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South Africa has signed a raft of agreements with China, including on the construction of a world-class oil refinery and upgrading the country's rail and port networks.

The deals were sealed at the end of talks between President Jacob Zuma and his counterpart Xi Jinping on Tuesday.

Under the oil agreement, China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation (Sinopec) and South Africa's national oil company PetroSA will build a state-of-the-art crude refinery in a coastal industrial zone near Port Elizabeth.

China is also eyeing oil and gas exploration in South Africa and nearby countries, plus downstream opportunities such as constructing storage and logistics infrastructure.

China Development Bank will fund the revamp of South Africa's freight rail company Transnet, but details were not revealed. Transnet last year unveiled a 300 billion rand ($A31 billion) investment plan.

Transnet group chief executive Brian Molefe hailed the agreement with China as a "historic agreement between two state-owned entities within BRICS (Brazil, Russia,India, China and South Africa)" which goes to show the "opportunities inherent" in such diplomatic ties, reported SAPA news agency.

Xi, who is making a three-nation stop on the continent, said China valued the relationships it has established with trading partners and will work to preserve them.

"We are committed to strengthening our political trust, intensify economical cooperation, expand people to people exchanges and elevate the level of our cooperation to the benefit of people in both countries."

From South Africa, Xi will travel to the Republic of Congo on the next leg of his first presidential foreign trip which began in Russia.

Xi's tour is being seen as a sign that China's drive for deeper economic ties with Africa will continue during his term.

The West Australian

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