The African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) will create new opportunities for China-Africa cooperation, an Ethiopian expert said.

Gedion Jalata, Senior Adviser to the UNDP South-South Cooperation and Former Consultant to UNECA-Capacity Development Division, said the AfCFTA requires strong infrastructure linkage across the African continent, an area where Chinese help is much needed.

“AfCFTA will create new opportunities for Africa-China cooperation”

“The hard infrastructure spread in Africa is low, with countries like China that have ample experience in infrastructure building well placed to help build a road, rail, port and air infrastructures for African Countries. A strong Africa will be a strong ally and good partner for China,” Jalata told.

Jalata said trade among African countries is currently only about 17 percent of the total trade in the continent.

He said the low infrastructure connectivity among African countries is primarily to blame for low inter-African trade, adding China is supporting African countries through the Belt & Road Initiative (BRI).

“China is also supporting African countries through individual projects like the landmark Chinese built and financed 756 km Ethiopia-Djibouti electrified rail line connecting landlocked Ethiopia to ports in neighbouring Djibouti,” Jalata told.

Jalata further said China’s support to African countries both through the BRI framework as well as individual projects will boost inter-African economic integration, with China potentially playing the role of key facilitator for the broader goals of AfCFTA.

However, Jalata said African countries need to proactively fight new challenges that could derail the goals of AfCFTA like the COVID-19 pandemic, a disease that many African countries are fighting with help from China.

“With the rapid spread of COVID-19 pandemic across the continent, many African countries need to boost their health infrastructure to ensure the COVID-19 pandemic doesn’t become both a stumbling block to continental economic integration as well as a cross border health crisis,” Jalata told.