Celebrating China-Africa Cultures
Speech of South African Ambassador to China Dolana Msimang at the celebration of 2017 International Women’s Day in Minzu University of China
(March 12, 2017)
Mr. Zhang Jingze, Full-time Member (Vice Minister) of the State Ethnic Affairs Commission of China, and Secretary of the CPC Committee of Minzu University of China,
Ms. Li Yafang, President of BEIJING REVIEW,
Ms. Feng Lan, Director General of International Cooperation Department of the State Ethnic Affairs Commission of China,
Mr. Dao Bo, Deputy Secretary of the CPC Committee of Minzu University of China,
Ms. Song Min, Vice President of Minzu University of China,
Your Excellency ambassador, ambassadors’ spouses & members of the diplomatic corps,
Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,
It is so refreshing to be part of this momentous evening and celebration of China and Africa adorned by the wonderful ambience of tonight’s audience!
I am deeply honored to be with you here today and to share my thoughts at this great event presented by the ChinAfrica magazine and co-hosted by BEIJING REVIEW and Minzu University of China.
Ladies and gentlemen,
This evening we are celebrating the cultures of Africa and China. The relationship between Africa and China dates back to many years ago, with a long history of mutual support through triumphs and tribulations. However, not enough information has been shared between its peoples. To this date there still exists a lot of myths and ignorance about China in Africa and similarly about Africa in China. Through robust cultural interaction we can strengthen, demystify and find synergy in our cultures.
Culture is a unifier. It is the very fact that our cultures are so different and yet very similar, that ignite our curiosity and make us interested to know more about one another. It makes us reach out to each other across oceans and barriers.
China is one of the world’s ancient civilizations and its prosperity today is testament to a culture that has been able to evolve and adapt through the ages, through a combination of indigenous and external wisdom.
Africa already enjoys dynamic cultural interaction with China. A number of cultural activities have taken place between Africa and China, including a series of study tours and exchange programs, various artistic and cultural activities ranging from music performances, theatre co-productions, art exhibitions, etc.
It is therefore important to embrace the theme of this event which is about integration and culture. It is about synergy of diverse cultures. It is about us getting together, to celebrate all that is beautiful and wonderful about China and Africa. I hope we will be able to share our unique characteristics and knowledge defined by everything from language, cuisine, social habits, music and arts.
We celebrate our cultures through the many languages represented here today, in the many patterns, textiles and embroidery on our clothing. Africa and China are well known for their art and craft whether it is painting, beading, pottery, weaving, printing, paper cutting or sculpting.
On December 4, 2015 during the FOCAC Summit in Johannesburg, President Xi Jinping captured it very aptly in his speech and I quote: "Diversity makes the world beautiful. We are proud that both China and Africa have time-honored and splendid civilizations. We should strengthen cultural exchanges and mutual learning between China and Africa, facilitate more exchanges between youth, women, think tanks, media, universities and other sectors of the two sides, promote cultural interactions, policy coordination and people-to-people exchanges to advance common progress and ensure the sustained growth of the China-Africa friendship from generation to generation." Quote closed.
It is quite clear that there are many opportunities for our continent in forging cooperation with our host country China that can make a significant contribution to achieving our vision of a prosperous society free of unemployment, poverty and inequality.
Ladies and gentlemen,
In addition to our cultures, we are also celebrating International Women’s Day. This is a significant global celebration of the social, economic, cultural and political achievements made by women while also being a call to action, to accelerate gender parity and address the numerous challenges still faced by women worldwide.
In all cultures women are the most respectable and dependable institution for both the family and the nation. What makes women’s role significant in our societies is that it transcends class, race, color and creed.
As Ambassador, I represent the Republic of South Africa - the furthest African country away from China. I have lived in China for two years. During this time I had the privilege to travel extensively and it has convinced me that both African and Chinese women are central in the advancement and preservation of culture.
In 2015 world leaders adopted the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals including ending poverty, promoting inclusive and sustainable economic growth, and achieving gender equality, all of which rest upon unlocking the potential of women in the work environment. This year’s UN theme for International Women’s Day is "Women in the Changing World of Work: Planet 50-50 by 2030."
Ladies and gentlemen,
When we talk about women’s economic empowerment, the cultural industry has a potential to play an important role. Women are able to develop their skills, find and create jobs earn a living and create wealth in the cultural industry. When combined with the digital economy it can offer home-grown opportunities enabling women to thrive and prosper.
Women are now steadily gaining access to big and small business opportunities, and high profile business women and executives are slowly emerging in this sector.
Women are now successfully unleashing long suppressed human potential; and breaking the barriers that have in the past prevented them from venturing into new career paths. Their new found professions, vocation, and hobbies have spanned across various activities, ranging from science and technology, to literature, economics, engineering business and extreme sports.
However as women grapple to overcome past and present gender imbalances, the world of work is changing rapidly, impacted by globalization as well as the technological and digital revolutions. These changes present many opportunities vis-à-vis the growing informality of labor, unstable livelihoods and incomes as well as new fiscal and trade policies.
But what is important is that the women have taken their fate into their own hands. They are now choosing professions which have for a long time been perceived as exclusive to men. They have gone out of their way to acquire divergent skills that are vital for the development.
Governments can however play a vital role in assisting female entrepreneurs to access finance and start-up capital, to register copyrights, to provide technical support and to establish networks and platforms. They can respond to the changing skills needs by promoting innovation in education, supporting the mobility of artists, reforming the regulatory environment and developing policies and initiatives to promote market access and investment for the cultural industry.
Ladies and gentlemen,
The cooperation between Africa and China can contribute to enhancing the cultural industry in Africa and China. President Xi Jinping made important pledges under the FOCAC China-Africa Cultural and People-to-People Plan, namely: 2,000 educational opportunities, 30,000 government scholarships and annually 200 sponsored visits for African scholars, study trips by 500 young Africans and training for 1,000 media professionals.
You’ll agree with me that this is an abundance of opportunities many of which can directly benefit women and that there is a real potential for cooperation between African and Chinese women. We can learn from each other and assist each other to be innovative and creative, to secure our livelihoods, to create jobs and to run successful businesses that grow our economies. Let’s use the platform created here today to take this cooperation forward.
I would like to conclude by emphasizing that since time memorial women have always stood firm in supporting, protecting, preserving and advancing the interest of their families, communities and nations either emotionally or materially. This is in addition to other roles that history, tradition and experience has assigned to them. Families, communities and nations have prospered from their uniting actions. It is for this reason that I appeal to all the women here today, that the role of "home-maker" should by no means be forsaken, as result of their newly acquired empowered roles.
In our quest for equality we must not lose that warmth.
Xie xie dajia!