Address by Minister Dlamini Zuma to the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, Ministerial Conference 2000

BEIJING, OCTOBER 10-12, 2000

Your Excellency, the President of the People’s Republic of China

You’re Excellencies, the Presidents of Togo, Algeria and Zambia

Your Excellencies State Counsellors of the People’s Republic of China

Honourable Ministers

I would like to thank the Government of the People’s Republic of China most sincerely for hosting this first meeting of the Forum on China-Africa Co-operation. If ever there was practical embodiment of the spirit and principles of Sino-African solidarity and co-operation, it would be found at this Conference. We are grateful for the opportunity this platform presents us to affirm the long-standing and close relations between Africa and China, and more importantly perhaps, for the opportunity to establish a New Partnership for China-Africa co-operation from the 21st Century.

Your Excellencies –

At this first meeting of the Forum on China-Africa Co-operation, we are faced with a fundamental question : Will our deliberations make a difference to the well-being and dignity of the peoples we represent?

It is barely a month ago that our leaders met at the Millennium Summit of the UN. At that occasion, our leaders adopted the Millennium Declaration, which, inter alia, expressed our determination to establish a just and lasting peace in the world; our respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms; and rededicated ourselves to international co-operation in solving international problems of economic, social, cultural and humanitarian character. We declared that we shall spare no effort to free our fellow men, women and children from the abject and dehumanising conditions of extreme poverty; and committed ourselves to making the right to development a reality for everyone, and to freeing the entire human race from want. The leaders of the world declared that they will support the consolidation of peace and democracy in Africa, and assist Africans in their struggle for a lasting peace, the eradication of poverty and sustainable development, thereby bringing Africa into the mainstream of the world economy.

It is significant, Excellencies, that China is the first of the leading countries of the world to have embarked, in a particular manner, on the implementation of those noble ideals expressed in the Millennium Declaration. At the Millennium Summit, the President of South Africa made the clarion call to the world, that "the essential question we have to answer … is whether we have the courage and the conscience to demonstrate that we have the will to ensure that we permit no situation that will deny any human community its dignity".

It is with much pride, Excellencies that we can all agree that our meeting at this Ministerial Conference is our committed response to that appeal made to the world.

In order to provide meaningful expression to the new partnership between China and Africa, there has to be a radical expansion of trade volume between the two regions from the current two per cent in the year 2000 to double digits in the next five years. The relationship must take a unique form that would assist Africa in its efforts to develop its secondary industries in the manufacturing sector, agricultural produce, help us add value and beneficiate our mineral exports and grant these products access to your market. Simultaneously, it must improve China’s access to the important raw materials that are so important for this country’s economic growth. Africa accounts for more than fifty percent of the world’s gold and platinum deposits, 90% of cobalt, 80% of chrome and other strategic minerals.

In the era of globalisation the economy is the engine that brings nations closer and closer; China and Africa must radically alter their economic relations, so that the rich history of partnership and co-operation is carried to future generations.

The Asian region holds a strategic advantage in the global revolution that is taking place in the domain of ICT. Our partnership should facilitate the transfer of technology to ensure that the African continent does not suffer yet another round of marginalisation and economic under-development and that it harnesses the benefits of the digital revolution. In this context South Africa's parastatal, Telcom secured over $600 million to fund the implementation of an undersea cable to link Africa with Asia and Europe. Telkom has itself committed $100 million to the total investment in the fibre optic cable project to run over 28 000-km marine route which will start before the end of this year. The first part will be a 15 000-km link between South Africa and Europe, landing at ten West and Southern African countries. The second segment of the project is a 13 800-km link to the East. Both segments of the project should be completed by April 2001. This will cater for Africa’s communication needs for the next 25 years, connecting the continent directly with many international destinations.

Clearly, as part of the solution to the challenges brought about by the new economic order, we require appropriate skills to effectively utilise and take advantage of new technology and opportunities that derive from the information age. The partnership has, among other things, to have a strong element of transfer of appropriate skills.

It is a combination of these that will potentially help leapfrog Africa from the periphery of social economic development into the mainstream of the new emerging economic order while simultaneously help China continue her industrial and economic growth.

The prevalence of communicable disease and the scourge of HIV/Aids continue to undermine Africa’s human resource capacity. The challenge therefore is to raise the continent’s health delivery infrastructure capacity access to affordable medicine.

The challenges of the underdevelopment of the African continent need to be urgently addressed and this requires an acceleration of the flow of Foreign Direct Investment into Africa. China’s role in infrastructure development in Africa has been commendable and it is a strength that we should now continue to build on. However, the extent to which we can do so and the speed required, will be determined by the availability of capital investments.

For this reason we believe that the heavy burden of debt on the continent, particularly the HIPC, remains one of the factors that erode Africa’s developmental potential. China’s commitment within set time frames to reduce and / or cancel debt by considerable sums is not only commendable but speaks to the seriousness she attaches to the problem. Together we must continue with the efforts to ensure that the momentum generated on this issue in recent years is maintained.

Our search for peace and stability in the world forms an integral part of the African Renaissance, which includes social and economic development as already, alluded to above. This search includes the creation of capacity for macro economic management, effective and efficient public administration, free from corruption, the expansion of democracy and a peaceful resolution of disputes.

However, China-Africa solidarity and co-operation is not a new concept. While we look at this Conference to infuse the Sino-African relationship with the revitalised spirit of a New Partnership, we may justly recall the words of the late Premier Zhou Enlai of the People’s Republic of China at the Bandung Conference in April 1955, when he said "To safeguard world peace, our Asian and African countries … should firstly join efforts to conduct friendly co-operation and realise peaceful coexistence … We should respect one another, and dispose any possible doubt and fear that may exist among our countries … What we need is peace and independence … Our meeting should [do] something to our common aspirations, making it a valuable page in the history of Asian and African countries…"

Excellencies, the time has come for the New Partnership between Africa and China!

Secure in the knowledge of our long and cordial relationship – and may we remind ourselves that the Treasure Fleets of Admiral Zheng. He rounded the African continent almost one hundred years before the European powers did! - we must jointly and confidently enter this Millennium as partners in a dynamic and constructive engagement, based on mutual benefit and equity.

What we set out to achieve at this Conference will require hard work and much dedication, but certainly, this Conference will mark the beginning of a significant journey, for it was China who taught us that "A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step" It was his Excellency President Jiang who said, one year ago, not far from here at the majestic Tien-an-men, at the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, that "Hard work involves difficulties, and in turn, difficulties give rise to new opportunities". It is in the spirit of this challenge that we must work together here in affirming the New Sino-African Partnership.

Our Conference is an historic moment. It is time to move from rhetoric to reality, to put into action the many lofty words that have spoken about South-South Co-operation, and Sino-African Co-operation. In the Beijing Declaration and the Programme of this Conference, we have committed ourselves to action.

I am confident that Africa and China will emerge because we have amongst us, many people-politicians, business-people, workers, the intelligentsia, women, youth – who are prepared to face this challenge.

Thank you.

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