China, South Africa’s largest trade partner, wants to resume projects that were stymied by the Covid-19 pandemic, said the new Chinese ambassador to South Africa, Chen Xiaodong.
China would encourage the resumption of China-Africa trade and collaboration, Chen told the African News Agency (ANA). Chen, who served as a high-ranking assistant foreign minister before taking up the ambassadorship, said China would aggressively pursue public health and economic recovery through the revitalisation of projects affected by the worst pandemic in a century.
Chen referred to President Xi Jinping’s United Nations General Assembly commitments when the Chinese president pledged a further $50 million to the UN Covid Humanitarian Response Plan and $50 million to the China-FAO South-South Co-operation Trust Fund.
Chen said China would create more special economic zones and industrial parks, promote trade and investment, and work with African partners in fields like e-commerce, smart cities, and 5G.
Exports to China in the second quarter this year grew 2% year-on-year despite the South African economy contracting.
According to the research institute, Trade and Industrial Policy Strategies, exports to China, which include copper, iron, steel, fruits, nuts, and wood pulp, grew to 13.4% of South Africa’s total exports, totalling R36.6 billion.
Chen said South Africa and the rest of Africa would continue to receive anti-pandemic supplies, assistance from Chinese medical teams, and crucial intelligence on the Covid-19 virus. Beijing has frequently promised that its African trade partners would be allowed first access to any Chinese-made vaccine. China has several vaccines in late-stage clinical trials.
China signed an agreement with the Vaccine Alliance, Gavi, on 8 October which saw the Asian nation officially join the global Covid coalition, Covax. Chen said this was a substantial step to honouring China’s commitments to global public health.
South Africa and China are in talks to finalise their next 10-year strategic cooperation plan. In 2014, former president Jacob Zuma adopted an initial five to 10-year cooperation plan.
Pravin Gordhan, South African Public Enterprises Minister, said in an online briefing that the next ten-year plan would focus on higher education, skills transfer, the digital economy, science and technology, and health.
The two parties plan to sign an agreement before the end of 2020.