Africa Rising: China steps up production in Ethiopia with drill instructors, investors
4 April 2012
Christian Science Monitor - April 3, 2012
On arrival at Ethiopia's Eastern Industrial Zone, 36 young African factory workers in red track suits are parading military-style in the car park.
"Welcome to Huajian," they bellow in harmony under the mid-morning sun as they march to the orders of a Chinese drill instructor.
Welcome, indeed, to the world of Huajian Group, a manufacturer of productive, disciplined workers – and shoes.
"They do this in the morning," Vice President Helen Hai, herself a recent recruit, explains about the exercise. "This is how we train to have a military mind set."
Huajian is one of the latest Chinese companies to move into Ethiopia. While the government has long leaned on Western support to feed the needy and provide social services, it is increasingly attracting Asian finance and investment for industry and infrastructure.
"China's presence in Ethiopia is filling a huge gap," says Deborah Brautigam, an expert on the Asian giant's presence on the continent at American University. "The West sees Ethiopia as a country that needs to be saved. The Chinese see multiple business opportunities and a way to 'do well by doing good.' "
But while international actors from China to the World Bank see significant potential for Ethiopia to grow as a manufacturing hub, logistical challenges such as unwieldy customs procedures and costly transportation are preventing the country from realizing its potential.