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By Brian Sokutu

Senior Print Journalist

Youths throng for jobs at China-backed fair in Johannesburg

Unemployed South African youth flood Chinese government-backed Job Fair 2024 seeking job opportunities for diverse sectors.

Crowds of unemployed South African young people – among them, jobless graduates – Tuesday thronged the Gallagher Estate in Johannesburg to seek job opportunities at the Chinese government-backed Job Fair 2024 – aimed at contributing to lowering the country’s staggering 50.47% youth unemployment figure.

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The Chinese embassy in South Africa, has since 2022 been facilitating for several locally-based Chinese enterprises to interact and offer employment to young job-seekers – covering diverse areas, which have included engineering, management, sales, telecommunications, industrial machinery and marketing.

Agreements made

The youth project followed the state visit last August of Chinese President Xi Jinping to South Africa in which he and President Cyril Ramaphosa reached consensus and witnessed the signing of several official agreements, which included:

  • Supporting SA government’s efforts to strengthen vocational education and promoting youth employment.
  • Providing a larger market for South Africa’s high-quality exports.
  • Offering stronger support for South Africa’s industrialisation.
  • Providing better support for South Africa’s innovative development.

Addressing the gathering attended by Social Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu and Minister in the Presidency for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, Maropene Ramokgopa, Chinese embassy in SA chargé d’affaires Li Zhigang, said the Job Fair 2024 was “an important measure to implement the consensus reached by our two heads”.

China is ready to work with South Africa through job fairs to help create jobs, promote development – injecting vitality into the talent recruitment and local development of Chinese-invested enterprises.

“Employment is like a bridge with one end connecting national development, while the other end connecting family well-being.

“It is the biggest heart-winning project that benefits ordinary people.

“In 2022, the Job Fair of Chinese-invested enterprises in South Africa was successfully held here at this hall.

“More than 60 Chinese-invested enterprises interacted with more than 1000 young South African job-seekers on-site – generating positive social effects,” said Li.

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Economic and trade cooperation was “a splendid chapter in the relations between our two countries”.

Li said China has been South Africa’s largest trading partner for 15 consecutive years – becoming “one of the largest sources of foreign investment in South Africa”.

“In response to the New Investment Initiative proposed by President Ramaphosa, China encouraged a large number of high-quality enterprises to participate in the South Africa investment conference – supporting South Africa’s development with concrete actions.

“The continuous deepening of economic and trade cooperation between China and South Africa, has also made outstanding contributions to local economic and social development,” he said.

A major investment in the country

Quoting figures provided by South African think tank FDI Market, in the past 10 years, Li said China’s cumulative direct investment in South Africa “exceeded 13 billion US dollars, with an average of 260 local jobs per project – ranking first among major investors”.

Said Li: “At present, more than 200 Chinese-invested companies in South Africa have created more than 400 000 local jobs.

“Some Chinese-invested companies even employ more than 10 000 local people and pay an annual tax of US$40 million.”

“The key to state-to-state relations lies in close bonds between people.

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“China’s relationship with South Africa, and Africa as a whole – has a profound foundation of public support.

“South Africa is the earliest African member of the BRICS and the G20, and is the dazzling pearl at the southernmost tip of the African continent.

“China is willing to work with South Africa to leverage the advantages of both sides and commit to win-win cooperation to benefit our two countries and peoples.

“Let China-South Africa relations bear more golden fruits in the golden era,” he added.

Lauding the Chinese project, Zulu said the fair would “tangibly contribute towards our efforts to address the unemployment challenge”.

Ramokgopa said institutions like the South Africa-China Economy and Trade Association “become a catalyst in facilitating partnerships and social compacts across the business communities of both countries – to advance key targets including job creation”.