The President of Comoros Azali Assoumani is the current chairperson of the African Union. / Photo: Reuters

The African Union has defended past investments from China that have drawn criticism for saddling poor countries with huge debts while calling for "positive competition" from Europe.

AU chairperson Azali Assoumani was addressing a meeting in Berlin of a G20 initiative aimed at mobilising more private, sustainable investments in African countries.

China has been pouring huge investments into the continent in recent years, helping fund projects from railways to ports.

Assoumani said there was "a high demand in African states", and "sometimes we take on debt in less than ideal conditions."

'Everything is changing'

He continued: "I can assure you that everything is changing... we are trying to correct mistakes."

There was a need for "positive competition. There is no monopoly anywhere... Everyone has a place," he said at the "Compact for Africa" initiative, launched in 2017 when Germany held the G20 presidency.

"The problem we sometimes have in Africa is that we are unable to invest because we are paying debts."

Beijing has been accused of using its creditor status for gaining diplomatic or trade concessions in its relations with African countries.

'Debt-trap diplomacy'

But China, the world's number two economy, rejects practising "debt-trap diplomacy" as an unfair criticism from Western rivals who have themselves burdened nations with huge debts.

The "Compact for Africa" brings together the G20 and 13 African countries. The G20 itself comprises 19 of the world's largest economies plus the European Union and the AU.