China and Africa are upgrading and enriching cooperation in trade, modern manufacturing, services sector and new-generation infrastructure projects to create new growth momentum.
There are already several growth opportunities arising from Africa’s rising demand for quality industrialization and urbanization, as well as from the Belt and Road Initiative and China’s efforts to help the continent further diversify its business development patterns.
Qian Keming, vice-minister of commerce, said China will offer more assistance including holding specialized goods exhibitions to boost African exports to China from non-mining sectors and helping African countries to build more manufacturing facilities to diversify their economic structure and sales channels.
China became Africa’s largest trade partner in 2009, and the scale of bilateral trade has expanded rapidly ever since.
In 2017, the country’s trade with Africa jumped 14.1 percent year-on-year to $170 billion, while trade volume with Angola, Chad, the Gambia, Namibia, Ghana and South Africa all saw double-digit growth, data from the General Administration of Customs show.
Metal, coal, timber, crude oil, agricultural and chemical products are Africa’s main shipments to China, while the country mainly exports construction machinery, manufacturing equipment, steel, electronics, textiles, garments and household appliances to the continent. Chinese-made passenger vehicles and trucks have also become popular in many African countries in recent years.
“As China-Africa trade cooperation moves into the next phase, there will be significant scope for diversification of our economies and exports, particularly in agriculture and manufacturing,” said Robin Mwanga, business information executive of Malawi’s national investment and trade center.
“Chinese investment can be instrumental in addressing structural and logistical constraints that impact the competitiveness of African exports,” he said.
Infrastructure construction has been one of the priorities for China-Africa cooperation under the Belt and Road Initiative, which involves more than 20 African economies and covers areas such as railways, highways, ports and power generation projects, data from the Ministry of Commerce show.
Last year, a 480-kilometer China-funded railway started. It connects Nairobi and Mombasa, reducing travel time between Kenya’s two biggest cities by half and creating over 46,000 jobs.
Li Guanghui, vice-president of the Chinese Academy of International Trade and Economic Cooperation, said China’s exports to Africa are gradually shifting toward products with higher technical content, such as mechanical and electrical products, cars, motorcycles, building materials, smartphones and telecommunications equipment.
Guangdong Marshell Electric Vehicle Co Ltd, a designer and maker of electric vehicles in Zhaoqing, Guangdong province, plans to export small electric vehicles and bicycles to Africa this year, said Shu Wen, general manager of Marshell’s sales department.
“Attracted by lower prices, demand for Chinese-made electric vehicles is growing rapidly in South Africa, Tunisia and Algeria,” Shu said.
Shu’s company is certainly not alone. Shanghai-based SAIC Motor Corp, one of China’s five major automakers, is also seeking an opportunity to establish a manufacturing plant in Egypt this year.
Yang Xiaodong, executive director of SAIC Motor’s international department, said the country is one of the most promising markets in both Africa and the Middle East.