Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi played down concern over Africa’s debts with Beijing today as he arrived in Ethiopia at the start of a four-nation Africa tour.

China has funneled cash and loans into infrastructure projects across the continent, where many African leaders consider Beijing’s terms a better deal that than those offered by bilateral Western nations.

Wang initially sidestepped concerns — often made by Western nations — about whether the debt repayments were sustainable.

“Generally, debt in Africa has been a protracted issue left from history,” Wang said. “It didn’t come up today, still less is it caused by China.”

China is the single largest bilateral financier of infrastructure in Africa, exceeding the combined total of the African Development Bank (ADB), the European Union, International Finance Corporation, the World Bank and the Group of Eight (G8) countries.

“We know that in terms of financing, some African countries have encountered difficulties,” Wang added, speaking on the first leg of a tour that will also include The Gambia, Senegal and Burkina Faso.

“China attaches great importance to that, as Africa’s good friend and brother. We’re always ready to extend a good hand when African countries need it.”

Chinese foreign investment and construction between 2005 and 2018 totaled US$298 billion (RM1.2 trillion) in sub-Sahara Africa, according to data compiled by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a conservative research organization.

Both Wang and Ethiopian officials dismissed a suggestion that relations had cooled since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power last year with a sweeping reformist agenda.

The PM office, on its part, said the visit by Wang to Ethiopia, just at the beginning of the New Year, “bears testimony to the point that China is a true friend of the Ethiopian and African people”.

In Addis Abeba, Wang met Abiy whose office where he acknowledged “the longstanding relationship between the two countries and China’s immense contribution to Ethiopia”.

Prime Minister Abiy also highlighted that, in addition to continued support in infrastructure development, “the new frontier of a strengthened relationship needs to capitalize on introducing new forms of technology”. (Daily Monitor)