Key Growth Fron­tier

The china in­ter­na­tional im­port expo pre­sents a golden op­por­tu­nity to pro­mote african ex­ports

ChinAfrica - - OPINION - By Be­nard Ayieko

in the re­cent past, China has de­vel­oped a net­work of eco­nomic re­la­tions with not only the ma­jor pow­ers, but also other na­tions in the world con­sti­tut­ing the semi-pe­riph­ery and pe­riph­ery of the global eco­nomic sys­tem. As the Chi­nese econ­omy grows, its list of trad­ing part­ners has been ex­panded to in­clude de­vel­op­ing coun­tries in Asia, Africa, Europe and other parts of the world. China’s trad­ing re­la­tions with most coun­tries has taken a dy­namic role be­cause of pol­icy sup­ports, geopol­i­tics, geostrat­egy and other rea­sons, with African coun­tries ben­e­fit­ing from var­i­ous Chi­nese projects un­der the aus­pices of the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive.

Over the last three decades, China’s trade and eco­nomic re­la­tions with other coun­tries, par­tic­u­larly Africa, has un­der­gone tremen­dous de­vel­op­ment. It’s now the world’s largest econ­omy in terms of pur­chas­ing power par­ity and an im­por­tant trad­ing part­ner glob­ally. As part of en­sur­ing that trade ben­e­fits ac­crue to both China and its trad­ing part­ners, Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping an­nounced to del­e­gates at­tend­ing the Belt and Road Fo­rum for In­ter­na­tional Co­op­er­a­tion in Bei­jing in May last year that China would host the China In­ter­na­tional Im­port Expo (CIIE) in Novem­ber 2018 in Shang­hai. The expo is aimed at fur­ther open­ing up the Chi­nese mar­ket to im­ports from other coun­tries.

Ma­jor pol­icy ini­tia­tive

The expo will fea­ture trade in goods and trade in ser­vices. The for­mer will show­case high-end in­tel­li­gent equip­ment, con­sumer elec­tron­ics and ap­pli­ances, au­to­mo­bile, ap­parel, ac­ces­sories and con­sumer goods, food and agri­cul­tural prod­ucts and med­i­cal care equip­ment. The lat­ter will ex­hibit ser­vices in tourism, emerg­ing tech­nolo­gies, cul­ture and ed­u­ca­tion, creative de­sign and ser­vice out­sourc­ing. Both sec­tions cover a to­tal area of 210,000 square me­ters with the sec­tion for trade in goods tak­ing the lion’s share of space. This is a clear in­di­ca­tion that China is com­mit­ted to mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial co­op­er­a­tion with her trad­ing part­ners. Xi has re­it­er­ated that the up­com­ing in­au­gu­ral CIIE is not just an or­di­nary expo, but a ma­jor pol­icy ini­tia­tive and de­lib­er­ate com­mit­ment by the govern­ment to fur­ther open up the Chi­nese mar­ket to im­ports from other coun­tries, par­tic­u­larly from Africa.

In the past, China has been ac­cused of im­port­ing raw ma­te­ri­als from Africa for pro­cess­ing man­u­fac­tured goods to sus­tain its high growth rate and di­verse ex­ports. But the ad­vent of this expo has left an egg on the face of skep­tics. Many would have ex­pected Xi to keep his pre­de­ces­sors dic­tum of tao guang yang hui (lay low and bide your time), al­low­ing China to hide its bright­ness and in­stead cul­ti­vate ob­scu­rity to fend-off Sino­pho­bia - but far from it. China’s de­vel­op­ment un­der Xi has been bold and im­pres­sive, en­abling the coun­try to move from the pe­riph­ery to the epi­cen­ter of the global eco­nomic sys­tem. The host­ing of this expo will greatly de­mys­tify skep­tics’ no­tions of a less sym­bi­otic re­la­tion­ship and pro­mote a con­ducive at­mos­phere for in­creased de­mand for for­eign im­ports - par­tic­u­larly from Africa - by the Chi­nese. Oth­ers may ask, of what sig­nif­i­cance is CIIE to Africa?

Ben­e­fit­ing Africa

First, with trade be­tween China and most African coun­tries skewed to­ward Chi­nese ex­ports rather than African ex­ports, CIIE of­fers African coun­tries an op­por­tu­nity to tap into the Chi­nese im­ports mar­ket. For the last nine years, China has been Africa’s largest trad­ing part­ner with trade vol­umes in­creas­ing an­nu­ally to $170 bil­lion in 2017, ac­cord­ing to fig­ures from the Min­istry of Com­merce of China. Even with this growth in China-africa trade, African ex­ports to China have not crossed the ru­bi­con. In 2016, the largest ex­porter to China from Africa was An­gola, fol­lowed by South Africa and the Repub­lic of the Congo. Dur­ing the same pe­riod, South Africa was the largest buyer of Chi­nese goods, fol­lowed by Egypt and Nige­ria. So this expo gives African coun­tries an op­por­tu­nity to en­ter into the Chi­nese im­ports mar­ket hinged on a mar­ket of more than 1.3 bil­lion peo­ple. As the world’s sec­ond largest econ­omy, China of­fers African coun­tries enor­mous po­ten­tial for growth of con­sump­tion and im­ports. In the next five years, China will im­port prod­ucts and ser­vices in ex­cess of $10 tril­lion and as such,

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