Popular Chinese products in Zambia
Enock Chansa, 35, is the face of a booming import of various goods from China. Every two to three months, he leaves his home and boards a plane bound for China to buy tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of electronics to sell back home. Armed with his proficiency to fiercely bargain with Chinese wholesalers in Beijing, the young entrepreneur often carries wads of cash to buy used China-manufactured phones and accessories.
“If you want to be successful in life and realise your dream, you must be in charge of your own destiny and try to be in each and every place to get the necessary exposure,” Chansa said as he carefully packed hundreds of Chinese electronics on the shelves of his store at Kafue town, 40 kilometre south of Lusaka, Zambia’s capital. He has been travelling to China since 2015.
Melody Mambwe, an owner of a fashion outlet nestled in Lusaka’s central business district, sells stylish Chinese garments. She says that they are very affordable and are sought after by most of her clients. “My business is doing well, because whenever I order my goods from China, I get good profit margins compared to buying from Malaysia, and that’s why I opt for the Chinese market especially since the demand for Chinese-made clothing is high,” Mambwe disclosed.
During her recent online order from Beijing, she purchased various ladies’ outfits worth 100,000 kwacha, around 3,500 euros. She plans to expand her business by opening another outlet in the city’s bustling Comesa market.
Arguably, Zambian traders’ appeal to China lies in the diversity of products that are readily available at affordable prices. From electronics to clothing and footwear, China's wide range of goods has indeed found a ready market in the southern African country. Zambian traders order Chinese merchandise via online platforms such as Alibaba. Others have cultivated good relationships with Chinese suppliers.
Webby Kunda, who owns a shop along Lusaka’s Chachacha road, has a wide range of electronic brands, most of them Chinese. “I started selling cell phones in 2016 with just a few handsets and a couple of accessories. Back then I struggled to sell a single handset in a day but thanks to the arrival of so many Chinese smartphones with advanced features, things have changed,” Kunda affirmed.
As it is home to a vast manufacturing industry and competitive product offerings, China has since become a fruitful partner for most Zambian small and medium-scale (SME) enterprises looking to expand their businesses in the international trading space. The government is also attempting to have good relations with China.
Zambia’s president Hakainde Hichilema recently led the largest-ever delegation since he took office to China on a state visit at the invitation of his Chinese counterpart President Xi Jinping. During the visit, more than 15 Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) covering various sectors of the Zambian economy were signed.
Among the most immediate benefits is the decision by international telecoms manufacturer ZTE to open a smartphone plant in Zambia. “This will be a game changer that brings many jobs, as we increase digital solutions to citizens through our e-government division,” Hichilema said.
Derrick Silimina is a freelance journalist based in Lusaka.