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Forum to strengthen China-Africa ties

The Chinese Ambassador to Botswana Mr. Liu Huanxing has urged the country to make the most of the opportunity to market itself to the outside world at the World Expo to be held in Shanghai next year.

It is projected the Shanghai Expo, in which Botswana and 50 other African countries will participate, will add over 90 million visitors from the world over to the city's 18 million inhabitants between May and October next year.

In an interview with BusinessToday yesterday, Liu said the Shanghai Expo was a perfect chance for Botswana's public and private companies to showcase to the world the numerous products and services offered in the country.

"This is an opportunity for Botswana to market its products such as tourism and beef and many others that are unique to this country," Liu said.

Since its inception in 1920,the World Expo has become an international event held every five years to promote scientific and cultural exchange among the world's citizens. It was last held in Aichii, Japan in 2005. The Shanghai Expo will be the first time the event is hosted by a developing country.

The Chinese government has invested over US$4.2 billion in the infrastructure of the show, including a pavilion for African countries. Liu, who was speaking ahead of the China-Africa Summit to be held in Egypt next week, said the Shanghai Expo would also be a good opportunity to further strengthen China-Africa cooperation.

Meanwhile, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao is expected to officially open the China-Africa Summit. Liu said that selected Africa heads of state would attend the summit and two ministers from each forum member state. The Chairman of the African Union Commission and the UN Secretary General will also attend.

"From Botswana, it is expected that the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Finance and Development Planning will attend the ministerial conference," said Liu. "The objective of the summit is to review the Forum since the last meeting in Beijing in 2006 as well as formulate a blueprint for the next three years."

In the first half of this year, China's direct investment in Africa, excluding in the financial sector, shot up 78.6 percent year-on-year to $875 million. Last year's total African investment was $5,49-billion, or about one-tenth of China's total overseas investment.

When Chinese premier Wen Jiabao visits Egypt for the summit, analysts and diplomats expect him to match the $5 billion in loans and credit offered then by President Hu Jintao in 2006, or to even exceed it. Africa's GDP is about $1.2 trillion, roughly one quarter the size of China's $4.4 trillion economy.

However, due to the financial crisis, trade volumes between China and Africa weakened by 30.5 percent in the first half of the year. Lower resource prices and declining demand from China had seen trade volumes flag to $37.07 billion in the first six months of 2009 from $48 billion in the first half of 2008.

In 2008, China-Africa trade reached $106.8, twice as much as that of 2006 and ten times that of 2000. Of the $106.8 billion, 0.8 billion was in the form of exports to Africa and $56 billion of imports from Africa.

(3 November 2009, Mmegi )

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