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June 13, 2016

China-Africa news: America ivory ban, Chinese loans, Kenya plants

China loans about $6.2 billion to Africa annually. That seems like a very low figure, right? It is because we are used to breathless media reports extolling far larger amounts, which are often pledges.  Lina Benabdallah, Winslow Robertson, and Yiting Wang scoured a database released recently by the China-Africa Research Initiative (CARI) at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, unearthing interesting facts about China-Africa relations.

The United States of America announced a complete ban on the trade in ivory from African elephants. The aim of the ban is to protect African elephants, which have become endangered over the past decade due to an increase in the demand of ivory in Asia. The ban follows an executive order by President Barack Obama in 2013 which acknowledged that poaching of certain protected species and the illegal trade arising from the activity represents an "an international crisis that continues to escalate". And while visiting Kenya last year, Obama announced further bans on the trade. America is estimated to be the second largest market for illegal ivory after China. In completely banning the trade in illegal ivory, it seeks to come first, but in a different way: ""The U.S. is at its best when it speaks after taking action domestically, instead of wagging our finger” at other countries," according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe .

Ethiopia wants to become Africa's biggest car manufacturer. As with many of its recent grand infrastructural achievements, it is counting on China to help. Ethiopia currently assembles about 8000 cars in industrial zones set up with Chinese assistance; all the assemblers are Chinese. Transforming from a net importer of cars into an exporter, and the largest one on the continent at that, it will have to overtake South Africa and Morocco who currently manufacture - not assemble - 600,000 and 200,000 vehicles annually.

No more commodity booms. Demand for natural commodities skyrocketed between 2000 and 2014, driven by China's rapid growth. Resource-rich Africa was a beneficiary as witnessed by the inflows to countries like Angola, Zambia, and South Africa. But now the boom is over after the Chinese economy slowed, and some analysts say it is unlikely to be repeated. Countries like India - which could potentially take off the way China did - lack the centrally-planned structure responsible for China's unprecedented transformation.

A Chinese scientist cataloguing Kenya’s plants. Wang Qingfeng discovered a new plant species during a recent expedition by Chinese scientists to Mount Kenya. Wang, who headed the expedition as director of the Sino-Africa Joint Research Centre in Kenya, shared with the SCMP his surprise discovery and why China’s curiosity in the African continent is growing. Oh, he is also writing the first comprehensive catalogue of plants in Kenya.

South African wine exports to China grew by 30% in 2015. Billionaire Koos Bekker's winery has Mandarin labelling on all its bottles, and says it wants to conquer the Beijing market. Koos Bekker has already had success conquering the Chinese market with a couple of strategic investments made through his media giant, Naspers. China is currently the sixth biggest buyer of South African wine, but wine producers believe they have not really unlocked its potential.


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