How’s It Going, China?

South Africa and China have a long-standing relationship, with the recent SALGA/CPAFFC Forum building on this strong foundation, writes Rodney Weideman.

SALGA and the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries (CPAFFC) recently undertook a four-day forum designed to create a platform to promote understanding, enhance cooperation, develop city relations and share experiences among BRICS local governments. Beyond these lofty goals, another key aim of the forum was to assist in reviewing the implementation of signed Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) between South African and Chinese municipalities.

The CPAFFC is an association formed more than 60 years ago, with the goal of enhancing global friendships, furthering international cooperation, safeguarding world peace and promoting common development. Working on behalf of the Chinese people, it makes friends and deepens friendship in the international community and countries around the world.

According to Lance Joel, Executive Director at SALGA, the forum took place in July with this local government dialogue forum being convened to provide a platform for both South Africans –with representation from all three spheres of government – and Chinese, whose representatives came from both municipalities and the central government to interact more closely.

“Discussions during the forum centred on issues of mutual interest, while the open communications fostered enabled delegates to share common standards of development and best practices. The dialogue forum will going forward, also create the platform to promote understanding, enhance cooperation, develop friendship city relations and share experiences among BRICS local governments,” he says.

The forum was the result of an agreement between Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Des Van Rooyen and Ms Lin Yi, Vice-President of CPAFFC to establish a China-South Africa local government dialogue platform. The two initially discussed the idea during the SALGA National Conference in November 2016.

“SALGA already has a long-standing relationship with the CPAFFC, dating back to early 2000, largely because the aims of the CPAFFC are similar in many respects to the aims SALGA itself promotes. Recent years have witnessed a strong momentum of development in the China-South Africa comprehensive strategic partnership, with China-South Africa relations currently in the best period in their history,” continues Joel.

“As an organisation, SALGA is cognisant of the role of the local arm of the state in making a meaningful impact on development, and of the increased expectation thereof by both local communities and the global development community.”

Joel adds that the Forum arrived at an ideal time, as SALGA and CPAFFC both have so much to learn from each other. Moreover, South Africa and China face unprecedented development opportunities together, thanks to increased commitments to local exchanges and cooperation such as this.

Asked what the chief items of interest discussed during the four-day forum were, Joel suggests that under the theme ‘Promote our Belt and Road through Local Cooperation’ the dialogue in the forum focused on two key areas.

“The first of these was the issue of local industrial matchmaking and industrial capacity cooperation, while the second key element raised was that of youth employment and vocational training.”

“It is foreseen that the strategic partnership between Africa and China will continue to strengthen the current platform for collective dialogue,” continues Joel, pointing out that it will also help to consolidate Africa-China traditional friendship, deepen strategic collaboration and enhance the mechanism of practical cooperation between China and Africa.

“As a consequence, the intention is to promote exchanges and cooperation between local governments and support the establishment of more friendship city relations.”

“With this in mind, discussions are currently underway for South Africa to host a delegation from CPAFFC to further promote China-South Africa local government exchanges. It is anticipated that direct engagement with China and South African municipalities that share a common interest in trade and investment, could possibly lead to site visits to the respective municipalities by the Chinese to explore opportunities,” he concludes.

Images: Delegates at the South Africa-China Local Government Dialogue

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