Africa’s trade deficit with China widens in 2023, with falling commodity prices key factor

Africa’s trade deficit with China has widened to $64 billion as the Asian economic powerhouse recorded a drop in trade with top partners on the continent which are predominantly resource rich, with analysts predicting African countries have a long way to go to find a trade balance.
China’s total trade with Africa grew a modest 1.5% in 2023 from 2022 to $282.1 billion, but Africa’s trade deficit with China has increased, according to the latest Chinese customs data. Chinese exports to Africa have increased by 7.5% over 2022, reaching $173 billion, while its imports from the continent dropped by 6.7% to $109 billion, figures from the General Administration of Customs showed. While the US$100 million year-on-year increase made 2023 bilateral trade a record, Africa’s trade deficit with China continued to expand, from US$46.9 billion in 2022 to US$64 billion last year.
Chinese trade officials tried to strike an upbeat tone, hailing China’s role as Africa’s largest trading partner “for 15 consecutive years”. But not many in Africa are happy about this development. Analysts said the drop in imports from Africa could partly be attributed to the drop in the price of key minerals, metals and oil that China mostly imports from some African countries. China imports raw materials from the continent, including oil, copper and aluminum, whose prices dropped in the past year. China has come under fire for its vast trade surplus with most parts of the world, with some accusing it of promoting an unhealthy balance by selling finished products to Africa while buying mostly raw materials. But experts caution that it would take long-term effort for both sides to find a trade balance, and China might also need to offer something new.