Over the past few decades, it has become abundantly clear that ‘aid’ is not the only answer to Africa’s development. Solving economic and social challenges requires more than just financial aid, with an urgent need for structural change in trade, investment and people.

Since the late 2000s, China has become an increasingly prominent development partner for many African countries – with a crucial component of Africa-China relations being trade. Since 2008, China has been the continents largest trading partner! Nevertheless, there is an acute trade imbalance in China’s favour, as 40 out of 55 African countries have a significant trade deficit with China. Moreover, Africa’s trade with China is highly concentrated in primary products, with exports dominated by oil, ores, agricultural products, and precious metals. This lack of export diversification leaves many African countries vulnerable to external shocks, most recently seen in the commodity price slumps from COVID-19 impacts.

Overall, this trade imbalance combined with the lack of value-addition dampens possible job creation, foreign exchange generation and value-chain development from flourishing. This is not sustainable, especially given the lack of jobs in African countries, with over 600 million unemployed people.

This is precisely why we launched our first flagship in 2019 – Africa Reimagined – with the mission of cultivating sustainable, impactful development through helping African brands enter the vast and growing Chinese market. We are redefining the development field by making a tangible difference by focusing on real people, real impacts, and real change.

All the brands we support have an entirely African-based supply chain, and therefore keep value-addition – and its subsequent benefits – in the continent. Empowering these brands stimulates positive socio-economic change, with our mission being closely aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals to tackle poverty in its variety of forms.

The Chinese market offers many opportunities for African brands. First off, China’s consumer market is enormous! The country has 18% of the global population (1.4 billion), with China’s domestic retail sales forecast to increase by 13.8% in 2021, following China’s COVID-19 recovery. Moreover, throughout the pandemic, Chinese consumers are shifting towards purchasing ethical and sustainably-produced products. According to a 2021 McKinsey report, Chinese consumers lead the world in researching brand and product choices before buying, with over 70% of survey respondents stating that they had spent more time and money on eco-friendly products throughout the pandemic.

However, entering the Chinese market is no easy feat. Africa Reimagined provides strategic support to African companies to navigate the complex Chinese market, which can be difficult to grasp given a host of factors such as language barriers and the opaqueness of the business environment.

But do Chinese consumers actually have an appetite for high-end, luxury African products?

The answer is an emphatic YES.

We discovered this during our experience at the 2019 expo when we invited seven African businesses from seven different African countries. During the expo, our interactive ‘Africa Reimagined’ booth attracted thousands of Chinese and international visitors with the brand products flying off the shelves, with 90% of our products sold out, with numerous partnership and distribution connections made.

And this year, we did it all again! The second CAETE expo was held from September 26th to 29th, where we introduced an additional ten exciting, innovative SME African brands to the Chinese market. These brands demonstrate a broad range of African talents and expertise and sit within various sectors such as footwear, fashion, jewellery and beverages, and come from a range of countries, including Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania and South Africa. Once again, the brand’s products were extremely popular!

So let’s introduce you to a few of our brands!

First, we have Kazi Yetu, a Tanzanian organic tea brand, who package their tea using biodegradable pyramid bags to keep environmental impact to a minimum. Kazi Yetu also employs marginalised, artisanal women, most of whom are single mothers. The brand also reinvests a proportion of its profits too supporting over 2,000 Tanzanian farmers through training programmes. There is a growing demand for unique, foreign tea in China, with the tea market valued at over USD 10 billion. Kazi Yetu can tap into this demand and reach thousands of new customers, especially through utilising China’s e-commerce and retail channels.

Other examples of the brands we support include 1000 Hills Distillery from Rwanda, who sources all their materially locally to support other Rwandan SMEs and turns the methanol by-product into a low-cost mosquito repellent.

Or take Monks Gin from South Africa, who use locally sourced botanicals from the mountains around their distillery to reduce their carbon footprint. The distillery is also the first off-grid distillery in Africa and is powered by solar energy!

We also support fashion brands, like Oyè Africa, a Kenyan-footwear and accessories brand. Oyè prioritises the employment of marginalised, artisanal women from Kibera – an impoverished neighbourhood in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. Oyè also utilises upcycled denim in their products to reduce denim going to landfill.

So, what’s next?

What has become abundantly clear from our experience at both the 2019 and 2021 expos is that Chinese consumers, retailers and distributors ARE attracted to value-added African brands. Nevertheless, there is more work to be done at the policy level to support value-added trade from Africa to China. Indeed, this is detailed in our Blueprint for an Africa ‘China Strategy’, which explores how African governments can push for tariff removal on their consumer goods, alongside how countries can expand and diversify their exports to China through alternative methods, such as e-commerce.

The CAETE was one of the concrete deliverables included in the 7th FOCAC meeting, held in 2018. The 2021 expo was the second CAETE, and Africa Reimagined will continue to participate eagerly going forward. However, CAETE is not the only expo that African brands should participate in, with other sectoral-based expos held across China throughout the year. We are also opening our own “Africa Reimagined” e-commerce store on JD.com in January 2022! This will be the first platform of its kind to actively promote high-quality, sustainable African brands from a variety of sectors and countries to Chinese consumers – so stay tuned!

Beyond supporting these incredible brands, DR also engaged in various activities to encourage “reimagining” at the policy level to better support and enhance Africa-China trade. Our CEO, Hannah Ryder, gave a speech at the Forum On China-Africa Private Sector Cooperation, available here. Other engagement includes our Research Analyst, Olivier Mendo’o, who shared his thoughts at the China-Africa Youth Innovation & Entrepreneur Forum at the CAETE regarding the importance of engaging the youth in China-Africa Cooperation in the run-up to FOCAC.

Development Reimagined is working with a range of partners to support African leaders develop their strategic priorities for FOCAC 2021. Want to find out more about what Development Reimagined is doing in the run-up to FOCAC? Find out more here.

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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 B.com Economics and Statistics and M.com 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.