The COVID-19 pandemic is credited with wreaking havoc across the global economies in addition to the millions of lives lost as a result, yet despite all the challenges, China-Africa trade managed to reach an all-time high in 2021.
According to a report by Swiss-African Business Circle, over the past 10 years China has maintained its position as the largest investor in Africa, a continent that is in dire need of direct foreign investment and job creation.
Elsewhere, the latest data released by the General Administration of Customs of China reveals that the total bilateral trade between China and Africa reached 254.3 billion US dollars in 2021 alone. The figure is up 35.3 percent year on year. During that time, Africa exported 105.9 billion US dollars of goods to China. This was up 43.7 percent year on year.
China-Africa cooperation is also credited with pushing back frontiers of unemployment in the continent. On average, it created some 18 562 jobs per annum. This led to a reduction unemployment and improvement in poverty alleviation efforts, and a drastic promotion in investment was also realized. This has led to tangible evidence in Africa’s industrialization as well as gross economic development across various sectors. The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) believes that the overall improvement in the African economy is thanks to the active support of Beijing in enhancing the continent’s export volumes.
Among several examples of China’s economic stimulation of the continent was in Zimbabwe, where the government of President Xi Jinping aided the Harare regime to develop its infrastructure, including telecommunications, energy as well as agriculture. Major projects included China’s assistance with Zimbabwe’s expansion of the Hwange Thermal Power Station, expansion of the Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport and also the new parliament building. Zimbabwe’s economy took a major tumble since the infamous land grabs at the tail-end of the 1990s, when white commercial farmers were forced off their properties by mobs led by the country’s military veterans known as “war vets”.
EU and other western sanctions remain in place against Zimbabwe. Appeals by the AU and the SA government for the lifting of the punitive sanctions have fallen on deaf ears. China’s foreign policy stance to forge a win-win political and economic relationship with the continent has uprooted many African communities out of abject poverty.
China’s ambassador to South Africa, Chen Xiaodong, believes that the relationship between China and Africa is built on a solid foundation of mutual trust. “It can only continue to grow and to flourish,” Amb Chen said recently.
His assertion appears to be backed up by the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The global lender, whose membership totals 190 countries, has revealed that China’s Gross Domestic Products (GDP) accounted for 18 percent of the world economy last year alone.
China’s multilateral relations with Africa are also beneficial at the bilateral level with each country. For example, in April the Job Fair 2022 was successfully held by South Africa-China Economy and Trade Association in Johannesburg. China’s SA ambassador Xiaodong attended alongside SA’s Minister of Employment and Labour Thulas Nxesi. Minister Nxesi hailed the job fair as a new milestone for China-South Africa friendship, saying it brought hope to reverse the country’s low economic growth and high unemployment rate.
China regards its diplomatic relations with Africa as a key component of its growth strategy. During his recent tour of the continent China’s Wu Peng, the Director-General of the Department of African Affairs of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, underscored the importance of the China-Africa relations. Wu Peng explained: “Politically, China and Africa should, together with other developing countries, speak with louder voice on international issues and safeguarding the common interests of developing countries.”
Wu Peng further added: “Economically, China and Africa should, together with other developing countries, express firm opposition against irresponsible politicizing, weaponizing or marginalizing of normal trade and economic activities.”
A report by Africa Policy Institute, a pan-African think tank, reveals a list of areas in which Beijing has lent support. They include railways, roads, ports, dams, industries and digital connectivity, which has scaled down the global digital divide.
In 2000, the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) was established as part of mechanism to accentuate China-Africa relations. Since then, China-Africa cooperation has borne incredible results. By 2019, China’s stock of direct investment in Africa reached 49.1 billion US dollars, an increase of nearly 100 times since 2000.
Furthermore, China has helped Africa build the African Union Conference Centre, the Addis Ababa-Djibouti Railway, the Mombasa-Nairobi Railway as well as other large-scale infrastructure projects, which included close cooperation with Africa in science, education, culture, health and various other fields. Without a shadow of a doubt, China-Africa relations are blossoming.