US trade aggression creates opportunity for Africa

By Toumert AI Source:Global Times Published: 2018/7/16 22:33:40

Illustration: Luo Xuan/GT



As the three major economic blocs are gearing up for a showdown regarding tariffs and trade, Africa is standing on the sidelines with both opportunities and concerns in view.

Today we see the EU, China and the US engaged in a battle over free trade, with China and Europe facing a US administration with only one goal: dismantling global economic gains and bullying others into accepting its terms.

In a sense, Africa is being held hostage by the new American protectionist culture, as the continent is still recovering from the hardship brought by colonial powers. But there may be a new opportunity to seek better economic integration by replacing the US as a strategic supplier and turning to China and the EU instead.

China is currently Africa's largest trading partner, followed closely by the EU. For the last two decades, China and Africa have built strong economic relations that focus on China importing minerals from Africa, while exporting consumer goods, technologies and knowhow. This has been a good model of the win-win strategy developed by Chinese policymakers that has helped to elevate African economies, while also enhancing social development and building state-of-the-art infrastructure.

With this in mind, Africa can take advantage of this trade tension by positioning itself as stable alternative for China to secure its needs in areas such as agriculture and talent acquisition.

If we take agriculture, Africa has about 60 percent of the world's uncultivated arable land. With the right investment and strategy, this could provide the resources China and Europe need.

Regarding talent, young African people are tech savvy and have been educated according to European academic standards. If given the proper environment, they can develop advanced technologies and become top researchers.

Africa can also offer an open market for the manufacturing industries of both China and the EU. Africa is already positioning itself as a manufacturing hub for European companies and also for Chinese firms through the China-Africa cooperation framework. Countries like Ethiopia, South Africa and Morocco are receiving more Chinese investment in many sectors such as telecommunications, automobiles, textiles and energy.

Opportunities exist but also challenges. Africa lacks a unified strategy that could advance its market status and allow it to become a reliable emerging economy.

While the African Union offers a good platform to advance economic policies and bring together African nations under one vision, divisions are still very palpable between different parts of the continent.

Africa must reassess its integration policies and build a more coherent front to absorb Chinese and European investment and trade.

Fortunately, Africa can benefit from its cooperation with China to provide a more secure environment for economic development through peace and security missions. There will also be a boost for infrastructure development via the African Union and the Belt and Road (B&R) initiative.

We can rest assured that China has made the strategic decision to move beyond trading in its involvement with the continent.

The corridor created between Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti with the support of China provides us with a clear commitment from Chinese officials to bring integration to the region, since it will not only benefit Chinese companies but also create real opportunities that Africans can use and rely on to develop their economic agenda.

Beyond the different individual projects developed in South Africa, Nigeria, Mali and Senegal, China is bringing its B&R initiative with the promise of full access to the Chinese market.

African traders, farmers and scientists now have a means of accessing rich resources behind the B&R projects and China's market without restrictions. It is true that African entrepreneurs and policymakers are not completely ready for that, but there is a need for Africa to understand fully and fast the opening and the future that China is seeking. Africa must meet China halfway to develop their shared destiny.

The author is director of education with the International Bachelor Program at the International School under China Foreign Affairs University. bizopinion@globaltimes.com.cn



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