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China's investment in infrastructure key to Africa's development: experts

By Ronald Ssekandi, Yuan Qing (Xinhua)    10:17, February 24, 2015

KAMPALA, Feb. 23 (Xinhua) -- Africa is benefiting from China's investment in infrastructure in the region as road and railway development coupled with enough power are key pillars in unlocking the continent's economic potential, experts said.

In a recent interview with Xinhua, Elly Twineyo, a local economist and author of a book "Why Africa Fails" said most of the aid Africa gets from the West is consumption aid and goes into things like building capacities of human resource, governance and writing policies.

"The Chinese aid is going into infrastructural development which is a long-term investment that will have a big impact," he said.

"Once you have built it (infrastructure), then our traders, our business people, tourist can get better roads. Our factories will not work below minimum because there is enough electricity," Twineyo added.

Local economists argued that Africa in its renewed economic ties with China, should focus on development aid.

"If African leaders could organize themselves, they would benefit more from China than they did from West," said Isaac Shinyekwa, acting head of department of Trade and Regional Integration at local policy thank tank Economic Policy Research Center (EPRC).

Transport and energy development are critical to the continent' s economic development. According to Shinyekwa, lack of a proper transport network and inadequate power generation has limited the continent's foreign direct investment attractions.

While industrialization is critical to the economic development of countries, many factories in Africa operate below capacity because of lack of adequate power. Those which run on diesel generated power end up increasing their costs of production which makes their products unattractive because of the high cost.

"When you look at countries that have developed, infrastructure is key. We need the roads to move our goods. We need the railway line to cut down the cost of doing business. From here to Mombasa is more costly to transport than from there to Europe," Shinyekwa said.

Chinese companies are busy deep in Africa building the continent's transport and energy infrastructure. In East Africa, China is financing the development of a Standard Gauge Railway to run from the Kenyan seaport of Mombasa to the capital Nairobi, expecting also to connect neighboring countries like Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan.

Experts believe a connected modern railway system in East Africa is important for the region to reduce expensive transport costs and enhance the region's trade competitiveness.

China is also constructing hydropower dams in Uganda, Ethiopia and other parts of the continent in a bid to address the energy gap that is partly stifling industrial development on the continent.

"The Chinese give roads, they give power, that is the form of aid which Africa wants now," Twineyo added.

Twineyo said while Chinese aid is critical to the Africa's development, the continent should start exiting aid and preferring trade. He argued that Africa's capacity should be built to be able to trade at the same level as China and other world economic powers.

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said early this month that it was crucial for Uganda, Africa and China to work and mutually support each other on issues of investments and markets. He said that emphasis should be put on cooperation in production, purchasing, markets and transporting of finished products.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Editor:Hongyu,Bianji)

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