Why China’s Recovery Matters

One can ask why this Chinese economic recovery matters to Africans. That is because it can potentially benefit the continent’s economy in several ways.

The annual sessions of China’s National People’s Congress and the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, commonly known as Two Sessions, held in March in Beijing, not only provided details about China’s development in the past year, but also outlined the development trajectory for the future.

Under normal circumstances, one country’s economic recovery shouldn’t be of great significance to countries in another continent. But that is not the case with China. The ongoing recovery of the world’s second-biggest economy is music to the ears of African countries and their people.

According to the Report on the Work of the Government delivered by Chinese Premier Li Qiang at the opening ceremony of the second session of the 14th National People’s Congress on 5 March, in 2023, China’s GDP surpassed 126 trillion yuan ($17.5 trillion), an increase of 5.2 percent, ranking China among the fastest growing major economies in the world. A total of 12.44 million urban jobs were added, and the average surveyed urban unemployment rate stood at 5.2 percent. China also seeks to achieve a GDP growth rate of around 5 percent for 2024, despite uncertainties at home and abroad.

Wide-ranging impact

One can ask why this Chinese economic recovery matters to Africans. That is because it can potentially benefit the continent’s economy in several ways. It can boost opportunities for trade, infrastructure investments, foreign direct investment (FDI), technology transfer and knowledge sharing, and tourism and cultural exchanges.

China is a major trading partner for many African countries. As China’s economy rebounds, demand for African goods such as agricultural products and materials may increase, boosting African exports. China has been actively involved in financing and constructing infrastructure projects across Africa under mechanisms like the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). A recovering Chinese economy could increase investment in infrastructure projects in Africa, promoting economic development and creating job opportunities.

Children wait to board a train at the Nairobi Station of the Mombasa-Nairobi Railway in Nairobi, Kenya, Oct. 6, 2023. (Photo/Xinhua)

A strong Chinese economy is surely to spur increased FDI flows to Africa. Chinese companies may seek to expand their operations abroad, including in Africa, leading to investments in various sectors such as manufacturing, construction, and technology. Chinese companies often bring technology and expertise to Africa through technology transfer partnerships. As China’s economy recovers, there may be more opportunities for technology transfer and knowledge sharing between Chinese and African firms, contributing to the development local industries and capabilities.

A growing middle class in China and increased disposable income could lead to a rise in Chinese tourists visiting Africa. This would benefit the tourism industry and promote cultural exchanges and people-to-people ties between China and Africa.

However, it’s important to note that the extent to which Africa benefits from China’s post-COVID-19 recovery depends on various factors, including the policies pursued by both China and Africa, the nature of trade and investment relationships, and external economic conditions. Additionally, African countries should strive to leverage these opportunities effectively and ensure that any partnerships with China are mutually beneficial and sustainable in the long run.

China has engaged with African countries through various cooperation projects to promote economic development, infrastructure construction, and capacity building. Some key cooperation projects include the BRI, China’s flagship infrastructure and economic development project connecting more than 150 countries worldwide. It aims to improve connectivity and cooperation between China and countries in Asia, Europe, Africa and Americas through investments in infrastructure such as roads, railways, ports, and energy facilities. African countries along the BRI routes stand to benefit from improved infrastructure, which can enhance trade, boost economic growth, and create job opportunities for locals.

China has financed and constructed infrastructure projects across Africa, including roads, bridges, railways, ports, and airports. These projects improve transportation networks and stimulate economic activity, facilitate trade, and enhance regional integration, benefiting local communities through improved access to markets, services, and employment opportunities.

In addition, China has supported industrialisation efforts in African countries by investing in manufacturing facilities and industrial parks. These projects aim to promote local production, value addition, and job creation, helping to diversify economies away from dependence on primary commodities and contributing to sustainable development and poverty reduction.

Chinese investments in energy infrastructure projects in Africa, including power plants, transmission lines, and renewable energy initiatives, help to address energy deficits, improve access to electricity, and support economic activities in various sectors, including manufacturing, agriculture, and services, benefitting local businesses and households.

A Chinese professor instructs Kenyan graduate students at the China-Kenya Belt and Road Joint Laboratory on Crop Molecular Biology at Egerton University in Nakuru County, Kenya, on Sept. 18, 2023. (Photo/Xinhua)

In areas such as human capital development, China provides scholarships, training programmes, and technical assistance to African professionals, students, and government officials in various fields such as agriculture, health care, education, and technology. These initiatives help to build local capacity, transfer knowledge and skills, and empower individuals to contribute to their countries’ development efforts.

Overall, China’s cooperation projects with African countries have the potential to benefit locals by promoting economic growth, improving infrastructure, creating job opportunities, enhancing access to essential services, and fostering human capital development. However, it’s essential for both Chinese and African governments to ensure that these projects are implemented in ways that respect local priorities, needs, and the environment.

Educational gains

But that’s not all. Thousands of African students studying in China on Chinese government scholarships also benefit from the economic recovery. China has actively offered scholarships to African students to enhance educational cooperation and people-to-people exchanges between China and Africa.

Chinese scholarships give African students access to quality higher education in various disciplines, including science, technology, engineering, medicine, agriculture, business, and the humanities. This access to academic programmes and resources helps students to develop expertise and skills that are essential for their personal and professional growth.

Studying in China allows African students to immerse themselves in Chinese culture, language, and society. This cultural exchange fosters mutual understanding, appreciation, and respect between African and Chinese people, contributing to stronger bilateral relations and intercultural dialogue.

African students studying in China can build networks, establish contacts, and collaborate with Chinese peers, academics, professionals, and entrepreneurs. These connections can lead to future collaborations, partnerships, and opportunities for knowledge exchange, innovation, and entrepreneurship that benefit both Africa and China.

Upon completing their studies, African students return to their home countries equipped with valuable knowledge, skills, and experiences gained in China. In this year’s Report on the Work of the Government, China is committed to developing new quality productive forces at a faster pace. African countries should also do the same. These returned students can help their home countries to achieve the goal.