equity funds, but if you look at the opportunities there for the Fortune 500, there are many—and they would be welcomed.”
Tim Drinkall, portfolio manager of Morgan Stanley’s frontier markets fund, believes there is some justification for the excitement about Africa: “There is a bit of a blind enthusiasm for Africa,” he agrees, “But the future looks brighter now than it’s probably ever been.” He cautions, however, that “sustainable longer-term growth never happens in a straight line. There will be setbacks. If you’re trying to start a business there, you have to make sure you’re managing the risks.”
Key to managing those risks is understanding the individual nature of each country.
As Tom Speechley, a senior partner with private equity firm Abraaj, which has invested around $1 billion in Africa over the past decade, explains: “The sub-Saharan Africa story is very nuanced. For example, it is widely quoted, correctly, that many of the fastest-growing economies in the world are in Africa, and yet we would not actually recommend investing in several of those countries today, whether because of lack of scale, lack of transparency, difficulty in doing business or otherwise.”
Florman asserts that the nub of the problem is the word “Africa.” He says outsiders’ tendency to view the continent as a single entity is hindering them from establishing a clear understanding of the real opportunities—and risks—there.
The key to finding and successfully realizing the potential of Africa’s fast-growing economies is to focus on the details. As Abraaj’s Speechley points out: “If you’ve done your homework and you partner with the right people, you’ll be fine.”
Russians Ask for Cote d'Ivoire Business
Along with investors from the Gulf, South Korea, and China, Russian business interests have started flocking to Ivory Coast. GPB Global Resources is the latest company staking out the country.
GPB Global Resources, a subsidiary of Russia's Gazprombank, is thinking long term in Ivory Coast. In July, the company's managing director Boris Ivanov sent Sergey Baranov, his development chief and head of natural resources, to Abidjan to lobby the government with a view to obtaining mining and oil contracts further down the line. Baranov did not meet President Alassane Ouattara but sat down with several senior members of the government Jean-Claude Brou, the Minister for Mining and Industry. Baranov also made contact with the SODEMI, to submit requests for licenses, as well as with officials at the Ministry of Energy and Oil, headed by Adama Toungara.
GBS already has two gold exploration licenses in the area of Mount Trou, at Guiglo, in the west of Ivory Coast, via its local subsidiary GPB Ivory Coast Minerals Sarl, which was founded in 2013. The company is also working to help bring other Russian companies close to Gazprombank to Ivory Coast, particularly in infrastructure and construction sectors. GBP Global Resources is the third Russian company to have planted a flag in Ivory Coast after the oil company Lukoil and Confiseries Unies Afrique SA, which is in cocoa.
China Earmarks Over Half
of Its Foreign Aid to Africa
China will earmark more than half of all of its foreign aid to Africa and attach no preconditions, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang announced during his just concluded Africa visit. .
"China will, as always, continue to increase its assistance to Africa in both quantity and quality to the extent of its ability, ensuring that more than half of its foreign aid will go to Africa," Li told a World Economic Forum on Africa in the Nigerian capital.
Hailing Africa as an important pole in world politics, a new pole in global economic growth and a colorful pole in human civilization, Li said that the development of Africa will make the world more democratic, stable, dynamic and colorful, and is conducive to world peace, development and progress.
"It would be better to have more poles than less in the world political and economic landscape," he said.
The Chinese Premier pledged that Beijing will help Africa develop the networks of high-speed railways, expressways and regional airports, saying infrastructure construction, transportation in particular, should be a priority in achieving inclusive growth.
Referring to an African "dream of the century" depicted by African Union (AU) Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to connect African capitals with high-speed railways, Li said China stands ready to help with the mega project.
China is ready to carry out all-dimensional cooperation with Africa on high-speed railways, including their planning, designing, construction and management, Li said.
China is also willing to set up a high-speed railway research and development center in Africa, he added.
Li stressed that cooperation between China and African countries is based on good faith and openness, saying his country is willing to share its advanced and applicable technologies and management expertise without reservation.
China is also ready to step up collaboration with international organizations and relevant countries to make a joint contribution to Africa's development, he added.
Li also pledged to strengthen China-Africa cooperation in green and low carbon development and make sure the Chinese enterprises operating in Africa fulfill their social responsibilities.
He stressed that China will never attach political conditions to its assistance to Africa and will never use its aid programs to interfere in the internal affairs of African countries.
Li also assured the audience that China continues to enjoy solid foundation for sustained economic growth despite recent slowdown.
China will give more attention to the quality and efficiency of growth and make growth more inclusive and sustainable, the premier said.
"We have the confidence and capability to meet the expected growth target of around 7.5 percent for this year and maintain a medium-high growth for a fairly long period of time to come," he said.