AFRICANGLOBE – There’s a pretty good chance that some of the clothes you’re wearing, the shoes on your feet and even the device you’re using to read this were made in China. Even as its economy slows, China remains the world’s factory, churning out billions of dollars every year of goods. The government, though, wants to change this, which could be a huge opportunity for countries like Ethiopia — and the continent of Africa as a whole.
As China transitions its economy from manufacturing to services, some 85 million jobs will be up for grabs as a lot of that industrial production looks for a new home. Ethiopia, for its part, is aggressively positioning itself as a destination for some of that Chinese manufacturing.
Ethiopia, and Africa in general, may be a tough sale for manufacturers who are always looking to keep costs as low as possible. Compared to regions like Southeast Asia, where most of the outbound Chinese manufacturing is going, Ethiopia’s infrastructure is less developed, its workforce is less educated and its supply chain networks are not as a robust.
But none of Ethiopia’s challenges seems to discourage Helen Hai. Helen is the exuberant CEO of the Made in Africa Initiative and former vice president of the Chinese shoe-making giant Huajian. She helped set up the company’s first factory near Addis Ababa where today some 4,000 workers produce 7,500 pairs of shoes for famous brands like Guess, Nine West and many others.
Helen believes the success of Huajian in Ethiopia is just the beginning. She points to the country’s ability to attract Chinese auto manufacturers and other heavy industry as evidence that not just Ethiopia but Africa in general is well-positioned to pick up some of that industrial production that is now leaving China.