China, S Africa keen on equal trade relationship

04 December 2015

South Africans nervous that China is 'taking over' might be interested to learn that Chinese bankers and businesspeople are as eager as their counterparts in South Africa to see the relationship between the two countries evolve into a more equal partnership.

Suburban dinner circuit chatter about the danger of colonisation from the East may have died down of late, but there are still more than a few South Africans who fear that this budding bond between the two emerging powers might turn into a master and servant relationship.

Delegates at a business forum held on Thursday in advance of the Forum on China-Africa Co-operation (Focac). to be held in Sandton today and Saturday were united in the view that the relationship needed to evolve and, in fact, that it already was evolving.

South African and Chinese delegates from sectors ranging from banking and telecommunications to rail and construction agreed that what needed to happen to level the playing field was already happening.

The traditional model for Chinese companies doing business in Africa has been on the basis of engineering, procurement, construction (known as EPC), where a contractor designs a project, procures all the equipment and materials, and constructs and delivers the facility to a client.

The change that has already begun to happen is that this model is giving way to one where the Chinese investor commits to working with a local partner and takes an equity stake in a joint venture.

What can sound like so much lip service when it comes from politicians packs a lot of punch when it is a discussion between businesspeople and financiers with experience on the ground.

The content of this scene-setter for business discussions at Focac bodes well for constructive engagement between Chinese and African businesses this week and well into the future.

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