Visitors watch a live performance during the 3rd China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo in Changsha, Hunan province, on July 1.
China's trade and investment links with Africa and the Middle East are becoming deeper and more mature in a positive manner, with Chinese enterprises active "in all sorts of sectors", ushering in more development opportunities for all, according to a senior executive with Standard Chartered.
Sarmad Lone, regional head of client coverage, corporate, and commercial and institutional banking in Africa, the Middle East and Pakistan at Standard Chartered, said during an exclusive interview with China Daily that trade and investment cooperation between China and the Middle East and that between China and Africa are both deeper and developing further, thanks to multiple drivers including having common values such as an environment of encouragement for free trade and innovation and promoting economic growth.
"We increasingly see more cooperation between Chinese businesses and businesses of the Middle East and Africa," Lone said, adding that free trade and free movement of goods and capital have always worked to benefit the countries and companies involved.
"What we see is that a lot of times, companies and countries are in need of solutions and many times the best solutions are coming from Chinese corporates," he said.
According to Chinese Customs data, China-Middle East trade volume nearly doubled over the 2017 to 2022 period, from $262.5 billion to $507.2 billion. The Middle East is the fastest growing trading partner to China in 2022, up 27.1 percent year-on-year, compared to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (15 percent), the European Union (5.6 percent) and the United States (3.7 percent).
Trade volume between China and Africa also surged by 14.5 percent on a yearly basis in 2022 to almost 1.9 trillion yuan ($266.3 billion).
China is currently the largest trading partner for many major economies in the Middle East and Africa, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and South Africa.
Lone said Standard Chartered, like many other foreign investors, has benefited from and is well positioned to facilitate the booming trade and investment cooperation.
The bank has been arranging investor meetings to help Middle Eastern investors gain a stronger understanding of China's opportunities, including introducing China's new opening-up policy measures, as it has seen more asset allocation from Gulf-based investors toward Asia with a focus on China.
Having strong networks covering the Middle East and Africa, and a long operating history in many Middle Eastern markets like the UAE, the bank is also setting up a Mandarin-speaking banking team to support Chinese companies' expansion in the region, as Chinese companies are active in the Middle East and Africa "in all sorts of sectors".
The executive said he expects to see more sophisticated technologies and innovative ideas coming into the Middle East and Africa from China on the back of proven successes in China that have benefited the people there.
"We already see Chinese companies as pioneers in terms of new technology, in terms of providing innovative solutions and new ideas to solve problems," Lone said.
"Chinese companies are big on many fronts, ranging from energy and food security to infrastructure and sustainable development. Especially in Africa, they are doing a lot of work on the infrastructure side, in every sector from commodities to hydrocarbons," he added.