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China's Xi arrives in Africa with focus on trade ties
2013-03-26
Brief:During the tour of Africa, Chinese President Xi Jinping signed more than a dozen trade and cooperation deals with Tanzania and expects to build more economic relations with African countries.

China's President Xi Jinping (left) and his Tanzanian counterpart
Jakaya Kikwete talk on bilateral issues in Dar es Salaam.

Chinese President Xi Jinping began on Sunday a tour of Africa that underlines the continent's strategic importance to China both for its resources and as a market place, signing more than a dozen trade and cooperation deals with Tanzania.

Visiting, Tanzania, South Africa and Republic of Congo on his first trip abroad as president following a visit to Russia, Xi is expected to build on expanding economic relations that many Africans see as a healthy counterbalance to the influence of the West.

He might also address concerns in Africa that the continent is exporting raw materials while spending heavily to import finished consumer goods from the Asian economic powerhouse.

"He will be looking to tone down the feeling that China is just here to exploit resources. I think that is going to be his main job," James Shikwati, director of the Nairobi-based Inter Regional Economic Network think tank told.

The agreements with Tanzania included plans to co-develop a new port and industrial zone complex, a concessional loan for communications infrastructure and an interest free loan to the Tanzanian government.

On Monday Xi will deliver his first policy speech on Africa.

He will then head to South Africa for a summit of leaders of the world's major emerging economies, known as the BRICS, on Tuesday and Wednesday, and could endorse plans to create a joint foreign exchange reserves pool and an infrastructure.

The proposal underscores frustrations among emerging markets at having to rely on the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, which are seen as reflecting the interests of the United States and other industrialised nations.

The east African seaboard is hot property after huge gas discoveries in Tanzania and neighbouring Mozambique. Chinese oil company CNPC this month acquired a 20 per cent stake in the Eni Mozambique offshore project worth $US4.21 billion ($4.03 billion), linking one of the planet's biggest untapped gas resources with the fastest growing gas consuming country.

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