Helping African Brands Enter the Chinese Market
Over the past few decades, it has become abundantly clear that ‘aid’ is not the only answer to Africa’s development. Solving economic and social challenges requires more than just financial aid, with an urgent need for structural change – in trade, investment and people.
Since the late 2000s, China has become an increasingly prominent development partner for many African countries – with a crucial component of Africa-China relations being trade. Since 2008, China has been the continents largest trading partner! Nevertheless, there is an acute trade imbalance in China’s favour, as 40 out of 55 African countries have a significant trade deficit with China. Moreover, Africa’s trade with China is highly concentrated in primary products, with exports dominated by oil, ores, agricultural products, and precious metals. This lack of export diversification leaves many African countries vulnerable to external shocks, most recently seen in the commodity price slumps from COVID-19 impacts.
Overall, this trade imbalance combined with the lack of value-addition dampens possible job creation, foreign exchange generation and value-chain development from flourishing. This is not sustainable, especially given the lack of jobs in African countries, with over 600 million unemployed people.
This is precisely why we launched our first flagship in 2019 – Africa Reimagined – with the mission of cultivating sustainable, impactful development through helping African brands enter the vast and growing Chinese market. We are redefining the development field by making a tangible difference by focusing on real people, real impacts, and real change.
All the brands we support have an entirely African-based supply chain, and therefore keep value-addition – and its subsequent benefits – in the continent. Empowering these brands stimulates positive socio-economic change, with our mission being closely aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals to tackle poverty in its variety of forms.
The Chinese market offers many opportunities for African brands. First off, China’s consumer market is enormous! The country has 18% of the global population (1.4 billion), with China’s domestic retail sales forecast to increase by 13.8% in 2021, following China’s COVID-19 recovery. Moreover, throughout the pandemic, Chinese consumers are shifting towards purchasing ethical and sustainably-produced products. According to a 2021 McKinsey report, Chinese consumers lead the world in researching brand and product choices before buying, with over 70% of survey respondents stating that they had spent more time and money on eco-friendly products throughout the pandemic.
However, entering the Chinese market is no easy feat. Africa Reimagined provides strategic support to African companies to navigate the complex Chinese market, which can be difficult to grasp given a host of factors such as language barriers and the opaqueness of the business environment.
But do Chinese consumers actually have an appetite for high-end, luxury African products?
The answer is an emphatic YES.
We discovered this during our experience at the 2019 expo when we invited seven African businesses from seven different African countries. During the expo, our interactive ‘Africa Reimagined’ booth attracted thousands of Chinese and international visitors with the brand products flying off the shelves, with 90% of our products sold out, with numerous partnership and distribution connections made.
And this year, we did it all again! The second CAETE expo was held from September 26th to 29th, where we introduced an additional ten exciting, innovative SME African brands to the Chinese market. These brands demonstrate a broad range of African talents and expertise and sit within various sectors such as footwear, fashion, jewellery and beverages, and come from a range of countries, including Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and South Africa. Once again, the brand’s products were extremely popular!
First, we have Kazi Yetu, a Tanzanian organic tea brand, who package their tea using biodegradable pyramid bags to keep environmental impact to a minimum. Kazi Yetu also employs marginalised, artisanal women, most of whom are single mothers. The brand also reinvests a proportion of its profits too supporting over 2,000 Tanzanian farmers through training programmes. There is a growing demand for unique, foreign tea in China, with the tea market valued at over USD 10 billion. Kazi Yetu can tap into this demand and reach thousands of new customers, especially through utilising China’s e-commerce and retail channels.
Other examples of the brands we support include 1000 Hills Distillery from Rwanda, who sources all their materially locally to support other Rwandan SMEs and turns the methanol by-product into a low-cost mosquito repellent.
Or take Monks Gin from South Africa, who use locally sourced botanicals from the mountains around their distillery to reduce their carbon footprint. The distillery is also the first off-grid distillery in Africa and is powered by solar energy!
Freddy is a research intern in Africa Reimagined. He focuses on Chinese market research and wishes to assist African high-end brands to achieve success in China. He also has interest in international relations. Freddy is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in economics.
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.
Fikayo Akeredolu is a finance and research analyst at Development Reimagined. She is studying for a PhD in Politics & International Relations at Oxford. Her research focuses on how African countries can better leverage economic and political power. She has experience in financial products from Bloomberg LP and Thomson Reuters. She is also a Schwarzman Scholar.
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 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
Patrick is an International Trade Policy and Trade Law Expert with over 5 years of experience. His expertise includes trade law, trade policy analysis and regional integration. He is currently engaged with Development Reimagined as a Senior Trade Analyst, and he applies his Trade Policy expertise to AR’s work. Patrick has previously consulted for the East African Community, UNECA and for the Kenya Ministry of Trade.
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.
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 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 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 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.