An exhibitor shows garments to visitors at the China Homelife and China Machinex 2018 in Johannesburg. File picture: Chen Cheng/Xinhua
China will host the first China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo in Hunan province tomorrow and on Friday.

In addition to more than 50 African countries that have confirmed their participation, a number of international bodies such as the UN Industrial Development Organisation, World Food Programme and the World Trade Organisation will send representatives.

At least 1000 Africans are expected to attend the expo as invited guests or traders. This event is a further demonstration of the ever-growing Sino-African relationship which traverses a gamut of issues, from historical similarities, political affinity and aneconomic reliance to the recently deepening people-to-people relations.

Last year, China-Africa trade reached $204.2billion (R2.9trillion), up 20% year-on-year. China has been Africa’s largest trading partner for 10 years. Thus, the expo seems to be an expected initiative between two parties that have had an impressively growing relationship.

African entrepreneurs, alongside their Chinese counterparts, will showcase their products, no doubt culminating in bilateral trade and infrastructure agreements.

The expo will coincide with the G20 summit in Osaka, Japan.

With the Sino-US trade tensions offering a cheerless backdrop to what portends to be an awkward summit, issues concerning the developing world are not expected to dominate debate.

The expo thus assumes even more importance in an international system that is currently undergoing a resurgence of ultra-nationalism, insular sentiment and antipathy towards immigrants who are not of Western provenance.

While this context is regrettable in an era where globalisation is expected to imbue the world with tolerance and an acceptance of major cities, especially, as cultural and national melting pots, it provides the developing world opportune impetus to concentrate on being principals and arbiters of their regions and affairs.

For almost the whole of Africa, China has become an indispensable player in helping the continent to surmount its myriad challenges.

While Sino-African trade and economic ties have grown impressively, Africa remains rooted to the foot of the global food chain.

The opposite is the case with China, a country that just four decades ago was an agro-based, underdeveloped, poor economy but has risen to become the second-biggest economy in the world.

By next year, China plans to totally eliminate poverty among its citizens.

Lin Songtian, China’s ambassador to South Africa, often evokes the estimated 700million people that the Chinese government has lifted out of poverty since the advent of economic reforms in 1978.

Prevailing circumstances have seen a surge in private Chinese and African citizens trading places between the regions with the intention of putting down roots in their respective countries.

While this is in kilter with the trend of globalisation, and has also precipitated tension that emerges from ignorance of each other, as well racial confrontation and the scramble for economic opportunities.

Opportunities such as those offered at the expo should be used to demonstrate China’s good intentions as it relates with Africa.

It’s encouraging that since the onset of the US-China trade war, Africa’s non-traditional exports such as meat, fruit, nuts and tobacco have improved.

Trademaps estimates that meat exports to China from the Southern African Development Community had improved by 240%.

If this momentum is sustained, it will help Africa to invest more in land, climate change and hydro technology. The expo will have a lasting legacy if it touches on this.

Monyae is the director of the centre for Africa-China studies at the University of Johannesburg