Last time when Yang Jiechi, top Chinese diplomat, met Cameroon President Paul Biya, China wrote off a part of this African country’s debt. However, there was almost nowhere announced about it.
No any press releases were issued by both sides, even the Cameroon government did not mentioned it in results of Chinese diplomat’s visit.
It was reported only in Chinese news later where it was stated that China has written off off 3 trillion Central African CFA francs ($5.2 billion) of Cameroon’s debt during Yang’s trip.
However, this number was incorrect, experts said. Five billion dollars is close to the amount Cameroon has borrowed from Beijing since 2000. That debt was worth $78.4 million. Cameroon’s total debt is 5.8 trillion Central African CFA francs ($10 billion), about a third of which is owed to China, according to the International Monetary Fund.
Briefly, it was a small part of Cameroon liability to China.
China is increasing its financial presence in African continent. When President Xi Jinping pledged a $60 billion package of aid, investment and loans to Africa last September at the triennial Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, angry posts emerged on the Chinese internet. It was criticized on the issue of giving loans when at least 30 million people still live in poverty in China itself.
An interesting fact also is that African nations have borrowed $143 billion from China since 2000.
Beginning from the 21 century, China has granted Cameroon debts as: In 2001, it canceled $34 million of debt, then in 2007 it forgave another $32 million and $30 million was wiped out in 2010.
Moreover, China has agreed to build and finance a new port in the fishing town of Kribi. When completed in 2035, Kribi will be the biggest deep-water port in the region.
“The Gulf of Guinea is strategic for China,” says Xavier Auregan, a specialist on China-Africa relations in Francophone nations. He added: “Cameroon is one of the countries that can bring together the energy infrastructure of … West Africa.”
China’s decision to provide Cameroon with debt relief also comes at a fraught moment between the country’s traditional gold-mining community and Chinese mining companies. East Cameroon is rich in gold.
Chinese companies are operating illegal mines across the region and have scant respect for the land, says Justin Kamga, coordinator of the Forests and Rural Development Association (FODER) in Yaounde. However, Chinese officials denied to comment this fact.
Briefly, Cameroon’s debt burden may be increased further as long as China needs a maritime foothold in West Africa.