Mali, China sign project deals worth $11 billion

Sep 16, 2014 12:00 AM

Mali has signed a string of agreements with China totalling about $11 billion, most of it intended to finance two major railway projects linking the land-locked country to the coast, Mali's presidency said.

Mali gave few details on the terms of the 34 agreements but said they included some loans.

They coincide with fresh talks with the International Monetary Fund to review a programme for Mali and resume aid payments halted this year.

The IMF and World Bank froze nearly $70 million in financing after the Fund expressed concern in May about Mali's purchase of a $40 million presidential jet and a loan for military supplies, deals that undermined donor confidence in the commitment of Mali's new government to rebuild the country after a coup and an uprising in 2012.

The agreements were signed during a four-day visit by President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to China from September 9 to 13 for the World Economic Forum in Tianjin, according to a statement published on the website of Mali's presidency.

China's Foreign Ministry declined to confirm the value of the projects.

“China is willing to increase trade and economic cooperation with African countries to promote joint development,” ministry spokesman Hong Lei told a daily news briefing in Beijing when asked if he could give any details about the Mali projects.

He did not elaborate except to say China had already released news about Keita's visit.

The ministry said in a short statement on its website last week that Premier Li Keqiang told Keita that China was willing to increase cooperation on mining, agriculture and infrastructure.

It made no mention of any deals signed.

China typically gives very few details about agreements signed with other countries, especially in Africa.

Mali's presidency said in the website statement the biggest of the planned projects was an $8 billion, 900-km (560-mile) railway linking the capital of Bamako to Guinea's port capital Conakry.

Another 750 billion CFA francs ($1.48 billion) would be used to renovate the Bamako-Dakar railway, linking Mali to the Senegalese capital to the west.

Other projects include the construction of a fourth bridge across the Niger river in Bamako and the construction of roads, especially in the north of the country, which was seized by a mix of separatist and al Qaeda-linked rebels in 2012.

French troops were scrambled to scatter the Islamist fighters, and a UN peacekeeping mission has since deployed.

But slow progress has left Keita struggling to retain the popular support that swept him to power last year.

The statement also lists planned housing, energy and education projects.

The $11 billion includes $51 million in gifts and interest-free loans from China announced by the government on Friday.

Mali secured more than $4 billion in donor pledges last year.

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