Welcome Address by President Jacob Zuma during the Opening Ceremony of the Johannesburg Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, FOCAC, Sandton International Convention Centre, Johannesburg, 4 December 2015
Your Excellencies Heads of State and Government
Delegates and Invited guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is indeed our great honour and privilege to host the Forum for China-Africa Cooperation Summit in South Africa.
We are pleased that the FOCAC summit is taking place in Africa for the first time. The decision clearly illustrates the underlying ethos of the FOCAC platform which is mutual trust, equality and partnership.
Let me welcome the opening statements by my esteemed colleagues President Xi, President Mugabe and the Chairperson of the AU Commission Dr Dlamini Zuma.
Let me especially acknowledge and welcome the new measures announced by President Xi this morning which definitely take this partnership between Africa and China to its highest level since the inception of the FOCAC.
Tomorrow will be the second anniversary of the passing of our beloved President Nelson Mandela.
His belief in peace, freedom, democracy, equality, justice and human rights for all must continue to inspire us to work tirelessly each day to build a better Africa and a more just world.
The theme of this Summit, “Africa-China Progressing Together: Win-Win Cooperation for Common Development” is a clear indications of the intentions of this strategic partnership.
Originally, we were comrades in arms in the quest for liberation and freedom, at the height of colonialism and apartheid.
Given that history, it was only natural that Africa has developed a win-win partnership for development and progress with China over the years.
The partnership encompasses cooperation in a number of developmental areas including agriculture, renewable energy, skills training, health, peace and security and infrastructure development.
These elements align with and are integral to our vision for Africa as outlined by Agenda 2063.
Already the partnership is yielding economic results.
China has become Africa's largest trade partner, and Africa is now one of China's major import sources and fourth largest investment destination. This partnership can only yield further positive results for Africa’s development.
However, we meet during a difficult global economic crisis. This affects both our trade outlook as well as investment flows into our countries.
This period therefore calls for innovation and resilience to make our economies survive the global meltdown.
Also, there is still hope for Africa despite the global economic downturn. African economies and the Sub-Saharan region in particular have some of the fastest growing economies in the world.
Importantly, China and African countries share the advantage of having largely youthful populations.
We also have the numbers.
Together we make up nearly a third of the global population. Africa has in the region of one point one billion people and China has one point three billion people.
This translates into immense potential, both as markets, but as producers as well.
Africa also has unique agricultural conditions, innovative and entrepreneurial businesspeople, indigenous knowledge, a huge economic potential in our oceans, and significant quantities of mineral resources, to name a few.
I have deliberately mentioned mineral resources last because, whilst these are a blessing, they have also made Africa vulnerable to exploitation.
It is for this reason that we want to prioritise beneficiation and value-addition. In that way, what is buried in the belly of our soil will translates into benefit for the bellies of our citizens.
We are also keen to explore cooperation with China to ensure the long term viability of African mining and extractive industries in a global market. This is important in light of the declining demand for commodities.
We also welcome cooperation between Africa and China on infrastructure development in the continent.
Africa needs improved connectivity through road, rail and air and we need water infrastructure, energy and a lot more to improve economic activity and improve lives.
The year 2015 has brought about the painful humanitarian disaster occasioned by unparalleled global migration.
Scores of migrants from Africa and the Middle East have perished in the Mediterranean Sea in their attempts to reach Europe.
This desperation is caused by the urgent need to flee from wars and conflict and from poverty and hopelessness.
Tragically, we are also witnessing increasing incidents of terrorism in parts of our Continent, France and elsewhere.
The tragedies remind as leaders that we must work harder to build peace and also to promote inclusive growth and development.
There can be no lasting military solution to this problem. It needs political, social and economic solutions to ensure sustainability.
In the short term we need to protect our youth in particular from being brainwashed into joining extremist groupings that perpetuate violence and destruction.
Importantly, we must give the African people who live in poverty hope that a better future is possible.
Africa has already taken steps to find African solutions to end conflicts and instability.
The continent has committed to Silencing the Guns in our continent by 2020, in alignment with our commitment to Agenda 2063.
We have already taken a significant step forward towards bringing the African Standby Force and its Rapid Deployment Capability into operation. The Force will respond quickly in conflict situations to save lives and bring stability.
I would like to acknowledge the tangible contribution of the People’s Republic of China’s with regard to peacekeeping in Africa.
In addition to participating in up to sixteen United Nations Peacekeeping Missions in Africa, China currently has approximately 2000 peacekeeping personnel on the ground. We appreciate this commitment to peace, development and progress.
It gives practical meaning to the belief of President Xi that China’s military capability must be utilized to achieve peace.
We must give our people hope that indeed the guns will be silenced, and that peace can be achieved in every part of the continent.
Peace creates better conditions for the achievement of economic development and growth.
Very important discussions are taking place in Paris, France, the Twenty First Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, (COP 21), building on the successful Durban COP 17 conference in 2011.
The Fifth Assessment Report of the Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change confirms that each of the past three decades has been successively warmer than the preceding decades.
We must take this warning very seriously as global warming is already affecting agriculture, human settlements, water supplies and other services in our continent.
As the Chair of the Group of 77 plus China and an active member of the Africa Group of Negotiators and the Brazil, South Africa, India and China group known as the BASIC, South Africa has the special responsibility of advancing the collective and shared interests of developing countries in the negotiations for the Paris Agreement.
This necessitates defending the legal rights of developing countries under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
This includes the right to receive the support they require to make the transition to a low carbon economy and to adapt to climate including support for those that have suffered loss and damage.
It is also a fundamental principle of the Convention that our actions must be based on the principle of Common But Differentiated Responsibilities and Respective Capabilities.
We wish all parties successful negotiations in Paris. These are set to intensify next week. COP 21 must succeed and must produce a legally binding outcome that is applicable to all that will save this planet for future generations.
The strategic partnership and cooperation between Africa and the People’s Republic of China is an important instrument towards the achievement of our development goals.
This Summit will serve to further enhance the partnership for mutual benefit.
I wish you all a successful summit.
I thank you.