From June 27 to June 29, 2019, Changsha, the capital city of Hunan province in central China, was animated by overflowing excitement for the first China-Africa Economic Trade Expo. The CAETE was launched as the unique economic and trade cooperation platform under the FOCAC mechanism, and, from this year on, is to be hosted biennially in Changsha.
During the three days, the CAETE held 14 events and activities and one exposition consisted of 8 sections, including a permanent online site of CAETE. These activities attracted over 1600 participants from abroad - mostly from Africa, over 5000 participants within China, more than 3500 businesses and professionals and over 100,000 city residents as expo spectators. The expo witnessed enthusiastic exchanges between African and Chinese officials, businesspersons, scholars and members of international organizations; expositions opened a window for Chinese city dwellers to get a taste – in both literal and figurative sense – of African culture and products. Various parties signed 84 documents of cooperation which involve, in total, $ 20.8 billion. As the expo successfully concludes, hopes are high for projects facilitated by the expo to be steadily realized, for the expo to build on its accomplishments and for China-Africa cooperation to continue to deepen and to expand its scope.
The reasons might not seem obvious at first, but they are all significant and cover many aspects. First of all, two figures from Hunan are tightly linked to the history and the present days of the African continent. Mao Zedong, who has promoted close relationship between China and African countries and insisted on China’s support for Africa in the earliest days of these republics, was born in Hunan and has passed his youth in Changsha. Yuan Longping, whose research on hybrid rice breeds has contributed greatly to agriculture in Africa, has also based his research in Changsha.
Besides these two important figures, economic and cultural ties between Hunan and various African countries have also been growing rapidly. Beginning in 2005, bilateral trade between Hunan and Africa has been maintaining annual growth rates of over 20%. Total bilateral trade value in 2017 reached $2.1 billion, a 7-fold increase from 2005. Until March 2018, enterprises from Hunan have over 120 investment projects in Africa, whose contracts total $760 million and sectors span minerals, trade, construction, textile and apparels as well as manufacturing.
With an unparalleled expertise in hybrid rice, Hunan has undertaken the most training programs for African countries among all provinces in China and has carried out 30 agricultural cooperation programs since 1978. Medical teams from Hunan have also been very active in Africa, training a large number of medical professionals for African countries. Cultural exchanges between artists and universities have also been intensifying.
While these are all important factors forming the context and basis of increasing exchanges between Africa and Hunan, one reason is particularly indispensable – the strong desire and willingness of the Hunan government to host the expo. The fact that Hunan government has strived to have the expo located in Changsha, Hunan’s capital city, shows Hunan government’s great faith in the prospects of cooperation with Africa and unwavering determination to promote this relationship.
In the following days, CABC is to build a dossier on the activities under CAETE to present its fullest picture. The dossier will include reports on the following events:
1. Thematic seminars
Seminar on China-Africa Agricultural Cooperation and Development (source: gov.cn)
China-Africa Dialogue on Infrastructure and Financing Cooperation (source: rmzxb.com.cn)
Seminar on China-Africa Bilateral Trade Promotion (Source: Rednet.cn)
Seminar on the Development of China-Africa Economic and Trade Cooperation Zone (Source: Changsha News)
2. Economic and trade negotiations and exchanges
Investment Promotion Conference for African Countries (Source: icswb.com)
China-Africa Economic and Trade Cooperation Conference (Source: Hunan Daily)
3. Professional forums
Dialogue on Investing in Ethiopia, Kenya, Mozambique and Zambia (Source: Chinanews.com)
2019 China-Africa Private Sector Cooperation Forum
The 2nd China-Africa Development Finance Forum & CAIBA Senior Official’s Meeting (Source: China Daily)
The main exposition, online permanent CAETE, and the exhibition hall for African commodities at Gaoqiao
Ruoyu Chen, NYU Business and Political Economy
China-Africa Stories Contributor