China-Africa trade rebounded in 2018 after several years of steady declines. Trade between the two regions last year increased by nearly 20% to $204 billion, according to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce.
The bulk of Africa’s exports to China is raw materials, namely oil ($46.3 billion), minerals ($37.04 billion) and timber ($13 billion).
While the oil and timber businesses in Africa are dominated by large extraction companies, many of the minerals that the Chinese source there are pulled out of the ground by so-called “artisanal miners” who are often comprised of individuals, collectives and small-to-medium size businesses. It’s a dangerous, miserable and exhausting way to eke out a very meager wage.
Those minerals, many of them from places like DR Congo, are in high demand in China where they are used to manufacture all sorts of electronic devices and increasingly electric cars.
But what happens to these minerals, like cobalt and tantalum, once they’ve left Africa and make their way to China? Well, they invariably pass through the hands of traders like Shenzhen-based Albert Rugaba.
The Rwanda-native has lived in China for the past 22 years, where he also graduated from university and now speaks fluent Mandarin. Albert has a ground-level view of the minerals trade and joins Eric & Cobus to discuss the latest trends in this important, yet little understood aspect of the China-Africa relationship.
- China’s electric vehicle growth drive a surge in lithium carbonate imports by Albert Rugaba
- The Conversation: Africa can get more from its minerals by building industries to service mines by Vuyo Mjimba
- Blessing and curse: understanding the social impact of Chinese mining in Africa by Mining Technology
Albert Rugaba is based in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen where facilitates both inbound Chinese investment and outbound projects. In China, he has experience assisting firms with their entry into the market and operational execution in the food, raw materials, and consumer products sectors. Albert also has an extensive background in commodity trading, particularly in the base and non-ferrous minerals segments that include copper colombium, tantalum, tin, and wolframite. Albert is Speaks fluent in French, English, Chinese, and Kinyarwanda with a good level of Swahili.