Rwanda may be landlocked in central Africa and saddled with prohibitive energy costs, but it has become the latest beneficiary of a quest by Chinese manufacturers to find competitive margins as wages rise at home.
Candy Ma, a 40-year-old Chinese industrialist, has just hired 200 trainee workers at her new government-built factory in the heart of the east African country, and this month, she invited buyers from Walmart, H&M and Tesco to inspect the facility. She plans to export 30,000 T-shirts a month — enough for an initial $10m in first-year sales — and expects to expand tenfold to 2,000 workers next year.
Her investment underscores a gathering trend. The Chinese, often blamed for destroying African industry by flooding the continent with cheap goods that undercut local markets, are now at the forefront of foreign manufacturers expanding their footprint across the continent.