The 49-year-old general manager of Suzhou Orient Investment, based in Wujiang, a district of Suzhou, is investing $10 million (7.5 million euros) in a factory on the Eastern Industrial Zone in Addis Ababa, making headdresses for both Muslim men and women.
The company is taking advantage of a seven-year duty free period and will eventually employ 200 people on site. The investment came as a result of meeting Africa officials at a China-Africa forum in Suzhou last year.
“We will be closer to our key markets in the Middle East such as Dubai, Qatar, Yemen, Egypt, Iraq, Iran and Sudan,” he says.
Some 70 percent of Muslim headwear globally is now made in Wujiang, near where a number of chemical substances required in their manufacture are located. The company intends to use its new Addis Ababa base as springboard to operate in 20 other African countries over the coming few years.
“We were the first to introduce headdress making techniques here and the district has since become a major global production center for them,” he says.
So not only is Suzhou the global centre of “Muslim headdress” (kefiya?) manufacturing, but it will now outsource to Ethiopia! In some ways, Chinese globalisation progresses faster than I could think.