When Kobus van der Wath, business director of the South Africa-China Business Association (SACBA), came to China several years ago, he knew few people, but he has seen that change dramatically as bilateral trade between the two nations grows at about 50 percent per year.
South African companies are active in mining, media, Internet and technology, consulting and even consumer products in China. Among them are MIH, the media giant that holds shares of Tencent, the largest instant messaging community in China, and SABMiller plc, whose joint venture in China, CR Snow Breweries, is now the largest brewer in China by sales volume.
South Africa is the continent's largest trading partner with China, accounting for one-fifth of the total. Bilateral trade between China and South Africa amounted to US$6.3 billion in 2005, up 42.4 percent year-on-year. China, behind Germany, is the second-largest importer of South African goods.
Of course the Chinese market, with its double-digit growth rate and 1.3 billion population, is appealing to South African investors. Investment volume has surpassed US$2 billion as more South African companies have started their business operations.
SACBA, acting as an information platform providing data on China to South African investors, has more than 50 member businesses and plans to serve more.
The Chinese companies have also brought their business to South Africa. China's telecom companies Huawei and ZTE have entered the country, while inexpensive home appliances made in China, are popular in the local market.
The two economies are both complementary and competitive, said Kobus. South Africa has some cutting edge technologies that will expand in the Chinese market, he said, while demand for China's manufactured goods and services in South Africa is also increasing.
Before South Africa will host the soccer World Cup in 2010, it will need new construction and renovation, seen to be a good opportunity for Chinese companies specializing in big construction projects.
Cooperation between the two in mining will also grow due China's increasing demand for South Africa's rich natural resources.
"As President Hu Jintao embarks on his trip we see scope for significant further developments in the strategically important China-Africa partnership," said Kobus.
(China Daily January 30, 2007)