Located in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, the factory is already exporting women’s footwear to Western markets.
Economic ties between China and Ethiopia are set for higher heights following the setting up of a modern shoe manufacturing plant and industrial park in Labu Lafto District of the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa. The factory, which is an undertaking of the privately owned Chinese firm, Huajian Group, is to be accompanied by the Ethio-China Huajian International Light Industrial City worth 1 Billion US Dollars (about 611 Billion FCFA). Covering 137.8 hectares, the integrated industrial park will focus on light industry, with construction expected to be finished by 2020.
A group of 27 African journalists on April 16, 2017, visited Huajian Group’s shoe plant in Dongguan City, in China’s Guangdong Province. They were received and conducted round the factory by Huajian Group Founder and Chairman, Zhang Huarong, a former soldier. Created in the early 1980s in his poor village home, Huajian Group has since become one of the largest manufacturers of women’s footwear in the world today with two plants in China and one in Ethiopia. Zhang Huarong told the journalists that products from the Ethiopian factory were already being exported through various Western fashion houses, with 6,000 Ethiopians employed there.
The Huajian Light Industry City is expected to earn 2 Billion US Dollars (about 1,222 Billion FCFA) in foreign exchange for Ethiopia per annum and create between 50,000 and 60,000 jobs. Facilities will include workers’ estates, hospital, commercial complex, refuse transfer station, villa area, sewage treatment plant, bus station, public parking lot, etc. Huajian as a whole produces 30,000 pairs of women’s shoes a day with an annual turnover of about 300 Million US Dollars (about 183.3 Billion FCFA). “My hope is to create 100,000 jobs for people in underdeveloped nations,” Zhang explained.
Recalling why he invested in Ethiopia, Huarong said he was invited by late Prime Minister Menes Zenawi during a trip to China. The two men subsequently held three other meetings in Ethiopia during which the PM persistently lobbied for a shoemaking factory to be set up in his country. “I was initially reluctant to invest in Ethiopia, but because of the persistence and great concern shown by the PM for his people, I was so touched and finally decided to go ahead,” he explained. Meanwhile, some 350 Ethiopians are receiving training in China with Huajian to work in the Addis Ababa shoe manufacturing plant.