Joint tech, science park for SA, China

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IOL BR Wan Gang Bloomberg. Wan Gang, Minister of Science and Technology. Photo: Bloomberg.

Johannesburg - South Africa and China are discussing the possible establishment of a joint science and technology industrial park in South Africa to stimulate high-tech manufacturing industries, the Chinese government says.

China’s Science and Technology Minister Wan Gang discussed the proposal with his South African counterpart Derek Hanekom in February, China’s deputy ambassador to South Africa Yang Yirui said on Friday.

He said Wan was visiting to attend the first meet of science and technology ministers of the Brics (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) forum.

China has built hundreds of such parks, at home and abroad, which concentrate industries in specific sectors and provide them with top-rate facilities and government concessions to try to foster innovation.

Yang said these projects had largely been successful.

Wan and Hanekom discussed the possibility of the countries collaborating to build the park, pooling research and development strengths in government and the private sector.

He did not elaborate on what incentives, if any, the South African government might offer to companies to operate in the park.

The proposed park can be seen in the context of China’s offer to help South Africa and other African countries rebalance trade by improving their manufacturing industries.

China is running a massive trade surplus with most African countries as it largely imports raw material from the continent and exports mostly manufactured goods.

At the last Forum for China-Africa Co-operation in Beijing in 2012, President Jacob Zuma told then president Hu Jintao that the trade pattern between Africa and China was “unsustainable in the long term” and implored China to address it.

At Friday’s press conference in Pretoria, Ji Peiding, a top adviser to the Chinese government, said it was trying to correct the imbalance by establishing manufacturing plants in Africa, such as textile mills.

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