For Ekanga Martial, the similarities between Africa and Asia are more edifying than the differences.
"Instead of claiming China is so different from the rest of the world, it makes more sense to see the similarities of the country to my home country," said the 29-year-old Cameroonian.
In the late 1990s Martial read a story about the rapid pace at which China was developing. He was fascinated by the role Chinese students who had studied abroad were playing in the process by applying the lessons they had learned overseas to problems at home.
It seemed to Martial that since China and Africa were both developing regions, there could be similarities between the things they lacked.
This was enough to inspire the young man to pack his bags and head to Shanghai as part of an African-Chinese study exchange program. Without any clear ideas of what to expect, and without knowing a soul in China, Martial headed east in 1998.
After becoming fluent in Chinese, Martial decided to stay on in Shanghai for another three years to pursue a degree in biotechnology.
In 2003, he co-founded Danyan International Ltd, a company specializing in trade with the African region. One of the company's goals was to develop strategies to penetrate the African market.
Danyan's main products are equipment, though the company is expanding into building materials and chemicals.
However, Martial's goals are much bigger than just selling products. He has come to see his undertaking as an attempt to merge the best parts of two different worlds -- benefiting from China's economic possibilities while simultaneously working to encourage sustainable development in Africa.
"Improving the economy and infrastructure of Africa" is Martial's ambition.
"It's not just external aid that will help Africa develop, since change must come from the people themselves, the same way the people in China have established the change in the country," Martial said.
By living in China and operating within the African market, Martial hopes to contribute his share to Africa's path to success, and ultimately the development of the whole African region.
(China Daily April 19, 2007)