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President of China Xi Jinping Advocates Increased Investment in Sierra Leone

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BEIJING — China’s President Xi Jinping promised to encourage firms with operations in his nation to invest in minerals-rich but economically ailing Sierra Leone as part of Beijing’s long-term drive to deepen economic and political ties with Africa.

China has always regarded cooperation with African countries as a cornerstone of its foreign policy, Xi told visiting Sierra Leonean President Julius Maada Bio in Beijing on Wednesday.

Its relations with Sierra Leone are “a model of unity and cooperation” for other African states,” the Chinese leader said. Bio, who was accompanied on his trip by his finance and mining ministers, is hoping to attract more Chinese firms to the West African nation. He also looks to secure investment pledges to upgrade Sierra Leone’s poor infrastructure.

China’s engagement with African states is expected to take on a bigger focus in 2024 after the dismantling of stringent COVID-19 curbs and the re-opening its borders to the world. Since the start of 2023, Xi’s administration has elevated diplomatic ties with Ethiopia, Zambia, Benin, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Gabon in a continent whose natural resources have long been a draw.

China is also keen to grow its geopolitical influence just as the United States seeks to deepen its ties with Africa. Xi told Bio China will support Africa’s drive to industrialize and to modernize its agricultural sector. Chinese firms have invested $6.4 billion in Sierra Leone since 2010, data from the American Enterprise Institute think tank shows, predominantly in metals.

In December, Sierra Leone signed a pact with China Road and Bridge Corporation to build an 8-kilometer bridge crossing the river separating the capital Freetown from the nation’s main airport at an estimated cost of $1.5 billion. Sierra Leone has struggled to convince foreign lenders that it could service any debt it might take on despite needing fresh funding to rebuild following an 11-year civil war that ended in 2002.

Source: Voice of Africa