Chinese growth would boost Africa: bank chief

GENEVA: African Development Bank chief Donald Kaberuka on Tuesday said he was "confident" that if China's economy were to return to double-digit growth, it would lift African growth to pre-crisis levels.

"The growth of Africa... is very much driven by China's demand for commodities," Kaberuka told journalists in Geneva.

The latest Chinese growth figures "are around seven-nine percent, I think that's very promising," he added.

China in April said its economy grew 6.1 percent in the first quarter, while for the full year, it has set a growth target of 8.0 percent, a figure that it deemed is necessary to maintain stable employment and social order.

"If the Chinese economy continues on this trend, that would signal growth for African economies in the coming year," said Kaberuka.

"I'm confident that if the Chinese goes back to... double-digit figures, then the African economy will go back to six percent growth."

Africa as a whole recorded a growth rate of 6.0 percent in 2007 and 5.1 percent in 2008.

But a slump in export demand and falling commodity prices have led the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa to forecast in May that the growth in the continent would slow to a 20-year low of two percent in 2009.

Commodities-hungry China has become a main trading partner with Africa.

Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit earlier this year to Africa took him, however, to less resource-rich countries, a move seen as countering criticism of China's exploitation of the world's poorest nations.

Hu signed deals worth over 270 million dollars to fund infrastructure building in Mauritius and agreements in Tanzania worth more than 20 million dollars, covering agriculture, communications and technical cooperation.

Official Chinese figures show trade between China and Africa jumped 45 percent in 2008, with Chinese exports to the continent up 36.3 percent and its imports, mainly oil, soaring 54 percent.

Kaberuka underlined the importance of Chinese demand for African commodities producing countries, saying that "we're all watching very carefully the trend of the Chinese economy."

At the same time, he also noted that other African countries which are dependent on foreign aid would still experience hard times ahead.

Some wealthy nations peg their foreign aid levels to a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) growth.

In the current recession, "it is clear some of them will cut aid. I think they will," said Kaberuka, adding that the crisis has therefore not bottomed out for aid dependent countries.