Chinese firm steps up investment in Ethiopia with ‘shoe city’
Shoemaker Huajian says new $2bn manufacturing zone will transfer skills to locals so they can become the future managers.
Helen Hai, vice-president of Chinese footwear manufacturer the Huajian Group, has a bold ambition. Within a decade, she wants Ethiopia to be a global hub for the shoe industry, supplying the African, European and American markets.
“We are not coming all the way here just to reduce our costs by 10 to 20%,” Hai says. “Our aim is in 10 years’ time to have a new cluster of shoe making here. We want to build a whole supply chain … I want everything to be produced here.”
Huajian has a factory near Addis Ababa employing 600 people, which opened in January 2012, and has committed to jointly invest $2bn (£1.3bn) over the next decade to create a light manufacturing special economic zone in Ethiopia, creating employment for around 100,000 Ethiopians. The company, which employs 25,000 workers in China, expects to be able to provide around 30,000 jobs in Addis Ababa by 2022.
Huajian’s partner in this project is the China-Africa Development Fund (CADFund), a private equity facility promoting Chinese investment in the continent. Born out of the 2006 Forum on China-Africa Co-operation, the fund was launched in June 2007 with $1bn provided by the China Development Bank. A further injection of $2bn was made early last year.