ON ASSIGNMENT: CHINESE IN AFRICA
It’s estimated that about 750,000 Chinese entrepreneurs are working in infrastructure projects, factories and small businesses in Africa. Chinese companies are often the lowest bidders for contracts, pricing out the more expensive European companies. As a result, Western influence has dwindled.
Many African governments also see the Chinese as a more honest partner in business and aid. The Chinese, unlike America and European countries, usually give aid without any restrictions. They are also big donors and investors to countries such as Sudan and Zimbabwe, who are under economic sanctions, or who has questionable human right records.
Some accuse the Chinese of being just another colonizer who extract the mineral riches in countries such as Zambia and Democratic republic of Congo. China gets roughly a third of its oil and many other important natural resources from Africa. As a result, the Chinese have in a short time become a strong force in Africa.
The Chinese are known to work hard and for many hours. They usually don’t socialize with Africans outside work and they usually live in compounds close to the working environment. Within the compounds, they have their own chefs and many times grow their own Chinese vegetables in gardens.
I visited Zambia and Angola for this report. In Zambia they have bought a major Copper
mine, and several textile factories. Immediately after their purchase, the Chinese owners closed the factories down, and choose instead to import from China directly in hopes to floods the local markets with their goods. The local African factories couldn’t compete and many have been forced to shut down. Even in Africa, it doesn’t make sense for the Chinese to run a textile factory with African workers because it is still cheaper to import from China.
In Ndola, Zambia, the Eastern Union Limited is a China based company that buys Copper from Congo DRC, and delivers it to their Copper smelter by truck in Ndola. Their smelter was shipped from China and operates 24 hours a day in an Industrial area in Ndola.
The copper is eventually trucked to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and hen on ships to China. In Ndola there are many Chinese restaurants and a Casino that serves mainly Chinese customers. Chinese companies construct many infrastructure projects such as road construction, water pipes, and bridges. Within Angola, the Chinese community
has created a Chinese market in Luanda flooded with cheap Chinese goods.
The Chinese are currently working on two major railway renovation projects around the country. In many other countries they build sport stadiums, state houses, etc. This year, China pledged $20 billion to finance trade and infrastructure across the continent over the next three years.
Time will have to tell about China’s influence on the African continent.