Beijing: On a fence mending visit to resource-rich Africa to ward off China`s image as a "neo colonialist", Premier Li Keqiang today admitted that Chinese firms faced "growing pains" in Africa due to labour conflicts and other problems.
He asked Chinese companies to strictly abide by local laws and regulations, hold themselves accountable for the quality of their projects and goods and to consumers, and "shoulder due responsibility" for local communities and the environment.
"As China-Africa relations grow rapidly in all areas, companies of the two sides have encountered growing pains and some new problems in their cooperation that call for proper settlement," Li said as he left for Ethiopia, Nigeria, Angola and Kenya from May 4 to 11.
His visit is a follow up of last year`s visit to Africa by President Xi Jinping after the new Chinese leadership took over power last year.
His visit comes amid criticisms that China`s growing economic interests in Africa turned out to be harmful to local economies and could exacerbate the foreign exploitation of resources as most of over 2500 Chinese firms focused on mostly energy and minerals.
"I wish to assure our African friends in all seriousness that China will never pursue a colonialist path like some countries did or allow colonialism, which belonged to the past, to reappear in Africa," Li was quoted as saying by the state-run Xinhua news agency.
Fired by increasing exports from China, the China-Africa trade reached USD 210 billion in 2013.
China has been Africa`s biggest trading partner for the last five years.
More than 2,500 Chinese companies are operating in Africa, creating over 100,000 jobs for the local communities.
Last year, over 1.4 million visits by Chinese travellers generated large amount of exchange revenue for Africa, it said.
While China`s presence in Africa has grown in recent years, funnelling billions of dollars into mining, infrastructure and foreign aid funding, Beijing is battling to rid the image of an exploiter.
Last year, President Xi pledged USD 20 billion in loans between last year to 2015.