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Focusing on New Dimensions of Growth and Ushering in a New Stage for China-Africa Cooperation
2020/10/13

Honorable Mrs. Sidiropoulos, Chief Executive of the South African Institute of International Affairs,

Distinguished representatives from think-tanks, media and business communities,

Ladies and gentlemen,

Dear friends,

Good morning,

Very glad to attend the webinar on “New Dimensions of China-Africa Development: Trade, Infrastructure and the Fourth Industrial Revolution hosted by the South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA).

This is the first time for me to attend the event hosted by South African think tank since I assumed the post of Chinese Ambassador to South Africa. Here I would like to extend my sincere greetings to all friends who have cared about and supported the growth of China-South Africa and China-Africa relations!

My colleagues told me that the SAIIA has been rated as the best think tank in sub-Saharan Africa for many years in a row. With strong research capability, SAIIA has set up a special “China in Africa Project”, which has played a positive role in promoting exchanges between China and Africa.

Mrs. Sidiropoulos, Chief Executive of SAIIA, has made positive contributions to enhancing China-South Africa and China-Africa exchanges and friendship. As a project sponsored by the China-Africa Joint Research and Exchange Program, this webinar once again demonstrates the close cooperation between our two sides.

The webinar on “New Dimensions of China-Africa Development: Trade, Infrastructure and the Fourth Industrial Revolution” in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, addresses timely the core interests and major concerns of China-Africa cooperation.

This webinar brings the think tank scholars, media representatives and business elites from both China and Africa together. It serves as a platform for brainstorming, dialogue and offering insights for China-Africa cooperation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Before assuming the post, I was the Assistant Foreign Minister covering African affairs. I saw for myself the fast and all-round progress of China-South Africa and China-Africa relations.

Now China-Africa Comprehensive Strategic Partnership has entered a new era of win-win cooperation and common development. Our two sides are working together for a closer China-Africa community with a shared future.

China-Africa mutually beneficial cooperation has entered a new stage of transformation and upgrading, defined by a shift from government-led assistance to market-driven trade and enterprise investment, from general merchandise trade to production capacity cooperation and processing trade, and from project contracting to investment, construction, operation and financial cooperation.

Trade and investment are brilliant achievements of China-Africa cooperation. China remains Africa’s largest trading partner for 11 consecutive years. Two-way trade between China and Africa reached US$208.7 billion in 2019, 20 times that of the year of 2000.

China remains South Africa’s largest trading partner for 11 years in a row and South Africa has been China’s largest trading partner in Africa for 10 consecutive years, with two-way trade reaching US$42.46 billion in 2019.

South Africa is also the first African country to export beef to China, and China has become the largest consuming market for South African’s beef.

At the China International Fair for Trade in Services held in early September this year, the tourism products from Angola, Botswana and Rwanda attracted the attention of many Chinese tourists.

China now is opening wider to the outside world, while the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) covering a market of 1.2 billion people and a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of more than US$3.4 trillion enjoys huge potential for development. Against such background, China-Africa trade enjoys broad prospects.

China will continue to support AfCFTA, carry out Free Trade Agreements negotiations with African countries that are willing to cooperate with China, and increase imports of African products, especially non-resource goods.

More than 200 enterprises from over 40 African countries showcased their products at the first and second China International Import Expo (CIIE). The third CIIE will be held from November 5 to 10. We look forward more products and enterprises from African countries at the upcoming CIIE, so as to bring more confidence to China-Africa trade and support Africa’s economic recovery after the pandemic.

In recent years, China’s investment in Africa has increased steadily as well. Up to now, China’s direct investment stock in Africa stands at US$110 billion. There are over 3,700 Chinese companies investing and doing business in Africa.

According to rough statistics, China’s total investment in South Africa has exceeded US$25 billion, creating more than 400,000 local jobs.

Going forward, China will step up investment and cooperation with Africa in infrastructure, special economic zones and industrial parks, equipment manufacturing, industrial capacity, energy and resources development as well as financing cooperation, so as to help African countries better integrated into global value and industrial chains.

Infrastructure remains as a strong cornerstone of China-Africa cooperation. Inadequate infrastructure is a major development bottleneck for African countries. Africa’s average investment gap for infrastructure amounts to US$100 billion every year, and China has become the largest financier and contractor of Africa’s infrastructure.

