President Hu Jintao said China would offer $20 billion in new loans to Africa, as he delivered a speech to a Beijing forum on co-operation with the resource-rich continent. The pledge -- double the amount Beijing agreed to lend to Africa at the last forum in 2009 -- underscores China\'s growing links with African nations as it looks to secure key commodities to feed its economic growth. Hu on Thursday said the loans would focus on supporting infrastructure, manufacturing and the development of small businesses in Africa, although he did not specify what time period they would cover. \"China and Africa\'s destinies are closely linked, Chinese and African friendship is deeply rooted in the hearts of the people on both sides,\" he said, delivering an opening address to an audience of African leaders. Beijing\'s involvement in Africa dates back 60 years, when Chinese workers arrived to lay railway tracks and roads. But there has been a surge in investment in the past 15 years and China is now Africa\'s largest trading partner. Trade between the Asian powerhouse and the continent hit a record $166.3 billion last year, from less than $20 billion a decade earlier and up 83 percent on 2009, according to government data. Once seen as strictly interested in extracting raw resources and investing in infrastructure, China has interests on the continent that are increasingly shifting to investing in institutions and governments, experts say.