Johannesburg — SA's leading trading partner, China, took its partnership to a new level with the signing of business deals worth R2,3bn yesterday.
The contract s, which will see SA supplying more goods to China, including mohair, fish and even abalone, were described by Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies as marking a new era of beneficiation for the country.
China's trade interest in Africa has been criticised by analysts as being focused on raw materials without much value added, and therefore not different to the approach of Africa's former colonisers.
Davies said that in just two years, China had brought to the table another set of deals almost double the amount signed in 2007 of R1,1bn.
This time, he said, the deals would " most certainly" secure jobs in various industries. The contracts would see Chinese companies sourcing products such as mohair, bulk wine, wool, frozen fish, copper, manganese, granite blocks, ferrochrome and lobster from SA. A total of 26 South African and Chinese companies were involved.
He said SA would welcome greater investment from China and would encourage partnerships by Chinese companies to support economic development and build local industrial capacity.
He was encouraged by China's determination to build its relationship not only with SA, which had become its second-largest African trading partner , but to help grow the entire economy of the Southern African Development Community of 170-million consumers, whose market value was estimated at 360bn . China was one of the few countries to identify Africa as the next potential economic giant, Davies said.
Addressing the China- SA Economic and Trade Co-operation Forum in Pretoria yesterday, the chairman of the national committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, Jia Qinglin, said: "China will continue to take measures to expand imports from SA, particularly those value-added products so as to increasingly optimise the bilateral trade mix."
Jia said the deals were proof that China was not in Africa for its natural resources. The negative perceptions peddled about China-Africa relations were unfounded because China purchased "only 13% of Africa's total oil sales", with the majority going to the US and Europe, Jia said.
SA was the last leg of Jia's 10-day African tour, which had already taken him to Cameroon and Namibia.
Jia said China-SA bilateral trade volumes had hit a historic high of more than 16 bn last year, more than 10 times more than in 1998, when the two countries forged diplomatic ties.
SA's bilateral trade with China accounted for nearly 20% of China's trade with Africa , according to Chinese customs authorities.
China exported machinery and durable goods to SA, which exported a great amount of minerals, diamonds, wine and craft works to China, Jia said.