Import expo and Africa deals steadily advance

By Joyce Chimbi Source: Published: 2020/11/10 16:05:24

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

As curtains fall on the third China International Import Expo (CIIE), held in China's business capital Shanghai, it is evident that COVID-19 has far from closed the economic corridor between China and Africa. 

For Africa, this international expo is an unparalleled showcase of trading opportunities for both imports and exports, as well as services to China. 

Importantly, CIIE provides the world's largest consumer market, an outstanding platform for exhibitions, trade and investment relationships.

Running in November every year since 2018, traders and governments from all over the world are eager to participate - and so is Africa.

So attractive is this expo that despite COVID-19, as of July this year, more than 90 percent of the planned exhibition area was already been booked. 

Shanghai responded to this interest by expanding the expo area by 20,000 square meters to accommodate as many interested businesses as possible.

As was the case in the last two expos, Africa has not been left behind this year. Business minds from Africa are eager to bring commerce back to Africa. As China's largest trading partner for the last 10 consecutive years, Africa leverages on CIIE to access new markets for exports.

Chinese manufactured goods, machinery and electronics are a common fixture in homes, factories and business premises across Africa. In the same breadth, Africa largely exports minerals and metals to China.

This expo has for the third year running provided the continent with an opportunity to introduce new brands and products into China's open market, and to therefore diversify.

This year for instance, Ethiopia is keen to expand its coffee business into China through e-commerce. Similarly, South Africa is spreading its wings and seeks to expand its wine industry by exporting to China.

Agricultural economies including Kenya and Mozambique have shown a renewed interest in agro processing, and with the support from China they intend to access new export markets in the far eastern country.

Since 2000, the volume of trade between China and Africa has increased more than 17-fold, as China's investment in Africa has increased more than 100-fold. 

Other data from China's Ministry of Commerce indicates that trade volume in 2018 between China and Africa amounted to $204.2 billion, a significant rise of 20 percent year on year. In the same year, Africa-US trade shrank to $61 billion, which economic experts say is barely 45 percent of its 2008 volume.

China-Africa ties have continued to nurture various platforms including the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, and numerous think tank forums to create an understanding of what the continent needs from China - and also what China needs from the continent to foster a win-win trading system.

A win-win outcome is lacking in existing international trade systems and especially for the African continent.

This expo provides a guaranteed market for Africa to introduce new and existing brands, create and promote brand visibility, meet other traders and sign contracts, and overall expand their business networks.

By the fourth day of this year's expo where at least 674 exhibitions from more than 64 countries and 1,351 buyers participated in the exhibition both online and on site, at least 861 tentative cooperation agreements had been reached.

This expo has been an opportunity for particularly fast growing economies in Africa such as Kenya, Senegal, Cote d' Ivoire, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Ghana to explore export opportunities for both raw material and finished products in China.

China has remained vocal about its commitment to promote and expand Africa's exporting economies threefold, by size, diversity and creating even more opportunities. 

As such, new products such as beef are not only entering the Chinese market but recent data shows that beef export from Africa to China has increased by 240 percent.

Creating a balanced trade system where both China and Africa are on a level playing field has never been more important. 

This expo therefore builds trade and investment bridges that are sensitive to the needs of a developing southern continent.

These economic bridges are much needed as the world continues to experience disruptions such as shifts in geopolitics and a growing number of developed countries promoting nationalistic agendas.

An open market in China, known across Africa for its robust trade and investment acumen, provides a lifeline for African governments and individual traders to explore opportunities for products and services to this country of more than 5,000 years of history.

China has remained consistent in its open arm approach to the world, and more so to Africa. By opening its markets to a continent still struggling with poverty and under-development, there is a hope that such an expo will rejuvenate and boost Africa's trade with China. 

The author is a Kenya-based journalist.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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