Pretoria – Chinese companies operating in South Africa have jointly committed to creating at least 20 000 jobs for local communities, particularly the youth.
The South Africa-China Economy and Trade Association (Saceta) held a Job Fair on Thursday where at least 100 Chinese enterprises operating in South Africa showcased their operations and offered employment opportunities to the thousands of young people who attended.
The event was attended and addressed by Minister of Employment and Labour Thulas Nxesi, Chinese Ambassador to South Africa Chen Xiaodong and Deputy Minister of International Relations Alvin Botes. The event was also attended by hundreds of young job-seekers, some of whom would be absorbed into the Chinese entities.
“Today’s Job Fair is a concrete initiative and effort to implement those agreements. This event aims to achieve win-win results. It creates jobs for South Africans,” said Chen.
“It also provides an opportunity for Chinese enterprises to hire local talents and pursue localised development. Today, over 100 Chinese-invested enterprises pledge to provide 20,000 jobs directly for South Africans in the next three years.”
The Chinese diplomat said the companies are involved in wide-ranging sectors, including infrastructure, communications, mining, automobile, and agriculture.
“For example, Huawei will provide 450 jobs, and Pengxin will provide 3,500 jobs in the next three years. Chinese enterprises here actively fulfil their social responsibilities, follow local laws and regulations and support South Africa’s socio-economic development,” said Chen.
“They together write wonderful chapters of China-South Africa win-win cooperation and common development.”
He said despite the Covid-19 headwinds, trade between South Africa and China reached over $54 billion (R790.9 billion) last year, up by over 50 percent.
South Africa's exports to China reached over $33 billion, up by nearly 60 percent.
South Africa is also one of the largest investment destinations for Chinese companies in Africa. By the end of 2021, China's investment in South Africa totalled over $25 billion, which created over 400 000 local jobs.
Nxesi expressed gratitude for the Chinese investment, saying it’s a marker for the close ties between the Asian giant and an African economic powerhouse.
“As very good friends, the Chinese government and companies are aware that the issue of employment creation is at the centre of our government’s programmes and priorities,” said Nxesi.
“When President Ramaphosa alerted me about this unique initiative, I was pleasantly surprised and excited when I noted that China intends to create 19,000 job opportunities for the youth over the next three years.”
Nxesi said South Africa’s unemployment figures, which stand at a staggering 35 percent, are a cause for concern.
“On behalf of our government, I wish to express our gratitude to the people of China for this important gesture which will undoubtedly contribute to our efforts to reduce the current 35.3% unemployment rate. This figure rises to the seventies when it comes to the young people that are not economically engaged,” he said.
“We appreciate that the five enterprises that will contribute to the chunk of these jobs are Pengxin International Mining, Bright Minerals South Africa, True North, Aspigon and Huawei.”
Recently, the Chinese tech giant Huawei faced court action as the South African bemoaned the fact that the company employed more foreign nationals than locals.
Nxesi said the action was not targeted at Huawei only, but it is routine law enforcement of a government driven to ensure that the majority of its people benefit from the major investments.
“I want to deal with this myth, which says this was targeted at Huawei. No ways. It is the inspections that we are doing in all the companies, and we always argue that any company, including the local companies, when they go into certain regions, preference should be given to the locals in terms of jobs and employment,” said Nxesi.
“What we indicated is that we were not happy with their statistics, and after discussions, it became very clear that they are operating in a high-tech environment which needs lots of training. We agreed on a programme of training and setting targets over a period of about five years.”
He said government has accepted to start arming the South African youth with training and skills.