Chinese are no new colonisers - Ramaphosa

President Cyril Ramaphosa used his opening address at the FOCAC summit in Beijing on Monday to champion Africa's call for fair trade between the continent and the world's second-largest economy.

Ramphosa's speech, which followed his co-chairperson Chinese president Xi Jinping's pledge of an additional $60bn investment into Africa over the next three years, appeared to hit the right notes, carrying the theme that win-win cooperation was ideal and necessary. 

Addressing trade imbalances between China and Africa, Ramaphosa dismissed views that the partnership amounted to a new form of colonialism.

'Win-win outcome'

"We export to China what we extract from the earth, and China imports to us what it makes from its factories," said Ramaphosa, describing uneven arrangements as limiting, given Africa's quest to maximise its natural resources.

FOCAC should "work to balance the structure of trade between Africa and China", he said.

"We are pleased that China is open to this [proposal], and in fact encourages balanced trade, so that we have a win-win outcome that benefits both the Chinese and the African people," he said.

FOCAC "refutes the view that a new colonialism is taking hold in Africa, as our detractors would have us believe", he added.

This, he said, was because there was evidence of "tangible and lasting benefits to the African and Chinese people". 

The rapid growth in Sino-African trade made China Africa’s largest trading partner, he said.

'Shared future for all'

Ramaphosa urged Chinese investors to "take advantage of the great opportunities created by the African continental free trade area", which he reminded them created "a single market of more than a billion people."

He said the objectives behind economic cooperation between China and Africa extended beyond the Chinese and African people, including the aspiration to build a shared future for all mankind through leadership, vision and partnership.

However, he said that a fair and transparent system of international trade was necessary, including and a global economic architecture that promoted the interests of the developing world.

'We love and support Africa'

In his address earlier, Xi said China had committed to investing another $60bn in Africa over the next three years, following the successful implementation of a similar commitment since 2015, when South Africa hosted FOCAC in Johannesburg.

He said that at all times, China’s relationship with Africa was guided by "the principle of greater good and shared good faith" because the country valued sincerity and equality in cooperation.

"We respect, love and support Africa," he said, adding that China would never interfere with the African people’s chosen developmental path or its internal affairs, including through imposing its will.

There was no desire to seek political strength or selfish gains through providing assistance, he said.

His new offer to Africa included an exemption on debt owed to the country by African states that was due to expire this year.

"China dreams of national renewal, and Africa of unity and invigoration; and a day will come when both aspirations will be achieved," said Xi.

Ramaphosa said the Sino-African relationship was "premised on the right of African people to determine their own future [towards] an Africa we want, where the guns would have been silenced and all its people live in peace and security."

He said an ideal Africa was one with a strong cultural identity, shared values and ethics, including a people-driven development path. China was a trusted and committed partner in advancing Africa’s vision, he said.

* Sign up to Fin24's top news in your inbox: SUBSCRIBE TO FIN24 NEWSLETTER