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China honoured in Central Africa

By Chris Simpson
BBC News, Bangui

A technician at a Guinea bauxite factory, file mage
Last week China signed a huge oil deal with Guinea as its Africa presence grows

The Central African Republic has hosted a Central African-Chinese friendship week in collaboration with the Chinese embassy in the capital, Bangui.

The embassy said it wanted local residents to know China in a more objective and constructive way.

China is an increasingly important commercial partner for the CAR, a former French colony.

It is recovering from a period of civil war and has been through a long period of economic decline.

Compared with countries like Sudan and Angola, the Central African Republic is a much less valuable economic partner for China.

China undeterred

There are no oilfields. The local diamond industry brings in little official revenue.

A weak state is frequently criticised by foreign donors for failing to exploit its resources and manage investment effectively.

But as elsewhere in Africa, China appears undeterred by an unpromising business climate and looks to be safely established here.

The CAR once had ties with Taiwan, but not any more.

China has provided schools, a hospital and housing here.

CHINA IN AFRICA
Chinese shopkeeper in Libreville, file image
China is Africa's second-biggest trading partner, behind US
Between 2002 and 2003 two-way trade doubles to $18.5bn
By 2008 trade tops $100bn - China exports $51bn, imports $56bn
Almost all imports come from oil-rich nations: Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria, the Republic of Congo, and Sudan
Sources: China Daily, Reuters, Council on Foreign Relations

There is a small, but visible Chinese business community and an easy market for Chinese products, particularly clothes and fashion accessories.

Burdened with huge infrastructural problems and a desperately weak economy, the CAR would like China to do more.

President Francois Bozize went on a second state visit to Beijing in September where he appealed for Chinese assistance in areas like energy, agriculture, forestry and mining.

Mr Bozize and his hosts signed a series of technical documents. China talked of a new era of bilateral co-operation.

The week of Central African-Chinese friendship in Bangui, tied loosely to the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic, was mainly about highlighting what China has already done for the CAR and what is has to offer in the future.

There were photographs of Chinese astronauts and public transport systems, Chinese films, free medical consultations and a table-tennis tournament.

The venue for many of these events was the 20,000-seat national stadium, built by the Chinese.



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