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Ghana warns Africa don't become China's colony

Written by: Staff
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ACCRA, June 20 (Reuters) African nations should seek export markets in China and avoid a ''colonial'' relationship developing with Beijing as it buys up raw materials from the continent, a Ghanaian government minister said today.

China has poured investment and aid into Africa as it seeks crude oil and other commodities for its rapidly expanding economy.

At the same time it has increased its exports of consumer goods to the world's poorest continent.

''Let us now identify some market issues and opportunities in China and take advantage of it, because they are taking advantage of our market and we should also do likewise,'' Trade Minister Alan Kyerematen told reporters.

He said cheap Chinese imports were not necessarily a bad thing and could help reduce inflation and bring more affordable consumer goods to the inhabitants of poor countries.

''The negative thing that we should be wary of is the planned, or unplanned, attempt by China to suck all the natural resources from Africa to feed their industries,'' he told a journalism seminar in Accra organised by the Reuters Foundation.

''If we are going to get the benefits that I am talking about only at the expense of becoming another colonial state to Asia, then it doesn't help us, because the rate at which China is absorbing raw materials from Africa is a bit frightening.'' Ghana was a British colony and celebrated 50 years of independence in March.

AID WITHOUT STRINGS Kyerematen said African countries should take advantage of development assistance on offer from China and said Beijing sometimes delivered aid faster than other donors.

''Whatever development financing or aid or whatever resources they (the Chinese) want to pump into Africa, there is nothing wrong with it,'' Kyerematen said.

Some critics say Beijing's policy of non-interference has undermined the development agenda of Western donors by giving aid money with no strings attached to African countries accused of human rights abuses.

They point to Sudan, an important source of oil for China, where conflict in the western Darfur region has killed more than 200,000 people since 2003 in what Washington calls ''genocide''.

Ghana's main exports are gold and cocoa, but it may start producing oil after London-based oil company Tullow said this week it had found up to 600 million barrels of high quality crude in a field off the West African country's shores.

But Kyerematen said African countries would not get the best deal from Beijing and other trading partners until they began negotiating as a bloc.

Ghana is due to host an African Union summit next month where the continent's leaders will discuss proposals for a joint government able to speak with one voice in trade negotiations.

''Unless we have an African trading organisation ... then I don't think we are strong enough to be able to maximise our negotiating benefits with China,'' Kyerematen said.

REUTERS RKM BST0018

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