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China’s trade with Africa: 2016 update

China’s trade with Africa: 2016 update
02 Feb 2017

China has become by far Africa’s biggest trading partner, exchanging about US$175 billion worth of goods in 2015. Exports are relatively equally distributed across the different RECs, showing an upward trend over the 2006-2015 period and significant growth in exports to COMESA, SADC and ECOWAS.

The top 10 markets for Chinese products account for almost 70% of total trade. South Africa, Nigeria and Egypt account for almost 40% of the total. The top 20 exports to Africa are composed mainly of electrical appliances for line telephony, footwear, clothing and textiles, furniture, and television receivers.

China’s thirst for raw materials is clearly shown by the profile of its top 10 suppliers from Africa who are all major suppliers of natural resource-based products, such as oil, iron ore, and copper.

Between 2014 and 2015, China’s imports from Africa fell by more than 50%. This was mainly due to the global fall in oil prices, a major African export commodity, particularly from Angola. The imports of crude oil from Angola fell from US$31 billion in 2014 to US$16 billion in 2015.

On the whole, imports from African RECs have been falling since 2012, with a significant decline being recorded for SACU and SADC as a result of the slump in commodity prices, especially crude oil.

Changes in China’s economy present challenges and opportunities for African countries. The slowdown and planned re-balancing of growth away from investment towards domestic consumption are expected to have effects on China’s economic partners, including African countries.

As the Chinese economy moves from a 7% growth rate annually towards a projected 4.6% growth by 2030, it will require less imports to fuel its domestic manufacturing production. This could in turn disproportionately impact African exporters of commodities, raw materials and oil.

Read more in the China-Africa trading relationship trade data analysis brief.

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