Ms Hazel Ip, Managing Director at All Trusted Medical, spoke at the Asia and Africa Committee Meeting on 20 September. She shared her experience about working in Africa as a young entrepreneur, where she set up a mobile clinic and helped her company, which supplies medical equipment such as IVD analyzers, become a trusted name in Kenya and South Sudan.
Procuring medical equipment in Africa is never an easy task for hospitals, she says, as these are often not very accessible, and therefore costs a premium. Her company helps hospitals cut costs by introducing more budget-friendly alternatives to expensive brand-name equipment, and in turn contributes to making medical care more affordable. She adds that African countries have great demand of Hong Kong's professional expertise in areas such as shipping and logistics, and product marketing to help them reach international markets.
Vietnam's successful economic reforms have catapulted it into one of the most dynamic and fastest-growing emerging markets globally. At the Chamber’s webinar on 24 August, Consul General of Vietnam Pham Binh Dam said despite Covid-19, the country still managed a growth rate of 5.6% in 2021, and the growth is expected to pick up once again in 2022 once Vietnamese vaccines are rolled out. There is an abundance of business opportunities in digitization, tourism & hospitality, M&A, manufacturing, and infrastructure.
Hoang T. Duong, Chief Representative of KPMG in Danang, said Vietnam’s recently signed EUVFTA and RCEP, along with its cost-efficient and highly-trainable labour force, made it one of the most attractive destinations for manufacturing. Considerable red tape was still present in areas such as tax filing, but the government had been working on reforms to improve.
Anthony Lam, whose company Golden Resources Development operates over 400 Circle K branches in the country, said there was a huge demand for Hong Kong’s professional expertise in all areas from banking and accounting, to legal and sustainability. He reminded companies entering Vietnam to learn the culture and diligently manage language barriers.
Tomohiro Takashima, Director General of JETRO Hong Kong, accompanied by Deputy Director General Toshiaki Wakabayashi and Supervisor of Business Development Department Kelly Li, paid a courtesy visit to the Chamber on 13 August. They met with Chamber’s Asia and Africa Committee Chairman Jonathan Lamport and PR & Programs Director Malcolm Ainsworth.
The two sides discussed the impact of Covid-19 on trade between the two regions. Takashima said that the import of sake skyrocketed by 60% in 2020 mainly due to e-commerce, and he noticed that Japanese companies had started to place more importance on the Hong Kong domestic market with the likes of Donki and AEON opening new branches and bringing in new products. Takashima said according to their recent survey, the main challenge for Japanese companies doing business in Hong Kong was in acquiring new customers. Lamport suggested Japanese companies should look into bringing Japan’s advanced and mature elderly products and services to Hong Kong as Hong Kong’s elderly market had a lot of room to grow, and local spending power was high.
Both sides expressed hopes of opening borders as soon as possible so Hong Kong and Japan can resume normal business activities.
Shannon Powell, Senior Trade & Investment Commissioner and Deputy Consul General of Australia in Hong Kong, accompanied by Investment Manager Catherine Dai, paid a courtesy visit to the Chamber on 29 July. They met with Chamber CEO George Leung and PR & Programs Director Malcolm Ainsworth, and discussed ways to collaborate with the Chamber and foster bilateral relations.
Powell explained that Australia was Hong Kong’s seventh largest trade partner in services, and said that there were opportunities in digital technology, biotech, tourism, renewable energy, circular economy and advanced manufacturing. She added that green technology and biotech were the two areas likely to be most relevant to Hong Kong investors, and said that the Consulate was already working with some Hong Kong companies to help them enter the Australian market.
The two sides also discussed Hong Kong’s role as a regional and international logistics centre, as well as the impact of the pandemic on the logistics sector and trade fairs. They agreed to organize information sessions and meetings to help members learn more about the business opportunities in Australia, as well as the different laws, regulations and tax regimes across provinces.
Edmond Yue, Co-convenor of the Belt and Road Working Group, hosted the group’s meeting on 15 June, and welcomed Pham Binh Dam, Consul General of Vietnam in Hong Kong. The Consul General updated members on the latest developments in the country and business opportunities under the Belt and Road initiative. With a huge population of over 100 million, Vietnam possesses a skilled, educated and diligent workforce ready to work hard and adapt to new challenges, he told members attending the meeting.
Many Vietnam businesses are interested in the Belt and Road and other Chinese initiatives such as the Greater Bay Area. However, Pham said, they did not have much knowledge about such initiatives, and it was hard to find an entrance point to the Mainland markets. The same applied to Hong Kong businesses looking to invest in Vietnam’s rapidly growing economy, where they would often find themselves facing vastly different business culture and rules and regulations.
He said that although there had been a 40% growth in trade between Hong Kong and Vietnam in the first quarter, the flow of capital investment was limited due to global uncertainty and lack of mutual market insight. He suggested that the Chamber organizes a few sessions about potential investment projects and mergers and acquisitions opportunities in Vietnam.
Pham added that Hong Kong investors should keep an eye on sectors such as e-commerce, infrastructure, finance, and hospitality and tourism, where huge opportunities were emerging. On the hospitality side, for example, he said many luxury hotels along the country’s 3,000-km coastline were up for sale for a lowered price due to the pandemic, which could be lucrative after renovations and branding. He said Vietnam’s e-commerce sector had also developed in leaps and bounds in the past few years – in fact, he said, e-commerce was even more developed than in Hong Kong as almost everything in Vietnam could already be done online.
