Speech: Why “Made in Africa” is clearly the future for global supply chains

Speech delivered by Development Reimagined CEO Hannah Ryder during the launch of the 2023 Chinese Investment in Africa report and the Senior Officials meeting on FOCAC, 24th October 2023.

Excellencies, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

Firstly, I would like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to the China Africa Business Council for extending this gracious invitation to us. Congratulations on the launch of your 2023 report, an accomplishment that marks yet another milestone in the China-Africa business ecosystem. We were deeply honored to have collaborated on the 2022 version of this report and are equally privileged to be present today for the 2023 report launch.

I am often asked the question whether I am optimistic about Africa. Every time, my strong, immediate answer is of course – yes. And my answer is backed by the statistics. This year and for the next two years, according to the IMF’s latest forecasts, overall economic growth across the African region will outpace the rest of the world, and African countries will account for 60% of the top 10 fastest-growing economies globally in 2024 and 2025.

This is all despite significant man-made and unavoidable global and regional shocks in recent years – from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Russia-Ukraine war, the war in Sudan and coups in Central and West Africa, to drought and famine in East Africa, earthquakes in North Africa, floods in China and Libya, and much more.

I am also equally optimistic about the Africa-China relationship. It has now been two years since the 8th Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China Africa Cooperation, held in Dakar, Senegal in November 2021 in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Over this period important strides have been made. In 2022, China-Africa trade in goods reached US$282 billion, 42% of which was exports from Africa to China – exports that are more diverse than ever. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) from China has almost recovered to pre-pandemic levels and shows strong signs of continued growth.

This progress has all required a great deal of proactive work by African governments and the Chinese government, but African and Chinese business have also been central to this resilience and dynamism. As one of the African members of the China Made in Africa Business Council (CABC) – a Chinese non-governmental organization that has grown significantly over the last two years to now have over 3000 Chinese members, we have been proud to not only document but also make our own contributions to growth and development on the African continent through partnership with Chinese stakeholders.

Whether it is supporting African brands to showcase their amazing “Made in Africa” products at the biennial China Africa Economic and Trade Expo and other trade fairs, working with African Financial Institutions to promote their engagement with Chinese banks, or working with Chinese businesses – often CABC members – to help them scope and make investments into African markets, Made in Africa we have seen the appetite for serious, sustained engagement go from strength to strength.

At the same time, as this report rightly demonstrates, there is a very long way to go. Unfortunately, one of the major reasons for African resilience to the global shocks has been Africa’s marginalization in the world economy on most metrics – from trade to renewable energy production to investment and external debt, Africa’s shares of these global statistics tend to hover between 2-4%. The major exceptions are Africa’s share of global mining and fossil-fuel production. And as this report carefully explains, this is no historic mistake. It is a legacy of plunder and occupation by former imperial powers.

At the same time, including with strong, African-led engagement with China, there Is hope for shifting these patterns, once and for all, and therefore making a major mark on history.

In 2014, when the African Union blueprint for development now known as “Agenda 2063” was launched, the then Chairperson of the African Union Commission, the remarkable Madame Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma wrote a letter to a fictional young man, living in 2063, whom she called Kwame. In this letter, she expressed her expectation that in 2063, Africa will be the third-largest economy in the world, a global manufacturing hub, the home of some of the world’s most prosperous multinationals.

Africa moving up value chains – to produce more “Made in Africa” end-products -Made in Africa will be the only way in which this is possible. And the movement up value chains must happen in every single sector, from producing tea bags to fashion and toys to vehicles and wind turbines on the continent. The Made in Africa Secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) has identified four key sector priorities for increased cross-continental trade – Made in Africa agro-processing, automotive, pharmaceuticals, and transportation and logistics – to initiate and accelerate this process decisively.

It is a great step.

But this kind of action will only be possible if both African and Chinese businesses – Made in Africa such as those documented in this important report – from small to medium to large, also have this same vision and work together to make it happen.

Both sides can learn so much from each other. African businesses can learn about new and different business models that have worked in Chinese settings and might work in African countries. Chinese firms can learn about African market regulations and working cultures, and therefore, more easily outsource their manufacturing – both to export back to China as well as produce for local markets. African firms can learn about Chinese consumers and adapt their products accordingly. Chinese companies can do the same, and thereby more easily localize. African businesses can understand Chinese management styles and long-distance logistics planning and use these to improve efficiency, driving up productivity.

This special edition of “Chinese Investment in Africa Report 2023” makes a crucial contribution to this mutual engagement and learning.

Explaining the history, the new trends, as well as documenting the activities of Chinese firms on the African continent is not only informative, it is inspirational and motivating. No company can be perfect, no country has no imperfections. But vision, risk appetite and true entrepreneurship as well as strong government support can go a long way.

The road to African prosperity is long, but there is no doubt today that we have all started the journey. Reports like this can help us gather the energy to not only continue, but also take larger, bolder strides, overcoming all shocks we will meet along the way, remain optimistic, and in doing so make and change history.

Made in Africa

October 2023

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