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Great Prospects for Sino-African Cooperation

By Liu Guijin  

Since his first expatriate assignment to Kenya in 1981, Liu Guijin has served as counselor to Ethiopia, ambassador to Zimbabwe, vice director and director of the Department of African Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and secretary general of the first China-Africa Cooperation Forum. He is currently Chinese Ambassador to South Africa. --Ed.


In today's world China and Africa need each other to develop. African countries have always maintained close ties with China, giving their unquestioning support on crucial international issues, in particular those concerning China. China has in turn provided aid to Africa in the form of engineering projects, personnel training and agricultural technology. Chinese medical teams still work throughout the African continent. Chinese aid to Africa may be less than that from the West, but it is at least unconditional.  


Since 1994, by which time African countries had basically achieved liberation and independence, the main task on the continent has shifted from combating imperialism and colonialism to maintaining peace and development. This calls for self-reliance on the part of African countries, rather than surviving through economic aid. Under this new situation, China's experience, investment, technology and managerial expertise accumulated through its rapid economic growth over the past 20 years can be of great help to African states, and cheap, good quality Chinese commodities have an enormous market in Africa.


Africa has rich and abundant resources. But they have been long exploited and monopolized by transnational companies of the West, and cannot be easily transposed to the benefit of local people. This gap can be filled by Sino-African cooperation as regards intensive processing of natural resources that will create more jobs for local residents and bring good returns to their countries. This exploitation would be cooperative and on the basis of equality and mutual benefit. China has co-established an oil project with Sudan, a copper mining project with Zambia and a chromite mining project with South Africa. All are win-win deals.


Although Sino-African trade and economic cooperation has been growing remarkably, it is still on a limited scale. The trade volume for 2002 was US$12 billion -- an insignificant proportion of the continent's total US$300 billion for that year. It is the common desire of China and Africa to accelerate their economic and technical exchanges, and it was with this aim in mind that the first ministers' conference of China-Africa Cooperation Forum opened in 2000.


Attended by 79 African ministers, the forum issued the Beijing Declaration and Outline of Sino-Africa Economic and Social Development Cooperation, confirmed the partnership between China and Africa and made many constructive agreements and accomplishments. These included establishment of the Africa Human Resources Foundation, discussion of new economic cooperation measures, and China's writing off over 10 billion yuan of African debts.


China has completed ahead of schedule the debt exemption on all 32 African countries except Somali where a unified central government has not been established.


The advance of opening and reform has brought more foreigners to China and taken more Chinese to other parts of the world, including Africa. In South Africa there are 50 to 100 thousand Chinese residents that mostly work in the commercial sector in restaurants and the retail trade, rather than pillar industries. They have contributed towards invigorating local economies and employment. The Chinese embassy often organizes various activities to encourage them to abide by local laws and merge into local society, so as to promote Sino-African friendship.


Many renowned Chinese companies like Shanghai Industrial, Hisense, XOCECO, Huawei and ZTE, have set up large refrigerator, washing machine or TV set manufacturing plants in South Africa. The chromite mining and processing project, at a total Chinese investment of US$70 million on the part of China Iron and Steel Industry & Trade Group Co., is another big project in South Africa.


On the whole, however, South Africa invests more in China than China in South Africa. African Sabmille, the world's second largest beer producer, has purchased more than 30 Chinese breweries, and is competing vigorously with Tsingtao and Yanjing, the two most well established beer brands in China. South Africa has also invested US$72 million in establishing the Hongye Aluminum Plant in Inner Mongolia, and it is South African technologies that are used in the campaign to "connect all villages to a radio and TV transmission network" launched by the Chinese government.


Sino-African friendship will be carried forward by the coming generations. There is a bright future for Sino-African cooperation. I wish the upcoming China-African Cooperation Forum a great success.


(China.org.cn December 11, 2003)

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