Demand – Trade between Africa and China grew rapidly, reaching US $ 166 billion in 2011.
Source: Mail & Guardian newspaper (19 October 2020)
Verdict layout: Available data confirms the trade figures quoted by Mail & Guardian. Trade between Africa and China grew by another 20 billion US dollars by 2018, while US trade with the mainland declined.
- Chinese officials were the first to report that trade between China and Africa in 2011 amounted to $ 166 billion. This was confirmed by data from the UN, the World Bank and other research institutes.
- Any differences in figures are likely to be due to differences in the way bilateral trade is reported, including the valuation of mineral goods.
- U.S. trade volume with Africa has declined, but experts believe it can not be attributed to political disinterest or the US losing ground to China, but rather to the weakening US dependence on oil imports into Africa.
Investigated by Lee Mwiti
In October 2020 online article, South Africa’s Mail & Guardian said that while US President Donald Trump’s mission was to makes America wonderful, his government ‘remained largely uninvolved’ with Africa. On the other hand, because the American influence lost ground under Trump, who according to the article did not travel to Africa, China further accelerated its influence on the continent.
The newspaper said: “Trade between Africa and China has grown rapidly, reaching US $ 166 billion in 2011, according to the United Nations.” But it no longer yielded recent figures that could include the Trump years. Trump took office in 2017. Can the number be examined more closely if the US votes on 3 November? What is the most recent amount of trade? And is there a rivalry between the US and China for Africa? We went looking for answers.
Figures released to Chinese officials in 2012
We diverted the demand to statements by Chinese government officials ahead of the fifth China-Africa Cooperation Forum Ministerial Conference (Focac) held in July 2012 in Beijing, China. Focac is an official forum used to promote relations between the two regions.
In a speech that month, Foreign Minister Zhai Jun said: “In 2011, trade between China and Africa reached $ 166.3 billion, an increase of 16 times from 2000 level, with Africa having a trade surplus of $ 20.1 billion. ” A week later, in an opinion piece executed by the Chinese state media, Trade Minister Chen Deming said China stands as the “undisputed largest trading partner of Africa”.
Chen further quantifies this: “In terms of trade, total trade volume between China and Africa reached a record high of $ 166.3 billion in 2011, up 83% from 2009.” No official provided a source for their figures.
UN data confirm trade numbers between Africa and China
The Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies is home to the China-Africa Research Initiative (CARI), which focuses, among other things, on the economic dimensions of China-Africa relations. It is led by prof Deborah Bräutigam, the author of a much quoted 2010 book, The Dragon’s Gift: The Real Story of China in Africa.
The research unit compile trade statistics for China-Africa use of data from United Nations Comtrade, a branch of the UN division of statistics that trades in commodities and services. UN Comtrade data is based on reports made by individual countries or downloaded from official sources. In data shared by CARI with Africa Check, the sum of Chinese exports to and imports from Africa in 2011 was approximately $ 147 billion.
China and South Africa report differently
The unit told Africa Check that the difference between their estimate and the amount of $ 166 billion was probably due to differences in how China and South Africa report their bilateral trade. The country is an important trading partner for China on the continent. “The figures for Chinese imports from South Africa as reported by the Chinese government are much larger than those reported by the South African government,” said Kevin Acker, research manager at CARI.
This may be due to differences in the valuation of mineral goods, he said. As a result, CARI uses South African government figures to capture the value of Chinese imports from the country.
For other figures in their data, they use numbers reported by China, which notice them is more consistent in reporting than many African governments. “In general, we find that although the sources of the UN Comtrade and the Chinese government do not report exactly the same trade figures, the two sources are very close,” Acker said.
World Bank figures for 2011 similar
Prof. Miria Pigato is with the World Bank’s macroeconomics, trade and investment unit for global practices and co-author a 2015 paper, China and Africa: expanding economic ties in an evolving global context. She referred us to the World Bank World-integrated trading solution as a source of global trade data. It shown China’s trade with Africa in 2011 was $ 166.5 billion, while the Asian country imported $ 93.35 billion and sent $ 73.15 billion the other way around.
What about American trade with Africa?
In 2018, trade between China and Africa was $ 185.3 billion, according to the most recent CARI data available. Official Chinese data appreciate it at a higher $ 204.2 billion. On the other hand, trade between Africa and the USA is appreciated against $ 127 billion in 2011, before falling to less than half ($ 61 billion) in 2018. But the decline in U.S. trade with Africa over the past few years is not because Washington has lost ground to Beijing. This narrative leaves out an important factor, Cobus van Staden told Africa Check. He is a senior researcher at the South African Institute of International Affairs, focusing on China-Africa relations.
“U.S. trade with Africa before the downturn was dominated by oil sales from West Africa. The widespread application of hydrofracking in the U.S. provided access to a whole new domestic oil industry, and with it, U.S. purchases of African oil declined sharply. ” Fracking is a form of extra gas and oil from rocks using high pressure fluid.
With the decline in oil trade, there was not enough involvement to replace it with something else, “the total trade volume between America and Africa shrank,” Van Staden said. Chinese purchases of African oil also declined during the same period as Beijing bought more oil from Russia, Saudi Arabia and Venezuela, he added. “But the decline has been offset by increases in other forms of trade, partly due to Chinese companies’ interest in Africa as a major emerging market.”
Is the narration of China and the American duel over Africa compelling?
Look online at China’s economic involvement with Africa, and you’ll probably also get a concomitant story, namely that the United States is in direct competition with the Asian country for resources. But the decline in Africa’s trade volumes in recent years with the US is not a simple consequence of China’s increased economic involvement, Eric Olander told Africa Check. He is the co-founder of the China-Africa project, an independent non-partisan media initiative focused on China-Africa relations.
Instead, the trade patterns with Africa seen over the past decade have more to do with the ‘fundamental nature’ of the US and Chinese economies and with changing trade patterns on the continent, he said. China is a manufacturing economy that relies on raw materials to produce products that it sells in markets around the world, including Africa. “The US, on the other hand, is a high-tech services economy that really does not need as much of the raw materials that Africa sells and whose consumers generally cannot buy the affordable services that drive the US economy.”
“In many ways, the US and China are not competing with each other in places like Africa, but actually complementary. China manufactures a lot of the physical ‘hardware’ such as infrastructure and electronics,” he said. The US in turn offers many “software” such as legal services, management and international accounting standards. “There are relatively few cases where American and Chinese companies go head-to-head,” Olander said. In fact, US investment – to distinguish it from trade or infrastructure loans – has ‘remained relatively strong’ on the continent, while China’s investment has lagged significantly behind the US, he added.
Conclusion: Available data shows that China’s trade volumes with Africa were $ 166 billion in 2011
Before the US election in 2020, the Mail & Guardian newspaper in South Africa wrote about declining US influence in Africa in recent years, as China’s trade volumes increased. The article gave China’s trade volumes with Africa in 2011 as $ 166 billion. Although most data comes from China and is difficult to verify directly, this figure is supported by other reliable sources. We therefore assess the claim mostly correctly. Trade between the two regions grew to $ 185.3 billion in 2018. Analysts told Africa Check that Africa’s reduced trade with the US should not be simplified by saving China.