Chinese Entrepreneur Tries to Bring Shenzhen Miracle to Africa

Chinese Entrepreneur Tries to Bring Shenzhen Miracle to Africa

The Ethiopian officials visiting Shenzhen saw how it was transformed from a tiny, southern fishing village into a manufacturing powerhouse within 35 years, spawning China’s economic miracle. The message was clear: Ethiopia can do this, too.

Yet one minister on the 2013 trip didn’t believe that was enough and sought out his host, Helen Hai, telling her he had plenty of nice reports from American and European advisers showing him a vision of the future. He wanted specifics.

 “What I need is somebody to show me how to take the first step,” Hai recalled him saying.

Hai, who at the time ran a pioneering shoe factory in Ethiopia, considered that a seminal conversation for her. Within months, she began setting up the Made in Africa Initiative. Backed by the United Nations Development Programme and with a who’s who list of African leaders as advisers, its mission was to help the continent create manufacturing hubs.

Five years later, her quest has expanded significantly. Hai, 40, co-founded factories making children’s clothes in Rwanda, Senegal and Ethiopia, and she became the UN Industrial Development Organization’s goodwill ambassador in Africa. In July, she began exploring how blockchain technology might help create jobs for the nations there and now heads the $100 million Binance Blockchain Charity Foundation.


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