Brian Sokutu
Senior Print Journalist
5 minute read
9 Dec 2021
4:41 pm

China-Africa trade sees massive growth amid tough environment

Brian Sokutu

China plans to open 'green lanes' for African agricultural exports to China and work to reach $300 billion in total imports from Africa in the next three years.

Picture: iStock

From January to October this year, China-Africa trade and the Asian giant’s direct investment in Africa both bucked the trend, reaching over $207 billion and $2.6 billion respectively, up 37.5% and 10% year-on-year, according to China’s ambassador to South Africa, Chen Xiaodong.

Addressing a webinar in South Africa entitled: “FOCAC (China-Africa Cooperation Forum): Mapping China-Africa Relations Post-Covid”, Chen said China-South Africa trade delivered “a more robust performance”. 

“Our total trade reached around $45 billion from January to October this year, up nearly 57% year-on-year.

“China imported from South Africa around $28 billion worth of goods – up over 67% year-on-year. 

“China will also continue to be Africa’s largest trading partner for 13 consecutive years.

“Also, the proportion of China-Africa trade in Africa’s total foreign trade has been on the rise.

“At present, African countries are facing economic difficulties, and their economic recovery is not as fast as expected and is uneven. 

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“The African side has high expectations for China-Africa cooperation to boost economic recovery and is eager to expand cooperation and exports to China,” said Chen.

He said Chinese President Xi Jinping attached “great importance to these major concerns and urgent demands of the African side and announced a series of new initiatives for practical cooperation”.

In terms of trade promotion, China would open “green lanes” for African agricultural exports to China and work to reach $300 billion in total imports from Africa in the next three years.

Chen said: “China will provide $10 billion of trade finance to support African export. 

“We will build in China a pioneering zone for in-depth China-Africa trade and economic cooperation and a China-Africa industrial park for Belt and Road cooperation.

“China will undertake 10 connectivity projects for Africa, form an expert group on economic cooperation with the secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area [AfCFTA], and give continued support to the development of the AfCFTA.

“In terms of investment promotion, China will encourage its businesses to invest no less than 1$0 billion in Africa in the next three years, and will establish a platform for China-Africa private investment promotion. 

“China will undertake 10 industrialisation and employment promotion projects for Africa, provide credit facilities of $10 billion to African financial institutions, and establish a China-Africa cross-border RMB [renminbi] centre.

“China will exempt African LDCs [least developed countries] from debt incurred in the form of interest-free Chinese government loans due by the end of 2021. 

“China is ready to channel to African countries $10 billion US dollars from its share of the IMF’s [International Monetary Fund’s] new allocation of special drawing rights.”

On poverty reduction and agricultural development, Chen said China would undertake 10 poverty reduction and agricultural projects for Africa and send 500 agricultural experts to Africa. 

“China will set up a number of China-Africa joint centers for modern agrotechnology exchange, demonstration and training in China.

“We will encourage Chinese institutions and companies to build in Africa demonstration villages for China-Africa cooperation on agricultural development and poverty reduction and support the Alliance of Chinese Companies in Africa for Corporate Social Responsibilities in launching the initiative of 100 Companies in 1000 Villages,” he said.

On digital innovation, China would undertake 10 digital economy projects for Africa, set up centers for China-Africa cooperation on satellite remote-sensing application – supporting the development of China-Africa joint laboratories, partner institutes, scientific and technological innovation cooperation bases.

“China will work with African countries to expand Silk Road e-commerce cooperation, hold online shopping festivals featuring quality African products and tourism e-commerce promotion activities and launch a campaign to market 100 African stores and 1,000 African products on e-commerce platforms.

“These practical initiatives are in line with the most urgent development needs of African countries – and in particular, the need to accelerate industrialisation.

“They demonstrate convincingly that China is keeping up input into Africa and the momentum of China-Africa cooperation, which will give new impetus to Africa’s post-Covid economic recovery.

“It has become a strong consensus between the two sides to bear in mind what is important for the post-Covid world and accelerate the upgrading of China-Africa cooperation. 

We will work with our African friends to fully implement the major initiatives announced by President Xi Jinping, continue to improve the quality of China-Africa cooperation and move forward toward cooperation that is high-quality, people-friendly and sustainable,” said Xiaodong.

Climate change, Chen said, was another commitment to green transformation and shared sustainable development.

Chen said: “Climate change has long posed a major challenge to Africa’s environment and social development.

“There are numerous negative impacts like food crisis, poverty and displacement. 

“Climate change increases the vulnerability of African countries. 

“The conference considered and adopted a declaration on climate change and decided to establish a China-Africa partnership of strategic cooperation of the new era for the fight against climate change.”

On deepening multilateralism, fairness and justice, he said: “China and African countries share similar historical experiences and have a strong political consensus and responsibility to safeguard fairness and justice and practice multilateralism. 

“We both advocate a development path in line with our own national conditions. 

“We are both committed to safeguarding the rights and interests of developing countries. 

“And we both oppose interference in others’ internal affairs, racial discrimination and unilateral sanctions.

“Human development is facing unprecedented risks and challenges in Covid-19 response, economic recovery and efforts to improve people’s livelihood. 

“It is the common desire of the international community to unite rather than divide, to cooperate rather than confront and to make progress rather than roll back. 

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“However, a certain country, which has a terrible track record in democracy and human rights, thinks that it is the leader of the democratic world.

“This country is engaging in pseudo-multilateralism and gathering blocs of countries to engage in group politics by convening the so-called Summit for Democracy.

“This is in fact an arbitrary interference in the internal affairs of other countries under the pretext of democracy and human rights.

“They exaggerate ideological confrontation, damage the external environment for the rise of developing countries, including African countries, and undermine the good atmosphere of international cooperation. 

“This is not beneficial to international solidarity and cooperation. 

“It is not good for world development and needs to be opposed by the international community including Africa.”

brians@citizen.co.za