Lin Songtian, China’s ambassador to South Africa, is convinced that his country’s interventions in Africa are building the continent’s ability to compete on the global stage.
Chinese ambassador Lin Songtian lauded his country’s investments across the continent while at the same time lambasting Western countries that are critical of its involvement in Africa.
Speaking at the opening day of the Africa/China Industrial and Infrastructural Cooperation Conference at the University of Johannesburg this week, Lin said: “Wherever you go in Africa you will see infrastructure built by China.”
Although China had contributed to the building of Africa, Western countries were happy to criticise it for allegedly trying to entice the continent into a debt trap.
In Nigeria, for example, China built infrastructure but did not tap into that country’s biggest natural resource of oil.
The oil for that country [Nigeria] China does not share because America is taking over. So let them [the US] do the infrastructure and not only come here [Africa] to exploit the oil.
Lin said his country had built more than 200 schools, 90 power plants, more than 30% of all major construction development projects, as well as 80% of all communication infrastructure across the continent “to facilitate industrialisation, urbanisation and sustainable development”.
He said that Chinese telecommunications giants, such as Huawei, came to the continent only as equipment suppliers and infrastructure developers “in order for European countries and Americans” to benefit as operators.
In a speech punctuated by swipes at the US and European countries, Lin said his country was committed to Africa’s development and was responsible for the growth of the GDP of several of the continent’s states by up to 5%.
He said European countries’ involvement in the continent had declined but the continent was growing because of China’s involvement.
“This continent is growing, because somebody is here. I challenge them to come and join us and do more for the continent,” he said.
Ethiopia, Lin said, was the ultimate model example of what China could do for an African country.
No America, no European Union, No Japan, only China. We help them to invest more than $20 billion in that country.
“We helped them create a railway to reach international markets. We helped them create a port and an economic corridor,” he said, adding that China also invested in a railway in Kenya that contributed 1.5% to that country’s GDP.
He said anti-China propaganda had fuelled the suspicion of Chinese investment in Africa.
“Sometimes some people don’t like to encourage China to do more things in Africa because they don’t want to see the continent rise. They fear that if Africa is economically independent, political independence will follow,” he said.
Lin was speaking to City Press on the sidelines of the event.
He said China had Africa’s best interests at heart but infrastructure needed to be a priority.
“We believe it is better to teach a man how to fish rather than giving him a fish. In this country industrialisation is important for national development and, for that to happen, the environment must be ready.”
He said that for South Africa to attract foreign direct investments, infrastructure was critical.
Business is business. They come here for profit, if there’s no profit they won’t come. Also, when it is not safe and they don’t feel comfortable, they don’t come
Lin said South Africa was a most suitable investment destination and had three unique advantages.
“This country has three unique advantages that no other country has.
“The first is resources. You have natural resources, human resources, ocean resources, cultural resources.
“Second, you are the only country embraced by two oceans in the world and could be the production base for African industrialisation.
“And third is the foundation for development because you have one of the best highway systems even if the railway is too old and too slow,” Lin said.
But he cautioned that safety and the instability in electricity supply were significant concerns.
The value of the two-way trade between South Africa and China was valued at $43.55 billion and involved about 400 000 jobs, he said.