Spearheading development through electronic innovation

Hisense South Africa’s technology is accessible to everyone through thoughtfully designed and expertly built products.

Hisense South Africa’s technology is accessible to everyone through thoughtfully designed and expertly built products.

Published Nov 29, 2022


South Africa was on the cusp of democracy and a brand new era when Zhou Houjian, former chairman of the Hisense Group, visited South Africa. It was 1993, and the visit signalled Hisense’s intention to take advantage of opportunities of new markets and trade relations opening up in South Africa.

Deeply impressed by the country’s sound infrastructure at that time and its internationally robust finance and trade regime, Houjian wasted no time laying the groundwork for Hisense’s entry into South Africa as a market for its products and a staging post to springboard into the sub-Saharan African region.

That was 1994. Two years later, in 1996, Hisense South Africa was officially established as a subsidiary of Hisense International. It has since grown into an African-focussed company that invests in the manufacture of top electronics products - providing the latest technology at affordable prices.

Hisense was founded as a radio manufacturer in 1969 in Qingdao, China. Five decades later, Hisense has become a global leader in household appliances and consumer electronics, with more than 100 000 employees worldwide. Its products are sold in over 160 countries.

In 2021, the sales revenue of Hisense International reached $8.91 billion, while brand sales revenue reached $7.37 billion, increasing by 45.1%, and brand sales revenue topped 82.7%.

Supporting the South African economy

South Africa has played no small part in the company’s overall development as a multibillion dollar global conglomerate, says Tommy Jiang, manufacturing executive of Hisense South Africa. “In the beginning, we had only a TV production line in South Africa,” he says. “Then in 2000, Hisense acquired the South African production base from the South Korean company to build a TV production line. We’ve since built a good relationship with local channels, with the product selling in more and more stores - thus earning the trust of customers in the quality of our products.”

Based in Midrand, Johannesburg and in Century City, Cape Town the company has a national footprint, with offices in the country's four major centres - allowing it to distribute its products to more than 8 000 stores. Those products are now diversified. They include the production of washing machines as well as eco-friendly and energy-saving mobile communication devices.

“Besides TVs and home appliance products, we have already started to introduce B2B products, Smart City products, smart phones and accessories, medical equipment, small home appliances, and so many more into our product range. All the expansions will finally benefit local society and localisation,” says Jiang.

In June 2013, Hisense launched its R350-million, state-of-the-art consumer electronics and home appliance manufacturing facility in Atlantis Industrial Park in Cape Town that is capable of producing 400 000 refrigerators and televisions per year.

Jiang says that the company’s growth surge has been on the back of high-quality products at decent prices. He adds that the company’s products are exported to more than 10 countries in the southern African region including Namibia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana and Lesotho. “Our continuous efforts have helped grow Hisense's LED TV and refrigeration sales rapidly. From January to September, Hisense televisions ranked first in market share in South Africa, according to GFK.”

Supporting sustainable development

As a good corporate citizen committed to localisation, Hisense’s presence in South Africa and in southern Africa has been sensitive to, and supportive of the principles and practices of sustainable development, explains Jiang. Since its arrival in South Africa, the company’s approach has been underpinned by Hisense’s vision of leading Africa into a new age of economic development, using electronic products as a springboard. “Adhering to our corporate vision of ‘making good products with high quality’, Hisense advocates the construction of its own brand based on fully understanding the local culture of South Africa and integrating the Hisense brand gradually into the life of local people,” says Jiang.

Hisense certainly walks the talk. Perhaps the most remarkable display of the company’s commitment to sustainable development is the Hisense South Africa Appliance Industrial Park. According to Jiang, the park has not only become an important fulcrum of Hisense's globalisation strategy, but it also “exerts a far-reaching influence on the local manufacturing industry, social and economic development, employment and daily life, the environment and social stability, and is a positive affirmation from the international community”.

The company has also built the Hisense South Africa Technology Research and Development Training Base, which has trained about 1 400 apprentices to date. Looking ahead, Jiang says Hisense will continue to improve production quality and the efficiency of its factory in South Africa. In doing so, the company will create more local employment opportunities and showcase the quality of “Made in Africa” products on the global stage.

He expects Hisense's growth experience and model for co-operation in South Africa to “provide ideas and inspiration for more South-South cooperation – leading to a brighter future for both China and Africa”.

Generating local employment

From an employment and skills perspective, Hisense has identified training programmes and local employment as strategic priorities of its growth and sustainability model. “Currently, we have about 20 Chinese skilled workers in our plant who are here to train local employees,” says Jiang. “In 2019, Hisense South Africa trained about 1 000 unemployed rural youth aged 18 to 25. Hisense South Africa has also co-operated with Atlantis Middle School to establish the Hisense South Africa Technology Research and Development Training Base, which has trained 1 400 people in total to help students master electronic technology, software, and equipment skills.”

A smart innovation in this regard which merges the benefits of electronic innovations with local development is the Hisense Mindset initiative. In order to provide free educational resources to Africa through smart TVs, the company negotiated with an educational application company called Mindset. With the assistance of local organisations such as the Nelson Mandela Foundation, Standard Bank and the Telkom Foundation, the Mindset course was successfully launched on the Hisense VIDAA smart TV.

The Hisense factory in South Africa has actively promoted the sustainable development of regional manufacturing by hiring more than 1 000 local staff, and through its operations, indirectly creating over 5 000 jobs in the community. “All these initiatives are examples of our philosophy of co-operation and friendship,” says Jiang. “For this beautiful land, Hisense not only values its market position, but also holds a great sense of gratitude.”

Taking social responsibility, supporting clean energy

Hisense has actively undertaken social responsibilities by donating products and providing assistance to many organisations, says Jiang. “The company has sponsored the UNEP’s SEED Award for many years, supporting orphanages with donations on Mandela Day, and donating lunch for the disabled in the Orion organisation. In addition, we donated Ultrasound products and digital boards to the organisation this year. We hope to give back to the public with every penny of Hisense's income. Through every dollar we make, Hisense hopes to have a share fed back to the public.”

From an ecological perspective, Hisense has been actively promoting environmental protection. “We insist on using clean energy and reducing the consumption of conventional electricity at our Hisense South Africa Appliance Industrial Park,” says Jiang. “From raw material to production, energy-consumption and efficiency are strictly observed at every stage.”

Despite the increase in production costs related to this, Jiang believes that Hisense - as a model local home appliance company and leader in South Africa - has the responsibility to take higher measures to save energy and reduce emissions to drive other enterprises to follow its lead and jointly maintain the planet.