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Chinese President Xi Jinping. Picture: REUTERS
Chinese President Xi Jinping. Picture: REUTERS

The third Belt & Road Forum for International Co-operation — a strategy initiated by China that seeks to connect Asia with Africa and Europe via land and maritime networks with the aim of improving regional integration, increasing trade and stimulating economic growth was recently held in Beijing.  

At the forum President Xi Jinping announced that China will take eight major measures to support the joint pursuit of high-quality Belt & Road co-operation. While the Belt & Road initiative is a global programme, SA is an important wheel in the cog for Africa as a whole. 

SA was the first African country to sign a Belt & Road co-operation memorandum of understanding with China in 2015, causing robust growth that has greatly benefited both nations.  

Among the early successes the co-operation has notched up is the contribution of 244.5MW of wind power to SA’s beleaguered electricity grid by Longyuan SA Renewable, a wholly owned subsidiary of the State Power Investment Corporation’s Longyuan Power Group, which has since 2011 focused its efforts on the development, construction and operation of renewable energy projects, particularly wind farms. 

The De Aar I and De Aar II (North) wind power projects in the Northern Cape not only delivered the lowest electricity price at the time they were commissioned, but also contributed to the development of infrastructure in the region, boosting the local economy and fostering knowledge transfer. 

A further success was recently recorded with an agreement to export SA avocados to China, and the resumption of SA beef exports to China.  

China is ready to open up its huge market of 1.4-billion people to SA. We are ready to expand bilateral trade, optimise trade structure, and work to see that more minerals, agricultural and other high-quality products from Southern Africa make their way into the Chinese market. 

Support transition

The Belt & Road initiative also holds great potential for SA in the areas of bilateral investment co-operation. SA has a huge need for financing for transportation, ports, electricity and other infrastructure while China, a global leader in infrastructure development with great advantages in technology, experience and capital, is ready to work with SA to better connect infrastructure development strategies, encourage Chinese enterprises to invest more in the country, help improve SA’s infrastructure and promote sustainable economic development. 

To support SA’s transition to a green economy China will continue to deepen co-operation in areas such as green infrastructure, green energy and green transportation.  

SA is well endowed with renewable energy resources and has broad prospects for the new energy market. Chinese companies are strong in technology and research experience in the areas of solar PV, wind power and energy storage. 

After Xi’s visit to SA in August four memorandums of understanding were signed covering new energy, electricity and the green economy. That will support SA’s energy transformation and sustainable development. 

China is also committed to promote signature projects and “small yet smart” livelihood programmes to boost livelihoods in SA. We will carry out 1,000 small-scale livelihood assistance projects, and enhance vocational education co-operation through Luban Workshops and other initiatives in the country. 

The first batch of electricity equipment for our small-scale livelihood assistance project has arrived at the port of Durban. More equipment is also on its way.  

China is also ready to share our experience in poverty reduction with SA. We will actively advance projects such as the technical & vocational education & training (TVET) schools and poverty-alleviation pilot village. 

As part of the Belt & Road initiative China will boost co-operation with SA in agriculture, education and training, health, transportation, electricity and water resources to support SA in creating jobs and improving people’s livelihoods. 

We are ready to jointly write a new chapter of high-quality Belt & Road development for both countries, build a high-level China-SA community with a shared future, and make greater contributions to the building of a community with a shared future for humankind. 

• This is an edited version of a speech delivered by Chen, ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to SA, at the Drakensberg Inclusive Growth Forum in KwaZulu-Natal in October.

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