Africa Reimagined at the first China-Africa Economic Trade Expo in Africa – the beginning of a new opportunity for enhanced Africa to China trade

On May 9-11, Africa Reimagined (AR) organized for seven premium East-African brands – spanning diverse sectors such as fashion & accessories, food & beverage, and skincare – to join the first African edition of the China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo (CAETE). Working in  collaboration with the International Trade Centre (ITC), our aim with the AR space was not just to enable these 7 excellent brands to display their products but make the right connections to make inroads into the Chinese market.

So how did they do?

First, a bit of background. This Kenya CAETE edition was jointly hosted by China’s Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) and KenInvest at the prestigious Kenya International Conference Center (KICC) to bolster Chinese investment in East Africa and trade between the two regions. The event spanned 2,000 square meters and attracted over 200 Chinese and African companies across a range of sectors including logistics, agriculture, construction and consumer goods. Previously, the CAETE has been a biennial even that occurs exclusively in the southern Chinese city of Changsha in 2019, 2021, and 2023. AR has been a featured exhibitor at every CAETE event in China and supported 29 African brands with entering the Chinese market through our attendance.

Since the first China CAETE in 2019, we have seen a shift away from displays of primarily raw agricultural and unbranded products towards high-quality, value-added and branded products, such as wine, roasted coffee, skincare, as well as some fashion and jewellery. Last year’s China CAETE was the biggest and most successful yet with 1,600 kinds of commodities from 29 African countries. Nevertheless, given the China-base, a large focus of the CAETE’s so far have been on Chinese displays of products and technologies, rather than African displays. Thus, an African-based CAETE seemed in principle a fantastic opportunity for African governments to take more ownership over the management of the event and push for greater African representation and Africa to China instead of China to Africa trade. If the Chinese edition could achieve greater diversity, so could the African edition!

The reality was more complex. At the Kenya CAETE, the exhibitor list was heavily focused on Chinese exhibits of construction materials, logistic services and agricultural machinery and the Chinese attendees stemmed largely from these sectors as well. Over the course of the three-day expo, the attendees and exhibitors engaged largely in securing business deals for machinery, Africa to China logistics services, as well as the purchasing of wholesale African agricultural products and to a lesser extent, the purchasing of African products.

Therefore, within our AR-ITC space, the primary interactions between our seven brands (Kazi Yetu tea from Kenya, Raintree Farms skincare from Uganda, Mille Collines from South Africa, and O’bao skincare, The Chocolate Bar, The Shaba bags and Oye accessories from Kenya) and the attendees resulted in relationship building with logistics companies to ease the export process to China and the selling of products. At the same time, the skincare and food and beverage brands were very popular with the Chinese visitors and several sold out most of their products including Kazi Yetu and Raintree Farms. Given the quality and uniqueness of the products displayed in the ITC-AR section, our brands also attracted a great amount of media attention including TV interviews with China’s biggest news agencies, CGTN and CCTV and a radio interview with CGTN’s Africa Talk radio show.

The positive reception from both the attendees and media was very positive and must be built on and used to pave the way for more African brands to attend future African CAETEs – held in Kenya or elsewhere. For future CAETEs, MOFCOM should recognize the importance of diversity and the positive contribution African brands make to achieving the Chinese government goal of increasing the value of Africa to China trade by prioritizing inclusivity and a greater representation of African brand. This should be done by ensuring African co-hosts such as KenInvest, in this case, take on a more prominent and early role in the planning of the event and is empowered to select at least half of the exhibitor list, including with budgets provided for more African participants.

Authorities such as KenInvest must also acknowledge that it would be remiss to neglect the opportunity both for African brands and governments not to showcase the continent’s successful businesses and brands in their utmost capacity – and that partnership with African organisations such as ours or CANEX who organize the annual intra-Africa trade fair can also be useful. Both MOFCOM and KenInvest and its equivalents should also prioritize extending invitations to stakeholders with diverse interests beyond agriculture, logistics and construction to support and provide a comprehensive representation of Africa’s dynamic entrepreneurial landscape.

Nevertheless, this recent CAETE, the first “African edition”, indeed marks a promising beginning for future CAETEs on the continent with significant potential for ongoing improvement – these engagements can drive greater success and strengthen bilateral trade links between Africa and China. As for the seven brands that exhibited in the AR-ITC section, we will not stop here! AR will continue to work with these brands to accelerate their journey into the Chinese market and support their attendance at other events in China – or organized with Chinese stakeholders elsewhere – to grow their market, grow their businesses and create more jobs. Every little bit will help!

Please see our recent interview with CCTV.

AR is a flagship China market-entry program of Development Reimagined (DR), an award-winning international development consultancy headquartered in Beijing and with offices in Nairobi and London. Since its inception in 2019, AR has successfully assisted 36 African brands from 11 different African countries in establishing and expanding their presence in the Chinese market. Book a consultation 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

Economist

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.

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