Exclusive: South Africa to align own national program with BRI to expedite high-quality development: Ambassador
Published: Oct 17, 2023 07:12 PM
South African Ambassador to China Siyabonga Cyprian Cwele Photo: Chen Tao/GT

South African Ambassador to China Siyabonga Cyprian Cwele Photo: Chen Tao/GT

As China ushers in one of its most important multilateral diplomatic events of the year with the third Belt and Road Forum (BRF) for International Cooperation on Tuesday and Wednesday, South African Ambassador to China told the Global Times in an exclusive interview that by aligning the country's development agenda with the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), he hopes to expedite the high-quality development of China-South Africa partnership, one that has been based on mutual respect rather than bullying or manipulation. 

South African Ambassador to China Siyabonga Cyprian Cwele told the Global Times that his country has been looking forward to the BRF as a source of positive developments across a number of fields.  

In terms of infrastructure, many programs in South Africa have been accelerating over recent years from both executed by government agencies and private entities from China, ranging from key infrastructure, be it is roads, railway, buildings, digital infrastructure, the ambassador said, citing the construction of the new National Road No.2 linking Durban to Cape Town that has been built by Chinese companies. "They have built bridges in difficult terrain, which has a very positive impact in that region because that's the most impoverished that has been provided with connectivity," noted Cwele.

What's more, the key projects backed by China in the African continent are providing connectivity both within and between countries. "It helps us to increase our intra-Africa trade, which is still very low at the moment, because the design of the previous colonizers had been extractive - the infrastructure was coming from the site of production straight to the ports, so that raw materials are taken directly to the home of the colonists," the ambassador told the Global Times.

According to the envoy, the increasing exchange of capital is another aspect of South Africa's cooperation with China. A growing number of Chinese companies have announced huge investments in key sectors of South Africa's economy. The pair has also seen growing people-to-people exchanges, with students cooperating in science, medicine and other fields which are viewed as critical for human advancement. 

During a state visit by Chinese President Xi Jinping to South Africa in August, the two side have signed 11 cooperation agreements as the two leaders guided bilateral ties to new heights. China-South Africa relations have entered a golden era with cooperation across various fields expected to deepen, Xi said then, adding that the friendship stands at a new historical starting point.

One of the key out of the 11 agreements is aligning the key programs of the two nations, Cwele noted. Therefore, during this year's BRF, his country hopes to better align the South African Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan with China's BRI so as to improve the implementation of key projects, and build the high-quality development of China-South Africa partnership.

Specifically, Cwele said they are hoping to expedite the modernization of South Africa's production methods and infrastructure, including ports, rails, roads, as well as digital infrastructure. 

"South Africa is a production hub for Africa with almost 40 percent of the production of the continent coming from South Africa. But we need to transform that from the analog system to digital system and put more innovations into it by working with China on the BRI," the ambassador explained. 

Speaking on the different approaches that China and the US-led West take toward South Africa, Cwele said his country welcomes all efforts that will support them to achieve their Agenda 2063, but what has been different with China's approach is that, "it is not the winner-takes-all approach, it is not a dictation. It is a win-win approach, respecting our own culture, civilization and respecting our own problems."

"China always says, 'take what is useful in our experience and apply it,' unlike the colonization type where you were forced to accept different cultures, not even looking at your own but worship someone else's. Relations with China are of mutual respect, not of bullying or manipulation," Cwele added.

Xi said during his state visit to South Africa in August that China and South Africa will work to deepen bilateral cooperation on electric generation, new energy as well as scientific and technological innovation. He also said that China is ready to import more quality products from South Africa and will continue to encourage Chinese enterprises to invest and do business in South Africa.

Coming at a time when the world is facing a range of geopolitical and economic challenges, this year's BRF, which has drawn representatives from over 130 countries and 30 international organizations, will help inject certainty into an uncertain world and offer fresh impetus for global development, as the forum is expected to achieve major outcomes for strengthening international cooperation, experts noted. The forum will also put on vivid display the great enthusiasm and confidence in the China-proposed initiative as well as China's unwavering commitment to opening-up and global cooperation.