“The dynamics of China-Africa economic and trade cooperation changes all the time,” says Yanjuan Wang, Executive Editor of ChinAfrica Magazine. China’s engagement in Africa started with providing assistance to African governments, e.g., building railway systems in Tanzania and Zambia, several decades ago. Now, China’s government is encouraging both state-owned and private sector firms to find market opportunities in Africa.
While still small, Africa’s exports to China have grown significantly. Wang notes that the relationship between China and Africa is now bilateral instead of unilateral. One underreported fact is that because Africa is home to many low-income countries, China sets preferential trade status on many African products which mean low or no tariffs. African firms are yet to tap this potential in any significant manner, however.
China-Africa cooperation has not been without serious detractors, citing instances of labor exploitation, flood of cheap Chinese products into African markets thereby destroying local industry, and large mining concessions. Wang notes, however, that there are several positive sides to this relationship, citing examples like Chinese universities sharing technical expertise with African institutions and Chinese business people helping Africans take raw resources and craft them into added-value items that can be sold in China and elsewhere. In southern China, there is a permanent exhibition center for African traders and businesses to show their offerings.
While China-Africa cooperation is expected to grow, on many levels it is fraught with tension and mistrust. This is a “soft-side” dynamic which must be addressed to grow a truly bilateral, win-win relationship. Some of this will be achieved with an increase in the number of positive dealings Africans and Chinese experience with each other.
But some Chinese organizations are not leaving this to chance, in a New York Times article in August 2012, it notes that Nairobi, Kenya is home to two new Chinese news stations and one radio station. Xinhua, the Chinese state news agency, even provides dispatches to local newspapers for free. This suggests that China is increasingly aware of the importance to reach the hearts and minds of Africans to foster an environment that will facilitate business in the future.
Featured image is central business district in Beijing, China. (Source: Wikimedia)
Produced in partnership with EMRC.
Listen to the interview below.