H.E. Chinese Ambassador in South Africa Lin Songtian travelled with journalists on Monday 12 March 2018 to view Chinese business investments in Johannesburg, in particular the trip included a tour of the Newtown China Mall in Johannesburg and the factory of the blanket manufacturing business YI LI DA (YLD) SA Manufacturing Company in Boksburg. H.E. Ambassador Lin Songtian then held a media session with journalists on the objectives of Chinese investments in Africa.
Media and journalists in attendance included representatives from the African News Agency, the South African National Radio and TV Station, African Radio, The Star, Business Report, Phoenix Satellite TV, Financial Post, Xinhua News Agency, Central People's Daily, China Central Television, CGTN, People's Daily, China News Service, African Times, Overseas Chinese Weekly, South African Overseas Chinese Network, and South Africa 365.
In speaking to business owners, managers and employees, journalists had the opportunity to examine Chinese business operations in terms of taxation, job creation, environmental regulation compliance and sustainability, among other aspects.
President of the China Mall Group (CMG) Robin Xu (above left) said about the time of the development of the China Mall in 2003, "Getting a loan from the bank was very difficult, because the banks did not believe in us". Xu explained that the banks did not believe that the Chinese commodity could support something as big as a mall, adding that "all of them (the banks) refused us at the very beginning." However over time, one bank approved the group's loan so they could complete all five phases of the building and establish the Newtown China Mall.
When he came to South Africa in 1994, Xu knew very little about the country and the market, but now he states, "I think today I am so proud to make this business happen, I think we are the biggest contributor to trade between China and South Africa."
The Newtown China Mall is the first of three registered China Malls in South Africa, creating around 2,300 jobs in the country.
Inside the Newtown China Mall are 420 shop owners who not only sell their goods and services at the China Mall, but also venture into other trading and manufacturing opportunities with China. "Some of the owners also join us in purchasing goods from China and exporting them to other parts of the world," says Xu, listing the many opportunities that are available to the business owners.
Manager of the China Mall Group, George Mystris explained that every business operating in the mall was VAT registered and everything was done according to South African law.
Shop owner Ketso Sene (below right) of Styl-Flick Fashion said she currently owns two different shops in two different China Malls, and frequently travels to Guangzhou, China to buy goods for supply and trade.
The young South African female, born in Lesotho, said she has experience of running her shops in other malls, but the China Malls were her most impactful experience. She says trading in the China Mall are many different suppliers, and the mall was very safe and secured at all times, and that the prices were very reasonable for a profitable business.
Sene says the relationship between China and Africa is making a good contribution to Africa. "There's a lot of growth with doing business with China, and as Africa we are able to go into China and explore and get exposure to the market".
"I think because of language barrier, the relationship between China and Africa is slow but it is developing".
Store owner Mahesh Parmar (above left) of SASA Cash and Carry, expressed how grateful he was for his business and the support they earned from the Chinese landlords. He said the opportunity allowed them to give employment and to support fellow Africans who wanted to explore business opportunities.
The blanket manufacturing factory, YI LI DA (YLD) has been operating in South Africa since 2015, three years later it has become the largest blanket manufacturer in the country. General Manager, Leon Shen (below right), says the company has so far created 600 employment opportunities, targeting unemployed youths, giving them skills training and development.
28-year-old Anela Cilwana (below right), a worker at the factory, says she was unemployed before she took employment at YLD, adding; "And now I am able to support my family". She explains her growth in the company; when she began she was just a sewer, but now she gives training to new staff.
Supervisor and head of the finishing department, Joyce Thandiswa Chipanga (below) also reflected on her growth in the factory. "When we started here in December 2015, none of these machines were here, there was just weaving machines. I was a general worker and we used to clean all around."
36-year-old Chipanga moved from general worker, to team leader, to supervisor and head of the finishing department.
Young people employed at the factory are also provided skills on environmental conservation tools. 26-year-old Khumbulani Ntombela (below) said he received skills in waste water treatment and recycling. He explained to the media the process and phases that the water went through, from washing blankets after they had been dyed, and how that water was restored and recycled back into the manufacturing process.
H.E. Ambassador Lin Songtian addressed media on the objectives of China's relationship with Africa and cautioned against "the American smearing of China in Africa". In his address Ambassador Lin said, "I'm very proud of China's cooperation with Africa. Through our joint efforts, China has for nine consecutive years as Africa's largest trading partner, one of the most important investors and source of tourists."
We are happy to see that the African governments and people, including the AU Commission Chairman Moussa Faki, Kenyan Foreign Minister Juma, and Djiboutian Foreign Minister Youssouf have all stepped up to tell the respected US Secretary of State that, today, Africans are mature enough to engage in partnerships of their own volition, and that Africans are wise enough to know who is their true and reliable development partner.
Ambassador Lin added that the joint efforts between Africa and China have provided over 6,500 km of railways, over 6,000 km of highway, 200-plus schools, over 80 sports stadiums, and ten government office buildings, parliamentary buildings and the African Union headquarters, along with a number of airports and ports in Africa. And because of China's contribution, the modernisation of telecommunications has benefited the people on the continent.
Ambassador Lin cautioned against the voice given by H.E. US Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, on whether China's influence in Africa was good or detrimental. The Ambassador stated,
Is China's influence in Africa good or bad? Only the African people can have the right to answer. The African people know too well that if they are not independent economically, they will never be independent politically. Only by realizing self-sustainable development can Africa truly get rid of external interference and say NO loudly to those finger-pointing people.
The Ambassador emphasised why business investments of China in Africa were highly encouraged by the Chinese government.
The Chinese government encourages its businesses to make investment in Africa. We support the Chinese financial institutions to provide financial support to Africa for infrastructure development, industrial parks, special economic zones, and production projects in accordance with the market principle and concept of intensive development. The concept of intensive development means to integrate infrastructure and industry planning and development in tandem.
Ambassador Lin added that China's support of Africa's interests to realize durable peace and self-sustainable development was a shared interest of China and the people of the world. He added that "China is willing to work closely with all countries to uphold the principle of planning together, building together and sharing together, to jointly promote a community of shared future for mankind as proposed by President Xi Jinping, so as to empower the African people to promote development and share common prosperity with the peoples of the world.