China-Africa expo to boost economic and trade ties
Published: Jun 20, 2019 06:39 PM
The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) on Wednesday hailed the launch of the China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo as a platform that will further boost trade and economic ties between the two sides.

The inaugural expo is scheduled for June 27-29 in central China's Hunan Province.

The bi-annual expo has been established under the framework of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation as a new mechanism for economic and trade cooperation between China and African countries.

UNECA Southern Africa Office director Said Adejumobi told Xinhua in an interview that the expo will provide African countries with an opportunity to explore trade and economic opportunities in the vast Chinese market.

"It's an opportunity to expose the goods and services. It's an opportunity to broker networks, form partnerships and to really be able to learn lessons from the Chinese experiment," Adejumobi said.

"China is perhaps the only country that has had the fastest transformation in the world. In less than 50 years, China's economy was dramatically transformed and I think African businesses going for the expo will be able to gain from the exposure, the interaction and the partnerships."

He said the success story and dramatic transformation of China's tech giant, Alibaba, which now controls close to 40 percent of global online consumer shopping, should inspire many African participants at the expo.

Adejumobi said the launch of the expo, which coincides with the coming into force of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), will add further impetus to trade promotion and growth between the two sides.

"I think the AfCFTA provides a good opportunity for Africa to relate with China from a relative position of strength and a position in which China itself can also explore ways to support the AfCFTA," he said.

However, the two sides should also discuss and address concerns from African businesses of unfair competition from cheap Chinese goods, he said.

He said Africa should also clamor for more Chinese investment in the manufacturing sector, especially the textile industry.

"We should be able to see if it's possible for China to produce from Africa, whether it is possible for China to support Africa in terms of skills and entrepreneurship development, research and development and in terms of technology transfer in infrastructure development rather than China having to do it for Africa."

The UNECA official said China should encourage Africa to search for technology from all over the world to independently build its economies, rather than having China itself implementing the technology in Africa.

"What China did for its own transformation was to learn by doing, and not by others doing it for her. China was able to search for technology from all over the world to do what it needed to do and I think the same approach is what China should encourage Africa to do," Adejumobi said.

He said it is in the best interest of China for Africa to develop, noting that Africa's development will ensure that China has a good partner to work with.

"Raising the standard of living in Africa is in the interest of China because African people will have more disposable income to buy goods and services. So it's a win-win situation for China and a win-win position for Africa."

It is therefore prudent, according to Adejumobi, for Africa to engage with China in a way that will be transformative for the continent.

He noted that Africa has benefited from its relationship with China when it is able to assuage the recent economic crisis because it has diversified its trade with China.

"In the long-run, the game changer will be how China works with Africa to transform African economies. Technology transfer and support to SMEs are critical areas that China will have to work hand in hand with Africa for Africa to move to the next stage," Adejumobi said.