Huajian’s 3,500 Ethiopian workers produced 2 million pairs of shoes last year.
Located in one of the country’s first industrial zones—which offer better infrastructure and tax exemptions—the factory began operating in January 2012. It became profitable its first year and now makes $100,000 to $200,000 a month, Zhang says—an insufficient return that he claims will rise as workers become better trained. Beneath bright fluorescent lights and amid the drone of machines, workers cut, glue, stitch, and sew Marc Fisher leather boots destined for the U.S. market. Supervisors monitor quotas on whiteboards, giving small cash rewards to winning teams and criticizing those who fall short.
Zhang’s factory is part of the next wave of China’s investment in Africa. It started with infrastructure, especially the kind that helped the Chinese extract African oil, copper, and other raw materials to fuel China’s industrial complex. Now China is getting too expensive to do the low-tech work it’s known for.
In a country where 80 percent of the labor force is in agriculture, manufacturers don’t have to worry about finding new workers. The population of about 96 million is Africa’s second-largest after Nigeria’s. Cheap labor and electricity and a government striving to draw foreign investment make Ethiopia more attractive than many other African nations.
Kevin Hamlin, Ilya Gridneff, and William Davison prepared together this article and shade the light on a rising star in Africa. Ethiopia and other African countries are aiming to make China divert all its low-profit Tech- industry as it start to lose its place in China.