Opening remarks by the Premier at the Friendship Week

Programme Director, Mr Zhang Yinqiao
His Honour, the Executive Vice-Governor of Hunan Province Mr Chen Zhaoxiong
Economic and Commercial Counsellor of Chinese Embassy, Mr Rong Yansong
Members of the Executive Council
Mayors and Councillors
Our esteemed visitors
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen

Ni Hao (Hello in Chinese)

It is particular pleasing and heart-warming to have the Executive Vice-Governor, Mr Chen Zhaoxiong and the entire delegation in our midst this morning. Let me on behalf of the entire Provincial Government and its people extend our warmest Northern Cape greetings to you.

Huanying (welcome)

We are especially delighted to bring together business and political leaders from the People’s Republic of China and the Northern Cape to deepen our engagement that will unlock mutually beneficial business opportunities.

The Northern Cape is the largest province of South Africa with a landmass of three hundred and sixty two five hundred and ninety one thousand (362 591) square kilometres covering approximately a third of South Africa. The Province consists of Five District Municipalities namely: Frances Baard, Pixley Ka-Seme; Z F Mgcawu; Namakwa and John Taolo Gaetsewe.

Although we are the largest province in terms of land mass, the Northern Cape has the smallest population of just above one million inhabitants with a population density of 3 persons per square km according to the Census report of 2011. This means that the province proportion of the National population is only 2.2%.

As we gather here this morning, we are reminded of the fact that our President, His Excellency Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma, during the state visit to China in December last year, emphasized the importance of South Africa’s relationship with the Peoples’ Republic of China. We share a historical relationship with China that dates as far back as the early 1990’s. However, for the African National Congress (ANC) this relationship dates back to 1993 when the then ANC President Oliver Tambo took a trip to Beijing to cement the party to party relations. This engagement gave way for the South African Communist Party to forge links with the Chinese Communist Party towards the common goal of development in both countries.

We thus value the working relationship that we share with your country and are deeply humbled by the fact that the President of China, His Excellency Xi Jinping and the government of China honoured us last year by declaring 2014 the year of South Africa in China. Through that kind gesture of courtesy and goodwill, we were given the opportunity to promote our South African culture to the Peoples’ Republic of China.

It is therefore in this spirit that we also extend the same gesture to our friends through celebrating the Year of China in South Africa this year. We also look forward to our national government hosting your national government for the 6th Forum of the China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Summit in December this year.

As stated the ANC has a long standing relationship with the Peoples’ Republic of China. China remained our friend even during the difficult days of Apartheid when the Government of the day oppressed its non-White majority and denied them rights to live as humans in their land. Our Chinese friends stood by our side in our quest for liberation and for this reason we cannot and will never forget our friends.

The African nations were also ardent fighters for China’s seat at the United Nations to be restored in 1971 when twenty six countries voted in favour of the Peoples’ Republic of China. To this day, we are witnessing the commitment made by the Chairman Mao Zedong, the founder of the Peoples’ Republic of China in response to that overwhelming support when he stated that “It was the African friends who carried China back to the UN.”

When President Zuma and other political leaders lobbied for Africa to be included in the BRICS grouping, The Peoples’ Republic of China led the campaign to support that motion – our friendship with China is thus real and has stood the test of time.

Today the Peoples’ Republic of China is South Africa’s largest trading partner in Africa. Since 2009, under the leadership of our President Jacob Zuma stern inroads have been made in strengthening the relations between the two countries. The outcome is manifested in bilateral trade which has soared to $60-billion by 2012 from $1.5- billion in the late 1990’s.

Our undertaking to consolidate our relations with the Peoples’ Republic of China and the Hunan Province in particular is mainly influenced by our common agenda of advancing development in countries to eradicate poverty, unemployment and inequality.

As a precursor to this engagement, we had the BRICS Expo last year in order to deepen our engagement aimed at unlocking business opportunities and connecting our business people with their relevant. This friendship week will undoubtedly strengthen relations of equitable and mutually beneficial cooperation amongst all the stakeholders.

It comes as no coincidence that the Northern Cape is known as the province of opportunity and has tremendous economic potential. It offers investors opportunities in virtually every economic field, from agriculture to mining, from manufacturing to tourism, from infrastructure to fishing, from aquaculture to mariculture and we holds enormous potential in renewable energy resources.

The Northern Cape is dedicated to promoting direct investment and we offer business abundant opportunities to earn handsome returns on their investments. The National Development Plan (NDP) is the blue print of our development agenda. The goals and objectives of the National Development Plan remain at the core of all our policies and programme to address the challenges of inequality, poverty and unemployment.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the fight against unemployment, job creation and economic growth is our central challenge; we want to have sustainable jobs for all our people. For this reason we constantly seek to propel the economy of our province into one which is innovative, inclusive and labour absorbing. With the newly established university of Sol Plaatjie and our urban and rural Technical Vocational and Education Training Colleges we are raising the skills base of especially our youth to respond effectively to the social needs of our community.

It is clear Ladies and Gentlemen, that though we still face enormous challenges, but our province has undoubtedly laid a solid foundation to advance the course of the reconstruction and development of our country in meeting the needs of our society with a special focus on the needs of the previously disadvantaged.

Our ANC led Government is working hard to provide the soundest possible operating environment for business, allowing it to continue to innovate and succeed in a way that will make this possible

I need to mention to this collective that South Africa has South Africa has solid bilateral and diplomatic policies and strategies that guide our cooperation with the Peoples’ Republic of China and other countries, including Africa. In areas where the utilization of natural resources is required, the task will be carried out by both parties in an open and transparent way based on commonly acknowledged rules.

I want to urge you to use this opportunity as an important and vital platform to network with other like-minded people as you endeavour to set up business opportunities. During the course of this engagement we will be signing Memorandums of Understanding with Hunan Province as a recommitment and dedication of our desire to work together in areas of cooperation, benefits and implementation strategies.

The celebration of the Year of China in the Northern Cape in the same year that we celebrate 21 years since the dawn of our democracy and commemorate 60 years since the development of the Freedom Charter, should signal a turning point in the China-South Africa trade relations or Hunan-Northern Cape trade relations as we bring it closer to home. Let us make a conscious decision to move from just talks to actual implementation being cognisant of the fact that Rome was not built in one day.

I want to conclude honourable guests, by expressing the hope that our discussions over the next few days will be fruitful, that we will seize the opportunity to exchange best practices in mining, tourism, infrastructure, agro-processing, and other sectors. Our goal is a common one and that is the development of our Provinces and ultimately our countries. Let us therefore come up with innovative ways that will positively impact on investment in our respective provinces. As our esteemed guests and partners in development I trust that you will enjoy the hospitality of our Province and that all of you will have a chance to savour the beauty, warmth and splendour that is Northern Cape.

Our home is your home.

Thank you

XieXie (pronounced She Shay).

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