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China pledges to step up infrastructure investment in South Africa

China’s premier has said his country will make South Africa a “priority destination for overseas investment”, following talks in Beijing with South Africa’s president.

Premier Li Keqiang told Jacob Zuma that China will “encourage and support South Africa’s industries, as part of plans by the two nations to increase cooperation in sectors including equipment manufacturing, finance, and aviation, China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.

According to Xinhua, Li said he also hoped the countries could “strengthen marine economy cooperation through programmes in ports, shipbuilding and fisheries, promote financial cooperation, including cross-border settlements in local currency and currency exchange, strengthen cooperation in nuclear power, promote the establishment of joint venture airlines, and use Chinese-made airplanes in Africa's regional aviation cooperation”.

Zuma, who also held talks with Chinese president Xi Jinping, said African countries welcomed Chinese investment in “building infrastructure and the regional integration process” to help spur African development.

According to the South African government, total trade with China is on “a steady upward growth”, with trade in 2013 totalling 192 billion rand (ZAR) ($17bn), “albeit skewed in China’s favour”. To date there are 39 Chinese companies investing in the country with a capital expenditure of ZAR 14.7bn ($1.3bn) between January and September 2014.

South Africa’s trade and industry minister Rob Davies said last month that the value of the country’s total international trade had grown from ZAR 121bn ($11bn) to ZAR 271bn ($24.5bn) by the end of last year. Davies said: “The trade balance has been in favour of China since 2008 due to the composition of trade between the two countries where South Africa exports primary products and commodities to China.”

More than 50 South African firms, representing sectors including plastics, steel, agribusiness and aluminium, took part in a ‘trade expo’ visit to China last month supported by South Africa’s Department of Trade and Industry.

In 2010, China and South Africa signed a general co-operation agreement in the field of energy, covering oil and gas, renewable energy, energy efficiency and skills development. China has already started training South Africans in the renewable energy sector.

According to the African Development Bank, trade between China and Africa grew by 20% in 2012 to reach $26.4 billion. At the end of 2012, Chinese investments in Africa totalled $20bn.

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