Africa welcomes support from China in industrialization

Updated: 2014-09-12 10:45

By Pu Zhendong(

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Africa welcomes modern win-win cooperation with Chinese enterprises that are shifting from simply extracting resources in the continent to supporting its industrialization, South Africa's top diplomat has said.

"We would like Chinese companies to listen to what we think and what we want to achieve with our industrialization, for example through value-adding manufacturing," said Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, South Africa's Minister of International Relations and Cooperation.

"South Africa is a mining country. If Chinese companies work with us to guarantee that 60 percent of raw materials are sourced locally and the products sourced in Africa, while training our young workers. Then it is a true win-win partnership," she added.

The minister said enormous cooperation potential remains to be tapped in areas of energy and infrastructure between the two countries, adding that the country is planning to build a $30-billion high-speed rail connecting Durban and Johannesburg.

"Despite late entry into the global market, Chinese high-speed rail has advanced technology and dependable quality," she said.

Nkoana-Mashabane, as head of the Joint Working Group on South Africa-China Cooperation, co-chaired the group's first meeting in Beijing last week together with Chinese Minister of Commerce Gao Hucheng.

The working group, with a focus on tapping potential of economic cooperation, was launched last September during President Xi Jinping's visit to Pretoria.

"As our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership grows, there is a need for us to establish a joint working group, including ministers of commerce, trade and foreign affairs, to coordinate, to unblock possible blockages, which might stand in our way of strengthening economic ties," Nkoana-Mashabane said.

In 2012, bilateral trade reached $25 billion with China being South Africa's largest trade partner, export and import market. The number of Chinese tourists to South Africa also surpassed 130,000 in 2012, marked by a 56 percent year-on-year increase.

Nkoana-Mashabane urged the two countries to establish dependable statistics and curtail the country's chronic trade deficit with China, around $4.5 billion in 2012.

"Now it is a perfect timing as China does not want to continue being known as focusing on the extraction approach in terms of trade, but is prepared to realize manufacturing at source, value-addition and support our industrialization program," she said.

Later this year, President of South Africa Jacob Zuma is expected to visit China. In July, leaders of the two countries met and vowed to reinforce cooperation in areas including energy, mining, agriculture and infrastructure on the sideline of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) summit in Fortaleza, Brazil.

According to Nkoana-Mashabane, BRICS countries, speaking in one consolidated voice now, have more political and economic leverage in the world.

"What I like about BRICS is that it is not against anyone, rather a group formed out of realization that there was a vacuum for countries that can speak on behalf of developing and voiceless countries in the world. We do not also impose ourselves on other countries," she said.

"When the summit was held in Brazil, Latin American countries became very interested. We ended up with 18 countries sitting around the table with BRICS states and celebrating fresh perspective of the summit. The feeling was just great," she added.

During the Fortaleza summit, leaders of the five countries announced the details of the "New Development Bank", which will be headquartered in Shanghai and have an initial subscribed capital of $50 billion, and the $100 billion Currency Reserve Arrangement. Its Africa regional center will be established in South Africa.

South Africa runs the most modern and advanced economy in the continent and therefore plays an indispensable role in BRICS, as the bloc eyes lucrative business opportunities amid the integration of African countries, Nkoana-Mashabane said.

"When we applied for membership of the bloc, we found that the countries already in BRIC were our old friends, who knew that politically there are a lot to bring us together, but they also needed a country that comes from the region of Africa," she said.

In August, US President Barack Obama suggested during the US-Africa Leaders Summit that suggested that his country would be a better partner for Africa than China because it is not seeking to "extract minerals from the ground for growth".

Calling China "an old friend of Africa", Nkoana-Mashabane said Africa has the freedom to choose friends given the experiences of being colonized, and work with friends to address problems through mechanisms such as the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC).

The forum, established in 2000, has evolved into a mature framework where the two regions map out and coordinate cooperation strategies. South Africa will co-chair the sixth FOCAC ministerial meeting in 2015.

"Any mechanism called ‘US-Africa' does not exist," Nkoana-Mashabane said. "The summit was one moment in history when President Obama remembered to invite African leaders, and it was his own initiative."

The diplomat also appreciated Beijing's endorsement of Africa's security initiatives and called for China to help boost the continent's capacity to immediately respond to any kind of crisis.


Maite Nkoana-Mashabane

South Africa's Minister of International Relations and Cooperation

Age: 51

Birthplace: Makgobaskloof, South Africa


1980s: An active member of the United Democratic Front, served in the various structures of the Mass Democratic Movement and the African National Congress' underground structures.

1992-1995: Chairperson of the African National Congress Women's League in Limpopo and member of the National Working Committee of the organization

1995-1999: High Commissioner to Malaysia, servicing the Philippines and Brunei

1999-2005: High Commissioner to India, servicing Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Maldives and Nepal.

2004-2008: Minister of Local Government and Housing (Limpopo Province)

2009-present: The Minister of International Relations and Cooperation