Over the years, China has helped build in Africa over 10,000 kilometers of roads, 6,000 kilometers of railways, more than 150 stadiums, conference centers and parliament buildings, more than 200 schools and 80 power plants or power stations as well as many airports and ports, benefiting almost all African countries.

Jointly advancing the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has injected strong new momentum into China-Africa infrastructure cooperation.

So far, 44 African countries and the African Union have signed BRI cooperation documents with China. China’s infrastructure projects have creates revenues of over US$50 billion a year for African countries.

The Mombasa–Nairobi Railway has created nearly 50,000 jobs for the local people, driving Kenya’s economic growth by about 1.5%, and making outstanding contributions to local economic and social development.

Going forward, China is ready to work with Africa to formulate and implement the China-Africa Infrastructure Cooperation Plan, support African countries in making better use of such financing channels as the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the New Development Bank and the Silk Road Fund, and support Chinese enterprises in participating in Africa’s infrastructure development through investment- construction-operation and other models.

We will focus on strengthening cooperation in energy, transportation, information and communication technologies, and trans-boundary water resources. China and Africa will join hands to implement a number of key interconnectivity projects, We will support the implementation of the Single African Air Transportation Market.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is a brand new opportunity for China-Africa cooperation. In recent years, the Fourth Industrial Revolution represented by artificial intelligence, big data, and the Internet of Things are unfolding and growing rapidly around the world.

Africa is seizing the opportunity brought by the Fourth Industrial Revolution. South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria and other African countries have incorporated the digital economy into their national development strategies.

South Africa has established the Fourth Industrial Revolution Presidential Committee chaired by President Ramaphosa. In the first quarter of this year, the number of registered users of mobile wallets in Nigerian payment company Paga increased by 3.3 times compared with the previous quarter. South African telecommunications company MTN achieved rapid growth in its business in the African market.

China-Africa cooperation in the digital economy has achieved gratifying results. 80% of Africa’s backbone network infrastructure is built by Huawei and ZTE. ZTE’s products and services have been distributed in 48 African countries. Alipay’s mobile payment business has involved more than 10,000 merchants in South Africa. Huawei and Rain, a local mobile data network operator in South Africa, have released the first 5G commercial network in South Africa and built more than 1,000 base stations.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Chinese companies used various digital cooperation platforms to help the export of African specialty products to China through online promotion conferences and live broadcasts.

Alibaba Group’s Electronic World Trade Platform (eWTP) has enabled products from Ethiopia, Rwanda and other African countries to have direct access to Chinese consumers through cross-border e-commerce platforms.

In May of this year, 3000 bags of Gorilla's Coffee of Rwanda were sold out in one second in the Taobao live broadcast.

As part of the move to address the emerging challenges, the Chinese side proposed a Global Initiative on Data Security, and initiative that calls for upholding the principles of multilateralism, balancing security and development, and ensuring fairness and justice, so as to safeguard global data security.

China firmly opposes that certain country resorted to unjustifiable bashing and malicious slander under the false pretext of ensuring “data security”, and opposes to the all-around sanction on Huawei with the excuse of the so-called “national security”, or even forcing other countries to give up the cooperation with Huawei.

Such behaviors will sever global supply and industrial chains, and have severe implications on the global market by undermining the principle of fair competition and disrupting market order. It will surely face the opposition from other sides including the African countries.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution has created tremendous opportunities and vast space for China-Africa cooperation. China is willing to work with Africa to expand cooperation in new infrastructure building such as 5G, big data centers, artificial intelligence, ultra-high voltage power transmission, and in new business forms such as digital economy, smart cities, clean energy, and e-commerce.

Our two sides shall conduct in-depth joint research, technical personnel training, and combat COVID-19 with science and technology so as to jointly build a Digital Silk Road that benefits the people’s livelihood through win-win cooperation.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear friends,

This year marks the 20 years anniversary of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). Yesterday, President Xi Jinping and Senegalese President Macky Sall exchanged congratulatory messages on the 20th anniversary of FOCAC.

Twenty years since its establishment, FOCAC has traveled an extraordinary journey, and has become an important and vibrant platform for collective dialogue, an effective mechanism for practical cooperation between China and Africa, and an important front for South-South cooperation.

