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Feature: Cameroonian entrepreneurs eye opportunities in Canton Fair in China

Canton Fair in China

James Atanga runs a trading company in Cameroon’s commercial hub of Douala. The 55-year-old is the manager of Tang Enterprise Co. Ltd, which deals in household utensils, furniture, electronics, clothes, shoes, toys, furs, and car parts.

« Almost everything (in my shop) is imported from China, » he said. In 2010, Atanga forged connections in China and began traveling to the Chinese cities of Guangzhou and Shenzhen to buy goods.

« China is the place I look to when I want to buy and create partners, » the father of four said.

Just like Atanga, Seraphin Koliou Leubou is eager to seize opportunities in China. The 46-year-old is the manager of Electro-Plomb Sarl, a Cameroonian company specialized in the distribution and construction of energy products. « Creating partnerships with the Chinese is absolutely important, » Leudou said.

Both men are attending the 135th session of the China Import and Export Fair, also known as the Canton Fair, which is underway in Guangzhou, the capital of south China’s Guangdong Province.

Leudou, who has attended the fair several times, said he is looking for « new partnerships in order to pursue our vision. »

« I have already participated in this trade fair several times. As an experience, I have seen presentations from industries at the cutting edge of technology, which give me an orientation to the vision of our company. I have made contacts, and partnerships are gradually being put in place for our activity, » Leudou told Xinhua as he was setting off for China.

In recent years, China’s investment and cooperation with Africa have developed steadily and healthily, especially in fields such as transportation, energy, electricity and housing, and that has helped promote local economic development and improve people’s livelihoods, Atanga said.

« The fruitful results achieved so far have provided broad space for continued cooperation in the future, » he said. « That is why, I think, we from Africa, and Cameroon in particular, have had a smooth relationship with China, have a pride of place at Canton Fair. »

« With thousands of exhibitors from over 200 countries, this is a huge trade fair. The eagerness of exhibitors and buyers is just the right thing I need to buy more and create more partners to expand my business back home, » Atanga said.

Leudou, for his part, said investment-led cooperation is becoming a main driver for business cooperation, and China’s Belt and Road Initiative has seen more and more Chinese enterprises invest in Africa.

« That is why I am attending the trade fair to discover more opportunities, interview exhibitors while making new contacts for commercial negotiations, » he said. « The economic operators who return from this trade fair have always had innovations and improvements to make in their activities, which brings added value to the economy. »

Atanga said China, Africa’s largest trading partner, has been a transformational partner, and its engagement with Africa has been multifaceted and multilayered. « That is why Canton Fair is diverse and offers opportunities to everyone, » he said. « And that is why, I, a small equipment dealer, am also here to benefit from this diversity. »

Atanga said it is important for China and Cameroon to build relationships in areas outside those fostered by government actors. « China could provide some public-private partnership to interface the private sector. That would be win-win, » he said.

Dieudonne Tata Wirba, an economist, said business people traveling to China to attend the fair should seize the opportunity to boost cooperation and create more jobs for the youths back home. « But signing deals is not enough, » he said. « Cameroon needs to learn from the best practices of China. We have to work with China in order to add value to our systems. »

The Canton Fair, which opened on April 15, is scheduled to run through May 5.


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