Africa will take more loans, renegotiate existing ones at the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Johannesburg

South Africa will this week hold the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in Johannesburg where China, Africa’s largest trading partner will propose a series of cooperation plans.

Chinese President Xi Jinping will be at the forum and also visit Zimbabwe in a journey to Africa that will last from December 1 – 5.

When Chinese investments to Africa fell by 40 percent in the first half of 2015, some say it was caused by China’s slowing economy, while others attributed it to the country’s changing approach to investments overseas. Xi Jinping will address this in Johannesburg.

African countries are expected to renegotiate debt to Beijing at the summit coming at a time when countries in the region are hit by slump on oil and other commodities prices. Although they are not expected to turn down new loans and trade proposals which experts expect China to offer despite its own slowing economy.

China is Africa’s largest trading partner. According to China state news agency Xinhua, the trade volume between them amounted to $220 billion in 2014. The country has offered loans totalling $32 billion to African nations in the past two years. With western donors and businesses retreating Chinese investment seem perfect to Africa, a continent the World Bank said needs $93 billion a year to develop infrastructure. Debts to China has thus increased. Kenya owes the Asian powerhouse $1.1 billion, Nigeria owes more than $1 billion. But with China’s loans often linked to commodity arrangements, a new structure may be in the offering now that commodity prices have fallen.

A statement by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi stressed the importance of this year’s Forum on China-Africa Cooperation. He noted that it is the first time that the ministerial meeting has been upgraded to a leader’s summit. This, he says reflects developing relations between China and Africa.

According to him, Beijing’s proposition would include: “industrial production shifts, infrastructure construction, human resource exploration, facilitating investment, green development, finance servicing, and peace and security.”

But there remains a concern that Africa is not benefiting from developing skills or technology from China, despite its pledges to train thousands of African students and increase technology transfer. Investment by Beijing is often carried out by Chinese firms using Chinese workers, limiting the benefits to the host country. But African leaders are expected to stick to China, notwithstanding with agreements expected to be signed to map out further cooperation over the next three years.

“Cooperation between China and Africa is built upon equality and mutual development,” Yi claims.