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African Market: Obvious Opportunities
10 | 07 | 2007
Under Vietnam’s World Trade Organisation (WTO) membership, traditional markets will gradually reach the saturation point and stiffer competition in those markets will force Vietnamese companies to seek new markets for their products and services. The African market is regarded as having rich potential.
Vietnam has mainly exported rice to the African market, at roughly one million metric tonnes a year. At present, with government policy halting rice exports, many Vietnamese enterprises see the attractiveness of the African market.
Africa for allApart from traditional exports like garments, textiles, footwear, pepper and rubber, Vietnam has also begun shipping electrical, electronic, mechanical and plastic products, woodworks, motorbikes and accessories, tobacco, vegetables, fruit, seasonings, toys, instant noodles, milk and milk products, and bikes although at low volume and value. Many experts say Vietnam can export all kinds of products to Africa, while Africa is willing to import from Vietnam.
In spite of low per capita GDP (US$210-300 a year), demand in Africa is very high. Africans spend some 80 per cent of their incomes on essential products.
Vietnam has so far signed trade agreements with many African nations like Guinea, Egypt, Algeria, Equatorial Guinea, Mozambique, Angola, Morocco, Tunisia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Libya, Nigeria, Tanzania and the Republic of Congo. As for other African nations, Vietnam is under negotiations for agreements on trade, investment protection and double tax avoidance. Most agreements signed give most favoured nations status treatments and tax preferences to the partners.
Which methodsVietnamese companies encounter a lot of difficulties in doing business with African partners. Apart from geographic distance, market information shortage, high shipping costs, and payments hinder trade with Africa. African companies usually ask for deferred payment, while most Vietnamese exporters are small and medium enterprises for whom deferred payment is unacceptable. Concerning a goods-for-goods exchange, African companies do not have many kinds of commodities to exchange with Vietnamese partners. So far, penetration into African markets through intermediaries is the favoured option for the majority of Vietnamese companies. This method, however, is primarily suitable for exploring the market when export quantity is small and the consumption market is unstable. Therefore, in the current context Vietnamese enterprises should directly penetrate African markets to secure a strong, long-term foothold.
To do that Vietnamese exporters should work in both materials and human resources. According to companies successful in Africa, Vietnamese companies should cooperate with African partners to open showrooms to introduce products, or do this directly. The United States and the EU give numerous commercial preferential treatments to companies investing in Africa (33 African nations have preferential taxes). In fact, several Vietnamese companies have taken advantage of this, opening representative offices and branches in Africa, like Happroximex, Newtatco and Incomex.
In spite of huge difficulties, Vietnamese companies will be successful with sufficient effort and good business policies.

Africa consists of 54 nations on an area of 30 million square kilometres (after Asia and America). By 2010, the African population will reach one billion people. To date, Vietnam has established diplomatic ties with 48 out of 54 African nations, and signed economic, commercial and technological agreements with 19 of them.



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