BEIJING, China / Aug 16, 2013 (AFP) - Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday promised further medical cooperation with Africa, state media reported, as dozens of health ministers from the continent met in Beijing.
China has placed major emphasis on ties with Africa as the country's economic rise has seen financial and trade ties skyrocket as it buys many of its raw materials from countries there.
Xi said China will keep dispatching cataract surgeons and other medical teams and will step up cooperation in maternal and child health care, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
Xi was addressing representatives from African nations and international organisations participating in the Ministerial Forum on China-Africa Health Development, Xinhua said.
"Human development is at the core of development," Xi said. "We hope this forum will substantially push forward health cooperation between China and Africa."
Participants from 48 African countries and eight international organisations, including the World Health Organization (WHO), UNAIDS and the UN Population Fund, attended the gathering, Xinhua said.
Vice Premier Liu Yandong told its opening ceremony that China plans to dispatch 1,500 medical personnel to Africa over the coming three years to carry out free cataract operations, Xinhua said.
Chinese imports from Africa soared 20-fold over a decade to reach $113 billion last year, according to Chinese government statistics, and China became the continent's largest trading partner in 2009.
Underscoring its importance, Xi visited three African nations -- Tanzania, South Africa and the Republic of Congo -- as part of his first overseas tour after becoming president in March.
Separately, health ministers and officials at the forum released a Beijing Declaration setting out a guideline for cooperation in areas including malaria HIV/AIDS, reproductive health and immunisation, according to a press release.