South Africa's President, Cyril Ramaphosa said it would be wrong to conclude that African nations, including Nigeria, going into trade agreements and cooperation with China and Russia is setting the continent up for modern colonialism.

This statement came on the heels of the recently-concluded Russia-Africa Summit.

In his weekly letter to South Africans made available to SaharaReporters, Ramaphosa said, "It would be wrong, as some have done, to label initiatives like the Russia-Africa Summit as an attempt by world powers to expand their geopolitical influence. Some have even argued that a number of countries in Africa are being led into a debt trap as they take up loans to fund a number of projects in their countries.

"One need only look at initiatives such as the Forum on China Africa Cooperation, which was last held in Beijing last year, to see that the focus is now on partnership for mutual benefit, on development, trade and investment cooperation and integration."

Ramaphosa added, "We are ever mindful of our colonial history, where the economies of Europe were able to industrialise and develop by extracting resources from Africa, all the while leaving the colonies underdeveloped. Even now, African countries are still trying to stop the extraction of its resources, this time in the form of illicit financial flows through commercial transactions, tax evasion, transfer pricing and illegal activities that cost the continent over $50 billion a year.

"The message from African leaders at the Russia-Africa summit was clear: Africa needs greater levels of investment. It wants access to markets for its products, goods, and services. It wants to forge economic relationships of mutual benefit that develop our respective countries and uplift our people. The age where ‘development’ was imposed from outside without taking into account the material conditions and respective requirements of our countries is now past."


Full Text Of Letter

Dear Fellow South African,

Last week, I led a government delegation to the first Russia-Africa
Summit, convened in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi.

For two days, heads of state from 43 African countries and their host,
President Vladimir Putin, discussed how to increase trade and
cooperation between the Russian Federation and Africa. The summit was
preceded by a Business Forum attended by investors and business people
looking at ways to scale up investment in various countries on the
African continent.

The Summit was a sign of the growing economic importance of Africa on
the world stage. The summit took place on the back of the 7th Tokyo
International Conference on African Development in Yokohama in August.
The G20 countries launched their Compact with Africa in 2017 to
promote private investment in Africa.

What we are witnessing is a dramatic rebalancing of the relationship
between the world’s advanced economies and the African continent. We
have consistently affirmed that Africa no longer wants to be passive
recipients of foreign aid. African countries are developing and their
economies are increasingly in need of foreign direct investment.

It would be wrong, as some have done, to label initiatives like the
Russia-Africa Summit as an attempt by world powers to expand their
geopolitical influence. Some have even argued that a number of
countries in Africa are being led into a debt trap as they take up
loans to fund a number of projects in their countries. One need only
look at initiatives such as the Forum on China Africa Cooperation,
which was last held in Beijing last year, to see that the focus is now
on partnership for mutual benefit, on development, trade and
investment cooperation and integration.

China, Russia, the OECD countries and other large economies are eager
to forge greater economic ties with African countries because they
want to harness the current climate of reform, the deepening of good
governance, macro-economic stability and the opening up of economies
across the continent for mutual benefit.

With the IMF 2019 World Economic Outlook placing six of the
fastest-growing economies in Africa, these advanced economies want to
take advantage of the many investment opportunities on offer, be they
in infrastructure, energy, natural resource extraction, manufacturing
or agriculture, and agribusiness.

The opportunities for international investors will be further boosted
when the African Continental Free Trade Area becomes operational next
year. This interest in the continent’s rapidly growing economies
should encourage African countries to engage with various trade blocs
on a more equal footing and on their own terms.

We are ever mindful of our colonial history, where the economies of
Europe were able to industrialise and develop by extracting resources
from Africa, all the while leaving the colonies underdeveloped. Even
now, African countries are still trying to stop the extraction of its
resources, this time in the form of illicit financial flows through
commercial transactions, tax evasion, transfer pricing and illegal
activities that cost the continent over $50 billion a year.

The message from African leaders at the Russia-Africa summit was
clear: Africa needs greater levels of investment. It wants access to
markets for its products, goods, and services. It wants to forge
economic relationships of mutual benefit that develop our respective
countries and uplift our people. The age where ‘development’ was
imposed from outside without taking into account the material
conditions and respective requirements of our countries is now past.

Four months after he was released from prison, President Nelson
Mandela met with a group of business people in the US to mobilise
support for the national democratic project back home. He laid out a
vision for South Africa’s economy, and of it “playing an important
part in the regeneration and expansion of the economy of Southern
Africa as a whole.”

The private sector, both domestic and international, he said, will
have a vital contribution to make to the country’s economic and social
reconstruction. “We count on you,” he concluded, "to take the decision
that you will become part, an important part, of the future South
African economy".

President Mandela’s words affirmed what the nations of Africa have
long said: that we want trade more than aid. That we are determined to
lift ourselves up, and that we neither expect nor want handouts.

In his iconic 1963 speech on African unity, Ghana’s President Kwame
Nkrumah lay down the gauntlet to gathered African nations to look
beyond political independence towards economic independence.

“Our economic independence resides in our African union,” he said.
Nkrumah called on independent African states to harness their
financial structure and banking institutions for their national
development and to use their material resources and human energies to
meet their own national aspirations.

Next year South Africa assumes the chair of the African Union. It does
so at an opportune time, as the African Continental Free Trade Area
comes into operation. Not only will we have the opportunity to guide
and oversee its implementation, but we will be taking on this
responsibility in this new era of an emboldened Africa.

It is an era of a confident Africa, of a growing Africa that knows its
potential and its worth. This is an Africa that is able to trade and
engage on its own terms. An Africa that has finally come into its own.

Best wishes,
Cyril Ramaphosa

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