Concern Over China's Role in Africa `Hullabaloo,' AfDB Head Says

(Bloomberg) -- Concern about the abundance of Chinese lending to African nations is overblown, and the country is a good development partner for the world’s poorest continent, the head of the African Development Bank said.

China this year surpassed the U.S. and former colonial powers in Europe as the biggest source of funding to African nations. In 2015, Africa received $12 billion in loans from China compared with $100 million in 2000. Still, critics have warned against African countries -- like Zambia -- becoming over-indebted or swapping future output of commodities in exchange for funds on overly favorable terms.

“Africa should not be afraid of China, its a very good learning experience for Africa, lifting 400 million people out of poverty,” Akinwumi Adesina, the AfDB head, said late on Tuesday in Johannesburg. “African countries are mature enough to negotiate with China about their needs, which is to close infrastructure gaps.”

While the lender is discussing deals worth $40 billion at an investment conference in the South African city, it’s pushing African countries to also seek other funding partners. While governments should take care not to get involved in “asymmetrical negotiations” with China and to make sure environmental and labor concerns are addressed, on balance the engagement with China is accelerating development, he said.

“Sometimes there is too much hullabaloo about it,” Adesina said.

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