Construction vehicles that will be exported to East Africa are loaded on a cargo ship at a port in Yantai in China's eastern Shandong province on April 28, 2020. (Photo by STR / AFP) /

Siva Parameswaran, World News Editor

 The bilateral trade between China and Africa fell by nearly 20% in the first half of the current fiscal year.

According to figures from China’s General Administration of Customs (CGAC), the spread of the Coronavirus and associated restrictions saw the trade volume drop by nearly one fifth.

Covid-19 has affected both Chinese exports and imports. The fall in the trade volume amounts to $82.37 billion according to official Chinese data.

Being one of the largest importers of raw materials from Africa its import dropped by 31% while exports to Africa declined by 8.3%.

Chinese imports include copper, Iron ore cobalt, oil, gold, diamond, while its major exports are Machinery, Electronics, Textiles, and finished goods among others

The impact was more in the China-South Africa trade. South Africa an import source of raw materials and a major market of Chinese goods witnessed a drop of 28% in trade between the two countries according to CGAC data.

“Better than expected”

Analysts say the sharp decline in China-Africa trade was due to the fall in commodity prices as lockdown and airport closures cut demand.

China is the world’s largest oil importer but demand for the fuel from its African suppliers dropped in tune with the economic slowdown affecting bilateral trade significantly.

However, Chinese customs authorities say the trade volume from Jan-June this year was “better than expected”

It said the world is experiencing unheard changes due to the Coronavirus pandemic, with the global economy plunging into a deep recession coupled with a sharp contraction in international trade and investment.

As a result, “China’s foreign trade development is now facing a grim and complicated external environment”.

According to rating agency Fitch, African economies are expected to perform below-projected estimates due to a sharp drop in bilateral trade with China.