China robustly pursuing trade in Africa

August 9, 2012
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The Asian giant has been criticised of pursuing neo-colonialism in Africa only to benefit its own interests/FILE

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 9 – China is not relenting on its investment efforts in Africa, as it seeks more opportunities to develop the continent.

Chinese Ambassador to Kenya Liu Guanyuan said his country is looking to strengthen relations with Africa especially as it eyes the continent to relocate its manufacturing industry.

“Since China has gone through the development stage which Africa is currently in, the capital, experience and technologies China has gained over the past years will dovetail the needs of Africa’s development,” he said.

Last month Chinese President Hu Jintao pledged $20 billion of credit line to Africa over the next three years to be invested in infrastructure, agriculture, manufacturing and small medium enterprises.

The Asian giant has been criticised of pursuing neo-colonialism in Africa only to benefit its own interests.

Over the years, China has emerged as Africa’s main trade partner, with total direct investment in the continent reaching $15.3 billion as of April this year.

According to the Economic Survey 2011, Kenya’s imports from China quadrupled to Sh120.6 billion last year from Sh29.7 billion in 2006.

Speaking during a China-Africa relations seminar on Thursday, the Chinese Ambassador acknowledged that economic and trade frictions between China and Africa had increased in recent years, spurred primarily by growing trade deficits between the two partners.

“African friends believe that the Chinese companies in Africa have grabbed business opportunities away from the local companies. They complain about the sub-standard quality of some Chinese cheap products,” he explained.

Counterfeits often originating from China are costing Kenyan businesses more than half a billion dollars annually in losses.

The influx of low-grade Chinese products entering Africa is a worrying trend, though most consumers in the continent have welcomed the lower prices.

Experts have expressed concern over a possible spill-over of pollution into Africa from China’s mushrooming economic growth.

“There’s going to be spill-over as China shifts its manufacturing structure into Africa. The sentiment is that Africa is on a growth, consumption path but that has implications on the environment. The Chinese will essentially export their pollution into Africa,” said Dr Lloyd Amoah from Ashesi University in Ghana.

Amoah, who attended the seminar and has spent some time living in China, said an exchange of talent and knowledge in languages such as English and sports from Africa for China’s expertise in infrastructural development.

“We can show them what we can bring to the table, instead of simply saying come help us that is how we should engage the Chinese. We are not children. It is patronizing to move along that track,” he explained.

Other global giants like the United States have been trying to solidify their presence on the continent showing a renewed interest in Africa.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is on an 11-day, seven nation Africa tour, is focused on President Barack Obama’s new Africa strategy of promoting development by stimulating economic growth while advancing peace and security and strengthening democracy.

The US Congress recently extend the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) a preferential trade programme, by three years in a move that will secure thousands of jobs for Kenyan workers in the textile sector.

In 2010, US imports from sub-Saharan African under AGOA and the related programs totalled $44.3 billion, up 31.4 percent from 2009, and more than five times the amount in 2001.

US lawmakers introduce bills in the House of Representatives and Senate meant to expand US exports to Africa by 200 percent over the next ten years.

The US is a major donor to Africa and takes in one-fifth of its imports, but trade in the opposite direction has slipped in recent years with $21 billion worth of US exports to sub-Saharan Africa in 2011.

The bills would require that 25 percent of US trade financing be devoted to Africa among other provisions.

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