Can the Dragon Make the Lion Breathe Fire? The Links of Chinese Entrepreneurs in the Addis Ababa Economy

Titus van Boekel*, Veronique Schutjens, Annelies Zoomers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


China’s increasing role in many African economies has given rise to discussions about the drivers of these economic relations and the benefits that Africa can reap. This article, based on field work carried out in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), aims to contribute to this discussion by shedding light on a group that is often overlooked: the Chinese small entrepreneurs. Our investigation of five specific economic linkages shows how Chinese entrepreneurs mainly operate in secluded market segments, but also are impactful players in the local economy of Bole Rwanda (Addis Ababa). Their presence has both direct and indirect economic effects: even though focusing mainly on serving the Chinese community, these entrepreneurs play important roles in employment generation, and the transfer of knowledge of particular markets, while simultaneously offering new opportunities for Ethiopian entrepreneurs and transforming the existing vegetable market. The dragon helped the lion to breathe fire—the challenge is to make it a far-reaching and long-lasting breath.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1127–1148
Number of pages22
JournalEuropean Journal of Development Research
Issue number5
Early online date27 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2023


  • Addis Ababa
  • Chinese entrepreneurs
  • Local economy
  • Local linkages
  • Small and medium-sized enterprises (SME)
  • Sub-Saharan Africa


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