China's Ambassador in South Africa Lin Songtian addressing journalists in Cape Town after the signing of 93 trade agreements between South African and Chinese entities. Picture: Jonisayi Maromo/ANA

Cape Town - A Chinese economic and trade delegation consisting of 60 entrepreneurs from more than 40 major companies signed 93 cooperation agreements with their South African counterparts during a signing ceremony held in Cape Town on Friday evening.

During the event at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC), South Africa Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel said the 93 agreements between Chinese buyers and South African suppliers, worth some R27 billion, reflected President Cyril Ramaphosa's State of the Nation Address in action.

He said the agreements would create jobs for young people in South Africa, expand the industrial space and help ensure that the country has inclusive economic growth.

“This agreement prioritised improving the structure of trade between the two countries by working towards a more balanced trade profile and encouraging trade in value-added manufacturing products. This would be achieved through Chinese enterprise investing in South Africa in our manufacturing industry and as well as actively promoting the sourcing of value-added products by China from South African suppliers,” Patel said.

“Today’s event is an excellent illustration of us achieving this common goal that we have set ourselves,” he added. 

The delegation, led by Ren Hongbin, Assistant Minister of Commerce in the People's Republic of China, visited South Africa to further enhance business co-operation. This comes after the effective implementation of the consensus reached by Chinese President Xi Jinping with President Ramaphosa and the outcomes of the 2018 Forum on China–Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Beijing Summit.

"China has remained South Africa's largest trading partner for 10 consecutive years and the main source of investment and tourists now," China's Ambassador in South Africa Lin Songtian said at a prestigious reception later on Friday.

"In 2018, China-South Africa bilateral trade grew by 11.18 percent to US$ 43,35 billion against the decline of global trade," Lin said. 

"Among them, China's imports from South Africa increased by 12,13 percent. Chinese enterprises have made more than US$25 billion of direct investment or financing in South Africa, creating more than 400,000 local jobs.

The event on Friday night was attended by numerous top South African government officials, including Patel and International Relations Minister Naledi Pandor.   

SACP deputy general secretary Solly Mapaila and ANC national executive committee member Tony Yengeni were also in attendance.

Addressing the same gathering, Patel said China is a strategic partner to South Africa.

"Trade and investment has grown dramatically over the past 20 years, and particularly since the signing of the 2010 Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. China has the world’s largest population and the second largest economy in the world, measured in US dollars," Patel said.

"Of course, if we measure it in PPP, it is the world’s largest economy. In fact it has been the world’s largest economy for a significant part of the past 500 years, until the advent of colonialism," said Patel.
"China was a strong supporter of the liberation movement during the anti-apartheid struggle and it only established diplomatic ties once South Africa became a free and democratic nation. China is home to one of the great civilisations, and contributed to the advancement of humanity with many great inventions, including the compass, paper making and printing, paper money and for rainy days like today, I should note it also invented the umbrella and for the sunny weather that we want to invite you back for, I am advised that China invented the world’s first sunglasses, with lenses that were flat panes of smoky quartz used in the 12th century or earlier."

Patel welcomed the signing of 93 procurement and investment agreements, which happened in Cape Town earlier on Friday, with a contract value of about R28 billion, principally for the purchase by Chinese companies of South African products.  
"Our relationship is one of great promise and opportunity for both nations. In the course of the last decade, trade relations have expanded rapidly, with China now our largest trading partner. Chinese investors have signalled their confidence in the opportunities to be found in South Africa, with milestone investments such as BAIC’s R4,3 billion investment in a local automotive assembly plant, and partnerships across advanced manufacturers, mining, agriculture and the ICT sectors. These investments are the building blocks of an ever closer partnership," added Patel.

He highlighted that over the past five years, South African exports of citrus fruit to China have quadrupled, and Pretoria is now the leading supplier of citrus fruit to Beijing. 

"We have become the world’s second largest exporter of citrus fruit. In only five years, our exports of nuts to China have expanded by a factor of 19, and we are now the third largest supplier to China. This astonishing growth in a time of otherwise weak trade speaks to what we can offer," said Patel.
"But South Africa offers more than fruit and nuts and vegetables and beef and minerals, though these are important too. We offer Africa’s largest and most diverse industrial base, with cutting-edge science and technology. One of the world’s advanced full-body medical scanners was invented and is made in South Africa. The world’s first heart transplant took place in South Africa. A key component in the wifis used on aeroplanes is made here locally. We are Africa’s largest manufacturer of cars, minibus taxis and trucks."

At the end of his remarks, Patel presented gifts of "an unusual fruit, a piquate pepper, or what South Africans know as peppadew, discovered in South Africa" to Assistant Minister Ren and to Ambassador Lin. 

"It is bottled and sold in supermarkets and we export the product to 27 countries including the US and the UK, mainland Europe, the Scandinavian countries and as far away as Australia and Korea. About 1,500 women workers at a factory in Tzaneen plus large numbers of jobs on farms. I’m told by the company that two-thirds of PEPPADEW® International’s farming contracts are issued to previously disadvantaged farmers," said Patel.
"It's a great tasting product, it creates local jobs, it earns SA foreign exchange and it enables black farmers and women to take part in the economy. Please enjoy it. And if you like it, please import it into China in large quantities."

African News Agency/ANA