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China in Africa: The Real Story

China Africa Ec. and Trade Coop. White Paper 2013

Deborah Brautigam

Source: State Council, "China Africa Ec. and Trade Coop. 2013"
The Chinese State Council has published the new China-Africa Economic and Trade Cooperation White Paper (2013): click here. (hat/tip to Prof. Zhang Haisen).

While in China at the World Economic Forum/Dalian a couple of weeks ago, I heard that a new white paper on China's foreign aid will be published soon, probably in October.

While only one foreign aid white paper has been published so far, these overview reports on China-Africa trade and economic cooperation have been published annually since 2010, and are one of the signs of a new transparency in Beijing.  

Some of the highlights of this report:
  • "In 2012, the total volume of China-Africa trade reached US$198.49 billion, a year-on-year growth of 19.3%. Of this, US$85.319 billion consisted of China's exports to Africa, up 16.7%, and US$113.171 billion was contributed by China's imports from Africa, up 21.4%."
  • "From 2000 to 2012, the proportion of China-Africa trade volume as a part of China's total foreign trade volume increased from 2.23% to 5.13%." This shows that although China looms large for Africa, Africa is still a tiny part of China's overall trade.
  • "In 2012, the proportion of mechanical and electrical products as a part of China's total commodity exports to Africa reached 45.9%." A lot of these are vehicles, generators, telecoms and factory machinery.
  • Cumulative Chinese FDI to Africa now amounts to US$21 billion (by official figures). Of this, manufacturing investment is at US$3.43 billion.
  • China Africa Development Fund has "invested US$1.806 billion for 53 projects". So far, only one is in agriculture.
  • China's agricultural exports to Africa are now at US$2.49 billion, having increased 57.6% since 2009. Yes, China exports food to Africa, Africa exports mainly industrial inputs like rubber, cotton, sisal, along with oil palm, sesame, cocoa, and peanuts to China. 
  • "In 2012, Chinese enterprises completed construction contracts worth US$40.83 billion in Africa." As I have been arguing, this is a huge and under-appreciated sector of commercial interest for the Chinese.
  • "From 2010 to May 2012, China approved concessional loans worth a total of US$11.3 billion for 92 African projects." This includes preferential export buyer's credits, and foreign aid concessional loans. It is in fulfillment of the 2009 pledge of $10 billion over 3 years. All of these loan commitments would have come through China's Export Import Bank. This comes to about US$4.7 billion per year.