The new Chinese-built railway linking the Ethiopian capital and the port of Djibouti is Africa’s first modern electrified railway (XINHUA)
A line of sleek suede pumps in maroon displayed in American malls aren't just high fashion for women. They are Ivanka Trump brand shoes, footwear launched by Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka in 2011. While the political association of the products is evident, few know of the other wider significance which encompasses two different continents.
The bulk of Ivanka Trump's footwear is being made by the Huajian Group, a Chinese manufacturer. In five years they have produced 100,000 pairs of Ivanka Trump and in August, after Donald Trump became the official presidential candidate of the Republican Party, they received an order for 20,000 more pairs, the group's spokesperson Liu Shiyuan told AFP.
Back in 2011 Huajian became the first Chinese shoemaker to enter the African market, investing in factories in Ethiopia. The "Made in China" story subsequently has become a "Made in Africa" tale, with exports to Europe and the United States, bringing in foreign exchange worth $44.49 million, creating jobs for 3,600 Ethiopians and raising the profile of the Ethiopian shoe industry.
Today, says Liu, the group is building the Huajian International Light Industrial Zone in Ethiopia. The 320-million-yuan ($47.5 million) project will be
completed in 2020 when it is estimated to provide jobs to 100,000 people, mostly locals.
The Chinese group's entry dovetailed perfectly with Ethiopia's five-year "Growth and Transformation Plan (2010-15)" when the government focused on light industry, seeking an industrial shift toward high-end manufactured products.
It is an example of how Chinese investment is creating a win-win situation for both Africa and China. And Guangdong in southeast China, Huajian's home, is a role model for such mutually beneficial cooperation.
According to the Guangdong Provincial Government, in 2015 alone, the province invested in 28 projects in Africa, with new investment contracts totaling $510 million, a year-on-year growth of 317.1 percent. It raised Guangdong's investment projects in Africa to 176 and the value of investment contracts to $1.46 billion. This has been possible due to the growing interconnectivity between Guangdong and African countries. By 2015, there were 25 international container liner routes from Guangdong to the continent and associations between Guangzhou Port, Port of Durban, South Africa, and Port of Dakar, Senegal.
Another consequence of the greater interconnectivity has been more Africans coming to China and vice versa. In 2015, 353,400 Africans came to China. Also, 658,600 people left for African destinations from Guangdong's ports.
All this makes Guangzhou, the provincial capital, the perfect host for the annual Investing in Africa Forum. The second edition of the forum, held in September after the G20 Summit and the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation Summit, is a reaffirmation by the Chinese leaders that they will continue to direct investors toward Africa.
"We will continue to encourage Chinese enterprises to expand their investments in Africa," Chinese Vice Premier Ma Kai said at the forum. "Chinese investment aims to help African countries increase job opportunities, protect the environment and improve people's livelihoods."
The forum highlights the change in the nature of Chinese investment in Africa. Though Africa's biggest trade partner for seven consecutive years, business is no longer the Chinese focus. Instead, the thrust is on accelerating African development. "We will support sustainable development in Africa to reduce divergences and we will help African countries to improve their investment capacity," said Ma. "In a word, we will forge a new model of South-South cooperation."
The international community, once critical of China's interest in Africa, is now acknowledging China's role in the continent's development, especially as true to its word, China has intensified efforts to work with multilateral partners. The second Investing in Africa Forum had the World Bank Group among the organizers, besides the central and Guangdong provincial governments and the China Development Bank with the support of African governments. South African President Jacob Zuma and his counterpart in Benin, Patrice Talon, also attended the Guangzhou forum.
Last year, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization was among the organizers when the Ethiopian Government hosted the meet in Addis Ababa.
"China has been an important partner in [Africa's] progress as Africa's single biggest trading partner," said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim. "Knowledge and experience sharing are becoming increasingly important dimensions of the China-Africa partnership. China's economic progress - and its remarkable poverty reduction - offers lessons and insights for Africa."
He also said that China has a lot to offer Africa in terms of trade, investment, finance, experience, know-how, and capacity building. "Over the past two decades, China has become an important partner in Africa's growth and development. We believe that will continue, and this relationship will help millions of people lift themselves out of poverty and realize their opportunities for a better life."
According to Kim, Africa faces four challenges: lack of infrastructure, slow agricultural development, sluggish industrialization and inadequate investment in human resources, especially in education and healthcare. Chinese assistance is directed toward overcoming all these challenges.
China is building ports, airports, roads and energy projects in Africa. Chinese agricultural experts are teaching African farmers to enhance their crop yield and the Chinese Government is building schools in Africa as well as providing higher education to African students in Chinese institutions.
One of China's first assistance projects was in 1963 when Chinese doctors went to Algeria to help cope with the vacuum left by the pullout of French doctors in the wake of Algeria's liberation. Since then, this medical cooperation has been growing. Chinese assistance in combating malaria and Ebola has been especially appreciated. And Chinese expertise as a manufacturing nation has been extended to African countries.
"China has supported growth in African manufacturing through investment and know-how, for example in garments in Ethiopia," said Kim. "Africa can position itself to benefit from China's transition toward an economy based more on services and household consumption."
More and more global agencies are echoing Kim. Earlier this year, at the Forum on Chinese Investment for Sustainable Trade and Economic Growth in Africa, Arancha Gonzalez, Executive Director of the International Trade Center, said, "Increased Chinese investments supporting African small and medium enterprises in the light manufacturing and agro-processing sectors will leverage opportunities to increase exports to the regional and global markets."
African governments, realizing the benefits of such partnerships, are welcoming and helping Chinese investors.
Automobile company Foshan Nanhai Winhope International Trade Co. has been involved in the African market since 1998. Its business runs in countries many other investors tend to avoid due to the uncertain security situation, like Mali, Angola and the Republic of the Congo.
"We plan to invest in an automobile manufacturing plant in the Republic of the Congo, worth more than $200 million," Wang Yi, President of the Winhope International Group, told CCTV. "And the government shows their support with orders of $500 million." CA
(Reporting from Guangzhou)