Economic Watch: China-Africa expo consolidates trade links, builds brighter future

Updated: July 3, 2023 Source: Xinhua News Agency
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People visit the Changsha International Convention and Exhibition Center during the third China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo in Changsha, central China's Hunan Province, July 1, 2023. The third China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo is held in Changsha from June 29 to July 2. (Xinhua/Chen Yehua)

From the Ethiopian coffee, Kenyan avocado to Tanzanian wine, the third China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo, participated by over 1,500 exhibitors, offers a golden platform for African producers and Chinese consumers.

NAIROBI, July 2 (Xinhua) -- Ethiopian coffee, Madagascar's essential oil, Kenyan flowers and many other products from Africa are becoming increasingly popular among Chinese consumers in Changsha city, an important transportation hub in central China.

The third China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo which kicked off in the city on Thursday brought Chinese consumers products of high quality and low prices and has yielded win-win results. For African producers and traders looking for new export markets, the expo is a golden opportunity.

Over the past two decades, China-Africa trade has been steadily increasing, hitting a record high of 282 billion U.S. dollars in 2022. With the participation of about 1,500 exhibitors, the expo is expected to help China and Africa forge new cooperation and strengthen trade relations.

Audience take photos of a performance at the Changsha International Convention and Exhibition Center during the third China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo in Changsha, central China's Hunan Province, July 1, 2023. (Xinhua/Chen Yehua)


To help African countries revive their economies after the COVID-19 pandemic, China continues to expand imports of African goods. China is the second largest destination country of African agricultural products. In recent years, the average growth rate of African agricultural exports to China has reached 11.4 percent.

Among the agricultural products, avocado is an example demonstrating the vigorous development of trade between China and Africa. Since last July, Kenya has exported more than 3,000 tons of fresh avocados to China, bringing more income to over 3,200 farmers. Local officials in the East African country expect to increase the exports to 100,000 tons annually in the coming years.

At the 8th Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in 2021, China announced the establishment of a "green channel" for African countries' agricultural products entering China. Since then, more than a dozen African countries have been given approval to export agricultural products, such as citrus from South Africa and sesame from Tanzania, to China.

Through the China International Import Expo, the China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo, online shopping festivals and other platforms, China has been helping African products enter Chinese and global markets.

Bordering Kenya in the north, Tanzania is the second largest wine producer in sub-Saharan Africa after South Africa.

"The fair will be an opportunity for us to have our wines showcased on an international level, and our company is looking forward to more sales to China," said Archard Kato, managing director of Alko Vintages Company, a Tanzanian wine company that participated in the exhibition in Changsha.

The expo creates great opportunities for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), which deems China a "privileged" and "strategic" partner, Congolese External Trade Minister Jean-Lucien Bussa Tongba told Xinhua in a recent interview.

"The DRC government prioritizes the diversification of its economy, which would also be a key message that I would share with Chinese investors. It corresponds to our internal need, the world market's need and certainly the need of the Chinese investors," he said.

According to official statistics, China's new investment in the DRC reached 500 million dollars in 2022, and the trade volume between the two countries amounted to 21.8 billion dollars in the same year. So far, China has granted zero tariffs on about 97 percent of products from the DRC.

Visitors (L) shop various products at the Changsha International Convention and Exhibition Center during the third China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo in Changsha, central China's Hunan Province, July 1, 2023. (Xinhua/Chen Zhenhai)


At the ongoing expo in Changsha, Chinese consumers could taste anchovies from Kenya for the first time. Locally known as "dagaa," the small fish caught in the Indian Ocean were processed, dried and packaged in a factory of Huawen Food (Kenya) Export Processing Zone Limited, a Chinese company based in Kenya's Kwale County.

Abdi Dura, a 30-year-old father of two, was born in a fishing family in a village on the shores of the Indian Ocean. "It is an exciting moment to witness the maiden export of anchovies to the Chinese market," Dura said. "Now that we have secured a new market for the small fish, we expect our income to increase and look forward to purchasing new fishing gear to help improve the volumes of our catch."

Salim Mvurya, cabinet secretary for the Ministry of Mining, Blue Economy and Maritime Affairs of Kenya, said the inaugural shipment of anchovies sourced from local fishermen to the Chinese market was "a historic moment for the country."

The blue economy will open new frontiers for Kenya-China cooperation, Mvurya said.

China has long prioritized poverty reduction and agricultural development in cooperation with African countries. Over the past years, China has sent agricultural experts to Africa and established more than 20 agricultural demonstration centers.

Chinese enterprises have established agricultural cooperative parks and agro-processing plants in African countries, using advanced technology, equipment and experience to help them increase crop yields and establish an agricultural industry.

In February last year, several Chinese enterprises signed cooperation agreements on the construction of preliminary processing plants for rubber, palm oil, cotton and other agricultural products in Cote d'Ivoire and other West African countries.

Now two plants of a Chinese rubber processing factory have been put into operation in Cote d'Ivoire, one of the leading rubber producers in the world, with an annual capacity of approximately 260,000 tons, equivalent to a quarter of the country's rubber production.

Brou Bonaventure, resource supervisor of the Ivorian Interprofessional Fund for Agricultural Research and Advice, said that before the Chinese company came to Cote d'Ivoire, local farmers did not have distribution and transportation channels, and were stuck with large and costly amounts of overstock and had to sell raw materials at low prices. Things are becoming better as the Chinese factory has provided stable and reasonably priced shipping channels for the farmers.

More and more young people working in big cities are returning home, where agricultural production, such as rubber cultivation, brings them more income, Bonaventure said.

This photo taken on June 29, 2023 shows dried wild anchovy products from Kenya displayed at the third edition of the China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo in Changsha, central China's Hunan Province.(Xinhua/Sun Ruibo)


Over the years, the economic and trade cooperation between China and Africa has witnessed steady progress, with the implementation of a number of projects via platforms such as the Belt and Road Initiative and China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo. Their close trade links have yielded win-win results.

According to China's Ministry of Commerce, China has remained Africa's largest trading partner for 14 consecutive years. The two sides have together constructed and commissioned over 10,000 km of railways, nearly 100,000 km of highways, and an array of important infrastructure including airports, docks, bridges and power plants.

In recent years, China-Africa cooperation has expanded from agriculture, infrastructure and manufacturing to new industries such as green economy, health, finance and digital innovation.

"We see the booming trade as a win-win situation which keeps growing," said South African Ambassador to China Siyabonga Cyprian Cwele. "And the massive growth in bilateral trade has been translated into direct benefits to our people."

Since the beginning of this year, many local governments in China have sent delegations to Africa or held forums on cooperation to enhance contacts with African countries.

Among them, Kenya intends to showcase investment opportunities in diverse sectors like the blue economy, affordable housing, manufacturing, digital superhighway, and agro-processing during the expo in Changsha, said Michael Ogutu, an investment promotion officer at the Kenya Investment Authority, at a promotional conference for the third China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo held last month in Nairobi.

Ogutu said the Kenyan government has created a conducive regulatory environment to attract capital, technology, and expertise from China amid the quest to realize people-centered economic transformation.

In the eyes of Zambian Minister of Commerce, Trade and Industry Chipoka Mulenga, the ongoing expo is a major platform for strengthening economic and trade cooperation between China and African countries.

"This opportunity that China has presented to Africa and many other countries is something that we do not want to be left out of," Mulenga said. 

Editor: Yu Huichen