What’s in store for China-Africa relations in 2024?

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Simply over two years in the past in Dakar, Senegal, I and some of my group organised a dinner for a couple of of the African ambassadors to China, who had been deployed to Dakar to hitch delegations for the eighth Discussion board of China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). Whereas the temper was celebratory – the diplomatic corps and their heads of state and authorities had secured many hard-won new commitments from China to the Africa partnership – in lots of areas from commerce to international direct funding and lending, there was additionally an undercurrent of great uncertainty. We have been nonetheless within the midst of the pandemic and none of us might, as an example, have predicted that China’s quarantine measures for inbound journey would final till the top of 2022.

However it was this hard-to-predict shift, in addition to the existence of the 2021 commitments, that set the stage for 2023 being a really fascinating and intensely busy yr in Africa-China relations. 2024 is more likely to be much more so.

My group maintains a database on public Africa-China bulletins made in Chinese language, English and different languages – and we categorise them by sector or problem, kind of exercise, financier, and different variables.

Throughout 2023, the predominant protection of China in African and worldwide information sources was in fact about China as a lender, resulting from prevailing narratives that China has “turned the faucet off” on international lending. There was additionally vital reporting of the continuing debt reduction negotiations with Zambia and some different low and middle-income nations. Actually, China’s opening up after Covid-19 made a distinction to those negotiations, enabling delegations from these nations and China to journey forwards and backwards to return nearer to clear understandings.

There are lots of issues moreover debt

However the reality is, even when Zambia’s president visited China in 2023, debt hardly featured in his itinerary. The go to, and visits by over 20 different African heads of state and international ministers this yr – effectively above common from 2010, when our information start – have been centered on re-engaging China on financial progress on the continent – from pitching for extra concessional lending in power and transport to pitching for investments in worth addition and manufacturing, and finalising new export agreements for African merchandise to China.

Round these visits of African leaders to China, which we’ve beforehand discovered are correlated with optimistic commerce and funding flows, have been quite a few different boards – from the biennial China-Africa Financial and Commerce Expo to the China-Africa agricultural discussion board, which had been dedicated to at FOCAC 2021 however which Africans have been unable to journey to China to attend till this yr. That stated, it was exercise on the continent with Chinese language stakeholders that we discovered featured essentially the most in our database in 2023, and positively extra so than in 2022. We noticed agreements for investments in highway upgrades in Zambia, a brand new industrial park in Mozambique, a digitally networked cement manufacturing unit in Uganda, and way more.

We noticed commerce and tourism promotion conferences, Chinese language medical groups, agreements on broadcasting and new agricultural ventures. And we noticed monetary transactions inked that we knew can be coming resulting from commitments at FOCAC 2021 – investments into Afreximbank and Africa Finance Company, and Egypt’s issuance of a “panda bond”, to call a couple of, whereas African governments continued to make use of Chinese language contractors on their new building initiatives.

Every month over the previous yr we’ve recorded at the very least 50 Africa-China actions, in some circumstances over 100. This may look like a very optimistic image of 2023. The questions are: what was lacking from 2023? And what may be rectified in 2024? Whereas 2023 was actually very busy, there have been some notable gaps, which can set the tone for 2024.

A niche in connectivity

Commitments to financing ten regional connectivity initiatives haven’t but been met, and whereas lending from China Improvement Financial institution and China Exim Financial institution is growing as soon as once more after the pandemic hiatus, it’s not but on the degree in ticket dimension, quantity, and even concessionality phrases that may actually make a big distinction to African governments’ must plug infrastructure gaps on the continent.

And, whereas exports from the continent to China are rising and diversifying, particularly into agricultural merchandise, funding in the wrong way into manufacturing of value-added items in all sectors – from textiles to photo voltaic panels to batteries for export to China in addition to globally – remains to be lagging behind its potential. In my opinion, there’s additionally considerably extra potential for publicity of African entrepreneurs to Chinese language enterprise capital and fairness funding, which has but to actually be seen.

Can these gaps be plugged?

In 2024, the ninth FOCAC will likely be held – this time returning to Beijing, after the eighth in Dakar. It’s too early to inform now what could be anticipated from the Beijing session, throughout or past the dinners we can have with African delegations there afterwards. Nevertheless, based mostly on the 2021 convention, plus three new initiatives on industrialisation, agricultural modernisation and expertise that have been introduced on the China-Africa convention in South Africa on the sidelines of BRICS, plus our expertise of a really busy “catching up” yr in 2023, I and my group are poised for a particularly busy 2024 in the case of Africa-China. I hope you may be too.

Supply: african.business

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