Lindiwe Sisulu: Solidifying Africa's ties with China

The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (Focac) Summit will take place in Beijing on September 3 and 4 under the theme China and Africa: Towards an even stronger community with a shared future through win-win cooperation.

The event will be co-chaired by President Cyril Ramaphosa and China's President Xi Jinping. At the summit's conclusion, South Africa will hand over the co-chairship of Focac to a new African country, having served six years (2012 to 2018) in this role.

Focac will bring together 52 African countries, the African Union (AU) Commission and the People’s Republic of China, as equal partners in fostering greater unity and cooperation.

Founded on the principles of South-South cooperation, the summit provides a basis for mutual benefit and support, while serving as a vehicle through which Africa and China can stimulate growth and unlock new opportunities in trade and cooperation.

The relationship between China and Africa is based on more than just trade: it is a partnership aligned to Africa’s development goals, as contained in the AU’s Agenda 2063 and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development.

Focac is a multilateral platform for exchange and cooperation, covering various aspects of politics, trade, economy and culture.

The last Focac Summit was held in Johannesburg in 2015. At that event, China pledged support to Africa’s development. Xi announced the upgrading of the Sino-African Strategic Partnership to a Comprehensive Strategic Cooperative Partnership, guided by the principles of “sincerity, real results, affinity and good faith”. The announcement included new measures, which were implemented from 2016 to 2018, and were aimed at addressing the three bottlenecks in Africa that are hampering development in the continent: poor infrastructure, lack of skilled personnel and lack of capital sources.

To build the China-Africa Comprehensive Strategic and Cooperative Partnership, China committed itself to implementing 10 cooperation plans – in the areas of industrialisation, agricultural modernisation, infrastructure, financial services, green development, trade and investment facilitation, poverty reduction and public welfare, public health, people-to-people exchanges, and peace and security.

To facilitate the implementation of these measures, China announced the provision of $60bn (R884bn) for funding support. This includes $5bn for grants and zero-interest loans; $35bn for concessional loans and export credit; and $5bn for technical and industrial project funding. Furthermore, an increase of $5bn would be added to the China-Africa Development Fund and Special Loans for the Development of Africa. And, the China-Africa Fund for Production Capacity Cooperation will be provided with an initial contribution of $10bn.

It is expected that the summit will adopt the new Beijing Action Plan (2019 to 2021), which will chart a new course of China-Africa friendship and mutually beneficial cooperation across various fields in the next three years. The focus will be on political and economic cooperation, social development cooperation, cultural and people exchanges, peace and security, and international cooperation. As partners, China and Africa also aim to strengthen the Belt and Road Initiative, which advances infrastructure and boosts trade.

South Africa envisions a greater focus on institution-building by establishing skills development centres in all of the AU’s regional economic communities. We have proposed that this could be a key deliverable of the 2018 Focac Summit.

As co-chair, South Africa has ensured that infrastructure development initiatives are successfully realised to enhance intra-regional trade and attract trade and investment towards Africa. A large number of Africa’s priority Focac projects have either been completed or are under way. Some of these projects include the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway in Kenya and the Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway project.

On a bilateral level, China is South Africa’s largest trading partner, and has been so for nine consecutive years. In 2017, bilateral trade grew by 11.7% to $39.17bn – a more than twentyfold increase from the figure at the start of diplomatic relations.

China has become a major investment partner for South Africa in stimulating economic and social transformation and development. South Africa is the top destination of Chinese investment in Africa, with investments of more than $25bn in accumulative terms having accrued by June 2017. More than 180 major Chinese enterprises and thousands of small and medium enterprises have been established in the country. In addition, South Africa hosts the largest number of Chinese tourists in Africa, with about 100 000 citizens having visited the country in 2017.

In many areas, the China-Africa partnership has delivered concrete outcomes that are beneficial to Africa. Africa is committed to utilising this partnership to the fullest in terms of market access and business opportunities. There is also a need to align the partnership with the AU’s strategic objectives. In this regard, we look forward to cementing an even stronger China-Africa partnership through win-win cooperation at the 2018 Focac Summit.

- Sisulu is minister of international relations and cooperation