China is launching a biennial expo this year to boost reciprocal trade with Africa

More engagement.
More engagement.
Image: Lintao Zhang/Pool via REUTERS
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

A date has now been set for the first joint Sino-African trade expo. Between June 18 and 20, the China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo will kick off in Changsha, the capital of central China’s Hunan province. Officials will sign bilateral agreements during the exhibition, engage in investment promotions, and establish a “new mechanism” for future economic cooperation.

The expo is part of a slew of promises made by president Xi Jinping during last September’s Forum on China–Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in Beijing. During his speech to African leaders, Xi proposed eight initiatives aimed at pursuing a “win-win” strategy giving new impetus to economic, political, and security collaboration. Xi had specifically pointed to the changing global dynamics, noting how the international order was changing and emerging nations were rising.

To solidify relations, Xi had said Beijing will launch an industrial promotion initiative aimed at encouraging Chinese companies to increase their investments in Africa. China also promised to exempt some poorer nations from debt, increase imports from Africa, help promote African brand products, support the African Continental Free Trade Area, and give 100,000 scholarship and training opportunities to young Africans.

Xi also said Beijing will exempt least developed African states from paying exhibition fees at its annual high-level China International Import Expo.

China’s commitment to balancing the “win-win” strategy with Africa comes as it faces allegations from American officials and others of encouraging dependency and debt. After all, Chinese lending to the continent jumped tenfold in the last five years, a borrowing spree that many worry could push debt limits to unsustainable levels.

Beijing has, however, pushed against these sentiments, committing $60 billion in 2018 to development projects in Africa over the next three years. President Xi has also said saying China won’t impose its will or interfere in African countries’ internal affairs—a point praised by leaders like Tanzania’s president John Magufuli.

Committing to a shared trade fair with a continent of 55 nations, 1.2 billion people, and a combined gross domestic product of $2.5 trillion is a win for China, especially in the face of US protectionism and global economic uncertainty. As Xi observed in FOCAC last September, “No one who keeps himself in isolation on a single island will have a future.”

Sign up to the Quartz Africa Weekly Brief here for news and analysis on African business, tech and innovation in your inbox