Chinese minister of commerce reaffirms focus on agriculture in Africa

October 2, 2011

Chen Deming 陈德铭, the minister of agriculture, told 21st Century Economic Herald 21世纪经济导报 that he spends his vacation in Africa every year. In line with earlier government statements, but adding some new elements, he said China will prioritize investment in agriculture, manufacturing, finance, trade and environmental protection in Africa. He also said it will accelerate the construction of “economic cooperation zones” and concentrate financing in large-scale infrastructure projects. Agriculture will be the focus of aid, through the establishment of demonstration centres, in particular in the four cotton-producing countries in Northwest Africa where the centres will build up manufacturing chains from cotton to garment. Chen explicitly recommended African governments to learn from China’s example in establishing special economic zones.

The article notes that this is in line with World Bank President Robert Zoellick’s plea that China shift some of its low-value-added manufacturing to Africa.

Chen further offered China’s help in drawing up master plans for regional integration in Africa, including the linking of electricity and transport grids.(Several Chinese commentaries recently have suggested that China focus on exporting infrastructure built to its own specifications, as this will strengthen its economic and political position in the future.)