Comesa defends Sino-Africa relations

Tuesday July 10 2018

 Sindiso Ngwenya

Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) Secretary-General Sindiso Ngwenya. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

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The Secretary-General of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa), Mr Sindiso Ngwenya, has refuted claims that the Sino-African relationship is exploitative.

Mr Ngwenya, who has worked for Comesa for 34 years, said the China-Africa relationship has always been based on a win-win basis.

"I recall vividly that during this period [colonial] there were no voices that spoke about the People's Republic of China supporting the decolonisation and African countries because of self-interest that is based on exploitative relationship," Mr Ngwenya said when new Chinese ambassador to Zambia and special representative to Comesa Li Jie presented credentials to him at Lusaka headquarters.

Natural resources

"It is therefore disingenuous for those who only yesterday and for centuries were involved in the enslavement of Africans and exploitation of natural resources to turn around and proclaim that they have clean hands and that China's partnership is based on the model of exploitation that they know."

Frequent political exchanges at various levels between China and Africa have deepened that relationship to a higher status, he said.

Mr Ngwenya cited the Chinese assisted infrastructure projects among them the Ethiopia-Djibouti railway, Kenya’s Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) and Cote d'Ivoire's Soubre hydro plant.

He said African countries could exploit the relationship to plug the gap in infrastructure deficiency within Comesa and that the member states were generally happy with the status quo.

Digital technologies

Comesa is the largest regional economic organisation in Africa, with 19 [21 with the admission of Tunisia and Somali] member states and a population of about 390 million. The bloc has a free trade area and launched a customs union in 2009

Comesa was due to officially open a 20th Heads of State summit in Zambia's capital Lusaka later Tuesday.

The theme of the summit at the Mulungushi International Conference Centre is: Comesa: Towards Digital Economic Integration, and is designed to rally member states towards the full adoption of digital technologies.

Mr Li said his government was systematically transferring knowledge and technology in host countries within the continent.