Geographical Indications: An Opportunity for Africa to Add Value to Exports

 In analysis, infographic

This week, the United Kingdom held the UK-Africa Investment Summit, whereby the country committed to strengthening its economic partnerships with African nations and announced commitments to support job creation, trade and investment across Africa, including a £20 million programme that will support businesses in developing countries to increase trade with international markets, such as China.

The initiative-Trade Connect- will support African businesses to grow and export around the world. And with China one of the biggest consumer markets, growing at a massive 16% per year, now is the time for African businesses to scale up and capture the window of opportunity offered by China.

The trade relationship between China and Africa is expanding year on year, however so is the trade deficit – with African countries on average trading at a 30:1 import to export ratio with China. This pattern continues across G20 countries with on average just 3% of all products imported by the G20 coming from Africa!

These stark trade imbalances severely impact the capacity of African countries to create jobs, earn foreign exchange, and develop sustainably to cut poverty – calling for a more sustainable Africa-China or Africa- EU relationship will help alleviates the acute trade imbalance.

But, in real terms how can African countries increase trade and subsequently support poverty reduction and sustainable development on the continent?

There are two strategies for increasing imports from Africa: increase the volume of African exports or increase the value of African exports.

Geographical indications tackle the latter – value and the UK Trade Connect Initiative could take a leading role in supporting African countries with this.

Geographical Indications grant distinct rights to “the qualities, characteristics or reputation of the product essentially due to the place of origin,” according to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO). In other words, GI protection allows producers to raise retail prices.

So far there are a total of 186 African Geographical Indications documented in the Origin database. Broadly, they fall into two categories: food and non-food products.

African food products with GIs are very diverse. They include Guinean and Ethiopian coffees, Cameroonian honey and pepper, Mozambican goat meat, and Kenyan tea. However, all food product GIs, except for one, are only protected at the national level. The exception is South African lamb, which is protected in the EU. Especially important is the fact no African food product GIs are protected in China.

For non-food products, wines account for majority of African GIs. Over 100 African wine brands have GIs, most of which are protected in third countries. However, again no African non-food GIs – whether protected elsewhere or nationally – are protected in China.

This lack of GI protection in China and elsewhere is increasingly important because while African products are not yet GI protected in China, a few GI products are certainly set to grow there such as South African wines, South African rooibos tea, and Kenyan teas.

At present, the African Union has a strategy for promoting the adoption of GIs, particularly in the agricultural sector. The EU is also working with African regional blocs such as the East African Community to increase mutual recognition of GIs. But nothing has been achieved yet with China. It’s a gaping hole in international cooperation.

Therefore, at Development Reimagined, we have the following 4 recommendations for African leaders and the Chinese Government, but also for the UK Trade Connect Initiative, that has the opportunity to make a substantial difference by thinking innovatively about trade:

First, we should ensure protection of African goods in China but also in the EU, so that brands reap the benefits of their innovation. The African Union and African governments should push for GI protection in conjunction with their signing of MOUs and removing other non-tariff barriers. Specifically, the Chinese government should also promote further agreements that guarantee mutual recognition of IP and GIs in China. South African wines, Rwandan coffees, and Egyptian cottons are already for sale on Chinese e-commerce platforms Alibaba, JD, and TMall. However, most are not protected. There must be increased cooperation and legal support for these producers and products- an area Trade Connect can support.

Second, we should encourage more partnerships between Chinese investors and African brands. Through Development Reimagined’s partnership with the Made in Africa Initiative, we encourage Chinese companies not to just distribute their products in Africa, but to actually invest and build factories there. Some are starting to build factories to serve domestic markets and the EU, where GIs and IP are well protected. More factories should also be built to directly serve the Chinese market. This is a ripe area for investment and would help countries diversify out of agriculture and commodity-based production, following China’s example.

Third, we should make the Chinese market easier to navigate for African brands. The vast majority of these brands are fairly small-scale, so they need cheap and easy access to information about how to register GIs and other IPs in China. Sustainable, market-led support for these small players is badly needed.

And fourth, we should encourage Chinese tourism in African countries that is specifically designed to increase exposure to GI products and brands. The experience of Longjing tea attracting tourists to Hangzhou and vice versa is a perfect example of this match. Products such as South African rooibos tea have developed appeal for an increasing number of Chinese consumers through their travel to South Africa. A great deal more can be done with variation on this theme – and with growing Chinese outward tourism every year, there is every reason to harness this spending power in Africa.

Geographical Indications represent an opportunity for African countries to be proactive in protecting their already rich and unique intellectual, cultural, and territorial heritage. Protecting GIs does come with more capital investments up front in legal fees as well as education to institutionalize processes; and it does rest on a country’s capacity for international cooperation and governance. Therefore, it is important governments and programs, such as Trade Connect, create initiatives that enable this.

