It’s not a new colonialism, it’s a win-win: Ramaphosa on China’s billions

President Cyril Ramaphosa gives a speech during the opening ceremony of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Monday (September 3 2018). Picture: Madoka Ikegami/Reuters
President Cyril Ramaphosa gives a speech during the opening ceremony of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Monday (September 3 2018). Picture: Madoka Ikegami/Reuters

President Cyril Ramaphosa used his opening address at the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation summit in Beijing on Monday to champion Africa’s call for fair trade between the continent and the world’s second largest economy.

Ramaphosa’s comprehensive speech, coming after his summit co-chairperson and Chinese President Xi Jinping committed an additional $60 billion investment to Africa over the next three years, appeared to hit the right notes. It carried a central theme that a win-win cooperation was ideal and necessary.

He spoke diplomatically against the trade imbalance between China and Africa and dismissed the opposing views that the partnership amounted to a new form of colonialism.

“We export to China what we extract from the earth and China imports to us what it makes from its factories,” said Ramaphosa, describing uneven arrangement as limiting, given Africa’s quest to extract full value from its natural resources. He said that the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation should “work to balance the structure of trade between Africa and China” and “we are pleased that China is open to this [proposal] and in fact encourages balanced trade so that we have a win-win outcome that benefits both the Chinese and the African people”.

He said the forum “refutes the view that a new colonialism is taking hold in Africa as our detractors would have us believe” because there was evidence of “tangible and lasting benefits to the African and Chinese people”.

“The rapid growth in Sino-African trade made China Africa’s largest trading partner, he said.

Ramaphosa said the objectives behind the China and Africa economic cooperation extended beyond the Chinese and African people and included the aspiration to build a shared future for all mankind through leadership, vision and partnership.

In his address earlier Xi said China committed to investing another $60 billion in Africa over the past three years following the successful implementation of a similar commitment since 2015 when South Africa hosted the forum in Johannesburg. He said that at all times, China’s relationship with Africa was guided by the principles of “the principle of greater good and shared good faith” because the country valued sincerity and equality in cooperation.

“We respect, love and support Africa,” he said, adding that China would never interfere with the African people’s chosen developmental path or its internal affairs, including through imposing its will. He said there was neither seeking an attachment to political strength in providing assistance or seeking any selfish political gains.

His new offer to Africa included an exemption on debt owed to the country by African states that was due to expire this year. “China dreams of national renewal and Africa of unity and invigoration and a day will come when both aspirations will be achieved,” said Xi.

Ramaphosa said the Sino-Africa relationship was “premised on the right of African people to determine their own future [towards] an Africa we want, where the guns would have been silenced and all its people live in peace an security”.

He said an ideal Africa was one with a strong cultural identity, shared values and ethics – including a people-driven development path relying on the capability of its people. China is a trusted and committed partner in advancing Africa’s vision, he said.

He praised China for its “remarkable economic achievements” including that it lifted millions of its people out of poverty. “There are many valuables lessons that Africa can learn from china’s impressive growth model, particularly in using its capacity and natural resources as a catalyst for growth”.

He said the $60 billion commitment from Xi would boost Africa’s goals for industrial development, infrastructure development, human resources development, health care, the green economy as well as peace and stability.

Ramaphosa said Africa should “seek inward investment that encourages industrial development”. “We urge Chinese investors to take advantages of the great opportunities created by the African continental free trade area, which created a single market of more than 1 billion people.”

He said the initiative would position the continent as a global competitor and “China could reap the benefits of a massive continental market”.

He said that a fair and transparent system of international trade was necessary, including and a global economic architecture that promoted the interests of the developing world.

“As we strengthen political and economic ties we need to place greater emphasis on people to people cooperation right across our countries to empower and nurture the youth.”

The cooperation between China and Africa was “a forward looking partnership” not concerned only with the current – but also the future – challenges, he said.

“With the foundation we have built through the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation and an established relationship, I am certain that we will succeed,” said Ramaphosa.

Xi said that future of cooperation should focus on young people and the initiatives that China would drive were designed to help young people in Africa. “We want to provide young Africans with more training and job opportunities,” he said.

He outlined a target of eight major initiatives in the next three years and beyond, including industrial promotion.

“We have decided to open a China-Africa economic and trade expo in China to encourage Chinese companies to increase investment in Africa.”

He said that his country would support Africa’s goal to achieve general food security by 2030, and work together to implement cooperation on agricultural modernisation programme. China would dispatch 500 senior agriculture experts to Africa and train researchers in agriscience and support Chinese companies in Africa.

Xi said China would support the continent in developing a single African air transport market and spoke of direct flights between China and Africa. A trade facilitation initiative to increase imports from Africa was also on the cards including 50,000 government scholarship and 50,000 training opportunities for seminars and workshops.

The country intended to bring 200 young Africans to China for a skills exchange programme.

“We are ready to make a greater contribution to support cultural diversity in the world,” he said, citing as a target exchange programme in culture, arts, education sports, think tanks and media, focusing on young people to strengthen the bond between the people of China and Africa.

He said that China wanted to make a great contribution to mankind and wanted to contribute towards building a global community with a shared future, which included “forging partnerships and enhancing friendships”.

“Our goal is to make the world a place of peace and stability and more happier for all and China will get actively involved in global governance. We call for increasing the representation and voices of developing countries in international affairs.”

He echoed Ramaphosa’s call for “win-win cooperation” and said China rejected protections and unilateralism.

“No one isolating themselves in an island will have a future. China will work with Africa to achieve a shared goal and turn it into a pacesetter for building such a community for all mankind.”

Xi said the partnership should “increase political and policy dialogue, enhance mutual understanding and support and boost coordination on major international and regional issues [to] enable us to uphold our common interests”.

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