Fridah Mbaya is exhilarated by her trip to the ongoing China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai. She can finally bring Kenya’s unique coffee taste closer to Chinese consumers.
“The exhibition exposes my products to a wider market especially among Chinese,” said Mbaya, chief executive officer of the enterprise Nyumbani Coffee, adding that China’s large coffee-consuming market will help Kenya diversify its coffee sales.
The expo has attracted over 3,600 exhibitors from around the world. Over 200 are from more than 40 African countries presenting a wide range of products including tea, coffee, wine, cocoa and seafood.
Mbaya’s words also echo Kenya’s expectation to increase exports to China through the expo, where nine Kenyan companies are promoting the country’s agricultural products and tourist attractions, while seeking to build cooperative partnerships in financial services and healthcare.
Hosea Machuki, chief executive officer of Kenya-based Fresh Produce Exporters Association, whose members are among the CIIE exhibitors, said that China is one of the most promising markets for Kenyan horticultural produce.
“China has a population of over 1.3 billion. Kenya can tap into this market for all kinds of fresh products including fruits, vegetables and herbs,” he told Xinhua.
That idea is shared by Namibian businessman Koos Blaauw who co-owns the Namibia-based Tetelestai Mariculture Company in the coastal town of Walvis Bay, which has exported large quantities of live oysters to China’s major cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong.
Blaauw said his focus at the expo is seeking more markets in Asia for his oyster products along the supply-value chain.
“The expo created an avenue for traders to arrange partnerships, for Chinese companies to have investments in African countries and vice versa, to further develop these countries through alliances to be able to export,” Blaauw said.
Apart from exhibiting products and services, many African exporters are also trying to explore the appetite of Chinese consumers.
“We hope this tour will give us more insights in terms of how to penetrate the market and also appreciate the taste and standards that the Chinese are looking forward to if we want to tap that market,” Zimbabwe’s Industry and Commerce Minister Mangaliso Ndlovu said.
“We are also encouraged by the remarks of Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Beijing summit of FOCAC (Forum on China-Africa Cooperation) where he encouraged African countries to consider the Chinese market as a viable market,” he added.
China has been Africa’s largest trading partner for nine consecutive years, with imports from Africa hitting 65.6 billion U.S. dollars in the first eight months of 2018, up 33.4 percent year on year, and exports to Africa up 10 percent to 68.5 billion dollars, according to China’s General Administration of Customs.
China’s recent pledge to lower tariffs and increase imports is welcomed by its African partners.
Commending China’s move to further open up its market, Omu Kakujaha-Matundu, Namibian economic analyst and Dean of Economics at the University of Namibia, said the event has broadened the concept of preferential trade and widened market access for countries like Namibia.
“It is imperative to note that while China is opening up, African countries need to improve their ability to supply such a huge market,” Matundu said, citing his country’s beef exports to China as an example.
Charles Onunaiju, director of the Abuja-based Centre for China Studies said that the CIIE is a historic opportunity for Africa to test its stamina, creative ability and innovative acumen in value-added products in the Chinese market and the global market at large.
“China is not just offering investment, infrastructure, financial support ... it is now offering its market,” the director said. “The most important element in any meaningful development is the market.”
Keith Rockwell, World Trade Organization Director of Information and External Relations, told Xinhua via email that the expo highlights the need for cooperation and partnership in international trade, particularly for China and Africa.