E Africa: China pledges $55m in aid
Beijing - China's premier Wen Jiabao on Monday pledged 353.2m yuan ($55.3m) in food aid to African countries suffering their worst drought in years.
The announcement came after the US government urged China, which has massive commercial interests in Africa, to do more to help the millions of people in danger of starvation in the drought-stricken Horn of Africa.
Wen made the offer in a meeting with his Ethiopian counterpart, Meles Zenawi, in Beijing, although the aid will be distributed to several African countries, according to a statement on the foreign ministry website.
The pledge is in addition to the 90m yuan Beijing said last month it would give to the Horn of Africa, which is suffering what the United Nations has called the region's worst drought in almost two decades.
The United Nations estimates that $2.4bn is required to address the crisis, which has hit Somalia worst due to a relentless conflict and aid restrictions by Shabaab rebels in areas under their control.
Germany's Africa policy coordinator said last month that large-scale land purchases by China in the Horn of Africa which had exacerbated the drought - a charge Beijing strongly denied.
China has continued to pour money into Africa despite criticism from Western states of Beijing's support for the hardline regimes of leaders such as Sudan's Omar al-Bashir and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe.
China-Africa trade soared more than 40% last year to $126.9bn and Chinese companies invested heavily in mining, agriculture, forestry and construction industries throughout the continent.