The China Connection

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The Seychelles is a small country, but much can be achieved by expanding cooperation and providing Chinese investors and traders with more opportunities, says the head of the nation’s main trading company.

Ms Veronique Laporte

In an exclusive interview with Mercury Lux for China Economic Review, the Chief Executive Officer of Seychelles Trading Company (STC), Ms Veronique Laporte, said that building economic ties with China is important for STC.

“We import a lot of perishables from China, but the main challenge we face for other goods is their MOQ (minimum order requirement), which is not always suitable for us. We prefer consolidated containers of dry goods,” she said. “China is always thinking big, and it is difficult. Our goal at STC is to offer Seychellois various options, which is why consolidated consignments work better for us, and these can be re-ordered frequently based on sales. So one of the key messages is that the Seychelles is never too small for any supplier.”

Ms Laporte said the island-nation was an excellent staging post for China’s business and investment to Africa. “I believe Seychelles is also a good stepping stone to Africa. We are very receptive and our laws are being changed where required to meet the ever-changing business environment. For re-exports, we have special zones and taxation agreements that can be advantageous for such business operations. If China wants to target Seychelles for re-export only, that can also be done.”

Ms Laporte said Seychelles trading relationship with China goes back many years, and is growing in terms of the types of channels being explored.

“The environment for business in the Seychelles is very good,” she said. “There are a lot of trading opportunities by both sea and air freight. But, then again, it remains important to look at volumes, quality and language barriers. We should come to an understanding with China that it is not about how much is shipped in one go, but what volume of trading can be done over months and years.”

“We have been looking at new
suppliers for household products and other assortments of non-food items, but separate from perishables, for now our trading with China for dry goods is through other trading companies that may have the capacity to import bigger volumes for re-sale. When the quality and price are in accordance with our expectations, these trading companies allow STC to offer a variety of products to the people of Seychelles.”

“STC belongs to the Government, but we do not receive any funding or budget from them,” she said. “I run STC as a private company and despite our various challenges we have a great team that does their best to ensure an efficient operation to provide our customers with great value for money.”

Before taking up her position as STC’s CEO four years ago, Ms Laporte was the Principal Secretary for Health. “The first thing we did was to open a healthy foods corner in the supermarkets. One of the main issues with our health is our lifestyle and what we eat, and at STC we have tried our best to provide our customers with these choices. We are still searching for other special diet foods, such as gluten-free and bio-foods, given their high prices in the international markets.”

Ms Laporte believes Seychelles offers significant long-term opportunities for China in spite of its relative size. “Seychelles is not too small for China. Give Seychelles a chance, and you will see how much business can be done with us,” she emphasized. “What we at STC are looking for is a variety of good quality products at reasonable prices.”

“The Seychelles is now more interested than ever in diversifying its sourcing of products, providing an opportunity for China,” she added.

 “It is important that STC opens up more and not to have all our eggs in one basket. It is good for China to know that there is a politically and economically stable market here in Seychelles, that is hungry for products to be imported, from China and from all over the world.”

STC