"Foreign investment can be a very practical, convenient and viable way for industrialisation," stressed Ambassador Zhou Yuxiao, Beijing's emissary to the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), at the Africa Institute of South Africa-Human Sciences Research Council/Embassy of the People's Republic of China (PRC) conference on "Opportunities and Challenges of China-Africa Industrial Cooperation" in Pretoria on Friday.
"I strongly believe that African industrialisation, which includes agricultural modernisation, can never be over-estimated," he affirmed. It would transform Africa for the better.
The development of industrialisation in African would require huge resources, including capital, skills and infrastructure. But, he stated, these could be brought to Africa by foreign investment, provided the environment was stable and secure.
This is precisely what China did, he highlighted. Prior to 1978, there was no foreign investment in the PRC, and everything was rationed. From 1978 onwards, China successfully attracted huge amounts of foreign investment, which transformed the country's economy. China was now a leading economic power.
Zhou explained that investment flowed into China after 1978 not because the investors had changed their views of the country, but because China had transformed itself. "As a result, a win-win situation was created." China got industrialisation, while the investors got profitable businesses.
He affirmed that China had proved that a country could leapfrog development. But while investment could be attracted, it could never be guaranteed. And a national posture of sloganeering could result in lost opportunities. Moreover, while other countries could learn from China they must not copy China.
He noted that, at the 2015 FOCAC Summit in Johannesburg, Chinese President Xi Jinping had listed industrialisation and agricultural modernisation as the top two priorities on the FOCAC development cooperation list. China was providing training "slots" to facilitate African industrialisation. "China has become the largest investor in 12 African countries," he observed. "31% of Chinese companies in Africa are involved in industrial production."
President Xi had, last year, also announced that his country would invest $750-billion overseas over the following five years. "Africa can strive for big slices from those big cakes," urged Zhou. He pointed out that China has expanded its "Belt and Road" initiative to cover the whole of Africa. This would provide a new platform for China-Africa cooperation.