Chinese President Xi Jinping promises to import more goods from South Africa
Leader makes commitment to fellow member of BRICS emerging nations group ahead of leaders’ summit
On the eve of the annual summit of five major emerging economies, President Xi Jinping on Tuesday promised to support South Africa’s development by increasing the volume of goods China imports from the African continent’s most industrialised nation.
Speaking after his meeting with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa in Pretoria, Xi said the two countries had similar perspectives on many global issues, “hence the need to strengthen cooperation”.
Ramaphosa had earlier rolled out the red carpet for his visitor, who was greeted with a 21-gun salute on his arrival at Union Buildings, the seat of the South African government in its administrative capital, Pretoria.
Ramaphosa said also that China would invest US$14.7 billion in South Africa, though did not release any details of the deals.
The two presidents will be in Johannesburg on Wednesday, where they will be joined by their counterparts from Brazil, Russia and India, for this year’s BRICS leaders’ meeting.
Meanwhile, the New Development Bank – a lender set up by the bloc – said on Monday it had approved two loans of US$300 million apiece for a green energy development project in South Africa and a new metro scheme in central China’s Henan province.
Beijing is steadily stepping up its engagement in Africa, mostly through investment and infrastructure construction under Xi’s signature “Belt and Road Initiative”, a cornerstone of China’s foreign policy that seeks to improve trade routes across Asia and into Africa and Europe.
However, it has also been accused of using investment to boost its political influence in Africa and increasing the debt pressures on already impoverished economies.
Before arriving in South Africa, Xi visited Senegal and Rwanda, where he pledged to boost political ties and signed dozens of trade and investment deals with local governments.
Among them was a US$126 million loan agreement for two road projects in Rwanda, the African nation’s finance minister, Uzziel Ndagijimana, said.
With Beijing and Washington embroiled in a major dispute over tariffs, a Chinese scholar said trade was likely to be high on the agenda when the BRICS leaders met.
“As regional powers and influential economies, the BRICS states could be among the first to be affected if global trade suffers,” said Cheng Cheng, an associate research fellow at Renmin University’s Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies.
“The five countries have a shared interest [in free trade] and want to make their voices heard … to promote free trade and support each other,” he said.
Additional reporting by Reuters