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Africa Focus: China-Africa think tank enhances bilateral relations
2015-05-26

Located on the up market Westlands suburb in Nairobi is the African office of Sino Africa Center of Excellence (SACE) Foundation that promotes knowledge, ideas and experiences between China and Africa.

Founded in 2013 in Nairobi, the China-Africa focused think tank and research hub is intent at increasing cooperation between China and Africa by adding value in the areas of business development, trade and investments, and entrepreneurship.

"Our efforts are centered at localizing business for Chinese companies and strategizing for the firms by informing them, among other issues, the obstacles they face while doing business in Africa and how they can overcome the challenges," SACE Foundation Project Manager Lu Jinghao told Xinhua during an interview.

The foundation in January launched the Business Perception Index-Kenya which interviewed over 70 Chinese companies operating in the East African nation after which they prepared the report outlining the challenges the businesses face.

"Though the bridging of networks, we have become one of the significant players who are trying to make that change that will make Chinese companies do business in the continent with least difficulty," Lu told Xinhua.

The project manager, who first ventured into Africa in 2009 during his internship in Ghana, said that after conducting the survey in Kenya, the Foundation intends to hire Chinese instructors to teach Kenyans how to operate Chinese-made machines among other things in order to comply with a section of its findings.

He commended the Chinese government for implementing good strategies to allow Chinese companies to invest in Africa by providing the requisite logistics and added that this venture has enabled several firms to set base in the continent.

"Unlike many Western companies, I have encountered several Chinese businesses that do not want to be identified as China- owned by adopting local names. This has brought the corporations closer to the Kenyan people," he said.

Adedana Ashebir, SACE Foundation Communications Manager, said relationship between China and Africa has become big, which has necessitated a newer approach at how to conduct business.

"Majority of the infrastructural development in Africa in 2014 was built by Chinese companies, not European or American firms. In Kenya there is the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) Project and the Lamu Port that are ongoing and there are many construction projects around the country that bear logos of Chinese firms," Ashebir said.

The African-American from the U.S. who studied in China for four and a half years and arrived in Kenya in October 2014 to work at the Center, described the Chinese as a hard-working and extremely loyal people.

"My first years in China were difficult because of the language barrier. After I addressed the challenges of the language, I loved my time with the Chinese people," she remarked.

The Project Lead Manager at SACE Victoria Mwirichia said the Foundation has succeeded in addressing the misconception pertaining to China-Africa relations.

"There has been the fallacy that the Chinese are in the continent to take money away. However, contrary to that, many projects are visible on the ground and there is more to see than meets the eye," Mwirichia said.

She said many Kenyans are exploring China for business opportunities, and the focus has also been shifting from mining to the hospitality industry.

Mwirichia said the Foundation intends to bring the first 15 interns to the country to work with Kenyan firms, adding that so far the feedback from Chinese nationals from what they have learnt from Kenya has been encouraging.

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