Development Reimagined helping put trade at the heart of sustainable development in Africa

At Development Reimagined we firmly believe that ‘aid’ or development cooperation is not the only answer to sustainable development in Africa. Solving economic and social problems in poor and middle-income countries requires structural change in trade, investment, people. We believe in a holistic approach – looking at all areas of development, beyond aid, and what role ALL actors can play – not just governments, and not just one part of the world.

China is a key player in this and since 2008 has become the Africa continent’s largest trade partner. And for the 53 African countries with diplomatic relations with China, there has been heavy investment in infrastructure and development, and undeniably this has contributed to Africa’s economic development and enhanced some of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). However, there has been a stark imbalance in the trade composition between China and 40 of these African countries. This stark trade imbalance severely affects the capacity of African countries to create jobs, earn foreign exchange, and develop sustainably to cut poverty – calling for building a more sustainable Africa-China relationship that alleviates the acute trade imbalance.

This is why at Development Reimagined we designed our first ever Bespoke China Market Entry Programme,called “Africa Reimagined” and invited 7 exciting, innovative and sustainable Africa brands to China. From jewellery, to fashion, to tea and skincare, we brought together these SMEs to disrupt the stereotype of Africa products and help their ambitious CEOs understand how to enter the vibrant and ever-growing Chinese consumer market.

At After 10 days, 3 cities (Beijing, Changsha and Dalian), 1 trade expo (China- Africa Economic Trade Expo) and 1 international conference (World Economic Forum- Annual Meeting of New Champions), these are the four key discoveries we made…

  1. Chinese consumers DO have an appetite for luxury African products, clearly demonstrating that China-Africa trade has the potential to go beyond raw materials and agriculture!

Over the duration of the expo more than 90% of the products were sold out at the expo, and multiple inquiries were made about further distribution channels.Many customers bought multiple items and had a genuine interest in understanding more about the history of the product and the brand. Our experience has demonstrated that high-end, luxury African products do have a place in the competitive Chinese consumer market and CAN take a slice of the estimated $5.6 trillion projected sales in China (2019)- around $100BN more than the United States.


  1. Many African businesses are not aware of the opportunities the Chinese market provides for African companies yet at the same time these businesses urgently need strategic support to navigate and enter the complex Chinese market. Currently, no online or offline platforms exist that promote high-end luxury African goods and products in China.

Whilst designing and implementing the programme, we were in touch with over 50 African brands in multiple sectors.  Through this it became clear that most African businesses are not aware of the vast opportunities the Chinese market can provide for growing their businesses. Most African SME’s are looking to the USA, where consumption is rising by 2% year on year, yet in China it’s increasing 16% per year.

Moreover, it is clear that African businesses are significantly unprepared and resource-poor to enter the Chinese market. If in China, most are operating informally or in joint ventures that provide for poor intellectual property protections. They do not understand the Chinese market trends (let alone language) and opportunities nor the official requirements. The Chinese market is vast, opaque and regulated heavily, thus many foreign companies rely on trade facilitation organizations to navigate doing business in China.


  1. The way African products are marketed is outdated and does not reflect the number of high-end, quality and innovative products on the continent. Perceptions need to change!

There is a severe lack of awareness in China about Africa. Ask any ordinary Chinese person which African countries they have heard about, most will reply Kenya – for animals; Nigeria – for oil and its large population; South Africa – for extractives and mining; and Ethiopia – as a new manufacturing destination for simple apparel. This needs to change and during our 10-day programme we worked alongside many media outlets from CGTN to The Global Times to shift the narrative and educate the public about the innovative side of Africa.


  1. It IS possible to create tangible impacts for local communities in Africa by utilising the Chinese consumer market, to grow SMEs and create more jobs and ultimately more poverty reduction.

The brands we brought together all create jobs and skills and reduce poverty reduction back in Africa.  Together the companies directly employ hundreds of people and indirectly employ thousands in their local communities. If when entering the Chinese market these companies double their workforce that would mean many many more local people learning new skills. Imagine if this is scaled up to more countries and companies, all who keep their supply chain in Africa, all who directly reduce poverty and all who change the way people perceive Africa…

So – what next?

