Over the past two decades, Africa and China have cultivated strong economic ties, with China becoming the continent’s largest trading partner. Africa exports metals, minerals, and fuel to China, while importing manufactured goods and machinery.
The IMF identifies several factors posing a threat to this partnership, including China’s economic slowdown, its aging population, trade tensions, geopolitical dynamics, and the ongoing repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Adan Ibrahim, a Kenyan businessman who imports vehicle parts from China, cited the challenges he faced due to COVID-19 restrictions. These included difficulties in accessing Chinese companies and visa restrictions, which limited the number of people allowed into China each month. Although China eased its coronavirus restrictions in December 2022, enabling freer movement of goods and people, the economic impact lingers.
Gerrishon Ikiara, an international economics lecturer, emphasized the interconnected nature of economic issues between China and African countries. He noted that challenges faced by either side can have negative effects on their trade relations, stressing the importance of both parties enjoying economic health for a robust trading relationship.
Ibrahim also highlighted the rising costs of goods as China moves away from COVID-19 controls, resulting in unsold inventory and significantly increased prices compared to the pre-pandemic era.
China’s economic recovery has slowed due to a sluggish property market and weak consumer spending, with trade data showing a decline in exports and imports as demand for Chinese goods diminishes.
Ikiara suggested that Africa should explore new trading partners to foster economic development. Diversifying trade partners, whether in Asia, other African regions, Latin America, or the United States, can help mitigate the impact of a slowdown in the Chinese economy.
The IMF is urging African governments to diversify their economies, enhance regional trade integration, and create a favorable business environment conducive to the prosperity of both local and international corporations.