Industrialization in Africa: Ethiopia Wants to Become the New ‘Made in China’

A China in Africa Podcast

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 of goods every year. The government, though, wants to change this, which could be a huge opportunity for countries such as Ethiopia, as well as Africa as a whole.

As China transitions its economy from manufacturing to services, and a lot of industrial production looks for a new home, 85 million jobs will be up for grabs. 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 always are looking to keep costs as low as possible. Compared with regions such as Southeast Asia, where most of the outbound Chinese manufacturing is going, Ethiopia’s infrastructure is less developed, its work force 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. Back in 2011, she set up the company’s first factory in Addis Ababa where today 4,000 workers produce 7,500 pairs of shoes daily for famous brands such as 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 the industrial production that is now leaving China.

Helen joined Eric and Cobus to discuss the future of industrial production in Africa and why she thinks “Made in China” could one day become “Made in Africa.”