BEIJING— Chinese President Xi Jinping embarks on his first trip overseas this week as head of state - and one of his key stops will be attending the BRICS summit of emerging economies in South Africa. Xi’s trip also includes stops in Tanzania and Congo Brazzaville. The trip not only highlights Beijing’s growing presence on the continent but also its desire to play a bigger global economic role.
Chinese investment in Africa is soaring, reaching nearly $20 billion last year alone.
In China, hundreds of thousands of Africans have come to work.
With the expanding trade and investment ties, says political scientist Tang Xiaoyang, it makes sense for China’s new leader to reach out to developing countries.
“[Xi’s trip] It sends a very clear signal that the new Chinese President will continue the policy of work together with developing countries, and showing a clear signal that China is the largest developing country in the world, it’s not a part of the developed world," says Tang.
Tang says reaching out to Africa not only helps developing countries. It also helps China and the other members of the BRICS grouping - Russia, India, Brazil and South Africa.
“Labor-intensive industries are being phased-out from China and some of them go to Southeast Asia but others go to Africa because the labor there is very cheap and they have the advantage to enter the European and American market without quota," he says. "A lot of Chinese companies are taking advantage of that.”
During their meetings in South Africa, BRICS leaders are expected to move forward with the founding of their own development bank. The bank will fund infrastructure development in places such as Africa and give BRICS nations a support network.
“The aim of the Bank is to bring together the experience and resources of all these countries and create a composite force that can enter the international financial system and give the countries a bigger voice," says economist Yi Xianrong.
The bank is also a means of creating an alternative to development aid from the West.
“The BRICS are all in the same situation because they’re emerging countries and they meet the same difficulties. The developed world - they have their rules," says Tang. "The World Bank and IMF they control the global financial power.”
Although efforts to raise funding for the bank have been slow, analysts note individual BRICS members have already been extending loans and development aid to Africa for years and opportunity continues to beckon.