A Business Plan
Observation #1: Lots of Chinese businesses want to deal with Africa.
Observation #2: Anecdotal evidence (mainly from Chinese Alliance française branches) indicates a demand for services that will help them do this.
Observation #3: While certain organisations do exist to facilitate Sino-African trade (http://www.chnafrica.org/, http://www.ifeizhou.com/, http://www.sinotf.com/, etc.), these are mainly Chinese-run with links to the state, rather than locally based organisations.
Conclusion: There is a gap in the market for a reasonably-priced, responsive and, above all, Africa-centric commercial service providing help and advice to Chinese businesses expanding into African markets.
Set-Up and Day-To-Day Functioning
Unlike many small businesses, an enterprise of this kind would require relatively little intial capital. Expenses could be pared down to a minimum if the partners were not, initially, paid a salary, but rather took a share of the profits equivalent to their contribution. In this case, the consultancy function could be provided without any capital outlay. Funds would be needed, however, for:
1. Domain name registration/hosting. (No more than 50 euros.)
2. Administrative formalities necessary to create the company. (Varies depending on place of incorporation)
3. Wages for one Chinese employee for at least six months. (Around 3000 euros.)
4. Telecommunications expenses. (As yet undefined.)
Point three seems unavoidable; the average Chinese entrepreneur remains extremely reluctant to do business entirely online, or, indeed, with anyone he has not seen face-to-face*. In ideal circumstances a travel budget would also be provided to overcome this problem. The employee should be a recent graduate in sales, marketing or business, based in the Shanghai or the Pearl River Delta region. While it is not essential to have a partner located in China, this too would be helpful, not merely in order to supervise the employee, but also to reassure potential clients via the presence of an obvious foreigner (without this guarantee Chinese clients are apt to suspect the company, fraud being so prevalent).
The final optional expense would consist in the commissioning of a market study. This would look at the nature of the services that people were willing to pay for, and how much they were willing to pay.
The African end of the business could be handled by partners holding the relevant expertise on an ad hoc basis, depending on the services and location in question. Payment would be calculated based on the time and other resources brought to the business by each partner, the precise mechaism being defined by the articles of incorporation.
Assuming an initial capital of 5000 euros, this could be provided either by the partners themselves or by means of a small business loan. The latter would, in all likelyhood, necessitate the carrying out of a market survey in order to define possible repayment terms.
Expressions of Interest
Anyone interested in this project should leave a message below. Please feel free to pass on the idea to others.
* Drunk and singing Tian Mi Mi with a karaoke hostess.