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Macron: Chinese investments threaten African sovereignty

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Macron: Chinese investments threaten African sovereignty

French President Emmanuel Macron has warned of risks to the sovereignty of African countries from China’s increasing economic presence as he began a visit to the east of the continent. Speaking in Djibouti, the French leader, who is touring East Africa, is looking to reassert French influence in a former colony on the Horn of Africa where China has built a military base and invested billions of dollars in infrastructure. The French leader, who will also visit Kenya and Ethiopia on his current tour, cautioned that conditions attached to Chinese loans could be dangerous in the long term. Reuters quoted him as saying: “China is a great world power and has expanded its presence in many countries, especially in Africa, in recent years. But what can look good in the short term … can often end up being bad over the medium to long term.

“I wouldn’t want a new generation of international investments to encroach on our historical partners’ sovereignty or weaken their economies.” China said last September it was helping Africa develop, not pile up debt, as the government pledged $60 billion to African nations and rejected criticism it is loading the continent with an unsustainable burden. In a reminder of Beijing’s growing presence, Macron was received at Djibouti’s new Chinese-built presidential palace. “Business is business. The Chinese invest here, while the French aren’t competitive,” a Djibouti government official said.

“The French are late, very late. And they have no money.” Djibouti’s president accused France in 2015 of abandoning Djibouti and investing very little there. Macron said French firms were ready to invest in Djibouti for the long term but a better business environment was needed to shore up the country’s attractiveness to investors. “France considered Djibouti for too long to be a territory that was won,” said a senior French diplomat based in the region. “But now the competition from China is fierce.” Chinese state banks have funded an infrastructurebuilding spree across Africa.

Many African leaders praise the Chinese for being willing to fund desperately needed projects to help kick-start their economies with less bureaucracy than multilateral institutions like the World Bank. But some Western nations have expressed concern that the loans could trap poor countries in debt, saddling them with poor quality projects and forcing them to hand over control of strategic assets used as collateral.

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