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China's growing investment, presence in Africa focus of NMSU conference

China's recent investment in economic and cultural projects in Africa is raising questions about Beijing's motives and about the long-term consequences of China's growing presence in Africa, not just for African countries, but for the United States and other nations as well. A conference at New Mexico State University Friday, April 23, and Saturday, April 24, will explore these issues and their political and economic consequences for the U.S.



Liu Fengchen shows students at the Confucius Institute, University of Nairobi, Kenya, how to hold a traditional Chinese writing brush. A free conference at New Mexico State University April 23-24 will explore China's growing economic and cultural presence in African countries. (Photo courtesy of the Confucius Institute)

"China in Africa: International Perspectives on a Developing Relationship" is hosted by NMSU's Confucius Institute, International Relations Institute and Black Studies Program. It is free and open to the public.

"The conference's main theme is the developing relationship between China and Africa," said Ken Hammond, NMSU professor of East Asian history and director of the Confucius Institute. "China is pouring growing amounts of money into African countries to support economic development and provide health assistance and other services. At the same time, China is also signing agreements with many African countries to acquire energy resources and other commodities on a long-term basis," Hammond said.

"Some voices have been raised questioning China's motives and asking how useful these investments really are for the African countries involved and their citizens. This conference brings together experts from academic, business and diplomatic fields, from China, Africa and the U.S. to explore these challenging questions," he said.

Festus Addo-Yobo, director of NMSU's Black Programs, considers China's involvement in Africa a positive development. "China's socio-economic enterprises in Africa suit Africa well," Addo-Yobo said. "Trading among nation states will be more easily done, and regionalization of African nation states will become a reality, with less balkanization and less dependency on Western monetary institutions like the IMF and the World Bank, which have vested interests in African economies."

"For Black Programs, this is an opportunity to showcase academic contributions from African-American students in reference to international politics and the African-American community," he said.

"This conference is a great opportunity to explore and understand the impact of China's engagement on the continent of Africa," said Ambassador Delano Lewis, director of NMSU's International Relations Institute. "We will hear perspectives from Chinese, African, and American experts on the impact of China's trade, aide, and investment policies in Africa."

The conference will open in NMSU's Corbett Center Auditorium April 23 at 8 a.m., with free registration, coffee and pastries. At 9 a.m., Hammond, Lewis and Addo-Yobo will give welcoming remarks. The first panel session will begin at 9:30 a.m. Presenters include Professor Pan Huaqing, Beijing University, China; Professor Maitseo Bolaane, University of Botswana, Gabarone, Botswana; Professor G. K. Kosimbei, Kenyatta University, Nairobi, Kenya; and Professor Jamie Monson, Macalester College, St. Paul, Minnesota.

Lunch will be at 11:30 a.m., with comments given by Consul Yue Liwen of the Consulate General of the People's Republic of China in Los Angeles.

The Friday afternoon session will begin at 2 p.m. Presenters include Lily Munanka, deputy chief of mission and head of Chancery, Embassy of Tanzania; Louis Mazel, director, Office of African Regional and Security Affairs, U.S. Department of State; Sharon Freeman, president, All American Small Business Exporter's Association; and Inonge Limbambala, first secretary of the Trade Division, Embassy of Zambia.

A reception will follow at 4 p.m. in Corbett Center's Colfax Room.

On April 24, the morning session will begin at 9 a.m. with presentations by NMSU students George Opira, Diana Nzau and Michael Adam.

Lunch will begin at 11:30 a.m. Ambassador David H. Shinn, adjunct professor at The Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington University, will give the luncheon address. Shinn served as U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia and Burkina Faso and in U.S. embassies in Lebanon, Kenya, Tanzania, Mauritania, Cameroon and Sudan.

During a wrap-up session at 1 p.m., participants will give final comments, and audience members will have an opportunity to ask final questions.

For more information about the conference, contact Ken Hammond (575) 646-1818, e-mail khammond@nmsu.edu; or Roberta Gran (575) 646-7041, rgran@nmsu.edu.