Premier Li Keqiang said Chinese-made civilian aircraft can play an important part in bilateral cooperation with African countries during his meeting with visiting Gabonese President Ali Bongo Ondimba on Dec 8.
New planes designed and made by Chinese companies are safe and cost-effective and fit African countries’ need to develop regional aviation networks, the Premier told Bongo, adding that both sides can explore cooperation in the field.
It was the Premier’s latest aviation overture following the China-Africa Regional Aviation Cooperation Plan, which helps Chinese enterprises establish joint venture aviation cooperation with African enterprises.
The Premier has not mentioned specific models, but observers said China may promote two regional planes－Modern Ark 60 and ARJ 21.
Since 2005, China has exported at least 12 Modern Ark 60 aircraft. The 50－to 60-seat turboprop is made by a subsidiary of the Aviation Industry Corp of China.
The ARJ 21 twin-engine regional jet, developed by the Commercial Aircraft Corp of China, is also expected to be a good fit in Africa. The first ARJ 21 jet was delivered to Chengdu Airlines in November 2015, and the ARJ 21 made its first commercial flight, from Chengdu to Shanghai, in June.
Chinese civil aircraft are good choices for African countries for several reasons, including low costs and the fact that China has helped African buyers with training professionals to perform maintenance and repairs, said Liu Zhenghong, a professor of foreign relations at Anhui Normal University.
China also is looking to strengthen cooperation with Gabon in energy, infrastructure, agriculture and processing industries under market-oriented principles, the Premier said.
Chinese companies are welcome to invest in Gabon, and the African country is willing to cooperate with China in such fields as civil aviation and infrastructure, Bongo said.
China is Gabon’s largest trading partner and an important investment source. Last year saw bilateral trade volume reach $1.77 billion, in which the African country has a trade surplus of $430 million.
On the morning of Dec 8, the Gabonese president vowed to attract Chinese investors as the country’s top priority at a trade event highlighting the oil-rich Central African country’s potential. “Gabon welcomes Chinese investments from all sectors including agriculture, tourism, manufacturing, and the banking industry,” he said.