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Decade of growth betweem China and Uganda (3)

By Liu Xiangrui  (China Daily)

08:17, October 23, 2012

"All the companies I have worked for have made long-term development plans in Africa."

Charles Lwampa's 36-year-old boss Zhang Hao is arguably the best-known Chinese businessman in Uganda, and is considered the country's biggest Chinese employer.

Like many other Chinese entrepreneurs, he started up in Uganda as a simple importer in 1999, of everything from shoes to schoolbags, fishing nets to nails.

But that import business has grown since into a diversified enterprise encompassing a restaurant, a firm selling flat-screen televisions and a security company.

With a local workforce of 1,400, Zhang Hao says he gradually dropped his early ambition of simply "making a fortune, and leaving".

"Reputation is everything here. That's based on quality products and having quality people working for you," he says.

"It's important for companies arriving in Africa to show they mean to stay, to bed themselves into the local community, and to establish a reputation.

"Chinese business people need to realize, too, they have to be a little more patient than they might expect to be back home, or elsewhere," says Zhang Hao.

"This is a place to consider long-term investment."

Localization is also key to success, he adds, as is being prepared to reward success.

A growing number of managers in his security, and television firms are local employees, and his company has an established system of awarding regular wage increases, to hold onto and also attract loyal employees.

"I have found it easy to work with our people here. We have had to be prepared to abide by local traditions and religions, but there's no great issues in that."

Lwampa works as one of Zhang Hao's business managers, and says the culture of his Chinese employers has helped him grow professionally.

"It was a challenge initially to fit into a Chinese management style. I thought we would have had very different cultural backgrounds.

"But both sides actually complement each other. We have worked well together and gradually learned to appreciate each other's efficiency, planning, and hard work."

However, Zhang Hao points out the arrival of Chinese business people like himself, has been far from plain sailing in Kampala, and elsewhere in Uganda.

The influx of shopkeepers, especially Chinese and Indian, for instance, has caused consternation and occasional demonstration among some local retailers.

"Every time something like that happens, it causes damage to some degree to the Chinese community here," says Zhang Hao, who founded the China Enterprises Chamber of Commerce in Uganda with other Chinese investors in 2009, to protect their rights in the country.

He still believes more effort is needed to help local people "fully appreciate what Chinese business people have brought to the place" and can still bring in future.

On the flipside, some feel strongly, too, that the growing Chinese presence has inspired many local business people to seek closer ties with China, and the Chinese businesses investing in Uganda.

【1】 【2】 【3】 【4】


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