By Eric Biegon in Guangzhou, China
The giant Chinese shoe manufacturer, the Huajian Group, has announced plans to boost its operations in Africa.
The company, which has so far invested heavily in Ethiopia, is keen to expand its investments to other countries in the continent.
The group’s founder and Chairman Zhang Huarong disclosed that his company has performed tremendously way above expectation since it began operations in Ethiopia in 2012.
“My target is to generate 100,000 job opportunities in Africa.” Mr. Zhang told African journalists who toured the company’s headquarters in Dongguan, Guangdong province.
It is exactly this success which the company’s founder is banking on as his resolve to spread investments across Africa take shape.
In fact, no sooner had Mr. Zhang disclosed this to the journalists than he flew to Nigeria where he signed a deal worth 1.5 billion US dollars to set up a shoe factory.
Zhang had received an invitation to invest in Nigeria from Abia state governor Okezie Ikpeazu.
And this, it appears, is the approach the former military man likes to take. He disclosed that he can only invest in areas where governments have expressed interest, citing his entry into Ethiopia.
“I was not very familiar with Ethiopia at that time, not even sure where this country was located. But former Premier Meles Zenawi paid a visit to China on an official duty and met with me. It is during my meeting with him that he asked me to come and invest in Ethiopia.” He recounted.
He narrates just how he was touched by this plea, especially as it came from a sitting head of state.
“Openness is a crucial point for any state to achieve economic development. Huajian has set a firm foundation for future development by communicating with those countries with open economic structures.” Noted Mr. Zhang.
The shoe factory has so far employed more than 6,000 staff from Ethiopia and the chairman disclosed that the minimum wage is 75-95 US dollars more than 15-20 US dollars set by the Ethiopian government. Besides, the Huajian group is currently developing a 250-acre industrial city in Addis Ababa.
The business magnate says expanding operations in Africa is not a difficult task but charged that the prevailing conditions must support foreign investments as has been the case with Ethiopia.
“I want to create jobs in the countries with a relatively open economy and honest quality. I think a large number of African countries are with great potential to obtain future development, but it requires political stability, preservations on personal security and protection on a property.” Noted Mr. Zhang
The company has already rolled out training programs for various groups in Africa in anticipation of these industrial projects. Right now, 150 Ethiopian nationals are undergoing training even as the group announced plans to enroll 1000-2000 African staffs to get trained in China, to build capacity on industrial civilization and manufacturing.
The company specializes in the production of high and middle-grade women’s leather shoes. It owns three major production bases and has developed into a major integrated international enterprise.
With 40 modern show making production lines, it has an annual output of more than 20 million pairs of women’s shoes.
Notably, US President Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump is the leading customer as Huajian produces more than 100,000 pairs of fashionable shoes for her every year.