TWO-WAY China-Africa trade dropped by almost 20 percent to just $82bn in the first half of the year due to lockdowns brought on by the Covid-19 outbreak. With China’s economy recovering well, it’s possible that some of those losses will be made up in Q3 and Q4. Nonetheless, it’s safe to say that trade will likely close the year lower compared to the same time last year and remain flat in 2021.
But Wang Huiyao, one of China’s most prominent foreign policy analysts and president of the Beijing-based think tank Centre for China and Globalisation contends that amid the economic downturn and geopolitical turmoil with the United States, there may be new opportunities for Africa.
‘In the context of current Sino-US tensions, exploring new markets in Africa is a promising pathway for Chinese enterprises “going global,” despite various challenges such as lack of deep knowledge of local realities and gaps in infrastructure and talent,’ he said in a column on CGTN Africa.
Insights from analysts like Wang are important because they often reflect some of the thinking that’s bubbling up to the leadership from think tanks and universities.
Wang Huiyao’s 4 Ways to Revive China-Africa Trade in 2021:
- More free trade agreements: ‘Both sides should work towards the timely completion of free trade agreements (FTAs) as the AfCFTA is developing. The FTA signed between China and Mauritius in October 2019 was China’s first free trade agreement with an African nation. China can launch FTA negotiations with more African countries and even explore a deal with the African Union (AU).’
- Promote industrialisation: ‘They should propel innovation of the “Made in Africa” model. For example, Chinese enterprises in Africa could work with local counterparts to develop from single industrial parks to a comprehensive modern industrial system.’
- Enhanced private sector engagement: ‘Support is needed for deeper cooperation between firms, governments, think-tanks and institutions. China should set up favourable policy platforms for Chinese and African enterprises and assist Chinese private enterprises in investing in Africa. Improved governmental supervision and guidance is needed to provide enterprises with better information services.’
- Skills transfer and capacity-building: ‘They should promote mutual talent exchange and education to support Africa’s development as well as the growth of Chinese enterprises in Africa. China can draw on its strengths in cultivating talent to help Africa establish educational institutions at all levels. More government-funded programs and scholarships can be set up to encourage Chinese students to study in Africa and train experts who know the continent well.’
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