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Kenyan entrepreneurs tap into Chinese market

13 January 2016, 23:02

Nairobi - Edith Mbui's modest upbringing in a rural Kenyan village taught her the values of hard work, fortitude and commitment to causes that would have lasting impact on the wider society.

The retired mother of one pursued formal education with zeal and was among few young women who broke the glass ceiling to secure lucrative careers in the Kenyan public service.

While growing up in post independent Kenya, Mbui witnessed entrenched patriarchy that relegated women and girls to the periphery to the detriment of socio-economic progress.

Armed with a courageous spirit and boundless ambition, Mbui managed to rise above limitations set by a conservative society and become a successful IT professional.

Soon after her retirement in July 2015, Mbui decided to venture into business in order to replenish her savings and support the extended family.

Currently the proud owner of a retail shop located in a middle class Nairobi suburb, Mbui is determined to grow her business to new levels and provide employment to young Kenyans.

Her fortunes changed dramatically after a nine day visit to Guangzhou in November 2015 to explore business opportunities.

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The Nairobi based China Information and Culture Communication Limited (CICCK) facilitated Mbui's journey to Guangzhou to learn about business trends in the Asian giant.

During an interview with Xinhua on Wednesday, Mbui hailed the maiden trip to China for sharpening her entrepreneur and people's skills.

"Initially, a visit to China was not an immediate priority until my friend convinced me otherwise. When an opportunity to visit China to explore business opportunities came up, I decided to give it a shot," said Mbui.

As her retirement from the civil service lurked in the shadows, Mbui thought hard about venturing into business to insulate herself from idleness and financial stress.

Thanks to nudging from her close friend who also had a younger brother who made regular business trips to China, Mbui was convinced the Asian giant could offer valuable inspiration to budding entrepreneurs.

"My friend's younger brother had attended the Canto fair in Guangzhou and was inspired by the blossoming trade ties between China and the rest of the world. We decided to visit Guangzhou and explore business opportunities it could offer upcoming Kenyan entrepreneurs," Mbui told Xinhua.

Her friend's brother linked them to the CICCK which in turn facilitated their business tour to Guangzhou.

"We decided to consult CICCK who facilitated travel and accommodation to Guangzhou. The organization also arranged for an interpreter to help break the language barrier during the nine day trip," said Mbui.

A visit to Guangzhou marked an important milestone in the lives of Mbui and her close friend.

Their mission was to explore opportunities offered by the Chinese market and hopefully harness them to grow their young businesses back home.

"While in Guangzhou, we surveyed markets dealing with a range of products like tiles, furniture, utensils and beauty products. During a tour to Foshan, my friend bought tiles and furniture for her new house," Mbui told Xinhua.

She revealed that she managed to buy kitchen ware and hand bags during a tour of a bustling market in Guangzhou.

"Our main focus was the kitchen market since it stood out while the gifts market was also outstanding. Contrary to myths fed to us in the past, we discovered goods made in China are of high quality," said Mbui.

Her maiden trip to China not only broadened her worldviews but also revitalized her entrepreneur spirit. Mbui's interaction with the Chinese people during the trip improved her understanding of a rich culture.

"I learnt that Chinese people are very friendly and kind. Chinese traders gave us tea and fruits whenever we visited their shops. The Chinese girl who was our guide became a long-term friend. We even communicate via social media," Mbui said.

In future, she plans to visit China often and explore the emerging business opportunities.

Kenyan entrepreneurs have prioritized regular visits to China to discover untapped opportunities.

Gao Wei, the Managing Director of CICCK, said that Kenyans who own small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) comprise the bulk of visitors to China.

"A key pillar of our company is business consulting and we provide market information to Kenyan entrepreneurs upon request. We also direct them to key markets and assist them ship goods," Gao told Xinhua.

He revealed that in 2015, over 600 Kenyans visited China to conduct a range of businesses.

- Xinhua


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