"China is now the African continent’s largest trading partner, accounting for
US$254 billion in 2021. It’s also the main country of origin for African
manufacturing imports, providing 16% of Africa’s total in 2018.
In most African countries the influx of Chinese products has become a major
concern because of the implications for industrialisation.
A flood of cheaper Chinese products could set back Africa’s infant or domestic
industries. Domestic manufacturers that couldn’t compete would be forced to
exit the market and would not create jobs.
There are serious implications for the continent’s economic development,
because industrialisation is widely seen as critical to improving living
There are also concerns about the impact Chinese manufactured exports are
having on wages in importing countries.
We explored these issues in a recent paper. We analysed the relationship
between Chinese import competition and labour market outcomes as they related
to women and men workers in Ethiopia. We merged a rich data set on
manufacturing firms with trade data between 1997 and 2010.
We mapped out the effect of import surges on labour force participation and
compensation. The impact of the influx of Chinese products in Ethiopia on
employment and wages differed for men and women, we found.
Employment levels declined overall for male and female manufacturing workers.
But women bore a disproportionate burden. Manufacturing firms exposed to
increased Chinese competition employed fewer female production workers than
Our findings matter because equality in the labour market is a starting point
to improve women’s economic and social status. It also helps to improve their
bargaining power in households."
*** Xanni ***
Chief Scientist, Xanadu
Partner, Glass Wings
Manager, Serious Cybernetics