Sino-Africa relations in 2019: the year in review
Photo by: Xinhua
2019 saw numerous new geo-political and economic challenges emerging and escalating across the globe. These included trade wars, ongoing uncertainty around Brexit, disputed elections and social unrest sparking crises rarely before seen on a global scale. Despite this tumult, the China-Africa relationship has remained resilient. Trade, cultural exchanges and bi-lateral agreements thrived between these old allies, with new expos, direct flights, major investments and the exchange of goods being highlighted throughout the year. Following the successes of 2019, how will these exchanges further shape the role of the Sino-Africa relationship in the contemporary landscape?
The first China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo (CAETE) was hosted in the city of Changsha in China’s Hunan province this year. Lauded as an event that will boost the economic exchange between African countries and China, over 100,000 attendees were present at this event. The expo provides the opportunity for a vast number of African businesses to showcase products that they believe could appeal to the Chinese consumer whose spending power is growing rapidly. China and Africa already have successful bi-lateral exchange through the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, but with 2019 seeing the establishment of the CAETE, the focus on economic development may result in successful financial stimulus for African markets amidst global uncertainty and potential economic decline for many other markets in 2020.
Claiming a share of China’s growing outbound tourism market is another area that has become a priority for numerous destinations around the world. Strategies put in place by African countries in 2019 to attract more of these travelers will increase the continent’s share of Chinese tourists going forward. Recent additions of direct flights between Cairo and Hangzhou, and Morocco and Beijing significantly shorten travel times for tourists. While easing visa policies proved successful for countries such as Morocco and Egypt, who both provide visa free travel, and most of East-Africa where Chinese travelers are eligible for a visa on arrival, South Africa recently signed a partnership agreement with Chinese tech giant Tencent to begin a new chapter in harnessing the potential of the tourism market. The partnership makes mobile payment easier for Chinese travelers in the country, a function that the Chinese tourists are well acquainted with in their own country.
China’s trade with Africa in the first half of the year was already up 2.9 percent year-on-year. With full year results to be released early in 2020, it is expected that China will continue to be the primary trade partner to most of Africa. The combination of the CAET, a boost in travel and tourism, as well as ever-increasing trade between the two highlights a relationship that continues to develop through mutually beneficial exchange. China and Africa stand to gain from the unique relationship they share, and the anticipation is that this relationship will continue to grow in 2020 despite headwinds in markets around the globe.
This article is produced by The Beijing Axis and is published in The Econometer section of ChinAfrica magazine (December 2019), an English and French language monthly publication that provides news, views and analysis on all things China, Africa and China-Africa relations.