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Doing Business and Making Friends with Dongguan: The China-Africa Cooperation from the Perspective of South African Businessmen

Doing Business and Making Friends with Dongguan: The China-Africa Cooperation from the Perspective of South African Businessmen

DONGGUAN, China, Sept. 4, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- The Beijing Summit of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation kicked off in Beijing, China's capital, on September 3. The grand event hosted hundreds of representatives from 53 African member states of the Forum.

We couldn't help but give attention to what the China-Africa cooperation will bring to Africa, a land of hope. Perhaps, from the experiences that a bunch of South African businessmen had in doing business and making friends with the southern Chinese city of Dongguan, we can perceive the business opportunities provided by the major Oriental country of China under the BRICS framework.

In 2016, the Dongguan Commodity South Africa Display Center (SA Center) was established in Durban, South Africa, by the Bureau of Commerce of Dongguan together with Dongguan Africa Industrial Investment Co., Ltd. (DAIICO). Simultaneously, an equivalent -- the South Africa Commodity Dongguan Display Center (DG Center) -- was set up in Dongguan with an aim to showcase the country's featured timber, wines and fruits. That means the two regions, over 10-thousand-kilometer away though, have found in each other their demands as well as markets.

Sustainable Development Requires Not Just Business Opportunities and Friendship, But Mutual Benefits and Win-Win Cooperation.

"Forging a long-term business relationship will make you part of the 'family'. As a South African trader in Dongguan's wine business, Denise Stubbs knows well the Chinese culture, whose wine culture underpins not just the quality of wines, but more importantly, the pursuit of favorable relations with business partners. One will feel welcome and appreciated when doing business with the Chinese people since hospitality is part of their culture," said Denise. In fact, this echoes feelings by a great number of African businessmen at the Guangdong 21th Century Maritime Silk Road International Expo in Dongguan. Each time, the Expo would gain so much popularity that one is never difficult to find out the event's slogan - Welcome to Guangdong for More Business and Cooperation.

As China promotes its Belt and Road Initiative and enters the second golden decade of BRICS cooperation, Dongguan is acting as a functional bridge for South African companies to develop in China. While trading with the city, South African businessmen have mastered the art of doing business in China and of dealing with the Chinese people.

Xolani Ntuli, a timber businessman from Durban cooperating with DAIICO, is an African timber supplier for Dongguan's furniture manufacturing, one of pillar industries in the city.

"When I was a kid, I was eager to work with China, and now, with the help of the Maritime Silk Road, this dream has come true," said Xolani Ntuli, "When the cooperation started, I had no experience in the export market. It was my friends from Dongguan that helped me understand how to price, plan and execute an export project." Having met and exchanged with Dongguan's business partners for long, Xolani Ntuli now knows how to appreciate tea. In his view, the business culture of China differs much from that of South Africa, and he has mastered the art of the Chinese business and social exchanges.

Mthokozisi Mkhwanazi is the owner of Isivuno Food Company, a Durban-based export company, which was founded in 2015 as a fruit store on a street corner. Thanks to the SA Center, she was invited to the Expo, where she received a warm welcome from Dongguan and she has understood how African fruits are exported to China. Her company has now served as an important fruit export company highly reliant on Chinese market.

These stories have justified the viewpoint of the special issue article From Chinese Dream to African Dream: Stories about Dongguan's Manufacturing Companies in Africa issued by South Africa's newspaper, The Star. The view goes just like a Chinese saying, "Give a poor man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach him to fish and you give him an occupation that will feed him for a lifetime." The Dongguan-based companies that make business expansion in Africa have improved the local industries and more importantly, helped companies from both sides thrive together.

Unimpeded trade enhances Dongguan-Africa people-to-people exchanges and progresses on the consensus of mutual trust, mutual benefits, and win-win cooperation.

As to how to push Dongguan's companies to establish their factories in Africa, Mr. Bouah, the executive manager of Trade and Investment KwaZulu-Natal Province in South Africa shared his viewpoint. "Many entrepreneurs are being reluctant to make investments in South Africa due to lack of understanding of the nation. We, however, can start with trading and improve each other's confidence," said he.

The innovative mode of "twin centers/new platform" has played a tremendous role in deepening business cooperation. SA Center has now been home to over 50 Dongguan-based companies, whereas DG Center imported 18 containers of fruits and more than 300 containers of timber from South Africa in the first half of 2018. The inbound oranges, grapefruits, and grapes are delivered to Guangzhou Jiangnan Fruit and Vegetable Wholesale Market before being distributed to dealers across China.

The business innovation has been highly appreciated by Dr. Daryl Swanepoel, Convener of South Africa's ANC Progressive Business Forum, who, in his latest paper noted that the Dongguan-South Africa business mode is a constructive, novel practice and distinguished from that between South Africa and any other country. A better Dongguan-South Africa business relation helps implement the Belt and Road Initiative and deepen economic and trade cooperation between China and South Africa.

The official statistics show that trade value between Dongguan and the Belt and Road countries stood 209.99 billion yuan in 2017, up 5.5% from 2016. Import trade rose to 82.48 billion yuan from 63 billion yuan in 2013, an increase of 30.9%.

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