China will deepen its ties with Africa over the next decade by focusing on trade and is unlikely to be dislodged by US and European Union attempts to re-engage with the continent, the Economist Intelligence Unit said.
The Asian country is likely to keep investing in Africa’s natural resources and may look to the continent as a source of food, boosting its expenditure on agriculture, the EIU said in a report released Thursday. Asia may see Africa’s youthful population as a source of labor for its manufacturing companies and as a market for its consumer goods, the research organization said.
China has held annual meetings with African heads of state and that is now being emulated by its geopolitical rivals, while Russia, Turkey, Brazil and Saudi Arabia are also trying to build relations with the continent.
The EU and African Union held a summit in February, and US President Joe Biden has called for a meeting with African leaders in December.
These “to an extent will help to counter, but not dislodge, Chinese influence across the continent,” the EIU said.
China has spent two decades cultivating its political and economic relations with Africa and stronger ties could now benefit its economy even as slowing growth may restrain investment in the continent.
Food security issues and enormous food import requirements in China could drive large trade and investment flows in African agricultural products and production,” the EIU said. “Africa has an enormous, young and low-cost pool of labor that presents a potential outlet for China’s labor-intensive manufacturing sector — something that will become increasingly attractive as China’s labor force grows older and becomes more costly.”
Ties are already significant.
Bilateral trade between China and Africa rose 35% in 2021 from the year earlier to $254 billion, with African exports hitting a record $106 billion, the EIU said, citing Chinese government statistics. Nigeria is Africa’s biggest importer from China while South Africa is the biggest exporter.
“Afro-Chinese relations are clearly moving into a new phase,” Pat Thaker, the EIU’s editorial director for the Middle East and Africa, said in a statement. “Latest policy initiatives, development strategies and financial pledges point to a deeper and broader engagement.”