In the long term, adding value with GIs diversifies risk away from commodity prices, and instead builds a platform for sustainable growth that will lead Africa into the future.

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Research Analyst

Edmond is a research analyst who is passionate about sustainable development, innovation, and the environment. Passionate about climate financing, he firmly believe there is a more reliable system to promote equality, growth, and welfare in societies without affecting the ecosystem. Through his skills, knowledge and experienced gained over 7 years, he wants to make an impact in the world of development. Edmond holds a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from Korea Development Institute and a BA Degree (Honors) in Business from University of Derby.


    Founder and CEO

Hannah Ryder is the Founder & CEO of Development Reimagined. A former diplomat and economist with 20 years of experience, named one of 100 most influential Africans in 2021, she is also Senior Associate for the Africa Program of the Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS), sits on the Board of the Environmental Defence Fund, and is a member of UAE's International Advisory Council on the New Economy. Prior to her role at DR, Ms Ryder led the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s work with China to help it scale up and improve its cooperation with other developing countries, including in Africa. She has also played various advisory roles for the UN and OECD and co-authored the seminal Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change in 2006.


Deputy Director

Leah Lynch is Deputy Director of Development Reimagined (DR), and head of the China office. Leah has over 10 years of experience in development and has lived in China for over 8 years. Leah has also travelled extensively around Asia and Africa for research. Leah supports the strategic direction of the team across China, with a mission to deliver high quality research on sustainable development and poverty reduction. Leah is also Chair of the Sustainability Forum at the British Chamber of Commerce in China, providing direction on sustainability initiatives for British and Chinese business. Leah has also consulted on various evaluations on UK aid (ICAI) and is a specialist on development cooperation from the UK and China. Leah has also consulted on various UN projects, including providing support to the UN China team during the COVID-19 Pandemic. Prior to DR, Leah was at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) China, supporting the UN’s portfolio on communication strategies, China’s South- South Cooperation and the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Before UNDP, Leah lived and worked in Kenya developing sustainable water policies for the Kenyan government.


China-Africa Policy Analyst

Yike Fu is a Policy Analyst and has been responsible for leading numerous areas of work, including on debt analysis in Africa and beyond, and China-Africa trade and investment logistics and analysis. She is the co-author of “African Debt Guide”, in which she challenged the narrative that Africa is in the midst of a new debt crisis by analysing data back to the 1970s and adopting new metrics to present the real story behind the data. She also developed a benchmark to compare the financial distribution of development partners such as the UK, US, Japan, France and China in Africa. Prior to her role at DR she worked at the International Finance Corporation and African Union Representational Mission to the US. She holds a Masters in International Affairs from George Washington University.


Research Analyst

Judith is a Research and Policy Analyst, where she specialises in Africa-China relations, international development, and diplomacy. During her time at Development Reimagined, Judith has co-authored several articles published in The Diplomat on debt and China-Barbados relations and was quoted by China Daily in a piece on Women Rights in China. Previously, Judith worked as a research analyst for an Advocate and Commissioner and Oats office in Kenya.


Policy Analyst

Ovigwe specialises in geopolitics with particular reference to Africa in a changing Global Order. He is adept at critically analysing the politics of contemporary development processes and providing insight into the geopolitical interests that influence them. His work includes research, publications, tailored briefings and advising on global and regional trends, and issues at the nexus of geopolitics and development. Ovigwe appears frequently in media around the world such as Al Jazeera, TRT World, SABC, CGTN, BBC Radio, and other platforms.


Policy Analyst

Jing leads China-African health and agriculture cooperation research at Development Reimagined, having managed our FOCAC Policy Analysis and Advocacy project. She is also the co-author of “China-Africa Health Cooperation under FOCAC Umbrella”, in which she analysed China’s commitments around health cooperation since the first FOCAC summit and deepdived into four African countries’ health overview, challenges and cooperation with China as cases studies. Before DR, Jing worked at GIZ Cambodia on M&E of a disability advocacy project. She also worked as a translator with Chinese medical team in Benin.


Trade Policy Analyst

Patrick is an International Trade Policy and Trade Law Expert with over 5 years of experience. His expertise includes trade law, trade policy analysis and regional integration. He is currently engaged with Development Reimagined as a Senior Trade Analyst and was the lead author of Development Reimagined's recent Report on Africa-China Relations titled "From China-Africa to Africa- China: A Blue Print for a Green and Inclusive Continent-Wide Strategy Towards China." and “Reimaging FOCAC Going Forward.” Patrick has previously consulted for the East African Community, UNECA and for the Kenya Ministry of Trade.


Senior Policy Analyst 

Rosemary is our Senior Policy Analyst. She is a skilled policy analyst and has previously worked as a UK civil servant. She is studying Human Rights at Birkbeck, University of London with a research focus on international law in the context of health crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic.


