By David Monyae
The African economy has been severely impacted by the ravaging pandemic and a reeling world economy.
It has driven economies into recessions and reversed many developmental plans, with more people left unemployed.
This begs the question, where can Africa look for lessons to kick-start its economy? China, more than any country, has made remarkable strides in containing the coronavirus.
In a letter to the organisers of the 2020 China International Fair for Trade in Services (Ciftis), President Xi Jinping said: “With the deepening of economic globalisation, trade in services has become a key part of international trade and an important area for economic and trade co-operation among nations, injecting new impetus into world economic growth.
“China cannot develop itself in isolation from the world, and the world needs China for global prosperity.”
China’s economy defied the downward trend in most economies across the world. Despite Covid-19 and natural calamities that brought unprecedented floods in the southern provinces of Hunan, Jiangxi, Guangxi, Guizhou, Sichuan, Zhejiang and Yunnan, the Chinese economy grew by 3.2% in the second quarter.
This impressive economic growth takes place at a time when the World Trade Organization warned that global trade is expected to fall by 13-32% this year. South Africa’s economy shrank by 51% on an annualised basis in the second quarter. These are tough times that should compel the government, business and civil society to think differently in search of pragmatic adjustments in our relations with China and all other partners.
How can South Africa and the African continent take advantage of the trade opportunities in China in postCovid-19? As it stands, Africa remains on the periphery of changes taking place in the global economy.
Given the well-established diplomatic relations between Africa and China through the Forum on China-Africa Co-operation (Focac), Africa must respond to President Xi Jinping’s assertion that “the world needs China for global prosperity”.
How can the continent tap into Chinese service trade that is growing at 7.8% per annum and contributing about $775.6 billion (R12.9 trillion)to its GDP?
As the US-China trade war is expected to continue beyond the 2020 electoral cycle, Africa must be an alternative source for the much-needed goods in the booming service sector in China.
Relations between China and Australia, for instance, are in a downward spiral. Africa should, and must, expand trade in products such as wheat, beef, wine and other agricultural products. Plans should be under way in Africa on how to create a conducive environment for tourism in post-Covid-19.
Therefore, Africa’s tourism sector must co-ordinate in transforming how it attracts a large Chinese middle class. The endless power shortage in South Africa and many African countries must be speedily addressed.
Similarly, questions about crime and unreliable modes of transport across the continent need urgent attention. Lastly, African countries must improve the visa issuing process in line with a changing world in postCovid-19. Perhaps sub-regions such as the SADC, EAC and Ecowas must issue common visas to maximise the flow of tourists across regions.
* Monyae is the Director for the Centre for Africa-China Studies at the University of Johannesburg.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL.