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[BEIJING] China is continuing to show an interest in developing African research capacity with the announcement of a cooperation programme in science and technology.

The China-Africa Science and Technology Partnership was launched by China's Ministry of Science and Technology last week (24 November).

According to the ministry, the priorities will be livelihoods and economic development. Technological cooperation will be enhanced in areas such as water management and conservation, sanitation, crop breeding, health and renewable energy.

The programme is one of eight measures announced by Chinese premier Wen Jiabao at the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheikh in early November.

At the meeting, Wen promised to spend US$10 billion on low-interest loans for Africa. The sum for the China-Africa Science and Technology Partnership was not disclosed.

The programme is similar to one pledged in 2006 (see African science to benefit from China trade deal).
Under the scheme, China will also help African countries implement major science and technology programmes, including designing high-tech science parks.

There will also be 100 joint research partnerships and 100 African postdoctoral scientists will have the chance to carry out research at China's technology parks, research institutes and private enterprises. Each researcher will then be offered research instruments worth 150,000 yuan (US$22,000) to aid their research back in Africa.

China will also donate laboratory equipment to African countries to upgrade their research capabilities, and Chinese scientists and engineers will travel to African countries to provide technical guidance and services.

The Chinese government will provide most of the funding, and additional money will come from the private sector and international organisations. An advisory committee will be set up to provide advice on policies and approaches to collaboration.

Wang Wenming, a director at the Chinese Research Society of African Affairs, said the programme showed China was willing to provide technology transfer to Africa.

"Western countries often blamed China's activity in Africa on neo-colonialism and accused China of dumping shoddy goods on the continent," Wang told SciDev.Net. "With this programme, China is offering high-tech research achievements with impact on Africa's sustainable development."

Garth Shelton, director of the East Asia Project at South Africa's University of Witwatersrand, says that China has low-cost technologies that would be useful in Africa, and that its commitment to protecting the environment could result in cooperation on technology.

"Chinese science and technology projects in Africa are to be welcomed — China has the appropriate and affordable technology for Africa," he said. "Africa is looking for affordable solutions to its science and technology problems."