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In The Future, 'Made In China' Could Become 'Made In Africa'

Thanks to Beijing’s economic transition, Africa has a chance to pick up some of the industrial production now leaving China.

09/06/2016 8:44 AM AEST
AFP via Getty Images
TO GO WITH AFP STORY by Jenny Vaughan A picture taken on April 19, 2012 shows a worker lacing up boots on the assembly line at Huajian shoe factory in Dukem, Ethiopia. Huajian is one of six Chinese factories operating in the Chinese-built Eastern Industry Zone—Ethiopia’s first industrial park—which the government hopes will attract private foreign investment and boost the country’s manufacturing and export sector. As part of its ambitious Growth and Transformation Plan, Ethiopia hopes increased foreign investment will boost overall economic growth and allow the country to reach middle-income status by 2025. But some say the country is moving too fast with its financial scheme, which could create economic chaos and scare off investors. As China’s own economy matures, companies such as Huajian are moving to Africa to seek affordable labour. With a population of 82 million, Ethiopia is Africa’s second most populous nation and is rich in natural resources such and leather and cotton, a major attraction for investors. AFP PHOTO/JENNY VAUGHAN. (Photo credit should read JENNY VAUGHAN/AFP/GettyImages)

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.

Helen joins Eric & Cobus -- in the podcast above -- to discuss the future of industrial production in Africa and why she thinks "Made in China" could one day become "Made in Africa."

Join the discussion. Do you think Africa is ready to transform itself from largely commodity and agricultural-based economies to manufacturing industrial goods? What about the lack of infrastructure, corruption and poor governance? Let us know what you think:

Facebook: www.facebook.com/ChinaAfricaProject

Twitter: @eolander | @stadenesque

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