China’s inhabitants has peaked and is now falling – alternatives and dangers for Africa

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China will now not be the world’s most populous nation. India’s inhabitants will overtake it this yr at an estimated inhabitants of 1.42 billion.

It’s an epochal transition which speaks to different underlying demographic modifications internationally, together with the truth that China’s inhabitants has peaked and is now falling. In the meantime, the area with the fastest-rising inhabitants – from a present base of round 1.4 billion – is Africa.

I’ve researched the economics of China, and China-Africa relations, for practically twenty years. I’ve additionally particularly analysed the political financial system of demographic change in China.

On the floor, China dropping the “world’s most populous nation” crown means nothing for African international locations. Nevertheless, as I define in my new paper, the transition embodies various alternatives and dangers for a lot of African international locations.

China has been a number one financial associate to the continent for many of this century. Demand for China’s manufactured items is constant throughout the continent. It’s an particularly essential import associate for a few of Africa’s resource-rich international locations, akin to Angola, Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia. A slow-down in China’s financial system – or a shift away from commodity-intensive manufacturing and infrastructure development – might particularly problem African commodity exporters whose primary purchaser is China, akin to Angola.

So, as China’s inhabitants declines and ages, there’ll be direct and oblique repercussions for a lot of African international locations. Listed here are among the attainable implications.


Finish of labour-richness

African international locations with a big working-age inhabitants can theoretically profit from the tip of China’s interval of labour-abundance. China had a large variety of low-wage employees from the Nineteen Eighties till the 2000s. The broad passing of this abundance – by way of each value and amount – theoretically opens a window for different “youthful” and low-wage economies. Labour-rich international locations already banging on China’s door embrace Bangladesh, Indonesia and Vietnam.

African international locations desirous to make the most of this can want related insurance policies. They may want sufficient certified employees to participate in manufacturing alternatives; inexpensive and dependable vitality; and aggressive labour productiveness. Ethiopia, as an example, has been attracting Chinese language overseas direct funding in latest a long time with greater than 70% going into manufacturing.

Elevated service demand

For a decade or extra, China has additionally been pushing, if very incrementally, for providers – akin to monetary providers, healthcare and tourism – to drive its home progress. This presents new alternatives for African items and providers suppliers too.

Issues are already within the works. The official 2035 China-Africa Imaginative and prescient – which defines the general framework of China-Africa cooperation – consists of finance, tourism, media, and tradition and sports activities. A few of these hyperlinks, just like the media trade, are comparatively superior already. Some international locations, for instance Mauritius, have already signed commerce agreements which embrace monetary providers. And, extra not too long ago, Kenya Airways and China Southern Airways signed an settlement to broaden Nairobi’s position as a regional aviation hub for Chinese language locations.

China’s pensioner growth

The pensioner inhabitants is predicted to peak mid-century when China is forecast to be dwelling to some 400 million pensioners – a large goal market. Cambodia, for instance, already has an official technique for attracting aged vacationers.

African international locations might faucet into this demographic, as an example to help tourism industries. East African international locations are searching for rising vacationer markets and likewise seeking to broaden choices to incorporate actions akin to cruises – these could be superb for an older demographic.


Slowdown in China’s financial system

An enormous danger is that as China’s inhabitants declines and ages it’s going to trigger China’s financial growth engine to falter.

Because it’s one of many world’s largest economies, a stagnation would trigger ripples internationally. It will sluggish China’s potential to commerce with and spend money on Africa.

As an illustration, China is South Africa’s largest export market. Nigeria, Angola, Egypt and the Democratic Republic of Congo are additionally main exporters of products to China. Nigeria is the main importer from China, adopted by South Africa, Egypt and Ghana.

Some international locations are comparatively China-dependent for progress and growth. These embrace Zimbabwe and Guinea.

China might change into extra risk-averse in lending to African international locations, and conservative in overseas support allocations. Main Chinese language corporations may additionally have much less income to re-invest in different markets, and fewer motive to take action given decrease progress. This might problem African authorities budgets and depart many in poverty and unable to seek out formal jobs of their working-age prime.

Holding manufacturing at dwelling

There may be additionally the danger that automation will instantly change labour in China, as a substitute of shifting manufacturing to a different nation with a youthful workforce. And overseas traders in China would possibly search to safe their very own provide chains – at dwelling – reasonably than shift manufacturing to a brand new labour-rich location after China.

Regulatory challenges

Africa might face new regulatory challenges as China’s inhabitants ages. Merchandise demanded by an older Chinese language inhabitants, with inputs sourced in Africa, might elevate present regulatory challenges.

As an illustration, a Chinese language conventional drugs generally known as ejiao makes use of collagen from donkey hides. It’s believed to help sleep, blood vitality and people ageing basically. This has led to a commerce in African donkeys that has harmed Africa’s personal poor .

Learn extra:
China’s demand for Africa’s donkeys is rising. Why it is time to management the commerce


In my view a possible situation is that China’s financial system lumbers ahead at a slower tempo than up to now, however quick sufficient to stave off a disaster at dwelling.

On the floor this will likely cut back the size of alternative for Africa. However, since China’s financial system is many occasions bigger than any financial system in Africa, there’ll nonetheless be sufficient progress quantity to faucet for commerce, funding and particular initiatives. Slower progress in China might even compel Chinese language traders to show to faster-growing African economies.

Africa is the world’s youngest continent, and fast-ageing population-declining China is the continent’s most essential commerce associate and financial associate. African governments should preserve a detailed eye on what occurs subsequent to faucet into all potential alternatives – and mitigate any dangers.


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