Chairman, Taiwan-Africa Industrial Development Association
Taiwan’s entrepreneurs are loath to let geopolitical concerns stand in the way of a good deal. In the 1980s, while the governments of Taipei and Beijing continued to clash over Taiwan’s sovereignty, Taiwanese businessmen evaded restrictions on investment across the Taiwan Strait by funnelling capital into China via Hong Kong and the British Virgin Islands. Eventually, Taipei grudgingly loosened its regulations.
The island’s large economy is dependent on exports: the bulk go to China, but some business people like Mike Hung of the Taiwan-Africa Industrial Development Association look further afield for opportunities. On the continent where Taiwan’s ‘dollar diplomacy’ battles were fought, Hung and his cohorts pursue apolitical commercial relations.
Hung is prominent in two business associations that guide Taiwan’s small- and medium-sized enterprises to Africa: TAIDA and the China International Economic Cooperation Association. He also heads the International Trade Committee of Taiwan’s National Association of Small and Medium Enterprises. In November 2009, he led a TAIDA and CIECA delegation to Burkina Faso and Gambia, signing accords with local chambers of commerce.
Ever pragmatic, the associations give China’s allies a warm welcome. In April, Mahmoud Gebril, Director General of the National Economic Development Board of Libya, passed through Taipei during a regional tour to drum up investors for his country’s new industrial zones. Hung, whose company manufactures plastic bags in Libya, stepped up to vouch for the business climate there.
Mike Hung Products was established in 1982, producing hats, banners and vests. It now engages in a variety of light manufacturing, including toys, textiles, chalk and solar-powered small appliances.