By Adhere Cavince
Between April 28 and May 12, China’s biggest shopping promotion for African products will take place. Bringing together 300 e-commerce platforms, over a million merchants and a product portfolio of over 100,000 brands, the shopping festival is the clearest indication yet of Beijing’s growing trade and economic ties with different African capitals. Powered by technology, the event will offer Chinese consumers real-time interaction with high-quality production bases in 23 African countries.
Trade has been the most dominant feature of Sino-African relations. For twelve consecutive years, China has been Africa’s largest trading partner, having ousted the United States from the top spot in 2009. Since the establishment of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in 2000, Trading volumes between the two have increased more than twenty-fold to reach a record high of US$254 billion in 2021.
Even amid the Covid-19 pandemic, China-Africa trade has been resilient and on the rise. In the first quarter of 2022, for example, trade between the two sides increased by 24.5% compared to the same period last year, reaching $64.9 billion. During the quarter, China traded more with African countries compared to the total US-Africa trade value for 2021.
The festival will help address a number of concerns in China-Africa business cooperation. First, it will promote greater visibility of African products to Chinese consumers. With technology, African companies will be able to effectively market their products including Kenyan black tea, Ethiopian coffee and Rwandan chili sauce in the Chinese market.
Second, the trade windfall also presents the potential of the African commodity and manufacturing market to Chinese investors. Additional Chinese investment in African production sectors will see more quality products flow out of the continent, a move that will significantly reduce the trade imbalance between the two sides while providing Chinese consumers with more product options.
Third, the festival allows Africa to learn from the very successful e-commerce sector in China. Marked by online marketing, online transactions and contactless payment, digital commerce has become one of the dominant features of the Chinese economy; with monumental performances. Digital inclusion has provided China with a solid platform to create income for rural residents and climb its way out of poverty. Integrated systems have made service delivery easy, cheap and efficient. These are crucial learning points for African countries.
The future of the China-Africa partnership will certainly be largely shaped by technology. FOCAC’s Dakar 2021 action plan clearly spells out the steps China and Africa will take to solidify the digital partnership. Harnessing the potential of cloud computing, big data, artificial intelligence and mobile internet, all of which are crucial for sustainable e-commerce, has been a priority.
China has also pledged to help African countries build digital connectivity infrastructure as part of the Digital Silk Road. In Kenya, China has funded the construction of the Konza data center and smart city. The region’s premier cloud infrastructure is already providing digital solutions to a number of businesses. Earlier this month, the Huawei-backed undersea cable landed in Mombasa, in a move that promises to boost digital inclusion in Kenya and the rest of the continent.
All of these investments are improving the ability of Kenya and other African countries to effectively participate in domestic and cross-border e-commerce activities such as the ongoing shopping festival. Trade represents one of the greatest routes out of poverty, as more trade means farmers get value for their produce while more people engage in manufacturing hubs and other chains. supply value.
With the participation of 23 African countries, the festival is another demonstration of the dynamic and innovative trade and economic partnership between China and Africa. As the global health crisis has reduced opportunities for international travel, technology is providing new frontiers of collaboration and sustaining cross-border shipments and transactions between China and Africa.
The author is an international relations specialist with a focus on China-Africa cooperation. Twitter: @Cavinceworld.