Oil will be a big issue on the Chinese 
leader's Africa tour [EPA]

China's president is embarking on his third tour of Africa, taking in eight countries and signing a raft of energy, trade and aid deals. Hu Jintao's visit comes as Chinese companies are investing billions of dollars in African economies.

 

Which countries will Hu visit?

 

South Africa, Zambia, Liberia, Cameroon, Sudan, Namibia, Mozambique and the Seychelles. Previously, visiting Chinese leaders have received a warm welcome from many African governments who seek to improve their troubled economies.

 

Why is China so interested in Africa?

 

Oil - China's number one concern. With the prolonged crises in the Middle East and an economy to sustain that is averaging nine per cent growth a year, China needs vast supplies of energy and natural resources.

 

It is projected to depend on imported oil for 45 per cent of its energy needs by 2045. China is now in direct competition with the European Union, US and Japan in the race to lock-in oil supplies from relatively low-cost sources.

 

Africa is an important source of raw material such as aluminium, copper, nickel, iron ore and oil which caters to the enormous demand created by China's manufacturing sector. The continent is also a growing market for Chinese goods, including weapons.

 

How much is Chinese-African trade worth?

 

A four-fold jump brought two-way trade to $40bn in 2005 and it is expected to hit $100bn in three years. Chinese investments total $6bn and it has offered another $5bn as loans and credits over the next three years.

 

China has also pledged to double its aid to Africa under its oil-for-aid policy.

 

China is now Africa's third-largest trading partner behind the US and France.

 

How does Africa benefit?

 

A thriving economy, new infrastructure such as roads, schools, hospitals, bridges and offices, higher oil prices, tax breaks, arms supply and human resources training for thousands of Africans.

 

Chinese investments partly contributed to Africa's five per cent economic growth in 2005, the highest ever, while increased demands have pushed up oil prices.

 

China has also cancelled $10bn in bilateral debt from African countries.

 

Why is China's relationship with Sudan so controversial?

 

China has been accused of turning a blind eye to human rights abuses in Darfur - which the US has described as genocide - to secure long-term oil supplies. China bought about half of Sudan's oil exports in 2005, accounting for five per cent of its domestic needs.

 

China sees Africa as a growth market for its military hardware. It has sold Sudan's government $100m worth of fighter jets.

 

The US and the European Union have expressed concern over China's business ties with repressive governments and critics say China does not share the same concerns the US and European countries have over human rights violations by some African governments.

 

How extensive are China's oil interests in Africa?

 

It invested $175m mainly on oil exploration and infrastructure in the first 10 months of 2005, leading it to Nigeria, Angola, Sudan, Chad, Algeria, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea for oil supplies. China accounted for 40 per cent of total growth in global oil demand in the last four years.

 

It imported 38 million tonnes of crude oil from the continent in 2005 and has made large investments in oil and gas projects in countries such as Kenya, Angola and Nigeria.

Source: Agencies