" Africa's past economic experience with Europe dictates a need to be cautious when entering into partnerships with other countries," Zuma told the forum.
"We are particularly pleased that in our relationship with China we are equals and that agreements entered into are for mutual gain," Zuma added.
Growing trade links
Chinese state-owned firms in Africa also face criticism for using imported labour to build government-financed projects like roads and hospitals, while pumping out raw resources and processing them in China, leaving little for local economies.
"Certainly quite a number of us are thinking we need to move into more value addition," South African's Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies told Reuters.
"We need to export mineral products in a more processed form ... We need to bite this bullet very seriously."
Trade has jumped in the past decade, driven by Chinese hunger for resources to power its economic boom and African demand for cheap Chinese products.
Industrial and Commercial Bank of China 601398.SS, for example, the world's most valuable lender, has invested more than $7 billion in various projects across the continent.