Respected Professor Tshilidzi Marwala, deputy vice chancellor of the University of Johannesburg
Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends, Good morning.
It is a my great pleasure to attend the Seminar today and participate in discussion of SADC Regional Integration through Industrialization and the Role of China.
Africa enjoys abundant natural and human resources with a great potential in economic development. In the new era of China-Africa relations, China has rolled out China-Africa industrialization plan and looks forward to industry partnering and production capacity cooperation between the two sides. China has made a public pledge that it will provide technology, equipment, skilled personnel and capital to Africa countries in their industrialization based on the principle of Sincerity, Practical Results, Affinity, and Good Faith. It brings great opportunities and driving forces to Africa’s restarting of industrialization in the current international environment. What is more, it is expected to lay a solid foundation for the integration of Africa by contributing to upgrade its infrastructure networks. Against this background, it is greatly significant to have extensive and in-depth discussions about the integration through industrialization of SADC. On behalf of the Chinese Consulate General, I would like to extend my thanks to all participating guests, scholars and experts. I also wish to express my sincere appreciation to staff from the University of Johannesburg for making the seminar happen.
China is the indispensable partner of Africa in its way to realize integration and industrialization.
First, the Chinese government attaches great importance to the development of Africa and takes industrial cooperation as the top priority. In May 2014, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang has proposed in his visit to Africa to upgrade China-Africa cooperation in six areas, with industrial cooperation being the first. In December 2015, President Xi Jinping announced the ten cooperation plans during the FOCAC Johannesburg Summit. China-Africa industrialization plan has been again identified as the top priority, and incorporated into the Johannesburg Action Plan (2016 to 2018). During the G20 Hangzhou Summit in China last year, it is one of the major outcomes to adopt the G20 Initiative on Supporting Industrialization in Africa and Least Developed Countries. Given these facts, China-Africa industrial cooperation stands as a strategic measure recognized by both leaders and is equipped with a rough implementation road map.
Second, China and Africa share mutual needs and complementarities in industrial cooperation, thus embracing good opportunities. The impetus of industrialization of Africa and the key to shifting its commodity-dependent economic structure both lie in increasing the added value to its products. At the present stage, policies have been made in various African countries with emphasis on facilitating the financing of SMMEs as well as promoting staff training and technology transfer, in which Chinese companies have a know-how. Over the past years, the Chinese government has been working closely with African countries to launch these projects and programs. A number of technology transfer and demonstration centers have been built. Hundreds of thousands of skilled personnels have been trained. The capacities of African companies, especially SMMEs, have been enhanced to engage in regional value chain. On the other hand, as the biggest trade partner with Africa, China is seeing a rising cost of labor at home. It increasingly leads to manufacturing capacity to relocate to foreign economies. The rare opportunity is to be seized by African countries to establish an industrial chain linking themselves in the continent.
Third, the Belt and Road Initiative has been serving as a visible and concrete platform to advance the integration through industrialization of Africa. To address the conflicts between large-scale production and fragmented market, industrialization and integration must be launched and processed in tune. The leaders of African countries have reached consensus on it and mapped out the chart in the Agenda 2063 of African Union and its First Ten Year implementation Plan. The African CFTA (Continental Free Trade Area) has also been put forward with steady pace. There is no dispute that the governments of African countries need to formulate their respective industrial policies from a regional perspective so as to unlock the greater market. Meanwhile inadequate infrastructure in sectors of railway, highway, ports, electricity, water supply, communication and telecommunication must be improved. It is expected to bring about the infrastructure connectivity and economic integration of Africa and as a result pave the way for large-scale production and an integrated market.
China has always been a firm advocator and promoter of regional cooperation. In 2013, President Xi Jinping proposed the major initiative of jointly building the ”Belt and Road”. By carrying forward the spirit of Ancient Silk Road, the purpose is to achieve advantage complementarities in all countries, narrow the regional development gap, and speed up the regional integration process through policy communication, infrastructure connectivity, unimpeded trade, financial integration as well as people-to-people bonds so that related areas can achieve common development and common prosperity. It is centered around the crucial link of connectivity and put infrastructure development as a key part of economic cooperation. It is therefore well-suited to the needs of SADC countries in their pursuit of realizing integration through industrialization. By aligning the development strategies in synergy, the “Belt and Road” initiative will be conducive to expand regional investment and domestic demand, job creation and poverty reduction and to achieve a higher level of development for SADC countries, thus laying a solid foundation for its integration through industrialization.
Next month, the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation will be held in Beijing, with the theme of “Building the Belt and Road for win-win development”. Up to now, leaders from about 20 countries have confirmed their participation, representing Asia, Europe, Africa and Latin America at the Forum. Discussions will be conducted on key topics such as infrastructure connectivity, economic cooperation and trade, industrial investment, energy and resources, financial support, people-to-people exchanges, ecological and environmental protection and marine cooperation.
With industrial cooperation being the key area and main focus in China-Africa cooperation, Chinese government and companies need to have more understandings about Africa in order to better work with and support Africa. To name a few, the idea of African countries about its industrialization strategy, the problems facing African countries like distribution and layout of industries, the conflicts between large-scale production and fragmented market, building diversified economy and putting an end to resource-reliance, choosing the right model and path of industrialization. This seminar has made ways for extensive and intensive discussions in the sense.
To conclude, I wish the seminar a full success. Thank you.