Chinese Entrepreneurs in Africa, Land of a Billion Customers

A report on Danwei looks at the individual entrepreneurs and small companies from China who are trying to strike it rich in Africa:

Although multi-billion natural resource deals dominate the headlines, as many as 80 per cent of the Chinese companies that are currently operating in Africa are small or medium-sized enterprises, according to Dr Jing Gu, a research fellow at Sussex University’s Institute of Development Studies.

They have come to get rich, she says: “Chinese private sector investment in Africa is not driven by Chinese government policy or Chinese political interests. They are more focused on the pursuit of profit.”

[…] Many Chinese on the continent came over with the large SOEs but then spotted openings in the market that were too good to resist. “In terms of actual SMEs, companies with hundreds or thousands of employees, there are relatively few,” says Adam Mahamat, a project advisor from Cameroon who now works at the China-Africa Business Council in Beijing. “What we have seen is that Chinese people who first went over to Africa to work for state-owned businesses are quitting these jobs and setting up on their own. Then they invite their friends and families over to help them when they begin to grow.”

In the eyes of small Chinese companies, Africa is a land of opportunity. As one African official in Beijing put it: “The Chinese view Africa as an entity of one billion potential customers, much like the way the West views China.”

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