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Chinese manufacturers feel their way in African market

Updated: 2013-11-19 01:20
By Li Lianxing ( China Daily)

Chinese manufacturers feel their way in African market
A sales assistant shows a cell phone made by Haier, a widely known Chinese brand, in Nairobi, Kenya, in 2005. More and more products with the “Made in China” label, from shoe polish to trucks, have become part of daily life in Africa. Provided by Xinhua

Passengers leaving the airport in Johannesburg, one of Africa's busiest hubs, can see a long billboard near the baggage-claim area: "New choice, new life. Haier-inspired living."

Haier, a widely known Chinese brand of home electronics and appliances, has entered Africa as part of a long-range strategy to compete with other international manufacturers in the global marketplace.

Comment about China's engagement with Africa, now a subject of international attention, has in the past tended to focus on the country's involvement in infrastructure — the construction of roads, bridges, dams, stadiums and harbors. Claims have circulated, as well, that China's interest in Africa is mainly about access to the continent's natural resources.

Such perceptions have overshadowed China's other development work, especially in the manufacturing sector. And manufacturing is something Africa's emerging nations desperately need.

Contrary to myth, China's engagement with Africa is diversified, according to a recent report. The report — Survey Concerning Outbound Investment by Chinese Business in 2013 — was issued last month by the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade.

It shows that while State-owned enterprises are still the main players in Chinese outbound investment — with those businesses likely to go to North America and the European Union region, Chinese investment in Africa is mostly concentrated in the manufacturing sector, debunking the notion of skewed interest in the continent's natural resources.

The report said manufacturing accounts for more than 30 percent of all Chinese investment in sub-Saharan Africa, nearly double the investment in the mining sector.

Haier is not the only company that is localizing its commercial strategy in Africa. One competitor, Hisense, also from China, put a factory in South Africa more than 10 years ago.

Hisense may not have the bigger market share in China or other parts of the world, but its share in South Africa over the past decade has blossomed to nearly 20 percent, and is still growing. The company seeks to expand its business in other parts of Africa and increase its number of factories.

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