The Third China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo (CAETE) – a gimmick or serious development programme?

10th August 2023

It has been widely acknowledged that since the late 2000s, China has become an increasingly prominent development partner for many African countries and since 2008 China has been Africa’s largest bilateral trading partner (still behind the EU as a region). However, what is also the case is there is an acute trade imbalance in China’s favour, as 40 out of 55 African countries have a trade deficit with China. Moreover, Africa’s trade with China is highly concentrated in primary products, with exports dominated by oil, ores, agricultural products and precious metals. 

With a view to climbing value-chains, industrialising, distributing wealth amongst their citizens and creating sustainable economic growth, African leaders have been pushing trade up the agenda at the Forum of China-Africa Cooperation and in their general engagements with African partners. This push has resulted in the Chinese government pledging numerous financial packages and initiatives to boost and diversify Africa to China trade, including value-added trade. 

These financial packages and initiatives – as well as economic growth on the African continent – have contributed to some noticeable diversification in Africa’s trade with China. Africa’s agricultural exports to China have increased from USD$ 1.39 billion in 2010 to USD$ 4.27 billion in 2020. Value addition exports, such as wine and coffee have grown in value and popularity in China, but also exports such as textiles and cosmetics (see Table 2 & 3) have also been steadily increasing since 2000 albeit with some dips during the Covid-19 pandemic. For example, African cosmetic and perfumery exports – from mainly Madagascar and South Africa – reached almost USD $10 million in 2020 up from almost nil in 2000. 

Table 2 & 3: The Observatory of Economic Complexity (OEC)

Expos – like the CAETE – have the potential to accelerate and broaden such shifts. The CAETE is a biennial event co-organized by China’s Ministry of Commerce and Hunan’s provincial government. It is the only economic and trade cooperation platform under the mechanism of FOCAC and serves as an important platform to deepen China-Africa economic and trade ties. 

Through our flagship program Africa Reimagined, we have exhibited at each CAETE since its inauguration in 2019, in 2021 – to create a space for some of Africa’s most innovative and famous brands to introduce their products to and succeed in the Chinese market. 

The good news is that we have seen over the three CAETEs to date a progressive shift away from a focus on displaying agricultural, unbranded products, such as raw coffee beans, dashikis, and jembes – which were more prominent in 2019 – towards high-quality, well-branded wine, roasted coffee and skincare products. Our own 100sqm booth featured some of these as well.

We’ve also seen a general increase in exhibitors, attendees, professional visitors and value of signed projects from previous years, which suggests there is a greater demand for and knowledge of African products in the Chinese market amongst both Chinese consumers and businesses. We were reportedly amongst 1500 exhibitors – a 70% increase from the previous CAETE in 2021, and with the overall visitor count surpassing 100,000, we saw our booth regularly extremely packed! Furthermore, a total of 120 projects were signed, amounting to US $10.3 billion in value. 99 cooperation projects were unveiled, totaling US $8.7 billion. 

However, more can still be done. 

In particular, most of the professional visitors that attended the third CAETE were seeking food and beverage products and little to none were focused on fashion, jewellery and retail given this a newly emerging sector for the Chinese market. It was therefore significant that this year’s CAETE also included forums and displays for textiles and hosted a fashion show – which several of our brands participated in. This indicates that there is interest to diversify the types of African products entering the Chinese market. More could certainly be done by the Chinese or African governments to expand the types of African goods entering China.

Hopefully, the next CAETE in 2025 will be bigger and better than ever, but most importantly, focused on a greater array of value-added products. Now that will be really disruptive.

If you are interested in working with our clients or if you are brand interested in entering the Chinese market, then please contact us below or explore our website to learn more.

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Trevor Lwere

Research and Coordination Analyst

Trevor Lwere is a Research and Coordination analyst at Development Reimagined with a background in Economics and Global Affairs. His interests include geopolitics, geoeconomics and economic development. He holds a Masters’ degree in Global Affairs fro Tsinghua University and a BA Economics from the University of Notre Dame.

Yujie Shi

 Policy and Research Analyst

Yuejie Shi is a Research and Data Analyst at Development Reimagined with a special focus on Global Trade and China-Africa Trade.

Sena Voncujovi

Research Analyst

Sena Voncujovi is a research and policy analyst at Development Reimagined. Voncujovi specializes in global health issues, Japan-Africa relations, and China-Africa relations. He served as the Editor-in-chief of Peking University’s Africa Think Tank (PATT) during his master’s in International Relations & Politics as a Yenching Scholar. Voncujovi previously advised the Ghanaian government for the 2019 TICAD 7 Conference held in Yokohama. He is the co-founder of Jaspora, Tokyo’s largest community of African diasporan diplomats, changemakers, professionals, students, and business people.

Rugare Mukanganga


Rugare is an economist at Development Reimagined, providing economic and data analysis support across projects.