First of all it is important to recognise that this was a pilot.

The “Africa Reimagined” programme we designed – supported by our partners – consisted of 3 key pillars, each designed to create partnerships, build knowledge and grow awareness for the companies.

First, through an innovative and interactive Africa Reimagined exhibition, the brands we attracted to China were able to showcase their products and business models to thousands of Chinese and international visitors over the course of two days. Many of them received overwhelming interests from Chinese customers and manufacturers, distributors and perspective trade partners.

Second, the delegation experienced the opportunities and challenges of China’s market potential first-hand, our partners discussed and presented new policies, infrastructure, and ecommerce platforms that encourages trade between Africa and China.

Lastly, they had the opportunity to meet successful China-based entrepreneurs and international renowned businesses, as well as leaders in innovation, technology and science through British Chamber of Commerce in Beijing and World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting of New Champions in Dalian, China, where they received valuable advice on how to “scale up” to the next level and be ready for a globalized market.

What will the brands who participated do next?

The 7 African brands on this first pilot sit within various sectors such as lifestyle, fashion, jewelry, and skincare, and came from a broad range of African countries – Nigeria, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Ghana, and Rwanda. All the brands have a strong sustainability component to their business models, with commitments to cutting poverty and promoting ethical business practices through their supply chains. The brands range from a luxury jewelry company that just opened the first women-only mine in Zimbabwe, a fashion company and a skincare company that respectively employs marginalized artisanal women, as well as a tea company from Nigeria that is bringing Africa’s superfood drink “Moringa” to China.

These brands were all impressed by the response in China. Some are looking at concrete next steps to enter China, including brand trademarking, e-commerce platforms, distribution partnerships – and some are already shifting their marketing budgets towards China. If you are interested in knowing more about them and supporting their further steps do contact us!

Will there be another Africa Reimagined Space and another China-Africa Economic and Trade Expo?

The China- Africa Economic and Trade Expo was one of the first concrete deliverables under the 7th FOCAC meeting held in September 2018.  It will be held biannually going forwards, and Africa Reimagined will definitely be there again next time!  However, this is not the only relevant expo for our 7 brands nor other brands that want to enter China. We are currently considering with our partners future opportunities, and are open to welcoming new brands and suggestions, especially in 2020 for new partnerships in this area, to continue disrupting stereotypes about Africa and disrupt how China and other countries invest in African countries.

At Development Reimagined we will continue to work with all partners – both governments, and the private sector– to provide practical support and advice, and create a unique platform to help African business enter the Chinese market and ultimately help deliver sustainable development and poverty reduction in Africa and beyond.


Will there be another China Market Entry Programme?

Our aim with this pilot was to experiment with showcasing innovative, cutting-edge African businesses that are creating high-quality, luxury consumer products using an entirely African-based supply chain, from agricultural & raw material inputs all the way to the value-added finished items. The products showcased demonstrated the broad range of African talent and expertise as well as provided inspiration for how companies from all around the world can invest in Africa in a way that creates more jobs and helps people – especially women – escape poverty and achieve sustainable development, just like China has.

We are very grateful to our partners for this pilot – the China Africa Business Council, the British Chamber of Commerce, the World Economic Forum, Ethiopian Airlines, Trouve, as well as the Hunan Province Department of Commerce – who worked tirelessly with us to make it a reality and success – which it was.

Based on the success of this pilot, we therefore believe there is room for further programmes as well as scaling up – so stay tuned for more updates on this website as well as our twitter (@devreimagined) and linked-in accounts!


If you are interested in collaborating with us on our next steps or with our brands, please get in touch with us at


Africa Reimagined is a China Market Entry Bespoke Program designed and spearheaded by Development Reimagined. Seven sustainable African brands from all over the continent participated in the pilot, held from June 25 to July 3, 2019.

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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.