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China Pledges Food, Funds to Key Horn of Africa Partner Ethiopia

  • Beijing ‘considering’ sending more emergency aid to the drought-stricken region, Qin Gang tells his Ethiopian counterpart
  • Chinese foreign minister also reiterates support for the peace process and reconstruction of the war-torn country

China plans to send more emergency food aid to the Horn of Africa and will also fund the reconstruction of Ethiopian infrastructure destroyed in the Tigray war, Foreign minister Qin Gang said in Beijing on Thursday.

In a meeting with Ethiopia’s deputy prime minister and foreign minister, Demeke Mekonnen Hassen, Qin said China had already delivered two batches of food aid to the region and was “considering providing a new batch … to help countries alleviate their urgent needs”.

Qin also said China supported the Ethiopian peace process and “is willing to deepen cooperation between the two countries in various fields to help Ethiopia’s post-war reconstruction, development and revitalisation”.

“Ethiopia is in a critical period of consolidating peace and focusing on development,” he said. Qin pledged China’s help to rehabilitate and rebuild infrastructure destroyed by the hostilities that ended in November after two years of fighting.

Qin also expressed China’s gratitude for the Ethiopian government’s support and help in evacuating its citizens from Sudan, and for rescuing Chinese nationals who were robbed and detained in Ethiopia.

He hoped the Ethiopian government “will take effective measures to protect the safety and legitimate rights and interests of Chinese institutions and personnel”, Qin told Demeke, who is on a five-day official visit to China.

“Ethiopia attaches great importance to improving the domestic security situation, and will continue to make every effort to ensure the safety of Chinese institutions and personnel in Ethiopia,” Demeke said, according to the Chinese foreign ministry.

Demeke also noted that as Ethiopia’s leading source of foreign direct investment – as well as the country’s largest trading partner and development financier – China had a big role to play in its future growth.

The Ethiopian foreign ministry said Demeke also met the head of China’s overseas aid agency, Luo Zhaohui, who described Ethiopia as not only a great partner but also an influential country in Africa.

Luo, chairman of the China International Development Cooperation Agency, said Ethiopia deserved “necessary support” in agriculture, education, riverside development and other areas.

Demeke commended China for providing Ethiopia both monetary and non-monetary help based on the principles of mutual benefits, with no conditions on internal political issues.

It is not clear if discussions included the restructuring of Ethiopian debt, which Addis Ababa has been seeking under the Group of 20’s Common Framework.

China has been a key supporter of the Abiy Ahmed government in the face of pressure from Western countries over alleged human rights violations committed by Ethiopian forces in Tigray.

When the United States cut aid and suspended Ethiopia from the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act – which gives African countries duty-free access to US markets – China accused the US of “meddling” in Ethiopia’s internal affairs.

Qin’s first overseas visit as foreign minister in January – a five-country tour of Africa – started in Addis Ababa, which China regards as a crucial ally partly because of its geopolitical significance as the seat of the African Union.

Between 2000 and 2020, China pledged US$13.7 billion in loans to Ethiopia, according to data from Boston University’s Global Development Policy Centre. These funds have gone into building roads, power dams and railways.

Beijing funded the building of the Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway, part of China’s transcontinental Belt and Road Initiative, as well as the Addis light rail, and Riverside Green Development.

China has its first overseas military base as well as vast investments to protect in the Horn of Africa – home to Djibouti, Eritrea, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan, as well as Ethiopia, and torn by civil wars, Islamist insurgencies and military coups.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has also warned that the longest and most severe drought on record is forecast to continue in the region, worsening the food emergency and pushing 26 million people into crisis.

The situation has been exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, since most countries in the region were heavily dependent on wheat from the two nations.

Last year, China proposed a peace initiative to support the Horn of Africa countries to tackle the triple challenges of security, development and governance. Beijing also sent food aid to Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia and Djibouti in a demonstration of practical action.

Beijing’s special envoy to the region, Xue Bing, hosted the first Horn of Africa peace conference in Addis Ababa in June and offered to mediate “for the peaceful settlement of disputes based on the will of countries in this region”.

Source: South China Morning Post