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EMLYON MBA To Boost Chinese Companies in Africa

Hu Ziheng says there's scope for Chinese firms to grow sustainably in Africa, something he's researching while on the EMLYON MBA

Hu Ziheng, a candidate for the EMLYON Business School International MBA started out as a Chinese-French interpretor, and five years later was one of the top executives in the Rwanda operation of China Geo-Engineering Corporation.

Hu graduated with a Bachelors in French from Wuhan University of Science and Technology, China. His love of languages meant that when the opportunity came along to join the Rwanda operations of State Owned Enterprise China Geo-Engineering Corporation (CGC), he accepted! 

CGC has operations in 30 countries outside China and its activities include geological prospecting, road and bridge construction, hydro power generation and heavy engineering.

Hu's goal is to extend business relationships between China and Africa, and he tells us how the EMLYON MBA will help him do just that!

How did you end up working in Rwanda?
I had been randomly selected to study languages at University and I wasn’t against it because it's something I love. I used my French a lot and by the time I graduated from university, I had a French interpreter's certificate from the Chinese government. I was employed by the China Geo-Engineering Corporation (CGC) who immediately sent me to Rwanda.

At that point, I didn’t have any idea about Rwanda as a country and all I knew were things I had heard such as the genocide. Family members were against it but I insisted because I wanted a chance to see how languages really worked and to apply my skills.

What were your first impressions of the country?
Underdevelopment. It was a tough and difficult place to adapt to. Environmentally, the living conditions were different from what I knew. Workwise, there was no system in place and each time we started a project we had to start from the scratch. Basic things like spare parts were missing in the markets. It took a while to understand the local culture and to build a long-term relationship with them. People were still very sensitive because of the war but as workers we found them co-operative and as people, they are very kind.

Why did you decide to leave for an MBA?
When I left, I was at the level of General Manager and I got to know the business thoroughly. I had learned from my colleagues along the way but I still wanted the chance to think about business in a systematic way.

I also wanted an MBA so I can return and contribute to the way Chinese firms operate in Africa. Many of the Chinese companies in Africa do not have any global brand recognition, they need to implement sustainable development strategies, and encourage local talent. I wanted an MBA to be able to contribute to this.

What other schools did you consider for an MBA?
EMLYON was the only school I applied to. My French background meant that I wanted to experience France so I selected the top four French business schools. I compared them but EMLYON stood out for me because of its focus on entrepreneurship.

The programme focuses on how an entrepreneur can make the most of the resources around him or her, and I related this to the way that I started from scratch in Rwanda. I think I made a good choice because the environment has been very interactive and encouraging. I’m very proud of the achievement even though I haven’t graduated.

What direction should we expect from Chinese firms doing business in Africa?
Many Chinese firms from different industries will be involved in Africa in the future. Local governments are encouraging this and companies have been operating successfully for some time now.

When China Geo-Construction Company went to East Africa, it was because the Chinese market was saturated and Africa was a place with fresh demand. There is still that urgency for more Chinese companies to branch into Africa but care needs to be taken to avoid cultural tensions, to make space for smaller local companies, and to use more local talent and materials.

Will you return to CGC after your MBA?
I would like to go back but I have to discuss this with them first. The company is still present in Rwanda and there are lots of projects going on this year. I have a natural attachment to Africa and I want to keep working between Africa and China. 


Read more about students doing an MBA in Europe here