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« Ivory Coast toxic waste case to be tried in Britain | Main | South Africa tries to curb Asia's abalone cravings »

February 05, 2007

China's Hu takes eight-nation tour to Namibia

Story Highlights
• Hu has used the tour to cement China's economic and political ties with Africa
• China was early backer of Namibian independence
• Namibia hopes to benefit from an influx of Chinese investment and tourists

POSTED: 8:58 a.m. EST, February 5, 2007

WINDHOEK, Namibia (AP) -- Chinese President Hu Jintao brought his eight-nation African tour Monday to Namibia, a sparsely populated, mineral-rich desert country which hopes to benefit from an influx of Chinese investment and tourists.

Drummers and dancers in traditional dress greeted Hu at the airport. Chinese and Namibian flags and photos of Hu and Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba decorated the main highway from Windhoek's airport in preparation for the 24-hour visit.

"I hope that my visit will enhance mutual understanding and trust, strengthen the bond of traditional friendship and advance the friendly relations and cooperation between China and Namibia," Hu said in a written statement.

Hu arrived from Zambia, where he inaugurated an economic cooperation zone designed to draw $800 million (615 million euro) in mining investment and create 60,000 jobs in the Copperbelt province.

Hu said the Copperbelt partnership was "a showcase for a higher, new level of China-Africa business cooperation."

Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa said the agreement would "change the face of the Copperbelt and, indeed, the Zambian economy in that our raw materials will now have chance to enjoy value addition of unimagined proportions."

Hu has used the tour -- which also included a stop in Sudan -- to cement China's increasing economic and political ties and its fast-growing role as a foreign donor throughout the continent.

In Windhoek, Hu was expected to have talks with Pohamba, meet Namibia's former president Sam Nujoma and attend a state banquet.

Pohamba, who became president in March 2005, has actively promoted cooperation with China and trade in the first 11 months of 2006 amounted to $240 million (185 million euros), an increase of 103 percent from the previous year.

Namibia, which has a population of only about 2 million people, is rich in diamonds and minerals such as uranium, zinc and cobalt.

It has a long-standing friendship with China, since the Asian country backed its struggle for independence, which it achieved in March 1990.

Nujoma visited China 13 times, and Pohamba has been twice, further cementing ties.

In December the Namibian government secured an 18.2 million Namibian dollar ($2.6 million; 2 million euros) interest-free loan from China for various national development projects.

This follows a 2005 interest-free loan of 44.9 million Namibian dollars ($6.3 million; 5 million euros) to implement small-scale industrial and farming projects.

Hu's visit to Windhoek is expected to focus on trade initiatives to help Namibia widen its industrial base; access for Namibian products into the Chinese market; and tourism. Namibia is becoming an increasingly popular destination for Chinese tourists.

The Beijing government has conducted a number of education and health projects, including financing primary schools in rural areas and exchange programs for Namibian students and Chinese professionals.

China has been involved in a number of construction projects such as the drilling of wells, the building of low-cost housing and a children's recreation center.

There has been an increasing number of Chinese enterprises operating in Namibia and Hu is expected to meet with Chinese business leaders before leaving on Tuesday for South Africa.

Posted by Publisher at February 5, 2007 01:50 PM

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