China-Africa partnership – a win-win arrangement

By Victor Onyango
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, June 25, 2019
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Aerial view of freight trains at the Nairobi railway station in Nairobi, capital of Kenya, on June 3, 2018. [Photo/Xinhua]

China will hold its first historic China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo from June 27 to 29 in Changsha, the capital city of Hunan province and as many as 53 African countries have confirmed their participation. With the theme "Win-Win Cooperation for Closer China-Africa Economic Partnership," the expo will open a new chapter in the history of bilateral trade between both parties. 

Over the decades, China-Africa cooperation is growing increasingly successful. Given the deep mutual trust between the two sides, their friendship has been time-tested and the fruits of their cooperation can be seen across the African continent through the various development projects that have been rolled out.

The expo comes at a time when the biggest risks facing the world economy today stem from the escalating trade war between the United States and China as well as when global multilateral trading system is challenged by increasingly unilateral trade measures. In fact, there are still many golden opportunities for both sides to capitalize on and intensify their cooperation.

There has been speculation from Western media that Beijing is trying to increase its geopolitical influence on the African continent by funding several infrastructural projects. However, this is untrue. China considers Africa a friend and as a result, the trade expo should be used by African countries to debunk such rumors.

Africa should seize the opportunity brought about by the expo to create demand for the products they produce, which is likely to correct the trade imbalance in Sino-African bilateral trade. At the same time, they can benefit from welcoming different Chinese companies to invest in Africa.

According to the latest statistics released by China's Ministry of Commerce in March, China's total import and export volume with Africa was US$204.19 billion in 2018. This marked a year-on-year increase of 19.7%, which exceeded the overall growth rate of foreign trade in the same period by 7.1%. China's exports to Africa were US$104.91 billion and imports from Africa were US$99.28 billion.

Looking at the indicators, Beijing is ready and willing to help Africa materialize its dream of industrialization and correct the trade deficit. This is something which Westerners, who often are too quick to bash Sino-African relations, have failed to accomplish despite being the largest beneficiaries of Africa's rich natural resources.

A container is unloaded from a ship in Mombasa Port, Kenya, on Jan. 10, 2017. [Photo/Xinhua]

There have been numerous calls for African nations to industrialize its economies to stimulate economic growth, however, these calls for African industrialization will only be possible if its infrastructural deficit is bridged. China has demonstrated a way forward for Africa in this aspect. Recent estimates by the African Development Bank (AfDB) put the continent's minimum infrastructure needs for its countries to sustain the growth of their economies, population, income level and to replace aging infrastructure at US$130 billion to US$170 billion per annum.

Since the expo is expected to cover trade, technology, infrastructure and agriculture, among other areas, participating countries need to enhance their cooperation with China through the South-South partnership. This can be in the areas mentioned above so as to bolster economic growth as African nations move toward a manufacturing economy.

For instance, the African Continent Free Trade Agreement was signed last year and with this expo, Africa can market its products and explore new business opportunities in China by attracting more investments. This will undoubtedly increase business confidence and foster innovation and productivity.

We have seen Beijing's latest push to link the Belt and Road Initiative and the Focus on China-Africa Cooperation initiatives, which have both listed science and technology as their core aims. Unfortunately, Africa's technological capacity is still wanting and its dreams like the Smart Africa Initiative can materialize only if African countries work with Chinese tech firms. The expo can provide opportunities for the nations to enhance pragmatic cooperation in these areas.

The expo will be one of the ways of implementing the 2018 Beijing Summit of the China-Africa Cooperation Forum's (FOCAC) eight initiatives, which include areas such as industrial promotion, infrastructure connectivity, trade facilitation, and green development. This will eventually lead to a win-win and strong cooperation between China and African countries.

Victor Onyango is a journalist with the Nation Media Group (Daily Nation) and is currently attending the China Africa Press Center 2019 program in Beijing.

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