China-Africa trade surpassed USD 200billion last year, reaching USD 210 billion, up 6% from the USD 198 billion achieved in 2012, according to data from Johannesburg-based Standard Bank Group.
China remains Africa's largest single trading partner, and is growing in importance as the two regions find economic synergies.
"When Chinese firms consider investment destinations around the world, Africa is always top of mind," said Dr. George Fang, Standard Bank 's Beijing-based head of mining and metals in Asia. "Africa is usually among the first destinations that are considered by Chinese companies that are looking to expand internationally, not only because of its abundant natural resources, but also because of its rich cultural heritage, which in many ways is more similar to Chinese custom than that of the Western world."
The growing trade between the regions last year was in spite of a slowdown in China, which could affect its consumption of commodities, and more lukewarm growth in Africa.
Chinese exports to Africa grew 8% last year to reach USD 92 billion, but growth was slower than previous years.
Indeed, China's sales actually contracted in 22 individual African countries, which is twice the amount of countries as in 2012 and 2011, according to Standard Bank , with exports to Angola (-5.0%), Egypt (-3.2%), Ghana (-19.1%) and Liberia (-40.1%) falling.
However, Chinese exports in key markets expanded in South Africa (+17.3%), Nigeria (+27%), Kenya (+12%), Tanzania (+50%) and Morocco (+5%). These five markets alone made up 41% of China's total exports to Africa last year, up from 37% in 2012.
HEADROOM FOR GROWTH
Over the years, Chinese manufacturing costs have risen, especially as its currency has appreciated against the US dollar (current currency gyrations notwithstanding).
Despite becoming marginally more expensive, China has managed to grow exports to Africa, said Standard Bank 's Stevens.
While government-to-government relations have helped "perhaps more critically, success has bred success, and Chinese and African businesses are now more comfortably transacting with one another."