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The economic partnership between China and Africa is important

         Date: 2012-07-02

           Tag: economic partnership, China and Africa economic

Summary: Hanna Tetteh, Ghana's minister for trade and industry, says China is an important partner for Africa's development but not the most vital one.

Hanna Tetteh, Ghana's minister for trade and industry, says China is an important partner for Africa's development but not the most vital one.

She says that building a big African trading bloc and increasing trade among nations on the continent will prove the essential long-term driver of economic growth.

"The China-Africa relationship is a very important one. There is no doubt about that. But from where I sit, the relationship that we need to give prominence to is the African relationship," she says.

"One of the reasons why China and (the rest of) Asia are successful is that they do so much trade with each other. By comparison the trade African countries do with each other is much smaller. For Ghana, 12 percent of our trade is with the rest of Africa whereas the average for the continent is 10 percent."

Tetteh, 45 and half Hungarian, was speaking during a break in the recent Africa Investment Forum in the International Conference Centre in Accra, Ghana.

She insists China is a role model for African countries when it comes to its economic transformation and speed of development but she expects countries like Ghana to follow a different path.

The country had one of the fastest GDP growth rates in the world of more than 20 percent in 2011, according to the IMF but this has been built partly by moving from agriculture to services and unlike China, is less dependent on manufactured exports. Accra itself has emerged as the financial services hub of western Africa.

"We have moved from agrarian to mixed. Manufacturing is not out of the equation but it is only part of the economy," she says.

Tetteh, attractive, vivacious and a commanding presence and who is seen as a future leader of Ghana, says China investment has had a transformative impact on Ghana. The country's vice-president, John Dramani Mahama, signed up to a $3 billion (2.4 billion euros) loan from the China Development Bank in Beijing in April - the largest loan in the country's history.

The money is to be used for major infrastructure projects, including a new gas pipeline and investment in roads, railways and fishing harbors.

"We are using this finance to fund what we see as our most critical infrastructure needs and as far as we are concerned that assistance can help us overcome our deficit in infrastructure. We think it is very important," she says.

Tetteh says that while Chinese investment has been welcome some Chinese companies should not see Africa as an easy dumping ground for unsophisticated products.

She believes there is a tendency for some Chinese commercial concerns to view the continent and other developing export markets like Latin America as less of a challenge than those of either Europe or the United States.

"They have got to raise their game to compete in Africa because they will also be competing against major Western brands here," she says.

She says that, in particular, there have been a number of recent concerns about sub-standard and potentially dangerous products, particularly cheap electrical goods.

"It is about the quality of the products, the cables, the switches and the wires. You know all of these things are supposed to have certain minimum standards, otherwise they become dangerous," she says.

"I don't think it is deliberate policy, don't get me wrong, but I do believe some people try and take advantage of our market and try and dump sub-standard products."

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