China-Africa Forum
High-Level Dialogue Between Chinese and Africa Leaders and Business Representatives Sixth Conference of Chinese and African Entrepreneurs Programme Beijing, China, 2018

If you get the opportunity to travel with the PBF (Progressive Business Forum), attend openings of world events, attend conferences presented by industry leaders, network with South Africans you would ordinarily never meet, establish friendships, share life experiences and select partners for win-win cooperation projects, I say, take hold of the opportunity, work it hard before, during and after the trip. Then start preparing for the next one.

PBF trade delegations are organized, positive, focused, enriching, empowering, fun and happy. Anderson Lee from the PBF, who handled the communication on the Chinese side, has perfectionist traits and is an astute businessman. His exceptional people skills ensures smooth and comfortable trade missions. 

The 03 September 2018 trade delegation to China was no exception, but a bit different.

Firstly, this delegation included Daryl Swanepoel, the convenor of the PBF and moderator of one of the 6th Conference of Chinese and African Entrepreneurs sessions. Daryl was professional, at the top of his game and to the point as always.

Daryl created many opportunities for delegation members to have a lot of fun.

Life after all is serious, with serious work to be done by trade delegations and fun in between is needed by everyone to release anxiety, pressure and sometimes exhaustion from travelling and the focus on business matters.

Secondly, our president Cyril Ramaphosa travelled with us, not in the same space of course, but to the same event, the opening of FOCAC.

Cyril co-chaired the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Summit.

We were all super proud to be South Africans at this event, whatever our role and business rating.

Cyril spoke from the heart and head.

His opening line and references to Africa, its people and technology set the scene for the South African China-Africa Forum Trade Delegation (we called ourselves his team) for the rest of the trip.

“China is an old friend of Africa” he said.

“Technology is likely to play a major role in improving the quality of life for most Africans – by increasing access to high-quality health care and education, cheaper energy and information. As Africa, we have awakened to the great potential that lies within our continent for inclusive growth and meaningful development. With the assistance and the support of the Chinese people and government, we are certain that, working together, we will surely realize that potential. As we promote science, technology, innovation, engineering and mathematics, we must maintain a people-centred approach.”

It is said business is about money.

Yes, this is true.

What is more true is: Business is about people. People who lead people in a focused way with definite purpose creating happy, passionate, empowered, productive people and the money follows. China-Africa people have a shared future. Ready the people and the money will follow.

From my experience, PBF trade delegations are ordered, disciplined and supported by highly trained, experienced teams.

Instructions are passed down carefully with precision. Mostly you know exactly what to do by listening and observing.

From my experience, there are usually a few sub delegations within the main delegation with the role of each sub delegation clearly defined.

The 03 September opening of the Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) delegation included those in the grooming stage, those whose purpose was to gather important info from the 6th Conference of Chinese and African Entrepreneurs, the Beijing-Tiajin-Hebei International Investment and Trade Fair in Langfang, those concluding pre-prepared business deals, those presenting themselves at international business matching for the first time, those developing friendships established at earlier events such as BRICS, those being selected by overseas companies for trade deals, and those representing South Africa and Africa at the various events.

Foreign companies presenting themselves for business matching have done their homework on visiting companies and generally know in which company they want to invest their time.

My experience of Chinese business people is they value their resources and don’t invest their time or energy unnecessarily.

No means no and yes means yes.

The best results as part of a trade delegation are achieved if you know beforehand in which sub delegation you fit, know your own purpose, be open to new ideas, involve your co-delegates in your business hunting, use the rest time provided wisely, eat carefully as the continuous concentration time needed is long.

And then work it.

The various conference talks by university professors, business executives and experts can be quite a challenge to follow especially while listening to the translations via earphones and viewing presentation slides with illustrations labelled in foreign languages.

Google translate camera option is good, but not from a distance of one hundred rows of chairs in a few seconds.

In my opinion, one of the best slogans of the various presentations was “Life is on.”

In my opinion, one of the best people-to-people introductions was by a representative from a business chamber from one of the other cities in China who has since left and returned to teaching. She was outstanding.

In Langfang we learned how to up our game in presenting technical and, sometimes, difficult to understand, new technologies.

Here are some profound one liners from the conferences that helped me to understand how things are going to change for us as newer technologies are introduced.

  • Robotics – Machine learning has superseded human capacity for learning.
  • Jobs – More jobs will be created than will be abolished.
  • People – Experts will disappear. There will be new careers and professions.
  • Winning – Competitiveness will be emotion-based. Passion and the happiness of the client will determine the competitiveness of the company in the future (or maybe this applies even now!).
  • Innovation – use resources from outside of the company.
  • About the fourth industrial revolution – it is about connecting people and things, people to everything.

From this trade delegation, I bring back partnerships in youth projects, ideas and possible products for workable, large-scale educational projects with good returns for potential local and international investors, friends and a connection to a college student from China who is keen to participate as a volunteer in youth projects in South Africa.

“The future of China-Africa relations lies in our young people”, was said by The President of the People’s Republic of China Xi Jinping during his speech at the opening ceremony of the 2018 FOCAC Beijing Summit.

