(GIN) – A Chinese loan of more than $100 million will help Ethiopia complete a major railway line linking the capital, Addis Ababa, to various regions of the country.
The project had been on the books for years but was frozen due to lack of funding.
China has been signing railway construction projects all around Africa, transforming the Asian giant into one of the most influential players on the continent. But in some cases the projects have run into obstacles.
With pressure applied by the U.S. and the IMF, a $9 billion deal signed between Beijing and Kinshasa shrank to $6 billion. Questions have also been raised over the disappearance of a $23 million signing bonus that Chinese companies were to have paid their Congolese counterparts.
Western critics say China is interested only in extracting Africa’s natural resources to feed its fast-growing economy, and cares little for African development, acting like the new colonial power on the continent.
But Chinese experts see a lingering “Cold War” mentality. “Is China buying cheap and selling pricey to qualify as a colonial power?” asks Shen Jiru, an expert with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. “Exactly the opposite – we are providing free-interest loans and aid, and we are a reliable backup for Africa’s economic development.”
Ethiopian President Meles Zenawi defended the railway deal. “It’s in their interest to spend tens of billions of dollars in Africa, he said, “and it’s in our interest to have access to those tens of billions of dollars.”