Yixin Yu

Research Analyst

Yixin is a Junior Research Analyst and her focus areas is on public-private partnership and entrepreneurship. She has over three years of working experience in both private and public sectors in Ethiopia. She was the China Liaison Officer for project ‘Partnership for Investment and Growth in Africa’ at International Trade Centre, where she accumulated rich experience in investment and trade promotion.

Ivory Kairo

Communications Support

Ivory is a Kenyan lawyer with experience in policy research and analysis. She also supports the communications team through liaising with African brands, creating graphic content and other external outputs at AR. Ivory speaks English, Swahili and French

Huiyi Chen

Partnership Development

Huiyi Chen is a Research and Coordination Analyst on China-Africa cooperation and leading the engagement with Chinese stakeholders at Development Reimagined.

Jinyu Chen

Research Analyst | Paris, France

Jinyu is a dual-degree Master’s student at Sciences Po & Peking University.  At Africa Reimagined, Jinyu produces research to foster better mutual understanding between African clients and Chinese consumers. 


Jade Scarfe

Communications Support
Jade is a research analyst and communication support at Africa Reimagined. She supports with liaising with African brands, creating content and gathering China market research.

Yike Fu

China-Africa Policy Analyst

Yike Fu is a Policy Analyst and has been responsible for leading numerous areas of work, including on debt analysis in Africa and beyond, and China-Africa trade and investment logistics and analysis. She is the co-author of “African Debt Guide”, in which she challenged the narrative that Africa is in the midst of a new debt crisis by analysing data back to the 1970s and adopting new metrics to present the real story behind the data. She also developed a benchmark to compare the financial distribution of development partners such as the UK, US, Japan, France and China in Africa. Prior to her role at DR she worked at the International Finance Corporation and African Union Representational Mission to the US. She holds a Masters in International Affairs from George Washington University.

Rosie Wigmore

Project Manager | Beijing, PRC

Rosie is the Project Manager of Africa Reimagined (AR) at Development Reimagined (DR) where she supports high-end African brands with entering the Chinese market by operating services such as trademark protection, Chinese market research, Chinese partnership building, and Africa to China logistical support and import/export services. Rosie has worked with DR for over two years now with proven success in helping high-end African brands navigate the Chinese market. She is extremely passionate about her work because more African brands selling in the Chinese marketplace means African countries can export MORE value-added goods, create MORE jobs and foster MORE innovation in African countries.

Leah Lynch

Deputy Director | Beijing, PRC

Leah Lynch is Deputy Director of Development Reimagined (DR), and head of the China office. Leah has over 10 years of experience in development and has lived in China for over 8 years. Leah has also travelled extensively around Asia and Africa for research. Leah supports the strategic direction of the team across China, with a mission to deliver high quality research on sustainable development and poverty reduction. Leah is also Chair of the Sustainability Forum at the British Chamber of Commerce in China, providing direction on sustainability initiatives for British and Chinese business. Leah has also consulted on various evaluations on UK aid (ICAI) and is a specialist on development cooperation from the UK and China. Leah has also consulted on various UN projects, including providing support to the UN China team during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Prior to DR, Leah was at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) China, supporting the UN’s portfolio on communication strategies, China’s South- South Cooperation and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Before UNDP, Leah lived and worked in Kenya developing sustainable water policies for the Kenyan government.

Hannah Ryder

Founder and CEO 

Hannah Ryder is the Founder & CEO of Development Reimagined. A former diplomat and economist with 20 years of experience, named one of 100 most influential Africans in 2021, she is also Senior Associate for the Africa Program of the Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS), sits on the Board of the Environmental Defence Fund, and is a member of UAE’s International Advisory Council on the New Economy. Prior to her role at DR, Ms Ryder led the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s work with China to help it scale up and improve its cooperation with other developing countries, including in Africa. She has also played various advisory roles for the UN and OECD and co-authored the seminal Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change in 2006.


We support our clients throughout the whole onboarding and sales process on Chinese e-commerce platforms including registration, international and China-mainland logistics, storage, payment transfers, and marketing & advertising strategies.

In addition to supporting our clients with onboarding onto e-commerce platforms or developing their own WeChat stores, we also have our own Africa Reimagined e-commerce stores for our clients to sell on.
Kiliselect on WeChat Stores: Africa Reimagined launched on Kiliselect, which is a foremost e-commerce store for premium African products in China and the Chinese branch of East Africa’s Kilimall. It houses brands from a range of sectors including food and beverage, skincare and homeware. Kiliselect is found on WeChat Stores, which gives the store access to 1.2 billion active WeChat users across China.
JD-Worldwide: Next year, Africa Reimagined will open the first ever flagship, pan-Africa e-commerce store for premium African brands on JD-Worldwide, the cross-border e-commerce platform of China’s largest retailer, It will sell exclusively luxury African brands from a range of sectors including, fashion and jewellery, food and beverage, skincare. and homeware.