Remarks by President Jacob Zuma at the opening session of the 5th Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, Beijing, China

19 July 2012

Photo of: President Jacob Zuma
Your Excellency, President Hu Jintao, President of the People’s Republic of China,
Leadership of the Government of China,
Your Excellency, Mr Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations,
Chairperson of the African Union His Excellency Boni Yayi, President of Benin
African Heads of State and Government present here today,
Honourable Ministers,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

On behalf of my delegation, the Government, and the people of South Africa, I convey the warmest greetings to the Government and people of the People’s Republic of China.

Your Excellency, we are deeply honoured by China’s generous and kind hospitality
This Ministerial conference provides both Africa and China the opportunity to hammer out strategies to extricate our peoples out of the devastating recession.  

China’s commitment to Africa has already been demonstrated through tangible and concrete results, particularly in terms of human resource development, debt relief, and investment.  

On the other hand, Africa’s commitment to China’s development has been demonstrated by the supply of raw materials, other products, and technology transfer.

As we all agree, Your Excellency, this trade pattern is unsustainable in the long term.  

Africa’s past economic experience with Europe dictates a need to be cautious when entering into partnerships with other economies.  We are particularly pleased that in our relationship with China we are equals and that agreements entered into are for mutual gain.  This gathering indicates commitment to mutual respect and benefit.

We certainly are convinced that China’s intention is different to that of Europe, which to date continue to attempt to influence African countries for their sole benefit.

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is necessary that we lock in investments in addressing supply side constraints, diversification, and beneficiation of the resources derived from African countries through encouraging joint ventures between Africa and China.

This year marks the 12th anniversary of the formation of the Forum on China-Africa
Co-operation (FOCAC).  

When FOCAC was launched it marked a consummation of Africa-China friendship dating back to the famous Chinese navigator, Zheng He, who reached the African coast four times during the Ming Dynasty more than twenty centuries ago.

The Forum on China-Africa Co-operation has been set on the principles of South-South cooperation, on mutual and equal benefit.

This unique structure has enabled us to work closely as strategic partners for the common good of all our people.

China and Africa have come a long way through the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, and I believe our journey has led us to a point where we can evaluate our progress and successes through our partnership and add impetus to the areas that need further strengthening.

South Africa echoes many voices of the African continent in appreciating China for its work through this Forum.

China’s pledges both at the FOCAC Summit of 2006 and in the 4th FOCAC Sharm El Sheikh Action Plan (2010-2012) has been a demonstration of China’s commitment to this partnership.

Indeed, President Hu, you have remained steadfast in the commitments you made at the first FOCAC Summit in 2006 when you outlined eight steps with which China hoped to strengthen her co-operation with our continent.  

Despite the overcast global economic climate, you have refused to back-track on your promises and ensured that China implemented almost all those crucial eight steps.

Today the world understands what you meant when you declared: “China values its friendship with Africa.  To strengthen unity and co-operation with Africa is a key principle guiding China’s foreign policy.”

Over the last decade, and partly because of China’s unrelenting support, the African continent has seen tremendous growth rates, making it one of the fastest growing continents and certainly the next growth pole. Furthermore, global growth estimates suggests that Africa’s growth will continue in an upward trend for years to come.

Growth and investment opportunities in sectors such as Infrastructure Development, Energy, Science and Technology, the Green Economy, and Agriculture, amongst others, are certainly on the rise.

Africa is ready to leverage on existing partnerships such as the FOCAC, to fast-track Africa’s developmental agenda.  

The implementation of programmes and projects as well as the cooperation in political, economic and social affairs prove that this cooperation is not a mere gathering, but one that is productive and progressive.

In particular, we take note of the infrastructure development China has assisted Africa with in the past several years.

The African continent is now being seen as a major player in global affairs, and is becoming more attractive to investors and development partners.  

Indeed, this is proving to be Africa’s decade of change.

In spite of major progress the African continent has registered in past few years, there are still major challenges that need urgent attention.

In particular, infrastructure development, Information and Communication Technologies and Energy are some of these.

In this regard we call on China to partner with us in tackling these challenges.

I have just returned from the 19th Session of the African Union Summit, where we discussed the progress of the AU/NEPAD Presidential Infrastructure Championing Initiative (PICI), which South Africa chairs and the North-South Road and Rail Development Corridor.

The champions reported on progress with regards to cross-border infrastructure projects that have a high impact and result, and I am glad to inform you that indeed we are making progress.

I believe that China can add impetus to this programme as well as the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA), where we have collectively agreed on the priority projects that need urgent attention.

We are pleased with the role the AU Commission has assumed as a full member of the FOCAC process and we encourage the Chinese side to work closer with the AUC.

We hope that the greater involvement of the AUC will also deepen this relationship and will certainly lead to greater development corporation.

Allow me to also share the good news that during the same AU Summit, South Africa’s Home Affairs Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma was elected as the first SADC chairperson of the AU Commission.  She is also the first woman to be appointed to this prestigious post.  

As African leaders we are proud of this achievement and we wish Dr Dlamini Zuma well in her new responsibilities.  

We are confident that a woman of her calibre will ensure that the African development agenda is advanced through the FOCAC partnership, and Pan African core values and objectives are maintained through the partnership.

Taking into account her experience and strong credentials as former freedom fighter, and as an ANC cadre, we believe that she will add value in ensuring Africa’s independence and protection from external influences that may not be in the best interest of the continent.    

At the AU Summit earlier this week I mentioned former President Mandela’s birthday, and the need for us to keep his vision of a free and prosperous world a reality.  

Indeed, ladies and gentlemen, yesterday marked an important day in the lives of many in the world, as we celebrated the 94th birthday of a true African legend and South Africa’s very first democratically elected President.  His birthday is now called Mandela Day, and on this day we sacrifice 67 minutes to take responsibility for changing the world into a better place, one step at a time, in acknowledgement of the 67 years Madiba fought for a free and better world.  We will always honour this legend of ours.

In conclusion, I wish to thank Egypt for the excellent way they have Co-Chaired along with China, our partnership for the past six years.

In this regard, South Africa will assume Co-Chairship on behalf of the African side, and we pledge to cooperate with China in ensuring that our partnership is further strengthened and continues to be of mutual benefit.

As Honourable Ministers will continue in their deliberations, I wish this gathering every success and we look forward indeed to the outcomes documents that will lay a platform for a stronger partnership over the next several years.

I thank you.

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