World

China plans to loan $20b to African countries

BEIJING — President Hu Jintao said Thursday that ­China would lend $20 billion to African governments for infrastructure and agriculture in the next three years, in a speech to a gathering of African leaders.

The loans outlined by Hu, which doubled the amount ­offered at the last such conference, in 2009, signaled that China was pressing ahead with aid programs in African nations with abundant energy and mineral resources but with more focus on grass-roots projects.

China’s aid to Africa has expanded in the past decade as the continent has become a major source of oil from Sudan and Angola and copper from Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. But its projects — roads, pipelines, and ports — have focused on benefiting China’s extractive industries, not African people, critics say. The infrastructure is generally built with Chinese labor.

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China has been criticized for offering aid without conditioning it on human-rights performance or governance.

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The president of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, praised China’s approach, saying it was preferred to Africa’s experience with Europe. ‘‘We are particularly pleased that in our relationship with China, we are equals and that agreements entered into are for mutual gain.’’

He also said: ‘‘Africa’s commitment to China’s development has been demonstrated by supply of raw materials, other products, and technology transfer. This trade pattern is unsustainable in the long term.’’

Hu said China would train 30,000 Africans, offer 18,000 scholarships, and send 1,500 medical personnel to Africa.