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President Cyril Ramaphosa possibly had the best times at the 2018 Beijing Summit of the Forum on China- South Africa Cooperation (FOCOC) on Monday and Tuesday, last week. The president is known for enjoying making deals with major developing nations abroad as China is a member of BRICS. Being an economic powerhouse it remains the top dog ahead of Russia, India and South Africa. China has remained a major economic partner and investor in Africa. They have been a major influence in developing infrastructure and are well known for having financed the construction of the African Union (AU) headquarters in Addis Abba, Ethiopia. The regional body may become more relevant in the future now that most of the continent’s major economies have signed the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) as this will lead to a strengthening of its institutions.
South Africa which is a signatory to AfCFTA and has also defended Beijing’s Africa policy from accusations of neo-colonialism.
“The relationship between China and Africa has now entered a golden age, a real fantastic age of deep cooperation,” Ramaphosa told reporters at a press conference in Beijing on Tuesday.
In the beneficial partnership, all countries are looking at win-win outcomes, Ramaphosa said. The ties are based on equality with deep respect for one another, and “the notion of neo-colonialism is propagated by the people who envy us and jealous of the relationship,” said Ramaphosa.
“There’s no neo-colonialism. There’s a relationship that has its roots deep in history that we were all engaged in struggle with colonialism,” he said.
The Chinese often cite their own struggle with colonialists, such as the Russians, French, British and Japanese for justification that they would never become a source of imperialism. Beijing’s interest in Africa, and those of its vast co-operations has always been to extract natural resources from foreign nations for their benefit while investing in host countries economies and supporting infrastructure development. The One Belt One Road (OBOR) Trade Initiative by China has been considered a form of imperialism in the West that excludes them. This is what Ramaphosa means when he talks about “people who envy us and jealous of the relationship,” said Ramaphosa. South Africa is not party to the OBOR project but it is a trading partner of China and a member of BRICS.
South Africa as well as those African nations that are involved in OBOR are party to AfCFTA so the two trade initiatives will lead to stronger economic interactions with China and non-African partners of OBOR.
“Africa is independent now and is free to choose its partner, and China has been supportive and engaged in partnership where we try to promote, assist its partner,” he stressed.
The press conference was held amid the 2018 Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) on Monday and Tuesday. Ramaphosa says the summit is “historic” and “a milestone.”
China announced on Monday that the country will extend $60 billion in financing for Africa. While African entrepreneurs welcome the offer. Economist Jeremy Stevens told CNN that many felt the$60 billion financing would not be “political appropriate” because Africa is allegedly overloaded with Chinese debt. When asked to comment, Ramaphosa told the Global Times that those who are critical of this should first look at precisely how the categorization of the financing is going to work.
“Many countries have debt, even the very rich countries. It depends on how you manage your debt,” said Ramaphosa. Ramaphosa was a business man once and is known for his negotiation skills having served as the apartheid regime’s former negotiator. He is capable of balancing economic ties between South Africa and its trading partners, be it the BRICS nations, China in particular or the European Union (EU) and the US. The president is known for his firmness and political astuteness. When he is referring to significant depth that Africa is involved in he already knows that the continent is will address it. Hopefully as AfCFTA progresses and the AU’s financial institutions are strengthened the depth will be successfully managed.
The EU and the United States both have suffered heavily from depth crisis. They were able to survive. If AfCFTA were to take of in spite of the initial fears it has aroused, then would the help of investment particularly the $ 60 billion in investment from China it will grow to take on BRICS in its entirety. We will have to see how that plays out.