Chinese President Hu Jintao vowed to increase aid to African countries, cancel part of their debts, and expand trade and investment, state media reported. Hu made the comments in Mali while on a trip to Africa this week. Trade between China and African countries increased to US$106.8 billion last year from just under US$40 billion in 2005, according to the Ministry of Commerce. Hu said that the global financial crisis is causing particular challenges for Africa and it is important for China and Africa to improve ties. On China-Mali relations, Hu said both nations should keep up high-level visits and increase exchanges between their governments, parliaments, militaries and non-governmental organizations as well as cooperate in the economic sphere. The two countries will mark 50 years of diplomatic relations in 2010.