A Canton Fair Story: Organizing Kenyan Buyers to the 125th Canton Fair

Published on 13th August 2019

600 years ago, famous Chinese voyager Zheng He sailed to Kenya 3 times in his expeditions, an important destination in East Africa. These great voyages started the historic chapter of China-Africa friendship. Today, the “Belt & Road” Initiative connected Kenya and China even more closely and brought more opportunities to this beautiful East African country.

“Made in China” is the most direct way for African people to get to know China. In Kenyan families, you can find “Made in China” on knives and forks, utensils, TV, washing machine, etc. Chinese products with high quality and low price have become very popular among African people. “Canton Fair” is a key platform for African traders to find products and know Chinese suppliers. As a business and trade service provider in Kenya, we provide information of Chinese products to Kenyan businessmen in need. For many years, we’ve organized Kenyan buyer delegation to source in China. What’s exciting is, Canton Fair has not only brought Chinese products to thousands of African families, but its influence also extends on more people in Africa.

Philip attended our Canton Fair delegation for the first time in 2010. Before the trip, he came over to our company for consultation multiple times. He had a small glasses store; he used to source from an Indian wholesaler in Kenya. Due to high cost and limited product selection, his glasses store didn’t fare well. Philip considered China a world factory and it was his dream to source in China. He told us that he was too happy to sleep for 3 days when he read in the newspaper about going to China to attend Canton Fair and having the opportunity to trade directly with so many producers. During that trip, Philip understood the trend of the international eyewear industry, found the products he needed and reliable suppliers too. After that, his business developed rapidly in Kenya: he opened 6 chain stores nationwide in a short time and employed nearly 100 staff. His business expanded from final product sales to processing, retail and wholesale of semi-finished products. Apart from achieving company development he also contributed to local job creation and tax payment, therefore a sound business development example was established. He continued to attend Canton Fair in our company’s delegation in a few years to come. He told us that he was proud to break the monopoly of Kenya’s eyewear industry thanks to the Chinese glasses he acted as agent for. Competition has significantly decreased the price so that many students can now afford to have their glasses made. Canton Fair has changed his life and Chinese glasses changed the life of Kenyan people.

Kenya is located in East Africa and enjoys scenic landscape. A world famous tourism destination, Kenya is regarded as “heaven for wildlife”. Yet the lack of power remains the bottleneck of its development. Many counties are still partially powered, which affects the daily life of local residents to a large extent. In 2017, Nakuru County government approached us about organizing a China trip on new energy projects. Knowing that Canton Fair had just established the New Energy section and related enterprises are concentrated there, we arranged the first stop of our trip to the Fair. In this 2 day trip, members of Nakuru government delegation communicated with Chinese exhibitors on issues of building large solar power station, network power supply, community garbage collection and treatment, and portable solar power supply system for families in remote areas. Some clean energy companies showed us their best practices in other countries. In their in-depth conversation, I saw the attitude of a developing African country towards environmental protection, and the aspiration of local government to improve livelihood and build infrastructure. This successful trip broadened their horizon, gave them ideas on local new energy development and made friends, a good start for future cooperation. Later, one exhibitor visited Nakuru County to conduct field investigation for the possibility of introducing portable solar power supply system in power shortage areas. We believe that in the near future, Chinese companies will provide green solutions for local government and clean energy will light each house in remote areas.

Our company was founded 15 years ago. As a startup, we wondered how to draw on our advantage to meet the market demand of Kenya and serve as a bridge. At last we found the answer at the Canton Fair. Due to language barrier and lack of Chinese market information, Kenyan importers had to source from Dubai and South Africa. We knew that a great deal of quality and cheap Chinese products would suit Kenyan market very well, but how to bring these businessmen to China for sourcing and create value for them was the question we thought about the most. Canton Fair was our first choice.

This international trading platform allows Kenyan businessmen to meet and trade directly with Chinese producers, which lowers import cost and provides various choices for buyers’ different needs. Since we first organized Kenyan sourcing delegation in 2000, we’ve brought nearly 3000 people/times to attend the Fair. And our company has also grown from a travel agency to a comprehensive trade service provider, covering consultation, business service and logistics. Looking back, I can say that each step we made was connected to Canton Fair. It was Canton Fair that solved our difficulty as a startup; through Canton Fair we achieved rapid corporate development, realized our value and fulfilled the dream of starting a business abroad. In the meanwhile, many Kenyan businessmen found the products they needed and potential opportunities at Canton Fair, which changed their company development and fulfilled their dreams.

Kenya is an important African partner in China’s “Belt & Road” Initiative. Many big pilot projects have started in Kenya and brought benefit to the local people. Just as Mombasa-Nairobi railway, Thika highway, and port of Lamu, Canton Fair, an outstanding Chinese name card, has been rooted in Kenyan people’s heart. This trading platform has proven to be an irreplaceable bridge in China-Kenya trade. It is the place to realize Chinese enterprises’ dream of going global and the aspiration of African nation for self-development and quality life.


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