China has invited the U.S. to co-operate in financing and building infrastructure in Africa and other parts of the developing world, an unprecedented proposal that has potentially sweeping implications for the future of international development aid.
Chinese officials first approached Washington last year to discuss working together on a $12 billion dam project in the Democratic Republic of Congo, U.S. officials said, but the talks gathered momentum at the annual China-U.S. summit in July in Beijing.
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The putative partnership is challenging: a bid for what could be the world's largest hydropower complex, in one of the world's least developed countries. While the World Bank has recently funded a report to evaluate the project, proposals for the Inga-3 dam have been discussed for years without resolution.
The Chinese approach, nonetheless, signals a possible change of approach by Beijing as it indicates a desire to recalibrate its relationship with Africa. It comes as the White House seeks to step up U.S. engagement in the region, home of six of the world's 10-fast growing countries, hosting this week the first ever U.S.-Africa summit.