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Virtual expo taps China-Africa digital cooperation

By LIU HONGJIE | China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-10-28 09:23
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The pandemic has hurt trade across the globe, but it has also spurred new ways of conducting business and allowed the further embrace of digital technologies among major and developing economies, according to latest analyses.

At the opening ceremony of an inaugural China-Africa virtual expo on Monday, James Kimonyo, the Rwandan ambassador to China, pointed to the latest trends amid the challenges posed by COVID-19. The virtual expo is yet another proof of the digital developments, he said.

The online event, which runs till Nov 4, is also known as the China-Central and Eastern Africa International Trade Digital Expo. It focuses on trade promotion between China and Africa through an innovative exhibition model. The expo is sponsored by the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, in collaboration with the China-Africa Development Fund. It is organized by the China International Exhibition Center Group Corporation, a subsidiary of the council.

More than 1,000 enterprises and 10,000 participants from both China and Africa are expected to share ideas and business opportunities through a major cloud platform via the event.

This year's expo follows the China-Africa Industrial Capacity Cooperation Expo, which has been held successfully in Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda in the last three years. The physical expos were well-received by participants and local governments, with related turnover from the three years recorded at $17.3 million.

In line with the ongoing expo, Rwanda itself has embraced the novel ways of doing business amid COVID-19, developing digital technologies and e-commerce. It is the first African country to join a major electronic world trade platform through an agreement signed with e-commerce giant Alibaba Group, significantly benefiting Rwandan companies and farmers by selling products to China directly.

Kenyan Ambassador to China Sarah J. C. Serem also expressed confidence in the platform. "In the new normal occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a call for dynamism and creativity so as to continue the human development course all countries aspire to. This is exactly what this group has done and I wish to sincerely congratulate them," Serem said.

Zhang Shenfeng, vice-chairman of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, said in his opening remarks that the world is undergoing profound changes unseen in a century and the global COVID-19 epidemic is accelerating those effects.

China is speeding up the formation of a new development pattern dominated by domestic cycles and it will be more closely connected with the global economy, offering more extensive market opportunities to other countries, Zhang said.

Liu Yuxi, ambassador of the Mission of China to the African Union, said Africa is one of the world's fastest-growing emerging markets. The African Continental Free Trade Area is being built steadily and will be officially implemented in January 2021, Liu said. It is expected to form a major market with a population of 1.2 billion and an economic aggregate of $2.5 trillion.

"Chinese enterprises can seize the favorable opportunities to expand trade and investment in Africa, help Africa achieve economic takeoff while achieving their own development goals, and make contributions to promoting mutually beneficial and win-win economic and trade cooperation between China and Africa", Liu said.

Teka Gebreyesus, Ethiopia's state minister of trade and industry, participated in the expos for the last two years. Gebreyesus lauded the latest event for further promoting China-Africa cooperation and Africa's industrialization.

The Nile Machinery Co, one of the major beneficiaries of the digital expo platform, had already reported considerable clients and opportunities tapped through the previous expos. Attracted by the investment environment and business opportunities, the company invested $700,000 and set up a factory in Kenya's capital Nairobi in March last year, producing items such as machinery components.

On top of tapping major demand in the local market for their products, the company's Kenya branch also inked a $5 million contract recently.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, and is a special year for China and Africa to unite against the COVID-19 pandemic and overcome other difficulties, according to Sun Ying, deputy department manager of the CIEC Overseas Exhibition Co.

The China Council for the Promotion of International Trade has successively innovated the exhibition services platform and the digital expo has emerged as an accumulation of the previously held physical expos, Sun said. The digital platform is a unique one for the public and private sectors from China and Africa to cooperate on agriculture, manufacturing, energy and environmental protection, construction, transportation, healthcare and other sectors.

Given the current COVID-19 situation, the epidemic prevention industry is also set to be one of the highlights of the virtual expo, helping to meet the needs of Africa.

Similarly, more than 20 African companies have uploaded their agricultural products on the virtual platform to get closer to new target markets. Event organizers will arrange customized business-to-business meetings for participants.

The council is committed to actively cooperating with relevant African government departments, business associations and institutions, jointly building important economic and trade platforms such as the China-Africa entrepreneurs' conference, China-Africa Industrial Capacity Cooperation Expo, and the Africa Investment and Growth Partnership Project, Sun said.

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