President Xi Jinping said he encouraged young people to make the best of what they have learned, aim high, and keep working hard to promote China-Africa cooperation and South-South cooperation.

It is clear that with a high level of skill in how to use technology for school, varsity, work, life and learning, creativity, project-based, interactive and integrated learning, a broad general knowledge base, passion and energy learners in South African schools and learning projects will have a bright future.

Whatever knowledge relevant to the youth gained during this trade delegation will find its way to the South African youth. As one delegate explained it, “even to the youth in the deep, deep rural areas.”

The Beijing programme included:

Opening Ceremony and Welcome Reception at the Beijing National Conference Centre

FOCAC Session in the Great Hall of the People

Sixth Conference of Chinese and African Entrepreneurs at the China World Hotel

Beijing-Tiajin-Hebei International Investment and Trade Fair in Langfang, Heibei Province

During our few free hours, we were seen out; walking the streets of Beijing, shopping for pearls, silk, toys for our kids back home, laughing and joking after sampling Chinese beers and wines, jogging and street racing (short sprints) through the streets of Langfang in Heibei, greeting the locals, performing quick street dances to entertain the surprised local children, eating perfectly with chopsticks and displaying the best Chinese table manners, helping each other, walking kilometers through the huge Chinese airports, going through customs via queues for overseas diplomats, wearing our flag with great pride and belonging, shopping in under-the-street, almost endless shopping malls, chatting via WeChat on our phones, sampling delicious Chinese meat and vegetarian dishes, refreshing by eating cool watermelon and during street walks, drinking water and eating ice creams like old friends.

A unique concept for a different education for South Africa and Africa, the Great Wall of China Education Project, had its roots in the passages of the delegation’s hotel in Langfang after a few delegates returned from an inspiring adventure walk along the Great Wall of China.

During our last evening together in Langfang, while sampling chips from the local McDonald’s, a beautiful, young girl from the delegation who could be an exceptional speaker in schools provided some profound thought on South Africans.

My understanding of what she said was:

“There is no such thing as a South African tribe. South Africans are from different African, European, Chinese, Indian and indigenous tribes. We all have our own way of living and don’t necessarily relate, believe in the same things, speak the same language or eat the same food, but we are all South African.”

I thought she put everything into perspective for us.

In Dubai on the way home, we ran into the South African Swimming Team, a mix of different “tribes” united by only two things, the talent for swimming and the South African flag.

If you have the opportunity to travel with the PBF, make the best of it.

For me, it was worth every minute.

And the connections developed during the process are likely to last a lifetime in what was a bit like home away from home.


Speakers at the 6th Conference of Chinese and African Entrepreneurs included:

Dr Akinwumi A. Adesina, president of African Development Bank Group

Salaheddine Mezouar, President of General Confederation of Moroccan Companies

Yewande Sadiku, CEO of NIPC0

Emmanuel Hategeka, Chief Operating Officer of Rwanda Development Board (RDB)

Wang Yilin, Chairman of CNPC, Chairman of PetroChina

Xu Siwei, Chairman, Party Secretary, Sinosteel Group Corporation Limited

Yang Baohua, Secretary of PartyCommittee, Chairman of the Board, China-Africa Development Fund

Wu Xuan, Secretary General, Global Energy Interconnection Development and Cooperation Organization (GEIDCO), Vice President, China Electricty Council (CEC)

Justin Yifu Lin, Dean of Institute of New Structural Economics Peking University

Caroline Wangui Kariuki, CEO of the Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA)

Sandile Donald Muziwenkosi Zungu, President of Black Business Council

Andile Kenny Fihla, Chief Executive of Corporate and Investment Banking at Standard Bank

Widad Yagoup Ibrahim, General Manager of Bee Group

Hu Xiaolian, Chairman of the Export-Import Bank of China, Member of the Standing Committee of the CPPCC

Li Xiapeng, Secretary of CPC Committee and Chairman of China Everbright Group Limited

Zhang Zhengao, Member of the Board, President China Poly Group Corporation Limited

Angel Zhao, President of Alibaba Global Business Group

Zhou Yu, Host of CCTV-2

Khalil Laabidi, President of Tunisia Investment Authority

Aboubaker Omar Hedi, Chairman, Djibouti Ports and Free Zones Authority (DPFZA)

Mohamed Mahmoud Ahmed Eletreby, Chairman of Banque Misr

Mamady Sanoh, First Vice President of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Burkina Faso

Yinbiao Shu, Chairman of State Grid Corporation of China, Vice President of International Electrotechnical Commission

Zhuang Shangbiao, President of China Railway Construction Corporation, President, Executive Director of China Railway Construction Corporation Limited

Zhang Zongyan, President of China Railway Group Limited

Sun Hongshui, President, Powerchina

Chen Feng, Chairman of the Board of Directors, HNA Group, Secretary of the Party Committee of HNA Group

Yan Hao, President of China Pacific Construction Group

Daryl Swanepoel, Convenor of African National Congress’s (ANC) Progressive Business Forum (PBF)