CHINESE President Xi Jinping has pledged £46 billion in financing for projects in Africa.

The projects are in the form of assistance, investment and loans, and are part of China’s efforts to link the continent’s economic prospects to its own.

Speaking to a gathering of African leaders in Beijing, Xi said the figure includes £11bn in grants, interest-free loans and concessional loans, £15bn in credit lines, £7bn for “development financing” and £4bn to buy imports from Africa.

In addition, he said China will encourage companies to invest at least £7bn in Africa over the next three years. No details were given on specific projects, although Xi said China was planning initiatives in eight areas, including providing £114 million in emergency food aid, sending 500 agricultural experts to Africa, and providing scholarships, vocational training and trade promotion opportunities.

The pledge comes on top of a 2015 promise to provide African countries with £46bn in funding that Xi said had either been delivered or arranged. Xi also promoted Beijing’s initiative to build ports and other infrastructure as a tool for “common prosperity” in a world facing challenges from trade protectionism.

Addressing businesspeople prior to the formal opening of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, Xi said the Belt and Road initiative (BRI) will expand markets. He tried to mollify concern that Beijing wants to build strategic influence, promising Chinese investment comes with “no political strings attached”.

“Unilateralism and protectionism are on the rise. Economic growth lacks robust drive,” Xi said in a speech. “China-Africa cooperation under the BRI is a way to common prosperity that brings benefits to both our peoples.”

African and other Asian leaders have welcomed Belt and Road but some projects have prompted complaints about debt and other problems. The initiative involves hundreds of projects, most of them built by Chinese contractors and financed by loans from Chinese state-owned banks, across an arc

of 65 countries from the South Pacific through Asia to Africa and the Middle East.