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China Daily Website

Open for business

Updated: 2013-01-18 11:18
By Andrew Moody and Zhong Nan ( China Daily)

Open for business

Michael Wu, managing director of Pan-Africa Network Group, part of the Beijing-based StarTimes Group, wants to offer an affordable digital TV service in Africa.


"The worry is they get the fallout of something goes wrong such as labor disputes. The nightmare for ambassadors is that they get a call in the night to say two people have been killed and they don't have a clue what is going on."

Alden adds that the anonymity of many Chinese entrepreneurs is hardly surprising since often small amounts of money are involved.

"A lot of investment might be $400,000 or below. That sort of level. It doesn't really involve the Chinese authorities since they are not borrowing money, just relocating to an African setting," he says.

Chinese businesses in Africa are also in new industries such as one company now providing low-cost pay-TV channels across the continent.

Pan-Africa Network Group, part of the Beijing-based StarTimes Group, is based on a new industrial park along Kilimanjaro Avenue in Nairobi.

It has invested $70 million in establishing a presence and currently employs 30 but is in the process of recruiting 200 staff for Nairobi alone and will soon have 1,000 across the continent.

Several smartly dressed 20-something Kenyan graduates seemingly sat nervously in the company's ground floor offices in Victoria Tower.

Michael Wu, the 33-year-old managing director and a graduate from one of China's top business schools, Guanghua School of Management at Peking University, has high hopes for the operation.

He wants to offer an affordable digital TV service for up to 28 countries at just $6 a month, compared to $60 to 80 by competitors such as South Africa's DSTV. The Chinese company already shows a lot of sport and has hopes of securing at least some of its competitor's rights to the English Premier League.

"DSTV have more than 10 years in Africa and they have only 1 million subscribers. We have been launched just one year and we already have that. That is why they are scared of us," he says.

Wu says part of the company's strategy is to play down its Chinese origins and even its customers are unaware it is part of a Beijing-based company.

"We don't want people to think we are a Chinese company. We just want locals to recognize us as a pay-TV company. For us it is about implementing a strategy of full localization," he says.

"As you can see, we have local employees, our customers are local and our brand is considered a local one."

Mary Karuthai, 30, a graduate in management science from Nairobi University who joined the company 18 months ago and is now head of customer service, says working for a Chinese company imposes discipline.

"People working for local companies can often be 10 or 20 minutes late and it is not a big issue. Here they are very strict how you work," she says.

She says despite some comments about Chinese companies, the ethos of the company has been one of developing the talent of local people.

"They give you the opportunity to think critically and you can really explore your potential. You are given the opportunity to actually do it," she says.

It is not the likes of Pan-Africa Network Group that worry some African politicians but those dumping sub-standard products on the market, which has been an issue in some countries.

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