Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe put it: "Africa indeed has a ready-made partner in a win-win situationâ€”China has the correct mindset and proper relationship stance to foster co-operation between our two sides."
(Mugabe praised Africa’s increased trade with China, shunning the West).
The recent November 3, Forum on China-Africa Co-operation offered a platform to enhance Africa’s bilateral relations with China to promote trade, deeper understanding and development.
Diplomats said the growing trade between China and Africa showed that China was a genuine partner in the development process and in helping the continent to meet its future investment and industrial growth needs. “We have doubled the total trade between Zimbabwe and China in the last three years. And we expect to double this figure again in the next 24 months,” Christopher Mutsvangwa, Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to China said. “And we believe we will be a shining example of co-operation between China and Africa.”
Zimbabwe is rich in minerals and China was increasingly becoming the biggest buyer of the resources. “We are one of the richest countries in terms of minerals, platinum, diamonds and copper. And China is the biggest market for our minerals,” Mutsvangwa said. “China is a big buyer of our tobacco. All the best known cigarette brands in China, including Hongtashan and Zhonghua, use tobacco from Zimbabwe, at least by 11 to 15 percent.” Zimbabwe, he said, was buying a lot of equipment from China which included locomotives from Dalian and rolling stock from Changchun, buses and agricultural machinery.
“We used to buy from western countries, but they are very expensive. Now we are buying from China and getting more for less. The quality is good and the price is good,” Mutsvangwa added. He said the economic co-operation between Africa and China had changed the whole scene on the international market. “The only markets were Europe and America. They organized and distorted the market place, so if Africa wanted to negotiate, we were told we could take it or leave it,” the Zimbabwean diplomat said.
China announced that it had set aside US$3 billion preferential loan package and a US$2 billion preferential buyers’ credit to Africa over the coming three years without any conditionalities. The Asian giant also unveiled a plan to set up a US$5 billion China-Africa development fund to encourage Chinese companies to invest in Africa, to train 15, 000 African professionals, to send its 100 highly skilled agricultural experts to Africa and set up 10 agricultural institutions.
Trade between China and Africa hit US$40.6 billion in the first nine months of the year, up 40 percent from 2005. In addition, China cancelled debts of 31 countries and extended an estimated US$5.5 billion in assistance. A string of business deals worth billions of dollars were signed between companies from Africa and those in China, with one aluminum company striking a US$938 million deal to build a plant in Egypt and another US$300 million to upgrade a highway in Nigeria.
“China was a genuine partner in Egypt’s development process and in its ambitious plan to acquire advanced technology and encourage investment,” Egyptian ambassador to China Mahmoud Allam said. “Four years of close co-operation between Egypt and China have paid off. The trade volume between both countries has jumped from US$952 million in 2001 to US$1, 577 million in 2004 and reached $2.14 billion by the end of last year.
“US$10 billion is our estimated goal for this year,” he said.
Egypt was the first African country to establish diplomatic ties with China in 1956. Ethiopia’s ambassador to China Haile-Kiros Gessesse said his country and China have developed sound co-operation in the field of investment and infrastructural development. “China-Africa co-operation is South-South co-operation. It allows for dynamism in economic, political and social co-operation and also encourages trade,” he said.
Tanzanian diplomat in China, Omar Mapuri said there is a long history of co-operation between his country and China.
“China treats African countries as equals and China is always a reliable friend for Africa,” he said. “We also persuade those who have still not established relations with China and tell them China is the tree and Taiwan is just a branch.”
Julio Morais, ambassador of the Cape Verde hailed China for boosting economic and trade ties with Africa on the principle of mutual benefit and non-interference. “China’s economic rise and in particular its contribution to the increase in the global demand for resources, such as aluminum, steel, nickel, copper, oil and gas has immensely contributed to Africa’s importance as a provider of these resources,” the diplomat said.
Naomi Majinda, Botswana’s ambassador to China said: “We will work to together with China to find how the two sides can promote faster trade and investment.”
Guinea’s ambassador to China Senkoun Sylla said he wanted the Chinese people to come to Guinea “for more than just trade though, we would also like to see them bring technological know-how as well as capital and to share a win-win co-operation.”
DRC Ambassador to China Charles Mumbala Nzaku said he wanted more Chinese business people to invest in his country which was continually improving the investment climate for them. “When visiting Shandong and Dongguan, I was very glad to find that some local furniture factories were using timber from the DRC,” he said.
The trade volume between the two countries in 2005 stood at US$225 million, of which China exported goods and services worth US$50 and imported goods valued at US$175 million from the DRC.
Said Mustafa Elguelushi, the Libyan diplomat: “I am satisfied with the smooth development of bilateral ties in recent years. Both sides have seen more mutual visits by groups of entrepreneurs and investors. Bilateral trade volume jumped 130 percent last year.”
In China, as Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe put it: “Africa indeed has a ready-made partner in a win-win situation—China has the correct mindset and proper relationship stance to foster co-operation between our two sides.”
Tsiko is The Black Star News’ Southern Africa correspondent, based in Harare.
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