There has been consistent criticism of Chinese employers in Africa. The commonly held perception is that Chinese companies fail to provide enough job opportunities for locals and rarely try to ease the social problems that suffocate African countries; one just has to look at Michael Sata’s recent electoral success in Zambia as proof of the unrest that the Chinese can cause amongst locals.
The China Road-Bridge Company (CRBC) is an exception. The CRBC has made significant progress in recent years, writes Li Lianxing, by gradually improving its labour relations. It has also indicated that it will implement long-term social programs in Kenya, which is just one of the countries in which it operates.
The statistics tell a favourable story. The ratio of Chinese to local employees is about 1 to 15; at one particular project there are 1,371 Kenyan employees and just 45 Chinese staff. The locals are not restricted to menial work and some are technical staff or occupy management positions.
In addition to these increased job opportunities, Chinese companies – and not just the CRBC – have also shown a willingness to take a more hands on approach in countries like Kenya, through long-term social programs. The primary focus of these social programs is primary and middle schools, as well as a local orphanage.
Jiang Yu claims that Chinese companies as a whole have created 350,000 job opportunities in Africa, and criticism aimed at these companies is based on the activities of just a few corporations. It seems that co-operation between China and Africa is improving, and becoming more mutually beneficial, but it whether or not perceptions of Sino-African relations might start to mend remains to be seen.