THIRD CIIE UNDERWAY

Africa participation in CIIE solidifies trade relations with China

CIIE has grown into a key channel for products worldwide to find their way into the Chinese market

In Summary

•Official statistics show that tentative deals worth about $57.83 billion and $71.13 billion were reached at the previous two editions of CIIE respectively.

•China has been the largest trading partner of Africa for 10 successive years. 

President Xi Jinping delivers his speech at the opening of the third edition of the China International Import Expo (CIIE) on November 4.
President Xi Jinping delivers his speech at the opening of the third edition of the China International Import Expo (CIIE) on November 4.
Image: Courtesy/ ciie.org

The ongoing third edition of the China International Import Expo (CIIE) has once again confirmed the credentials of the second largest economy in the world as the centre of global recovery efforts following devastation of the Covid-19 pandemic.

An increasing number of Fortune Global 500 companies are becoming regulars of the CIIE. China is committed to becoming a "market for all" and providing more opportunities for global opening-up and cooperation.

Although the CIIE is different things to different people, it is universally acknowledged that it is equally beneficial to everyone. Many foreign businessmen and exhibitors said in interviews that the expo has helped them expand their markets.

Over the past two years, the CIIE has grown into a key channel for products worldwide to find their way into the Chinese market. Official statistics show that tentative deals worth about $57.83 billion and $71.13 billion were reached at the previous two editions respectively.

African companies are also proving a force to reckon with at the CIIE. Even amid the socio-economic devastation caused by coronavirus, African exhibitors gave a good account of what they have to offer. 

China is home to many of the time-honoured brands, globally.
China is home to many of the time-honoured brands, globally.
Image: China International Import Expo Bureau

Noteworthy, was the creative packaging of the African products on display, something that was not witnessed in the last two exhibitions. In addition, the branding was also now at par with other international brands.    

The CIIE is now a showcase of China’s economic interests in Africa – trade and investment. China has been the largest trading partner of Africa for 10 successive years. For instance, according to the China Ministry of Commerce, trade volume in 2018 between China and Africa amounted to 204.2 billion US dollars, up 20 percent year-on-year.

Africa imports huge quantities of manufactured goods, machinery and electronics from China, while the continent's exports to the country consist mainly of minerals and metals. The CIIE has presented a better opportunity to redress the issue of trade imbalance between the two partners, as it gives Africa opportunities to start exporting both raw materials and finished products to China, which is the essence of the win-win outcome that today's multilateral trade system demands.

With this guaranteed market that has been provided for African valued-added product via CIIE, African governments can use this opportunity to “re-start the clock" and re-introduce the African economy towards significant investment and exports, not just for minerals and natural resources, but for finished products that are sustainable in creating wealth and reducing poverty for African nations.

China will join hands with all other countries to create opportunities in opening up, tackle difficult problems through cooperation, and foster a brighter future for humanity.
President Xi Jinping, on November 4

There is huge potential in African markets, as seen in the entrepreneurial activities of some African nations. Currently, numerous African nations such as Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Cote d'Ivoire, Senegal and Ghana which represent some of Africa's fastest growing economies are beginning to emerge as entrepreneurial hot-spots, boasting numerous economic activities and an emerging group of the middle class.

For expansion in African markets, Chinese firms need to better realise and understand the way of doing business in Africa.

The CIIE offers an ideal platform for Chinese and African entrepreneurs to spread dividends of free trade, get to know each other's practices, habits, needs, expectations, build up an understanding of each other and find ways to do business together.

Opportunities like the ones provided at the CIIE are a sign of China's good intentions in Africa. Since the start of the trade tension between China and the United States, the continent of Africa's non-traditional exports such as tobacco, nuts, beef, and fresh fruit have improved.

The improvement will help diversify the continent's agricultural exports, create market identity, surge hard currency earnings and penetration of African products into the Chinese market.

Participants at CIIE sample the food and agricultural products section on November 7, 2020.
Participants at CIIE sample the food and agricultural products section on November 7, 2020.
Image: China International Import Expo Bureau

The 2019 estimates from Trademap cited from David Monyae's report show that beef exports to China from the Southern African Development Community had improved by 240 percent. If African products such as meat can be exported continually to the Chinese market, the proceeds can be used for much needed investments at the source.

Ultimately, both partners need each other. China is now at the centre of Africa’s efforts in various aspects of economic development. But Africa must also be more aggressive and strive to engage China in a more integrated manner through competition and more value addition.