ABUJA, Nov. 18 (Reuters) – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday that Washington’s involvement in infrastructure in Africa was not about China, but aimed at improving the standard of infrastructure without putting countries in debt. saddled up.
While visiting Africa’s most populous country, Blinken was asked about competition between the US and China over infrastructure investment on the continent, where China has increased its influence through such investments in recent years.
“When it comes to infrastructure investment, again, this isn’t about China or anyone else, it’s about what we would like to see as a race to the top when it comes to those investments,” Blinken said at a joint press conference. with Nigerian Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyama.
Blinken said investment from China in Africa is a good thing in principle, but countries should not be left with “enormous debts that they cannot repay”, adding that workers’ rights, environmental protection and safeguards against corruption should also be in place.
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Developed countries in the G7 would invest in Africa as part of the so-called Build Back Better World program, he added.
Blinken signed a $2.17 billion development aid program with Onyama on Thursday and said Washington would also continue to invest in security in Nigeria.
Onyeama said Nigeria needed investment from China to address a serious infrastructure shortage, saying the debt it has taken on was “sustainable”.
China is one of the major bilateral lenders to Nigeria and has provided funding for infrastructure development such as roads, railways and gas pipelines. Nigeria’s public debt office says on its website that China’s debt amounted to $3.121 billion or 3.94% of the country’s total government debt in March 2020.
“We saw a great opportunity with the Chinese,” Onyeama said. “They’re used to a lot of these huge capital projects and infrastructure projects.”
(Reporting by Felix Onuah in Abuja, Macdonald Dzirutwe in Harare, and Simon Lewis and Daphne Psaledakis in Washington; editing by Franklin Paul, editing by Alex Richardson)