A Kenyan entrepreneur shares five survival tips that will ensure your next business trip to China is stress-free

With approximately 1.4 billion people, China is the most populated country in the world. This means that roughly 1 out of every 5 individuals in the world live in this dynamic economy.

  • China is the second biggest economy in the world but economists predict the country to overtake the US within the next decade.
  • Kenyan entrepreneurs annually make multiple trips to China, accumulating hundreds of miles in the process, to buy their wares, stock and even explore new opportunities.
  • One such entrepreneur is Pamellah Oduor, the Proprietor of Spice Land, who recently flew to China for Business.

Closely trailing the United States, China is the second biggest economy in the world but economists predict the country to overtake the US within the next decade.

China is one of the most attractive markets and international trade is embedded in the DNA of the Chinese economy, representing 47% of its GDP. It is the largest exporter of merchandise and the second largest importer.

As a result, everyone wants a piece of China, including African entrepreneurs.

“China and Africa can forge a stronger comprehensive and strategic partnership. China promises to engage with Africa on a principle of sincerity and real results,” said President XiJinping during the recently concluded the China-Africa Forum for Cooperation (FOCAC) 2018 summit.

Kenyan entrepreneurs have not been left behind either and annually make multiple trips to China, accumulating hundreds of miles in the process, to buy their wares, stock and even explore new opportunities.

“China’s 1.3 billion people and Africa’s 1.2 billion want a shared future,” said the Chinese leader as he promised that no obstacle will be allowed to hold back the ‘joint march’.

One such entrepreneur is Pamellah Oduor, the Proprietor of Spice Land, who recently flew to China for Business.

“I visited the state of Guangzhou in to purchase unique catering equipment to boost the general outlook of my catering business and I was there for 7 days,” Pamellah told Business Insider SSA.

Pamellah is also a mentor and the founder of one of the most popular and active Kenyan Facebook groups, Let's Cook Kenyan Meals, which she founded in 2013.

For seven days, Pamellah went about her business in Guangzhou, a sprawling port city northwest of Hong Kong on the Pearl River, armed only with her charming smile, street smartness and of course lots of Chinese Yuan and without the aid of a Chinese translator.

“I was keen on the business models and realised that most businesses in China are run by families. Each family member has a role to play in the daily running of the business. Everybody in China works so hard and is always on the move.”

So here are five things to do to ensure your next business trip to China is stress free straight from the horse's mouth.

1. Make Google Translate app your friend

On her business trip to China, Pamellah decided not to source the services of a Chinese translator but instead threw herself on the deep end of the ‘Chinese trade swimming pool’.

“There was a lot of use of sign language, Google translate but most importantly the only language that is finally understood by all is the language of the calculator which is universal.”

To bypass the ‘language barrier’, she had a couple of smart tricks up her sleeve.

“Make sure to download your VPN App before you land in China as you will not have access to Google [there] and will need the Google Translate.”

2. Only withdraw your money from the Bank ATMs

Fake money is a big problem in China and many unsuspecting entrepreneurs have been on the receiving end of it and got conned thousands of their hard earned money.

Pamellah, a former banker, was determined not to be their next victim so she came prepared. She made sure she withdrew her money at only recognised and official financial centers.

“If possible withdraw your money from the Bank ATMs to avoid being given fake money by the street money changers. You could also change money from your hotel tuck shop,” she said.

3. Use only the green government taxis

Pamellah says Chinese markets are located far from each other and one will to need to do a lot of commuting and hence taxis will be a necessary tool.

“Use only the Green Government Taxis that will run their meters in order to charge for your trip,” she says.

While at it, she also advices entrepreneurs to be extra vigilant since there are some rogue taxi drivers who have a nasty habit of dumping passengers’ midway before reaching their destination which in most cases are far from one another.

“The Chinese markets are targeted such that you will have the kitchen market away from the clothes market, shoes market, beauty market or even leather market,” says Pamellah.

4. Always have your business cards ready

Always have your business cards ready as this is how you will get directions to the shops you want to visit.

“The most important thing you should always have with you is the hotel address which is usually in the form of the hotel business card. This is the document that you will show to the taxi driver when you want to get back to the hotel,” Said Pamellah.

5. Use your freighting company to make for you your hotel booking

The prices in China for goods are very good but the freight costs are extremely high though as Pamellah found out.

“Use your freighting company to make for you your hotel booking,”

The fact that most shops do not have ready stock means that one needs to make an order then come back after 2-3 days to confirm their goods before sending them to the warehouses of the shipping companies which are miles apart is also another  challenge.

“After purchasing your goods, make sure you are there when they are being packed, ferried to the warehouse and when loading. This way you will be sure you have carried all the correct goods that you had purchased.”

The most important survival tip of all…

“Always have all your identification documents and money in a money bag on your waist. This way there is no chance of you forgetting your bag anywhere.

“If you ever get lost in China, get into a shop or shopping mall and ask for WIFI. Go to Google Maps and get directions. You could also go to Google Translate and communicate with the shop assistant.”

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