China-Africa Trade Is Booming
Representatives from 53 African countries (all but one) and 12 international organizations attended the third China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo, which ran from June 29-July 2 in Changsha, Hunan Province. This year’s event attracted 1,500 exhibitors, a jump of 70% compared to the previous Expo.
Global Times pointed out that bilateral trade between China and African countries saw a 20-fold increase between 2000 and 2022, and an average annual growth rate of 17.7%. In 2022, it rose 11% year-on-year to $282 billion, with plans to reach $300 billion by 2025. At the same time, China’s total direct investment in African countries over the past decade has exceeded $30 billion, making China the fourth-largest source of investment in Africa. This, however, does not take into consideration the fact that the Chinese investment is primarily in infrastructure, as compared to Western investment which is largely financial.
A number of African representatives at the Expo, quoted in Global Times, were enthusiastic about the prospects. Tanzania’s Ambassador to China, Mbelwa Kairuki, noted that “In the last 5 years, we have seen tremendous achievements in terms of connectivity between BRI countries, individual policy connectivity, trade connectivity, infrastructure connectivity, and people-to-people [exchanges].” He refuted what he called “propaganda” on so-called “debt traps” in China-Africa cooperation. He added that Chinese investments and enterprises have done a lot of work in the country, building ports, roads and other projects.
Rwandan Ambassador to China James Kimonyo also refuted the “debt trap” claims in Western media reports. “China happens to be a partner that is very open in terms of what we discuss in terms of the financing of projects,” Kimonyo told the Global Times. “I think that narrative (”debt trap“) is wrong. China is not putting Africa in a debt trap.” A similar assessment was given by Namibian Ambassador Elia George Kaiyamo, who emphasized the importance of cooperation with China in infrastructure, connectivity and trade.