Now, we continue with our "Rediscovering Africa" series, which will run everyday until the China-Africa Cooperation Forum opens in December. Our crew travelled to eleven countries on the African continent and sent back reports on Sino-African cooperation. Today, we focus on Ethiopia. Ethiopia is a traditional agricultural country, but in recent years it has made tremendous effort to attract foreign investors in manufacturing sector. One of such foreign investor is China's Huajian Group.
Each day, these workers can produce around 7,500 pairs of shoes at the Huajian International Shoe City in Ethiopia.
All these women's shoes are exported to US and European markets under brand names including Guess, MARC FISHER and Nine West.
Meseret Girma has been working in the stitching department for over two and a half years. She is satisfied with her work. And she says she will soon be promoted as department supervisor.
"Day by Day, I have changed something from my position to my salary; everything is changed day by day. So I feel happy. That’s why I start working in Huajian. Even to confront, I like to work in Huajian," Staff Meseret Girma with Huajian INternational Shoe City PLC said.
Huajian is one the biggest manufacturers of women's shoes in the world. It employs 4,000 workers in Ethiopia. But new workers without experience of manufacturing work need training.
From ordinary staff to higher management, Huajian offers each person here a chance to be trained and promoted. This is the rule that Demis Degef understood very well. In 2013 due to his hard work, Demis got a chance to be trained for a year at Huajian's headquarters in Dongguan in the south of China. Back to Ethiopia, he is now a factory supervisor, managing hundreds of local staff.
"I have learnt Chinese, Management and Huajian's Coporate Culture during the training. Among them the concept of time is very important. For example, if someone asked me to come at half past 2, I might be late and come at two thirty five. But after training in China, I changed my concept of time. If anyone tells me to come at 1 o'clock, I will one hundred percent make it," Demis Degef, factory supervisor of Huajian International Shoe CIty PLC, said.
In 2014 Huajian International Shoe City PLC exported goods worth 18 million USD. The president of Huajian Group, Zhang Huarong said in Ethiopia, his company was not just to reduce the labor cost by 10% to 12%, but to hope to build a whole supply chain in the East Afruican country and be a key contributor to the country’s economy.
"One of our biggest contribution is that we employed over 4,000 local people, so they have stable jobs and salaries. We also provide free breakfast, lunch, supper to them and shuttle bus services to and from the factory. This is not only a matter of raising work efficiency. What's more important is to overturn the mistaken idea worldwide that manufacturing in Africa is no good. As long as you have a good corporate culture, good training system and attitude to share with other people, you can build a good company in Africa," Zhang Huarong, president of Huajian Group, said.
Huajian was one of the first investors in the Eastern Industry Zone. Its performance has helped attract a growing number of other investors to the zone, which was set up in 2009 and is now the home to about 36 manufacturing enterprises, and most of them are Chinese manufacturers, and the rest are foreign ones.
"All the companies in the Eastern Industry Zone enjoy preferential policies including two years of free tax and a stable power supply. As a destination port of Ethiopia, all the goods shipped from any Chinese port can be delivered to these companies directly for checking. We also provide a one-stop service for Customs clearance," Jiao Yongshun, deputy director of Eastern Industry Zone in Ethiopia, said.
Ethiopia is now focusing on industrialization by boosting manufacturing. The federal government has a vision to make Ethiopia a middle-income country by 2025.
In our planning, we give a substantial focus to attract foreign direct investment, across the world, especially from China, both in leather and leather products, and textile, metal and metalurgy and engineering industries. We are now making the business environment as suitable for foreign direct investment," Ethiopian minister of Industry Ahmed Abtew said.
The minister says Ethiopia is the second most populous country in Africa, after Nigeria, which means the cheap labor force is a major advantage for manufacturing sector. And the country is now constructing several industrial parks to shorten the lead time for the private sector, hoping to attract more investors from China and other countires as well.
As China’s first shoe maker investing in Africa, the Huajian Group plans to make Ethiopia a global hub for the shoe industry within the next decade. The Ethiopian government hopes to enlarge its production capacity cooperation with China, by attracting more Chinese manufacturers, whose technical and financial support as well as experience will enhance their manufacturing sector, and help the country take off economically.