Beijing, China - The People’s Republic of China is Africa’s largest trade partner and statistics from China’s Ministry of Commerce show that new investments on the continent in 2016 totaled to a stunning US$3.2 billion in manufacturing and other areas.
“In the past, Western countries regarded Africa as a source for raw materials or a market to dump their products. But today, Chinese businesses are doing different things by growing trade and selling products” - Qian Keming, Vice Minister for Africa Relations, Ministry of Commerce, People’s Republic of China
Between 2000 and 2011, the Chinese supported more than 1,700 projects, from buildings to dams in 50 African countries put at a cost of US$75bn, according to the China Africa Research Initiative at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.
“Africa is our good friend,” a smiling Zhong Shan, China’s Minister of Commerce, said on Saturday, March 11 at a news conference in Beijing.
Mr. Zhong was outlining China’s 2017’s strategies for trade reform and growth, and he stressed that “China will follow the basic principles to ensure stable progress, structural reform and maintain momentum for external trade.”
In December 2015, China held a summit in South Africa to enhance trade agreement with Africa at which time Chinese President Xi Jinping announced cooperation plans between the continent and the world’s second largest economy.
The plan included industrialization, agricultural modernization, and infrastructure amongst other important sectors.
China then contributed US$10 billion to Africa while private Chinese investments hit new heights on the continent. On the other hand, China gets most of its raw materials including iron ore from Africa.
But these investments have not fallen short of challenges for host countries as locals complain about Africa being a marketplace for low standard Chinese commodities.
“In the past, Western countries regarded Africa as a source for raw materials or a market to dump their products,” asserted Qian Keming, Vice Commerce Minister for Africa Relations".
“But today, Chinese businesses are doing different things by growing trade and selling products.”
Qian said Chinese businesses in Africa are growing, but more importantly they help create jobs, improve infrastructural and contribute to local foreign exchange reserves for their respective host countries.
There are also concerns that some Chinese investors do not protect consumers’ needs nor ensure environmental protection. Responding to a question during the press conference, Qian admitted that some Chinese investors and products in Africa fall short of standard.
“We don’t denied that Chinese manufacturer are still in the process of growing – so there are few businesses that might have problem but I will like to emphasized that the majority that are exporting to Africa are very popular local products that offer good value for money,” Qian said.
However, he said the Chinese government is taking new measures to prevent some of these businesses from selling low quality goods to foreign markets.
“We have also signed bilateral trade and investment agreements with African countries and we established bilateral mechanism through which we can overcome these challenges,” Qian said.
“Chinese businesses in Africa should take social responsibilities [by] training local people through human resource training programs and engage in poverty alleviation and environmental protection as well as reduction of pollution.”
As the second largest economy in the world, China enjoyed massive growth in 2016 and its companies overseas recorded a total of US$1.5 trillion while US$40 billion was contributed to the revenue of host countries, according to the PRC’s Ministry of Commerce.
The ministry also said 1.5 million people were employed by Chinese companies outside of China.
The world’s most populous nation is holding its annual political gathering this month (March 2017) bringing together members of the main advisory body, the Chinese People Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and the members of the lawmaking arm of the government, the National People’s Congress (NPC) converge in Beijing to deliberate major policies for the country.
China is also opting to strengthen its economic presence across the world through its “Go global strategy”.
Already, the country is enjoying global economic dominance and Minister Zhong is confident that foreign trade is important for its economic growth which amounted to US$3.69 trillion and contributed 18% of the country’s overall revenue in 2016.