Standard Bank digital drive connects African exporters with Chinese market

Business Reporter

STANBIC Bank’s parent company, Standard Bank, is hosting digital match-making events, which connect African exporters with Chinese importers, to complement its physical participation at the China International Import Expo (CIIE) in Shanghai.

African clients from across the continent will be virtually “matched” for discussion on opportunities with potential Chinese buyers who are interested in importing African products.

These buyers or importers are clients of Standard Bank’s strategic partner, the Industrial Commercial Bank of China (ICBC). The digital event comes in response to challenges brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic. Digital match-making forums also allow African exporters to participate in the activities of the import-led trade show without having to be there physically.

Standard Bank has participated in the CIIE since its inception in 2018, as it looks to grow trade and investment relationships between Africa and China. Philip Myburgh, head of Africa/China banking at Standard Bank said the third CIIE arrives at a time when the facilitation of trade is crucial to offsetting the economic consequences of Covid-19. 

“It is critical that we find new ways of connecting our customers to the markets that hold potential for African businesses to expand and grow,” he said.

“Covid-19 has created opportunities on both fronts. African businesses are looking for opportunities to diversify and make up for losses experienced during the year.

“At the same time, Chinese importers are considering new markets to source products from amid geopolitical uncertainty. Many Chinese buyers are even looking at entering extended commitments (over one or five years) as opposed to agreeing to a single deal.”  

Standard Bank says it has received increased interest from its African client businesses who want to access China, and from those who are already exporting to the Asian country. “Meanwhile, on China’s side, there is interest in gaining direct access to African manufacturers and suppliers. Many Chinese customers say they want to engage directly with suppliers, rather than agents,” said the bank.

“The interest has therefore piqued in the CIIE event as we are bringing the actual exporters themselves so that Chinese importers can engage with them directly.”

Standard Bank recently piloted the digital match-making solution ahead of the CIIE, with a focus on four specific products from 21 African exporters. The ICBC hosted 40-plus importers, many of whom come from the Hunan province in China. Hunan province is a government-dedicated and strategic district for conducting trade and economic investment specifically in Africa.

In response to challenges brought on by the pandemic, Standard Bank said it will continue to roll out digital matchmaking as an additional capability to its existing export and import client solutions.

“The virtual match-making sessions are tangible demonstrations of our persistent strategy to support our clients through creating a focused trade ecosystem around the Africa China corridor,” says Mr Myburgh.

“We are positive about the uniqueness of our digital match-making at this year’s CIIE, and with fewer clients able to travel to China physically this year, Chinese importers are expected to be more intentional in their engagements and this could yield positive outcomes for African exporters and the continent as a whole.”

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