Now in its 4th iteration, the China International Import Expo (CIIE) has been lauded as a strong opportunity for global exporters to gain easier access to the world’s largest consumer market. Over the past 3 years, billions of dollars of deals and new agreements were signed, with the event drawing thousands of international participants. African exporters have also enjoyed a standout presence at past expos, with several countries putting large amounts of effort into creating spectacular national pavilions to draw attention to unique products from the African continent. With the pandemic under control in the middle kingdom, and Chinese consumers increasing their spending, can this event draw interest from African exporters seeking to also return to economic normalcy and stability amidst global trade disruptions?

CIIE has the attention of many global players, with the signing of large deals at this event drawing more products from global exporters to China’s domestic market. The first CIIE, held in 2018, saw the signing of USD 57.83bn worth of deals, with over 400,000 participants interacting with over 3,600 business from 172 countries. The second expo saw the value of deals increase to USD 71.13bn. Despite the global pandemic, the third iteration of the expo was successfully held in 2020 due to China’s effective measures to contain the virus. Deals signed at this third expo increased by 2.1 percent from the previous year to USD 72.62bn

The previous 3 expos saw over 450 African companies from nearly 50 countries showcase key export products to the Chinese market. Whilst large global exporters such as those from the EU have prominent displays at each expo, African countries continue to bring their unique characteristics in their product offerings to the forefront. Countries such as South Africa saw great success in its agriculture export deals at last year’s expo, with orders valued at USD 210mn, with hopes for more deals to be signed this year. With China being the top trading partner for most of the African continent, and strategic relationships such as the Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) fostering further bilateral interactions between both sides, opportunities such as CIIE are critical for African exporters looking to leverage the benefits these forums offer.

African exporters seeking to increase their trade with the world’s second largest economy should utilize the significance that events such as CIIE can play in their potential goals to reach this market. With each iteration of the expo aiming to be larger than the last, and more deals being signed, Africa should strive to increase its share of deals signed, using the unique and varied product offerings it has in its vast portfolio to their full advantage.

“This article is produced by Axis Group International and is published in The Econometer section of ChinAfrica magazine (October 2021), an English and French language monthly publication that provides news, views and analysis on all things China, Africa and China-Africa relations.”

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