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China helps Africans gain dignity

In this undated photo, a saleswoman promotes a Tecno smartphone to a customer in Nairobi, Kenya. (SUN RUIBO / XINHUA)

China has not only transformed the lives of many Africans through booming trade, but has also given the continent dignity and voice in the world market.

Bilateral trade has been expanding in the last decade, with the Asian powerhouse having surpassed the United States in 2009 to become Africa's biggest trading partner with total trade amounting to $200 billion.

Unlike the trade between Africa and its former colonial powers, its trade with China has not only spurred infrastructure development and economic growth, but has also positively and directly transformed the livelihoods of Africans in all social sectors.

China came in and understood the African needs and decided to fill the gap by providing products which both had quality and were affordable. This has had real impact on the lives of people.

Cavince Adhere, Kenyan researcher in international relations with a focus on China-Africa relations

Gitahi Ngunyi, a member of the central committee of the Communist Party Kenya, said the trade between China and Africa is based on mutual respect and does not come with the restrictions that exclude Africa from selling certain goods and products to the country.

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"Through trade cooperation, China has contributed to better quality of life for Africans because they can get machines at affordable prices, consequently increasing production and hence building income for workers, as well as creating massive numbers of jobs," Ngunyi said.

"The technology from China is very affordable to many small business people who can engage with manufacturing."

He cited the distilled water business in Kenya, in which more than 100 companies bought affordable water distillation equipment from China.

Africa's quarry business is also booming due to stone cutting machines from China. People no longer use hammers to break up rocks because of the availability of affordable rock crushers from China.

In turn, China has spurred mining, which is helping to build economies across Africa.

"The trade with our former colonial masters is skewed against Africa. The EU partnership agreements that we are being forced to sign, for instance, makes it almost impossible for Africa to export processed products while seeking to open up the African market to subsidized products from Europe," Ngunyi said.

"Europe is interested in selling to Africa finished products, including coffee and tea, which is produced here. It's a parasitic kind of trade. The trade is about exporting our jobs to Europe and the US. For instance, our coffee is exported raw to Europe where it creates many jobs in the processing and distribution value chains and then Africa consumes it."

On the contrary, he said China gives Africa the technology to process its products, thus increasing job opportunities. Additionally, Africa is able to export processed products to the Chinese market.

Cavince Adhere, a Kenyan researcher in international relations with a focus on China-Africa relations, said the trade with China has given the average consumer in Africa a variety of affordable products.

Adhere said it was very hard for Africans in the past to buy products from the European market because they were highly priced.

"China came in and understood the African needs and decided to fill the gap by providing products which both had quality and were affordable. This has had real impact on the lives of people," he said.

Regarding mobile phones, Adhere said Chinese companies today control the largest market in Africa and have enabled many people across the continent to access the devices which were a luxury a few years ago.

According to research released by global market research firm International Data Corporation in March, Chinese smartphone manufacturer Transsion's brands Tecno, Itel and Infinix dominate Africa's smartphone market, having commanded a market share of 47.4 percent in the smartphone industry in the second quarter of 2021, with its closest competitor Samsung controlling 19.3 percent.

Competitive edge

Adhere also said China has expanded the market for African products. Initially, the continent would only export its raw materials to the European market. But today, China being its largest trading partner has helped African products gain a competitive edge in the external market.

That diversification has not only quickened trade, but it has also enhanced competitiveness, enabling Africa to sell its products at higher prices.

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He said China is giving Africa dignity and voice in the world market through giving the continent market diversification, where its countries are in control of where they send their products to.

"Chinese enterprises operating in Africa are estimated to have contributed up to 20 percent to the economic growth in the last decade, and that means they are improving the living conditions for the African people," Adhere said.

edithmutethya@chinadaily.com.cn