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[BEIJING] China and African countries have agreed a series of trade and investment deals, as well as low-cost loans, aid and technical assistance to boost Africa's development.

The measures are among eight major policies that China's president Hu Jintao announced at the China-Africa Summit held in Beijing at the weekend (4-5 November) and attended by representatives from 48 African governments.

China will help African countries build ten agricultural science centres, establish 100 hospitals, and will send 100 Chinese agricultural technicians to Africa.

By 2009 the Chinese government will double the number of African students on its annual scholarship scheme for study in China to 4,000.

On aid, China pledged to spend 300 million yuan (US$37.5 million) on artemisin-based anti-malaria drugs, malaria treatment and anti-malaria clinics for Africa over the next three years, and said it would double its overall aid to Africa by 2009.

China will also promote more cultural and scientific exchanges with African countries, Hu told the summit.

The Chinese government plans to offer US$5 billion in low-interest loans and credits to Africa and establish a China-Africa development fund of US$5 billion over the next three years.

Chinese enterprises investing in Africa will be able to apply for loans from this fund. Hu also promised to exempt the debts of the least developed African countries.

According to analysts, the summit was intended to secure supplies of natural resources  — especially oil, iron ore and copper — for China's booming economy.

While applauding the measures, John Page, the World Bank's chief economist for Africa, told Chinese media that as the situation across African nations varies widely, more detailed work has to be done for China to efficiently implement its assistance to Africa.

At a separate meeting held simultaneously in Beijing, the minister for China's State Council Information Office, Cai Wu, said his office will promote exchanges and communication between Chinese and African media, especially in the area of science and technology reporting.

This event, the Fifth Asia-Pacific Symposium on Press and Scientific and Social Progress, was sponsored by the Chinese Society of Science and Technology Journalism and SciDev.Net.