Guinea-Bissau benefits from enhanced Chinese development aid

13 August 2007

Bissau, Guinea-Bissau, 13 Aug – China is increasing its aid to Guinea-Bissau to become the main development partner of the politically and economically fragile West African state.

Beijing recently announced it is providing 100 study grants for Guinean students to attend Chinese colleges, as well as sending 2,000 tons of rice to the impoverished African country.

China’s food aid to Guinea comes during a rice shortage in the country, where prices of the staple food have been around a third higher than usual.

Guinean President João Bernardo Vieira has publicly called for intensification of his country’s relations with China, as well as boosted investment from Beijing.

In one of his first overseas trips after being re-elected as president, Vieira traveled to China in 2006 for talks with President Hu Jintao before attending the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Beijing.

During his China visit, President Vieira obtained Beijing’s support for the construction of a new military hospital in Bissau and a new central court in the Guinea capital.

China’s development cooperation to Guinea has already provided key state buildings like the country’s national parliament. A six-storey government building, Bissau’s largest construction, is due to be completed this year and is also being financed by Beijing.

Studies are also underway for China to refurbish Bissau’s Palace of the Republic, damaged during the country’s civil war from 1998-99, as well as the building of 1,000 council homes.

In the area of infrastructures, Guinea is seeking Chinese aid to build a bridge over the River Farim, in the north of the country, a deepwater port at Buba, south of the capital, and the rehabilitation of the Buba-Catio and Quebo-Cacine highways in the south of the country.

Chinese cooperation also extends to the agriculture and defense sectors. In the latter area, Beijing is upgrading military buildings in the capital as well as residences of military officers.

China too has given the green light for the building of the country’s first dam at Saltinho, on the River Geba in eastern Guinea, a project valued at US$ 60 million.

Source in Guinea’s presidency said two weeks ago that China has provided 100 study grants to train Guinean civil service staff in Chinese colleges. Beijing says this program could be extended in the future.

This assistance from Beijing is aimed to strengthen the capacities of Guinea’s state institutions and Guinean students will be offered course in subjects including political economy, agriculture, health and education.

This assistance from China follows the signing in June of a cooperation package worth US$ 4 million to Guinea. This aid will allow state workers to be paid, a key measure to ensuring stability in the country, where the regular economy is practically paralyzed and the government has severe problems in sourcing revenues to fund its budget commitments.

Some US$ 400,000 of China’s financial aid is to assist inhabitants of Guinea’s northern border areas with Senegal, where many local residents had to flee their homes recently during a flare-up of fighting between Guinean troops and rebels from the Senegalese breakaway region of Casamance.

Other Chinese assistance to Guinea includes preferential tariffs for 442 export products from the African country.

Guinea was the first country in the world to sign deepwater fisheries accords with China. But energy cooperation with China appears to be a more interesting area of cooperation for Guinea, with Bissau seeking Chinese support for oil exploration along the coast of the African state.

After problems in entering Angola and Mozambique’s banking industries, Macau casino tycoon Stanley Ho’s Geocapital group has bought a 60 percent stake in Guinea’s Banco da Africa Ocidental (BAO).

This was Geocapital’s second business venture in Guinea following its granting of a casino operating license on Caravela Island in the Bijagos archipelago, an area considered as a Biosphere Ecology Reserve by UNESCO. (macauhub)