Africa has not benefited from its links with rich nations and should ensure economic interactions with others are not one-sided, South Africa’s Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel said.
Patel told a conference on the continent’s relations with China that Africa would continue to pursue relations which the United States and Europe, but that the “centre of geo-economic gravity” was shifting to Asia and Latin America.
“I will be blunt about it, we don’t think Africa has benefited from the relationship with the (West),” Patel told the conference.
“There are significant gaps in our own economic trajectory, some of which we have not been able to address in that relationship, so bringing a wider range of investors into our economies is necessary for us,” he added.
Patel encouraged Chinese firms operating in South Africa to enter into joint ventures with local companies.
“Those can constitute a huge assistance to the local economy. China’s own economic growth has been fuelled by joint ventures it had with industrialised countries,” Patel said.
“As the South African government (we) seek to strengthen that relationship and to ensure it has a much stronger job-creating impact in South Africa that helps us to diversify our economy and grasp the challenge of avoiding de-industrialisation.”
Trade between China and Africa has soared in the past decade, driven by China’s resource needs and growing African demand for cheap Chinese-made products.
In 2008, total trade was $106.8 billion, up 45.1% on 2007. Nine years ago total trade between Africa and China stood at $10.5 billion. China has overtaken the United States as Africa’s top trading partner.
The thriving trade and business ties have prompted accusations from the West and other critics that Beijing is only interested in African resources. China has dismissed the charges.
Patel said African governments should prioritise their own development needs when entering investment deals with countries like China.
“Failure to do that is one way of prematurely stunting this relationship,” he warned.
Pic: Lack of infrastructure in Africa