Chamber CEO George Leung, former Asia & Africa Committee Chairman Behzad Mirzaei, and Chamber PR & Events Director Malcolm Ainsworth, joined a dinner to bid farewell to Yutaka Hashimoto, Deputy Director General, JETRO Hong Kong, who was taking up a new post in Tokyo. Mirzaei thanked Hashimoto for all of his work in boosting JETRO-HKGCC cooperation, including two very successful business missions to Kansai and Hokkaido. Leung presented Hashimoto with a HKGCC soccer kit, as a small souvenir and said he hopes the Chamber will have the opportunity to visit him on a mission to Japan once the pandemic restrictions are lifted. Tomohiro Takashima, Director General of JETRO Hong Kong, and Hashimoto’s replacement, Toshiaki Wakabayashi, also joined the dinner. All participants have been fully vaccinated.
The Asia and Africa Committee held its committee meeting on 1 June. Tareq Rafi Bhuiyan, Managing Director of NewVision Solutions Ltd and Secretary-General of the Japan-Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry, updated members on Bangladesh’s development. He said the country had seen remarkable GDP growth averaging 6% in the past seven years, and had surpassed India in GDP per capita.
Bangladesh is known for its garments industry, which is the second biggest in the world. Bhuiyan said that apart from garments, there were a number of other important sectors in the country, including agro-food processing, light engineering, consumer goods, automobile, financial services, ICT, pharmaceuticals and healthcare, and home appliances.
He explained that Bangladesh’s pharmaceuticals industry grew by 11% in the past five years, and although exports stood at US$136 million only, there was vast potential for growth. He added that the country imported US$1.3 billion worth of raw active pharmaceutical ingredients every year, of which 90% originated from China and India.
Speaking on Bangladesh’s e-commerce sector, Bhuiyan said the sector grew at an astonishing 75% per year and its online grocery marketplace had been experiencing double-digit growth in terms of the number of deliveries. Major players such as Uber, Foodpanda and Alibaba have taken a foothold in the country.
Following the presentation, the committee conducted its election. Members elected Jonathan Lamport to be the new Chairman, while Natalia Sukhanova, Andrew Wells and Edmond Yue were elected Vice Chairmen. The outgoing Chairman Nigel Collett congratulated the incoming Chairman and Vice Chairmen, and thanked members for their support during his tenure.
Amr Elhenawy, Consul General of Egypt in Hong Kong, paid a courtesy call to the Chamber on 26 May to meet with Asia & Africa Committee Chairman Nigel Collett, to foster relations between Egypt and Hong Kong businesses.
Consul General Elhenawy gave an update on Egypt’s latest economic developments. He said that China and Egypt had been working closely together in the past decade, and many infrastructure investment deals between the two countries had been signed. Having recently arrived at his post in Hong Kong, he said his first goal was to help promote the city’s importance as a regional financial hub and gateway to the Greater Bay Area to the Egyptian business community, and also to spread the word in Hong Kong about the opportunities in Africa.
Chamber CEO George Leung welcomed Consul General Elizabeth Ward and Celia Ngou, Media Manager, from the Australian Consulate General to the Chamber on 24 May.
Both sides exchanged views on the economic outlook of Hong Kong and Australia, and discussed Hong Kong’s role in the Greater Bay Area and how both economies could benefit from this cooperation.
Consul General Ward said she looked forward to working with the Chamber to foster business ties once Covid-19 restrictions are eased.
Most countries in Africa have enjoyed sustained economic growth over the past 15 years, with growth rates often exceeding 5% per year. At the Chamber’s webinar on 5 May, a panel of experts shared their insights into the latest developments in Africa, the potential impacts of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) agreement, as well as the challenges and opportunities that their countries are facing.
Skander Negasi, CEO of Trade and Fairs Consulting & Trade and Fairs East Africa, kicked off the event with a presentation on the business environment in Africa. He explained that the continent was home to half of the world's fastest-growing economies in terms of GDP growth. Africa is also poised to keep its position as the world’s youngest continent by 2030, by which time 57% of the population will be under 25 years old, meaning the continent will continue to possess a young workforce and large consumer market ripe for investment. Economic activities will be catalyzed with the AfCFTA, which came into force in 2021 and aims to boost continental trade from 16% to 60%, strengthen industrialization and logistics, and bring African countries into a unified customs bloc.
In the panel discussion that followed, Getachew Regassa, Secretary General of Addis Ababa Chamber of Commerce & Sectoral Associations, told members that Ethiopia was going through a complete economic reform with the private sector spearheading the country’s economic growth. The country was in the process of establishing its first stock market, Regassa said, and changes to its investment laws had liberalized its telecom sector by allowing foreign investors in. Other areas of interest include the digital economy, financial sector, mining and manufacturing.
Dr Erick Rutto, Vice President of the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry, pointed out that Kenya was the largest economy in East Africa and had sustained a GDP growth of 5-6.5% in the past five years. The country has emerged as Africa’s top technology and innovation hub, so much so that it has been dubbed “Silicon Savannah” in recent times. Dr Rutto encouraged members to look into promising sectors such as ICT, healthcare, affordable housing and agritech.
Chime Jude, Executive Director of Trade of the Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said Nigeria accounts for about half of West Africa’s population, with approximately 202 million people. While it is the largest oil exporter in Africa and has the largest natural gas reserves on the continent, in addition to an abundance of untapped mineral wealth, the Government has made efforts to diversify its economy, so there are opportunities in priority sectors such as mining, agriculture, energy and transportation infrastructure, as well as telecommunications.
Special thanks to Trade and Fairs Consulting & Trade and Fairs East Africa (official representative of Messe Frankfurt) for co-organizing the webinar with us.