More than 20 Chinese companies have established a chamber of commerce in Angola, one of the largest oil producers in sub-Saharan Africa.
Member firms include Sinosteel Corporation, China National Overseas Engineering Corp. and China Petroleum and Chemical Corp. (Sinopec).
China's increasing involvement in Angola--a country recovering from a ruinous 27-year civil war--is indicative of Beijing's aggressive push for African resources and markets.
China is the second-largest consumer of Angolan oil after the United States. Angolan crude accounts for just over 13 percent of China's crude imports.
Formation of the chamber of commerce follows Tuesday's news that Angola has chosen China Petroleum & Chemical as its partner in the development of a $3 billion refinery in the port town of Lobito.
The refinery, which at 240,000 barrels a day will be the country's biggest, will be 70 percent held by Angola's national oil company, Sonangol, with the rest owned by Sinopec, which outbid Total of France and PetroSA of South Africa.
Angola has favored Sinopec over Total before, forcing it to relinquish lead-operator rights to one of the country's large offshore oil concessions.
Construction of the Lobito plant will reportedly begin next year and will be carried out in two parts, with the first stage processing 120,000 barrels a day. The refinery will employ as many as 5,000 people in the first stage and as many as 8,000 people when finished. About 80 percent of its output will be exported to other African countries.
Angola already has a plant producing 65,000 barrels a day in Luanda, the capital.
Chinese companies have played a key role in Angola's oil-driven reconstruction boom.
In 2004, China's Eximbank approved a $2 billion oil-backed credit line to Angola to rebuild its infrastructure. As expected, many large contracts have gone to Chinese firms--for example, the contract to rebuild the Benguela Railway, which is valued at $300 to $500 million. Chinese companies are also refurbishing two other rail lines, several government buildings, and Luanda's new airport.
In addition to China's Sinopec and France's Total, the top foreign oil companies operating in Angola are US-based ChevronTexaco (which also recently lost concession rights) and ExxonMobil; UK Â’s BP; UK /Dutch Shell; and Italian Agip/Eni Oil.
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