Rooibos tea opportunity in China can help boost African exports

By our African Marketing Confederation News Team | 2024

Import tariff reduction on SA’s Rooibos tea could push China to recognise Geographical Indications rights on other unique African products.

Marketing of South Africa’s famous Rooibos tea has been given a boost by the recent announcement that China is reducing import tariffs on the caffeine-free health drink. Tariffs were previously set at between 15 and 30%, but now reduce to 6%.

Photo by Jubair Bin Iqbal from Pexels


China is already SA’s biggest trading partner and has a large population known for drinking tea, but its Rooibos imports have lagged countries such as Japan, which has an import tariff of 17%, and France, Germany and the Netherlands.  


The latter European countries apply a zero tariff as part of a preference scheme for developing markets. 


“Given the size of China’s consumer market, China’s decision to reduce tariffs for South African Rooibos tea by almost 80 percent could make China a priority export market in future,” reports The Diplomat, an international current-affairs magazine covering the Asia-Pacific region. 


“This could not only help reduce the trade deficit between South Africa and China, but also, if branded Rooibos products come into China, it could provide South Africa the opportunity to boost job creation and its value-added exports to China.  


“South Africa’s Rooibos industry produces approximately 20,000 tons annually and employs 5,000 people.” 


Recognition of Geographical Indications (GI) rights 


However, to maximise SA’s export opportunity, China needs to recognise SA’s Geographical Indications (GI) rights relating to Rooibos.  


GI protection is granted by the World Intellectual Property Organization if the “the qualities, characteristics or reputation of the product [are] essentially due to the place of origin”. Other international product examples include Port wine (which must originate from Porto in Portugal) and Champagne (which must originate from a designated region in France). 


“Rooibos and other African products such as South African wine and Benin’s ‘sugarloaf’ pineapples fall under the category of eligible Geographical Indications,” explains The Diplomat. 


“On supermarket shelves, GI recognitions means these products must be original – others can’t manufacture versions of them, and the businesses that sell those products can ultimately get higher prices, meaning higher incomes in African countries.” 


As yet, China has no clear process to recognise, and regulate the use of, Africa’s GIs. But there may be an opportunity to advance this process when the ninth Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (Focac) is held later this year. 


“With the welcome push toward opening up China’s market to African products in recent years, African leaders need to ensure that a clear strategy to implement a process to recognise Africa’s GIs makes it to the agenda,” The Diplomat reports. 

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    Dr Kin Kariisa

    Group CEO - Next Media

    Dr. Kin Kariisa is an extraordinary force at the helm of Next Media Services, a conglomerate encompassing NBS TV, Nile Post, Sanyuka TV, Next Radio, Salam TV, Next Communication, Next Productions, and an array of other influential enterprises. His dynamic role as Chief Executive Officer exemplifies his unwavering commitment to shaping media, business, and community landscapes.
    With an esteemed academic journey, Dr. Kariisa’s accolades include an Honorary PhD in exemplary community service from the United Graduate College inTexas, an MBA from United States International University in Nairobi, Kenya, a Master’s degree in Computer Engineering from Huazong University in China, and a Bachelor’s degree in Statistics from Makerere University.
    Dr. Kariisa pursued PhD research in Computer Security and Identity Management at Security of Systems Group, Radboud University in Nijmegen, Netherlands. As a dynamic educator, he has shared his expertise as a lecturer of e-Government and Information Security at both Makerere University and Radboud University.

    Dr Kin did his PhD research in Computer Security and Identity Management at Security of Systems Group, Radbond University in Nigmegen, Netherlands. He previously served as a lecturer of e-Government and Information Security at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda and Radbond University in Netherlands.

    Dr Kin did his postgraduate courses in Strategic Business Management, Strategic Leadership Communication and Strategies for Leading Successful Change Initiatives at Harvard University, Boston USA.

    • Other current and previous roles played by Dr Kin Kariisa:
    • Lecturer of e-Government and Information Security to graduate students at Makerere University, Kampala and Radbond University in the Netherlands
    • Director of Eco Bank Uganda Limited, one of the largest banks in Africa
    • Chairman of the National Association of Broadcasters, an umbrella industry association for all Television, Radio and online broadcasters in Uganda.
    • Chairman of Board of Directors of Nile Hotel International, that owns the leading hotel in Uganda, Kampala Serena Hotel.
    • Chairman of Board of Directors of Soliton Telmec Uganda, the leading telecom company in Optic fibre business managing over 80% of optic fibre in Uganda.