China releases China-Africa Trade Index for first time; surging figures show growing economic integration
Published: Jun 29, 2023 05:36 PM
A glimpse of South Africa booth at the 3rd China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo that kicked off on Thursday in Changsha, Central China's Hunan Province Photo: Tu Lei/GT

A glimpse of South Africa booth at the 3rd China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo that kicked off on Thursday in Changsha, Central China's Hunan Province Photo: Tu Lei/GT

China released the China-Africa Trade Index for the first time during the ongoing 3rd China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo which is being held in Changsha, Central China's Hunan Province, providing a barometer for China-Africa economic and trade cooperation in a digital and scientific way.

Compared with the base reading of 100 recorded in 2000, the index rose to 990.55 in 2022, reflecting that bilateral trade remains on a rapid upward growth trajectory and is likely to continue to scale new heights, according to the index released by China's General Administration of Customs (GAC) on Thursday.

During the period, the import and export value between China and Africa hit 1.88 trillion yuan ($263.2 billion) from less than 100 billion yuan, which recorded an accumulative 20-fold increase and an average annual growth rate of 17.7 percent.

The compilation and regular release of the index will objectively reflect the dynamics, development potential and other aspects of China's commodities trade with Africa, and play a positive role in promoting economic and trade exchanges between China and African countries, according to Lü Daliang, a GAC spokesperson.

The China-Africa Trade Index comprehensively reflects the achievements in the bilateral trade, and the continuous upward curve indicates that the friendly cooperation between China and Africa has become even firmer as time goes by, Lü said.

"As a barometer and bellwether, the index will provide scientific basis for the governmental agencies to form and improve trade policies and offer information for exporters and importers' operation decisions so as to bring China-Africa economic and trade cooperation to a new level," he said.

Song Wei, a professor at the School of International Relations and Diplomacy at Beijing Foreign Studies University, told the Global Times the index makes 2000 a base year as the two sides' trade experienced rapid development since the Forum for China-Africa Cooperation was established in Beijing that year, with significantly higher trade scale and quality.

The Chinese and African economies are highly complementary, and their economic and trade cooperation has achieved notable outcomes over recent years in cargo and services trade, direct investment and infrastructure, according to Song.

She said China-Africa free trade level continues to be improved, as China has adopted zero tariffs for about 98 percent of products that the least-developed countries export to China and established green channels for the imports of African agricultural products, and the two sides have jointly set up multiple working groups in sectors including smooth trade, industrial cooperation and e-commerce.

China has been Africa's largest trading partner for 14 consecutive years. In the first five months of this year, China-Africa trade maintained strong momentum, with total import and export value reaching 822.32 billion yuan, up 16.4 percent year-on-year.

The China-Africa trade scale sub-index hit 1,855.16 in 2022. China's total foreign trade with Africa reached a historical high of 1.88 trillion yuan last year, up 14.5 percent year-on-year. A sub-index that reflects bilateral "trade proximity" hit a record high in 293.05 in 2021, which had temporarily declined to 286.8 in 2022.

The sub-index that reflects China-Africa trade potential has maintained an upward trend, reaching 761.04 in 2022, underlying the vast room for the future development of bilateral trade. Both the Chinese and African economies are vibrant and have become increasingly integrated. China needs more goods produced in Africa while Africa needs more made-in-China products.

Although large enterprises play an important role in China-Africa trade, accounting for around 90 percent in 2022, the number of smaller enterprises participating in the two sides' trade increased more than 10-fold to more than 100,000 currently.

"Under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative, there is great potential for China and Africa to deepen their cooperation in sectors including digital economy, green development and finance in addition to agriculture and infrastructure. This will provide more opportunities for Africa's development and help remove bottlenecks in the continent's development and spark its internal momentum," Song said.