Helping African Brands Enter the Chinese Market
Despite reports on Covid-19-induced economic slowdowns in China, China’s middle-class and their purchasing power is continuing to grow at a rapid rate. Today, China is home to more than 40 percent of the global wealth middle class. Furthermore, these middle-class consumers are continuously looking out for new and unique foreign luxury brands to help them stand out from the crowd. Unsurprisingly then, China is still set to be the biggest luxury market by 2025. Within the luxury goods sector, jewelry and watches are amongst some of the most popular purchases making China one of the top countries in the world in terms of revenue worth over $85 billion in 2021. Interestingly, gold is becoming the most noticeably popular choice when it comes to jewelry and particularly amongst young consumers seeing a 56% year on year rise in 2021. Furthermore, purchases of gold jewelry as gifts increase significantly during the Chinese New Year. During the Chinese New Year holiday in Shanghai alone, gold jewelry consumption reached 1.1bn RMB (154mn USD) in 2021.
What is even more interesting is that sustainability have become massively important to Chinese consumers and especially when it comes to fashion purchases. In a 2021 survey, 53.8% of respondents stated that the main motivation for choosing environmentally and socially friendly products is ‘caring about the world and making both the environment and society better through individual actions’. Foreign luxury brands are taking note of this and emphasizing how their products are environmentally friendly or how their brand contributes in a positive way to societies.
For luxury gold jewelry brands that incorporate sustainable practices, never has it been a better time to take on the Chinese market. One such brand that has also recognized this opportunity is Yenaé whose story we are going to tell today. AR is a China market entry service platform and consultancy for luxury African brands. We support many incredible African brands from a range of sectors with selling in the Chinese market including Yenaé.
What is Yenaé ?
Yenaé is a high fashion, gold jewelry brand whose designs all represent a different piece of African history and culture, and is committed to sustainable practices. The story of Yenaé began when the brand’s founders, Seble Alemayehu and Felekech (Fei) Biratu, both Ethiopian-American women and jewelry enthusiasts, became friends while attending high school in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia. Alemayehu and Biratu followed similar paths – they traveled around the world before arriving in the United States to earn their MBA’s at the University of Maryland. As they are both jewelry lovers and are both inspired by Africa’s rich histories and cultures, they founded Yenaé in 2015 during an eight-week startup acceleration program, which led to the launching of the first collection in 2018. By the following year, Yenaé showcased its collection for the Ethiopian market at Addis Ababa Design Week 2019 in February.
Yenaé ‘s objective – The preservation and transmission of African histories and cultures
Alemayehu and Biratu use the Yenaé brand as a vehicle to tell stories from Africa. Each piece of jewelry represents a different piece of African history and culture, and the origin of the stories are verified by African historians and folklorists. Part of the reason for doing this is because it contributes to creating a more positive, accurate and African-led image of Africa. For the consumer, just by wearing a piece of Yenaé, it is like a journey into Africa Thus, when buying Yenaé, people are not only buying a piece of jewelry, they are also helping preserve African cultural heritage and local traditions.
Yenaé strives to contribute to the local economy in Ethiopia and across the continent. For example, they source raw materials such as semi-precious stones and have them processed by local artisans to keep the value-added within the African continent and contribute to Africa’s economic growth. This also allows Yenaé to showcase African talent to the international market. Yenaé focuses on overseas customers that love travelling, are interested in foreign cultures and like uniquely designed jewelry. Yenaé has a global customer base and especially in the USA where Alemayehu lives in Virginia. Yenaé has attracted a strong customer based in the USA and has even been featured in Vogue.
Yenaé is now also turning its sights to the lucrative opportunities that the Chinese market has to offer with the support of our team at Africa Reimagined (AR). Yenaé attended the 2021 China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo in the AR booth where the AR team sold and made business partnerships on Yenaé’s behalf. They were a huge hit with the attendees, which solidified Alemayehu and Biratu’s decision to continue exploring the Chinese market. Watch this space!
To purchase from and find out more about Yenaé, visit:
AR is a China market entry service platform and consultancy for luxury African brands. Visit our website to learn about our services and the brands we work with. Contact us to learn more about how:
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.
We support our clients throughout the whole onboarding and sales process on Chinese e-commerce platforms including registration, international and China-mainland logistics, storage, payment transfers, and marketing & advertising strategies.
In addition to supporting our clients with onboarding onto e-commerce platforms or developing their own WeChat stores, we also have our own Africa Reimagined e-commerce stores for our clients to sell on.
Kiliselect on WeChat Stores: Africa Reimagined launched on Kiliselect, which is a foremost e-commerce store for premium African products in China and the Chinese branch of East Africa’s Kilimall. It houses brands from a range of sectors including food and beverage, skincare and homeware. Kiliselect is found on WeChat Stores, which gives the store access to 1.2 billion active WeChat users across China.
JD-Worldwide: Next year, Africa Reimagined will open the first ever flagship, pan-Africa e-commerce store for premium African brands on JD-Worldwide, the cross-border e-commerce platform of China’s largest retailer, JD.com. It will sell exclusively luxury African brands from a range of sectors including, fashion and jewellery, food and beverage, skincare. and homeware.