Coverage this week continued to focus on Zambia where the battle over people’s perception of the China partnership continues. The government have made a number of statements this week praising the role of China in bringing about economic development and creating jobs. An overall figure of $1bn was quoted for Chinese investment in the country in 2010 which is said to have created over 15,000 jobs.
Chinese actors have also been involved in the media blitz, with China Non-Ferrous Metals declaring that they intend to employ skilled Zambian workers. This has been the most powerful criticism of Chinese investment, with claims that their imports of Chinese workers damage local industries and fail to pass on vital skills.
Deborah Brautigam’s blog above seeks to shed light on this contentious issue. It was certainly once true of Chinese projects in Africa, but over more outlandish stories of Chinese convicts been sent in work gangs have never been substantiated. It seems to me that it has become a useful rod to beat China with rather than a valuable critique of their actions. After all it is a problem any investor faces in Africa, where education levels are often under-par.
The article in Business Daily this week defending China’s road building in the country is a further extension of this argument. Although local companies complain of being pushed out of the market by Chinese companies, anecdotal evidence from ordinary Kenyans supports China’s work, complaining that previous work was shoddy and delayed. The important policy change here is not to eject Chinese firms, but to ensure that African labourers who have been working with Chinese firms for a number of years have the opportunity to develop their skills, and take on more technical jobs.
China Non Ferrous are owners of the Luanshya Copper mine which they re opened for business after an Israeli-Swiss partnership led by wheeler dealer Benny Steinmetz abandoned production. The company are previous winners of the China-Africa Friendship award, a ceremonial prize given to “Chinese and African individuals, enterprises or organizations that have been long engaged and made outstanding achievements in China-Africa friendship”. This type of venture continues to demonstrate an increasing PR savvy in China’s operations. However the award seems only to have been given to large Chinese firms at the present time.
A further attempt to win over suspicious Zambians could be seen in the release of Mary Musyalike who was sentenced to death by firing squad in China for drugs trafficking. This move aimed to show China’s brotherly relationship with Zambia, after appeals by government to set her free. In contrast, in a similar vein to last week’s coverage of admiration for China’s political and justice systems, Ugandan State owned paper New Vision called for stricter drugs policy in the country, mirroring China’s hard line approach.