Project Manager and Africa-China Communication Assistant

Jade is a Project Manager for Development Reimagined’s flagship project Africa Unconstrained, which focuses on financing needs and debt vulnerabilities of African countries. Her research focuses on China-Africa development finance alongside debt vulnerabilities, infrastructure needs and South-South cooperation. She has worked with a breadth of stakeholders from China, Africa and the wider international community, including governments, private sector, NGOs and civil society. Her writing has appeared in a number of publications, including The Africa Report, The China-Africa Project, The Diplomat and more. Jade holds a Master’s in China and Globalisation studies from King’s College London.


Programme Manager

Rosie is the Project Manager of Africa Reimagined (AR) at Development Reimagined (DR) where she supports high-end African brands with entering the Chinese market by operating services such as trademark protection, Chinese market research, Chinese partnership building, and Africa to China logistical support and import/export services. Rosie has worked with DR for over two years now with proven success in helping high-end African brands navigate the Chinese market. She is extremely passionate about her work because more African brands selling in the Chinese marketplace means African countries can export MORE value-added goods, create MORE jobs and foster MORE innovation in African countries.

Rosie is also alumni of the School of International Studies at Peking University in Beijing where she is also an editor at the Peking Africa Think Tank. PATT is led by a diverse group of scholars who specialise in African Studies within the context of Sino-Africa relations.



Lauren has lived in six countries from the Americas to Europe and Asia and speaks both French and Spanish proficiently. At Development Reimagined, Lauren’s research focuses on climate action both in the Asia-Pacific and in Africa, and how countries are using tools such as SDGs and Covid-19 action to build a more climate-resilient future. She holds a Masters in International Relations from Leiden University.



Etsehiwot holds a Masters’s degree in Development Studies from the London School of Economics. She has diverse experience in humanitarian and development issues by working in both multilateral organizations and international non-governmental organizations. Etsehiwot is currently a consultant focusing on the SDGs and development finance.


Economist Consultant

Dibekulu is an economist by training. He holds an MSc in International Development Studies from Palacky University Olomouc, an MSc in Development Economics from the University of Clermont Auvergne, and an MSc in Economics, Finance, and International Integration from the University of Pavia. At Development Reimagined, he works as an Economist consultant. He has strong data analysis skills, with research interests centring around development finance, impact assessment, food security, and agricultural insurance.


Project Manager

Osaru is a health professional with an MSc in Health Systems Policy and an interest in women’s health and population management. At Development Reimagined, she applies her health sector experience to global health research and collating locally applicable development insights from China.


Research Analyst

Ferdinando’s research at Development Reimagined is centred on South-South Cooperation dynamics, specifically on the analysis of Chinese investment and debt flows in Africa and their linkages to African industrialisation. He is currently a Yenching Scholar at Peking University, after having graduated from the University of Cambridge with an MPhil in Development Studies.


Research Analyst

David is a Research and data analyst at Development Reimagined. His scholarly focus is mostly on interdisciplinary research in demographic economics and development with interests in migration, economic development and policy, education, health and subjective well-being. He is currently a PhD scholar at Nelson Mandela University from which he also holds Economics and Statistics and respectively.


Research Analyst Kenya

Ivory is a Kenyan lawyer with experience in policy research and analysis. She also supports the communications team at DR. Ivory speaks English, Swahili and French.


Research And Data Analyst China 

Joy Ene is a Research and Data Analyst at DR. Joy is passionate about African/global development, poverty eradication and trade policies between underdeveloped and developing countries. She is also a fourth-year student of International Economics and Trade at the  Liaoning University, Shenyang, China. She serves as the President of the Student Union, Liaoning University, International Students chapter.


Research Analyst 

Chensi Li is a research analyst. She has previously worked for local NGOs in Nigeria and Cameroon and think-tanks in China.  Her research areas include Sino-African relations, African foreign affairs, public diplomacy, state-building and national governance.

Yixin Yu

Research Analyst 

Yixin is a Junior Research Analyst and her focus areas is on public-private partnership and entrepreneurship. She has over three years of working experience in both private and public sectors in Ethiopia. She was the China Liaison Officer for project ‘Partnership for Investment and Growth in Africa’ at International Trade Centre, where she accumulated rich experience in investment and trade promotion


Founder and CEO

Hannah Ryder is the Founder & CEO of Development Reimagined. A former diplomat and economist with 20 years of experience, named one of 100 most influential Africans in 2021, she is also Senior Associate for the Africa Program of the Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS), sits on the Board of the Environmental Defence Fund, and is a member of UAE's International Advisory Council on the New Economy. Prior to her role at DR, Ms Ryder led the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s work with China to help it scale up and improve its cooperation with other developing countries, including in Africa. She has also played various advisory roles for the UN and OECD and co-authored the seminal Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change in 2006.