As China extends its reach ever more deeply into Africa’s economies, one country has quietly but aggressively moved in the opposite direction, with its companies becoming major players in booming Chinese industries.
Companies with roots in South Africa, the largest and most sophisticated economy on the continent, have eagerly expanded beyond national borders since the end of apartheid-era sanctions in 1994. Few of these new markets have proved as lucrative as China, where lessons learned in poor, complex African markets have given the companies an edge against U.S. and European competitors, South African business executives say.
Beijing’s largest daily newspaper is part-owned by a South African company. China’s largest brewer is operated and part-owned by SABMiller, formerly South African Breweries. And two coal-to-liquid-fuel plants under consideration by South Africa’s Sasol would, if built, make the energy giant the single-largest foreign investor in China, analysts say.