Difficult shipments of goods between China and the Continent, uncertainties in the short and medium term, The African import-export holds its breath as the coronavirus epidemic accelerates and threatens to mutate into a pandemic.
Many companies, especially those in the free zone, are not delivered because suppliers in China cannot ship the goods.
Over the past decade, China has been unbeatable as Africa's largest trading partner, with trade reaching $208.7 billion in 2019, up 2.2% year-on-year, according to Beijing. The Middle Kingdom has gone a long way to the top, thanks in particular to its prices, which are often defiant of all competition and its aggressive policy on the Continent. At only 2.8% in 2000, China accounts for more than 14% of African trade in 2018, according to a report by the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank).
This China-Africa business, which is reflected in hundreds of monthly flows of boats at the start, such as the arrival of the continent's main ports, raises some fears, as the coronavirus epidemic grows Unsuspected.
From China, African companies import heavy materials (electrical and mechanical machinery and equipment, vehicles and parts), as well as food, pharmaceuticals and various goods. Within the importer community, the situation is much more difficult for those who cannot store too much and over a long period of time.
Companies that built up large stocks at the end of 2019 are not yet very worried. On the other hand, drug importers, for example, are already having some difficulties. But if the epidemic continues over time, the situation could become critical even for companies that manage long stocks.
Coronavirus: Royal Air Maroc, Kenya Airways and RwandAir suspend flights to China
In the face of the coronavirus outbreak, Royal Air Maroc, Kenya Airways and RwandAir have suspended their flights to China. Ethiopian Airlines, on the other hand, will continue to operate in the Middle Kingdom.
Royal Air Maroc was the first African airline to announce on Thursday (January 30th) the suspension of its flights to Beijing, the city served in China. Although the official release makes no mention of coronavirus, it is clear that the link remains close. A sharp drop in demand on Casablanca-Beijing-Casablanca flights.
Kenya Airways followed suit early on Friday morning, announcing the suspension of its flights to Guangzhou "until further notice" due to the coronavirus outbreak. In contrast, the Kenyan national airline will continue to operate in Bangkok, Thailand.
RwandAir for service Guangzhou also ceases its activities "until further order."
A boon for intra-African trade?
While the Supply Chain had already been affected by the trade war between China and America, the extension of the epidemic could further accelerate the diversification of supply chains that could move to other countries Asia, and why not Africa!
If the transition to the China is being done for the benefit of Africa, it would be a good thing for intra-African trade. And if it is done to other countries like India, the consequences would be more dramatic for Africa. It's all about simply to say that African exports would be deeply affected by the crisis.
Has Covid-19 is gaining momentum. In addition to Asia, several cases of contamination have been reported in Europe, including France, Italy, Spain and Switzerland. In Africa, where Egypt finally negatively diagnosed the first confirmed case of contamination on the Continent two weeks ago, Algeria reported a case of contamination, an Italian national. At the moment, the global economy is on high alert in the face of the virus from China. While the challenge for Africa in 2020 is to to return to the upward trend in its exports to the Middle Kingdom, while continuing to source at a good price, the evolution of the epidemic is being closely monitored.