Chinese President Xi Jinping and Senegalese President Macky Sall held talks in Dakar, vowing to create a better future for the relations between two countries.

Senegalese President Macky Sall, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping, inspect the honour guard during a state visit in Dakar, Senegal, July 21, 2018.
Senegalese President Macky Sall, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping, inspect the honour guard during a state visit in Dakar, Senegal, July 21, 2018. (AP)

China's President Xi Jinping pledged during a visit to Senegal on Saturday to strengthen economic ties with Africa, a continent already awash with cheap Chinese loans in exchange for minerals and huge construction projects.

Xi arrived in Senegal on Saturday for a two-day visit to sign bilateral deals, the first leg of an Africa tour that will also take him to Rwanda and South Africa, the latter for a summit of BRICS countries: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

The Chinese president said that he appreciates Senegalese President Macky Sall's active response to China's Belt and Road Initiative and his support for China-Africa co-operation. 

China welcomes Senegal becoming the first West African country to sign co-operation agreements on building the Belt and Road and hopes to promote China-Senegal co-operation by seizing this opportunity, Xi added.

"Every time I come to Africa, I have seen the dynamism of the continent and the aspirations of its people for development," he said. "I am very confident in the future of Sino-African relations."

The visit was Xi's first trip to West Africa as president, but his fourth to Africa, he told a joint press conference with Sall after their third-ever meeting.

Further co-operation

For his part, Sall thanked China's support for Senegal's economic and social development and revitalisation plan. 

He said Senegal firmly upholds one-China principle, and is committed to deepening the comprehensive strategic co-operative partnership between the two countries and willing to enhance co-operation in infrastructure, water conservancy, industrialisation, produce processing, tourism, culture and sports.

China now does more trade with Africa than any other nation does, and its consistent overtures to the continent contrast sharply with the United States, whose President Donald Trump has shown little interest in it.

China's plan for developing world

Africa is in the midst of a boom in infrastructure projects, managed and cheaply financed by China, part of Xi's Belt and Road"initiative to build a transport network connecting China by land and sea to Southeast Asia, Central Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa.

China has pledged $126 billion for the plan, which has been praised by its supporters as a source of vital financing for the developing world. In Senegal, Chinese loans have financed a highway linking the capital Dakar to Touba, its second main city, and part of an industrial park on the Dakar peninsula.

China's ambassador to Senegal Zhang Xun was quoted by the local press in March as saying China had invested $100 million in Senegal in 2017.

"Senegal takes a positive view of China's role in Africa," Sall said at the news conference. "For its contribution to peace and stability and equally ... for the financing of budgets."

Loading up on Chinese debt

But critics say Africa is loading itself up on Chinese debt that it may struggle to repay, with estimates ranging in the tens of billions of dollars. That could leave African nations with no choice but to hand over controlling stakes in strategic assets to the Chinese state.

US officials have warned that a port in the tiny Horn of Africa nation of Djibouti, a host to major US and French military bases, could suffer this fate, although Djibouti rejects the fear.

In Guinea, meanwhile, one of the world's poorest nations, China is lending $20 billion to the government in exchange for aluminium ore concessions.

As well as trade and minerals, China has also seen Africa as a source of political support. Chinese diplomacy has, as of May this year, succeeded in getting every African country except Swaziland to break off diplomatic relations with Taiwan, which China sees as a renegade province. 

Source: Reuters