African Entrepreneurs in China

Sylvana Lewin | Thursday, November 30th, 2017

Jerry Yang is a MEST teaching fellow alumnus, from the class of 2016-2017. He grew up in China and spent time living in Canada. He’s worked on a number of different tech companies ranging from multinational corporations to startups. Since returning to China after his time at MEST, Jerry has taken a strong interest in African entrepreneurs in the region. This led him to become part of a team working to create the first China-Africa entrepreneurship competition. In the article below, he details this experience and how MEST changed his perspective.

Jerry Yang

Earlier this year, I was approached by a small group of people from China who explained they wanted to host a competition for African students in China. After my experience teaching at MEST, I joined this team and led the organization of the final stages. On November 11th, the final roadshow for the first China-Africa entrepreneurship competition took place in Shenzhen, China. Starting in April, African international students in China applied to participate in the competition. Participants were more than 200 students from 22 cities and 29 universities across China and came from 22 African countries.

Six teams from five universities were chosen to compete in the final roadshow. The teams consisted of Eucalyptusia, Eco Inc., Tusa Health center, Sundy Assistant, Green Clothing, and Botswana Livestock Farming and Lifestyle Changing System.

  • Eucalyptusia uses modern extraction methods to process eucalyptus leaves for wellness products, including essential oils and syrup.
  • Eco Inc. counters drinking water shortages with the “eco-blanket” and “eco-bag” which both reduce evaporation and leaching.
  • Tusa Health Center focuses on providing a one- stop solution for improving access and standards in healthcare.
  • Sundy Assistant is a cognitive skills development tool for pre-school education.
  • Green Clothing exports high quality surplus clothing from China for resale in local African markets.
  • Botswana Livestock Farming and Lifestyle Changing System uses a diversified, ecological farm production plan that integrates aquaculture, poultry raising, fruits and vegetables planting and pottery handcrafts.

The teams were judged by the dean of African Study Center of Peking University, the vice chairman of the China-African International Business School of Zhejiang Normal University, an officer from the Shenzhen Innovation and Entrepreneurship Department, investors from Chinese investment institutions, and executives from Chinese companies. Guests at the event included representatives from companies such as Samsung and Tecno.

Tusa Health Center took first prize at the competition. A strong team of doctors and MBA students from Zambia, they showed the huge health demand in Zambia and that very little competition exists in the market. The other companies were also very impressive bringing ideas to the table not just for commercial use, but that would also bring about social impact. The teams also have a high representation of female founders and cofounders.

There are more than 50,000 African students currently studying in China. This large group of talent, however, is usually ignored. During this competition, I was able to mentor all of the competition finalists and work with the teams to refine their business ideas, pitch decks, and pitches. Just as I had done at MEST, I ran pitch practices and then, ultimately, the roadshow. Currently, I am working to restructure our team across different universities for future competitions.

MEST was a life-changing experience for me. Working with the EITs changed my perspective of Africa. I truly believe that people like the entrepreneurs at MEST will build a new Africa. MEST showed me the true Africa rising. When I returned to China, I became an ambassador of African startups. I did a few talks on life at MEST and the tech scene in Africa. I plan to continue this work in China and keep raising awareness of Africa rising.