China’s intention not to be Africa’s saviour: Gigaba

04 August 2011 - 18:59 By Sapa
Minister Malusi Gigaba. File photo.
Minister Malusi Gigaba. File photo.

China’s involvement in the African continent was to further its interests, State Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba said today.

“It would be fool-hardy and naïve to suggest that China has any intention of being Africa’s saviour,” he said in Durban.

Gigaba was speaking during the first day of the 13 African Renaissance conference at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli ICC.

He said Africans must not be romantic about the nature of Chinese involvement in Africa.

“While Chinese pragmatism has certainly enabled infrastructure and broader investment in a range of African countries, the lack of institutional pre-conditions to such projects has often resulted in negligible local skills, technology and business development,” Gigaba said.

He said Chinese mostly brought in their own skills and workers to construct infrastructure, he said.

“Clearly there is a tension between contributing to an African development process and optimising the short term benefits for China from an infrastructure project, particularly in countries unable to negotiate national development requirements,” he said.

He said Chinese decided to be involved in Africa because its planned economic growth had created a major demand for commodities as well as large surpluses that needed to be invested abroad.

Gigaba said South Africa needed to develop a strategy for engaging, if not partnering China in Africa.

One of the good things about the Chinese investments in Africa was that it would force Western agencies to become more flexible to avoid becoming irrelevant, he said.

Conference delegates discussed issues of infrastructure in Africa such as roads and economic integration.

Gigaba said African economic integration and the role of infrastructure development in the continent was the priority of the South African government.

He said it was bad that intra-Africa trade only totalled 10 percent while intra-European trade was 80 percent.

“What this tale is telling is that Africans are not trading with one another largely because of the lack of infrastructure networks, persistent colonial ties and over reliance on commodity exports,” he said.

The process of economic and political integration on the basis of infrastructure.