China and Africa will take the 20th anniversary of FOCAC as an opportunity to elevate the China-Africa Comprehensive Strategic Cooperative Partnership to a higher level, build a closer China-Africa community with a shared future, deliver more benefits to the African people, make the China-Africa cooperation an example of multilateralism and win-win cooperation, and contribute more to defending fairness and justice on the world stage and promoting global development and prosperity.

Not long ago, President Xi Jinping and President Ramaphosa co-hosted the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity Against COVID-19 to explore ways for the growth of China-South Africa and China-Africa relations.

The South African government and enterprises support China’s COVID-19 response. The Chinese government and people from all walks of life have donated millions of rand, more than 6 million masks, hundreds of thousands of testing kits, ventilators, protective suits and other anti-pandemic supplies to South Africa.

At the Extraordinary China-Africa Summit on Solidarity Against COVID-19, President Xi Jinping proposed that China will continue to do whatever it can to support Africa’s COVID-19 response.

China will start ahead of schedule the construction of the Africa CDC headquarters this year. China pledged that once the development and deployment of COVID-19 vaccine is completed in China, African countries will be among the first to benefit. Now China is stepping up vaccine cooperation with Morocco, Egypt and other countries. China has announced to join COVAX, with the purpose to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines, especially to developing countries, and hope more capable countries will also join and support COVAX.

China attaches great importance to debt sustainability of Africa and the economic and social returns of projects. Putting ourselves in Africa’s position, we have worked to help Africa prevent debt risks and alleviate repayment pressure. China has been committed to efficient and high quality development in Africa in a way that respects the will of the African people and in line with their actual needs.

COVID-19 is putting greater economic pressure on African countries. China takes the situation seriously and has made active efforts to meet Africa’s needs.

On the basis of implementing the G20’s Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) and within the FOCAC framework, China has declared to cancel the debt of relevant African countries in the form of interest-free government loans that are due to mature by the end of 2020.

China also calls on multilateral financial institutions and private creditors to increase support for African countries that are severely affected by the pandemic, including debt restructuring and further extension of the debt relief period.

At present, the Export-Import Bank of China, as an official bilateral creditor, has signed debt suspension agreements with 11 African countries. Other non-official creditors have also reached consensus on debt relief with some African countries with reference to the DSSI. China will also waive interest-free loans due to mature by the end of 2020 for 15 African countries.

Those policy measures, which help African countries expand fiscal resources, restore economic operation, better allocate resources and address the impact of COVID-19. Facing COVID-19, it is of vital importance to maintain Africa’s momentum of development over the years. China will act more forcefully to support African countries in pursuing economic self-reliance and sustainable development and tackling the root causes of the debt issue.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear friends,

China-Africa friendship and cooperation has emerged stronger from challenges and difficulties. However, certain forces with ulterior motives have kept fabricating the so-called "debt trap fallacy ", "strategic asset plundering fallacy", and "neocolonialism fallacy" to exert pressure on African countries and prevent their cooperation with China in 5G and other fields.

They attempt to drive a wedge between China and Africa and force Africa to take sides. All of their acts are attributed to Cold War mentality and the zero-sum game mindset. They run counter to the trend of the times and are doomed to fail.

We are glad to see that during the 75th session of the UN General Assembly, the vast number of African countries represented by South Africa and Ethiopia serve as a staunch force in upholding multilateralism.

In the context of profound changes in the international situation and the COVID-19 pandemic unseen in a century, it is more imperative than ever for China and South Africa, China and Africa to strengthen solidarity and cooperation.

China and Africa must stay committed to the path of multilateralism, jointly safeguard the UN-centered international system and the WTO-centered multilateral trading system, and take a clear-cut stand against unilateralism, protectionism, racism and bullying.

China has become the first country to bring COVID-19 under effective control and restore economic growth. We are now fostering a new economic dynamic with free flowing domestic circulation as the mainstay and mutually reinforced by international circulation.

Good results have been delivered in South Africa and Africa’s COVID-19 response. The African countries are now promoting economic recovery. In light of the post-COVID-19 situation, China is ready to work with Africa to grasp the new dimensions of development and identify the areas for our cooperation, thus ushering in a new stage for China-Africa cooperation.

I wish this seminar a complete success!

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