China's green light to build a pioneering zone for in-depth China-Africa economic and trade cooperation in the central Chinese province of Hunan will pave the way for exploring innovative avenues of bilateral collaboration in the next stage, said government officials on Wednesday.
Their comments followed the announcement by the State Council, the country's Cabinet, which approved a general plan to create such a zone in Hunan as outlined in a circular issued on Jan 12.
While implementing the plan, practical measures under the framework of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation will play a leading role in enhancing alignment between the two sides' respective development strategies, vigorously innovating the economic and trade cooperation mechanism and improving Sino-African modern industrial and supply chains, said Jiang Wei, director of the department of Western Asian and African Affairs at the Ministry of Commerce.
Jiang said that enhanced coordination is essential across trade, industries, finance and cultural exchanges to foster greater synergy in the coming years.
Guo Ning, deputy director of Hunan's provincial department of commerce, said that it is imperative to exert additional efforts aimed at propelling high-quality Belt and Road cooperation while constructing a high-level China-Africa partnership.
"We will seize the opportunities brought by Africa's accelerated industrialization and urbanization, as well as the development of the African Continental Free Trade Area, fostering close collaboration in Sino-African production and supply chains, and creating a broader market space," Guo said.
As the host venue for the China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo, Hunan's trade volume with Africa reached 55.67 billion yuan ($7.76 billion) in 2023, ranking first in China's central and western regions, said Hunan's provincial government.
By harnessing their unique strengths and resources, China and Africa can facilitate deeper integration across critical sectors, including manufacturing, agriculture, infrastructure and technology, said He Wenping, a researcher with the Institute of West Asian and African Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing.
Over 3,000 Chinese companies, such as China Railway Construction Corp Ltd, Huawei Technologies Co Ltd and Great Wall Motor Co Ltd, have invested in Africa and employ a large number of local people, said the Ministry of Commerce.
East China's Jiangsu province, another key export hub, saw a record high in its foreign trade with Africa in 2023, with two-way trade value growing 8.9 percent year-on-year to 157.32 billion yuan, said Nanjing Customs.
"Benefiting from tangible growth of the Belt and Road Initiative — and Chinese companies' efforts to enter more emerging markets — our automated teller machines, or ATMs, have gained a strong reputation among African customers, especially in countries like South Africa, Ghana, Benin, Mozambique and Kenya, with export volumes consistently increasing in recent years," said Zhuang Xuefen, a logistics manager at Inspur Financial Information Technology Co Ltd.
The Suzhou, Jiangsu province-based electronics equipment manufacturer witnessed an astonishing 180 percent year-on-year surge in export value to Africa in 2023, reaching 38.78 million yuan.