Africa Do Business Newsletter, Issue #012-May 2012

The Chinese way of doing business


I am writing this newsletter from the city of Guangzhou (Canton)in China where I have come to make business contacts with manufacturers but most importantly to study the Chinese way of doing business.

Now, China has become the second biggest economy after USA and in a few years would become No.1 while Africa is still lagging behind despite its immense resources.

What is China doing and Africa is not doing?

Here in Guangzhou, the third city of China, I can see the achievements of the people of China, especially in infrastructure and their standards of living. Being in this City, some European cities like London, Paris or Brussels just become too small. Buildings are just too many, too high and quite new. The roads are in floors and people are busy minding their own businesses, etc. No beggars like in New York!

A friend of mine who came to China 20 years ago told me that most of what I see now has been achieved in the last 20 years. In 1985 when he came to China as a student he was not impressed because even African cities like Nairobi were better than many parts of the Guangzhou city that time.

So, the questions in my mind are: What did Chinese do to change 360° their economy? How did they make such achievements in a very short time? What are they doing differently? Can Africa do the same?

Here are four things people in China are doing differently and I think people in Africa should do:

1. Hard work and give value to work

There is no production and progress with hard work. Chinese take work seriously; they work more than 12 hours per day and have many jobs at the same time. Most of young Chinese have at least two jobs while studying and are able to pay their studies. In Africa, we think it is impossible to attend college without a government scholarship or family financial support. Chinese use whatever they have to create their own employment. In a big city like Guangzhou, transport is done on trolley, a wheelbarrow, a bike, a motorbike, a car, a truck, bus, train, airplane, boots, ships, etc. A bike is the most popular mean of transport and on it you can do everything. I have a seen a mobile barbecue with burning charcoal and hot meat on bike! A man was selling hot corn on a wheelbarrow and I could not resist that one!

2. Start small with a big vision.

As a Chinese proverb says: A thousand miles journey start by the first step. Many Chinese have started their transport business on a bike having and now own multi cars companies. Why not start with what we have now?

3. Simple but high quality lifestyle

The lifestyle of Chinese is very simple. They eat less food but of high quality and they are healthier. They have less personal possessions like clothes, furniture but stay in good and clean houses. A Chinese told me that he can put all his personal belongings in a one 20kg suitcase. When you enter a Chinese house, it looks almost empty while entering an African house you may think you are in a second hand shop!

4. Make it cheap, affordable but useful

We say that Chinese make goods of bad quality that don’t last longer. It has been their strategy but it has worked. They make for you what you can afford to buy and you buy it. Anyway, why should you buy a long lasting mobile phone when you have to buy a new one every two years, even if it is IPhone!

Let us change our mind set

Could we do the same in Africa? I think we can do it even better but to adopt the Chinese way requires a new mind set, people in Africa have to change our way if thinking and acting. We need a new collective culture of hard work. We need to have individual and collective visions, plan strategically and use what we have to achieve what we want. We have to adopt a new lifestyle which uses less quantity but with high quality. This is the best way we can do business and achieve prosperity.



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