Africa is said to be China’s natural ally.
The relationship between the two is one of the most important of our time.
In fact, at the beginning of every year, the Chinese foreign minister pays a visit to the mainland, as a way to strengthen and strengthen the ever-expanding China-Africa relationship.
China’s presence in Africa dates back to the 1970s when the country pledged to build a railway between Tanzania and Zambia.
Construction of the Tanzania-Zambia Railway (TAZARA) began in 1970 and operation began six years later.
In economic terms, 2013 marked a turning point for Africa, with China overtaking the United States (US) as the continent’s top equity investor, measured by foreign direct investment.
Moreover, despite the headwinds of the COVID-19 outbreak, China had remained Africa’s largest trading partner for 12 consecutive years by the end of 2020.
According to McKinsey, there are already more than 10,000 Chinese companies operating in Africa, 90% of which are private.
Since 2005, the value of Chinese enterprises has exceeded US$2 trillion.
There are many sectors in which China is investing in Africa, but this article mainly focuses on agriculture, manufacturing, industrial parks and infrastructure, and briefly on COVID-19 China-Africa cooperation.
Agriculture is Africa’s most important economic activity.
It employs about two-thirds of the continent’s workforce.
Agriculture accounts for about 23% of sub-Saharan Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP).
Despite accounting for 25% of the world’s arable land, the agricultural industry is underdeveloped, accounting for 10% of global production, and its potential remains untapped.
In addition, climate change has jeopardized the viability of the sector.
China is a major agricultural country, with less than 10% of the world’s arable land.
It managed to produce a quarter of the world’s grain and feed a fifth of the world’s population.
He has accumulated experience in agricultural production management as well as practical technology adapted to the needs of African countries.
China’s growing interest in agriculture in Africa is well documented.
Over the past 60 years, China and Africa have collaborated in agriculture.
Its aid to Africa has been accompanied by investments in agriculture, the construction of agricultural technology demonstration centers, the introduction of planting technologies and improved seeds from China.
A strong manufacturing sector is widely seen as a key driver of economic growth and development.
Japan, South Korea and other Asian countries have accelerated their transition from low-income underdeveloped to advanced economies in less than a generation, due to their emphasis on on the manufacturing sector.
According to UNCTAD statistics, Africa’s manufacturing value added represents less than 3% of the world total, while manufacturing exports represent only 0.8% of overall world exports.
The manufacturing industry accounts for a large share of Chinese investment in Africa, which is welcomed by recipient countries.
China’s direct investment in African manufacturing reached $5.59 billion at the end of 2019, according to MOFCOM statistics, accounting for 12.6% of China’s overall direct investment in Africa this year- the.
This figure was higher than overall foreign investment in China’s manufacturing industry during the same period, which was 8.9%.
China’s reform and opening up included the establishment of economic and technological development zones.
Since the 1980s, China’s special economic zones and industrial development zones have played a crucial role in the country’s industrialization and urbanization.
In 2006, China approved the first batch of 50 overseas economic and trade cooperation zones, including six in Africa.
These zones offer feasible alternatives to African countries to support the export sector, job creation, investment opportunities, skills and technology transfer to promote industrialization.
Despite mixed results, the zones continue to enjoy broad support across Africa.
According to the Institute of Development Studies, in 2020 there were 38 economic zones in Africa, with a combined annual turnover of $680 million.
Infrastructure development is an essential element of productivity and long-term economic growth.
The need for adequate infrastructure in Africa is very evident.
Its inadequate infrastructure is a binding constraint for virtually every other industry.
Closing the infrastructure gap is essential for Africa’s long-term economic growth and development.
Economists estimate that Africa’s inadequate infrastructure costs the continent 2% of its annual output.
According to the China Africa Business Council, the infrastructure deficit in Africa is estimated at $360 billion between 2011 and 2040.
By the end of 2019, a total of $13.59 billion was directly invested in the construction industry in Africa by Chinese companies, accounting for 30.6% of China’s total direct investment in Africa. during the year and makes it the biggest beneficiary of Chinese investments.
The era of the pandemic
More recently, since the outbreak of COVID-19, China and Africa have stood out and fought the virus together, resulting in a stronger China-Africa health community for all.
China has sent teams of medical experts to African countries to share their COVID-19 experience, set up cooperation mechanisms with hospitals in 42 African countries, and provided nearly all African countries with medical supplies. which they desperately needed.
In his Davos Agenda 2022 message, President Xi Jinping reminded delegates that China is a country that delivers on its commitments.
More than 2 billion doses of vaccines have been distributed by China to more than 120 countries and international organizations.
“Yet China will provide an additional 1 billion doses to African countries, including 600 million doses as a donation,” Xi said.
In conclusion, China’s footprints are visible across Africa.
China-Africa cooperation continues to help advance Africa’s quest for economic revitalization, economic diversification and industrialization.
Cooperation is based on a win-win situation for common development, not a zero-sum game.
Using its comparative advantage, Africa must accelerate its efforts in promoting the key growth sectors needed to boost industrialization.
This could open the prospect of achieving significant economic growth, creating jobs for the growing population and developing its ability to generate higher value exports.
It is hoped that after COVID-19, cooperation between China and Africa will have better prospects and a bright shared future.
(The author is an economist and PhD student in economics at Peking University).