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Trade between China and Africa Plummeted in the First Quarter of the Year

The coronavirus  has piled extra pressure on the world’s second-largest economy, which continues to struggle with the impact of a punishing and drawn-out tariff war with the United States. China’s imports from Africa, mostly raw materials for industry, such as oil and metals, fell by 17.5 per cent in the quarter to US$19.8 billion, while exports dropped 10.5 per cent to US$21.4 billion. China is the world’s largest oil importer but demand for the fuel from suppliers in African countries like Congo-Brazzaville and Nigeria slumped in line with the economic slowdown, and its price nosedived on international markets. In February, Angola’s state-owned oil firm Sonangol was forced to resell an oil shipment at a discount after its intended Chinese buyer cancelled the order because of the port closures. In its “Africa Pulse” report, the World Bank said that sub-Saharan countries’ high levels of trade and connectivity with China left them highly vulnerable to the impact of the global health crisis. But Virag Forizs, an emerging markets economist at Capital Economics, said the first-quarter slump in China-Africa trade did not come as a surprise. “We expect further disruptions this [second] quarter as lockdowns and other coronavirus containment measures across sub-Saharan Africa weigh on trade and supply chains,” he said.