Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the West African country of Senegal over the weekend, building trade ties which could bear fruit in terms of China’s access to U.S. markets.
Xi met with his Senegalese counterpart Macky Sall, as well as Senegalese Prime Minister Mohammed Dionne, as part of a two-day visit which began on Saturday.
Following bilateral talks, Senegal signed up to be the first West African nation committed to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, a multi-billion dollar scheme to resurrect ancient trading routes centered on China.
Senegal, with a population of just 16 million, might seem like a curious stop for Xi given that Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy, is also in the West Africa region.
But according to Ibrahima Diong, who has served as Senegal’s minister of Chinese affairs, the country’s location is particularly attractive.
“For any Chinese companies that would like to export to the U.S., you cannot get better than Senegal,” he told CNBC via telephone, highlighting its position on the west coast of the African continent.
China is Senegal’s second largest trading partner after its former colonial power France.
Xi’s visit to Senegal was the first stop of a broader tour of the African continent. He landed in Rwanda on Monday and will then attend a BRICS summit in South Africa, before stopping in Mauritius. The Chinese president visited the United Arab Emirates earlier last week.
Xi's Africa visit is his fourth to the continent since he took office in 2013, and his first overseas trip since beginning his second term as Chinese president in March of this year.