Trusty partners: Taiwan looks to South Africa


Taiwan has proved to be SA’s trustworthy partner in various fields, including healthcare, science and technology and other areas in the post-pandemic era – the evidence is there for all to see.

With a population of 23.5 million and a landmass almost the size of Gauteng, Taiwan is a small island in the Pacific Ocean known for its advanced science and technology, leading medical expertise and strong economy.

It’s the world’s 21st-largest economy and SA is the biggest trade partner of Taiwan in Africa. In 2022, the bilateral trade between the two sides amounted to R45.3 billion.

Taiwan imports a large quantity of agricultural products and minerals from SA, while simultaneously exporting industrial tool machinery and motor parts to facilitate the development of SA’s foundational and automotive industries, and to bolster its foreign exchange reserves.

Universal values

SA and Taiwan also uphold universal values such as democracy, freedom and human rights. Although their paths to democracy were challenging, they ultimately paid off.

In the 1990s, SA achieved milestones in abolishing apartheid, while Taiwan successfully underwent democratisation.

Notably, Taiwan’s democratic reform, led by former leader Lee Teng-hui, coincided with President Nelson Mandela’s inauguration as SA’s first democratically elected president.

Their commitment to democracy, freedom and human rights was demonstrated by their meeting in Pretoria in May 1994, which also highlighted the historic first democratic election in Taiwan in 1996.

There is huge potential for cooperation between SA and Taiwan in fields such as medical care and technology.

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Manufacturing industry

Taiwan occupies a dominant position in the global chip manufacturing industry, producing 70% of the world’s chips and 90% of high-end chips.

Chips are an indispensable part of electronic devices, home appliances and cars, underscoring Taiwan’s pivotal role in global industries.

The Covid pandemic revealed the global motor industry’s reliance on Taiwan’s chip production, causing major international manufacturers to stop production temporarily due to chip shortages.

Additionally, Taiwan’s expertise in leveraging technology for anti-pandemic purposes was evident in the early stages of Covid.

Despite a lack of vaccines and drugs, Taiwan effectively contained the spread of Covid through technology-driven measures to trace infected people and their contacts.

The Taiwanese managed to live a relatively normal life during the pandemic without strict lockdown measures.

Taiwan’s National Health Insurance system has gained international recognition for its innovative technology and comprehensive healthcare.

Covid highlighted the importance of global cooperation and digital advancement in healthcare, prompting Taiwan to further promote digital health and innovation to improve the accessibility and quality of healthcare.

Taiwan promotes telemedicine consultation and explores the application of emerging technologies such as AI. It is eager to share its innovative technologies and best practices with global partners to advance universal health coverage.

Public concerns

Moreover, Taiwan is actively engaged in addressing public health concerns and providing assistance. Incorporating Taiwan into the World Health Assembly network will contribute to a healthier, more sustainable and more equitable world.

Taiwan remains steadfast in its commitment to collaborate with the international community in safeguarding the fundamental right to health as outlined in the World Health Organisation’s constitution.

In alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals, it is essential not to overlook Taiwan, considering its substantial contributions to global public health.

As an African adage goes, umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu, meaning “I am because you are”, highlights the significance of interconnectedness among individuals and the advancement of the collective.

Within the global industrial supply chain, SA and Taiwan exhibit interdependence and help each other attain economic growth.

Why not let Taiwan help in the global health issue, too?

-Liao is the representative of Taipei Liaison Office in SA based in Pretoria. He began his new job on 9 December, 2022 taking over from his predecessor, Anthony Ho.

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