The China Africa Project http://www.chinaafricaproject.com China in Africa Sat, 16 Sep 2017 23:54:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.2 24566447 [PODCAST] Africa needs infrastructure, China wants to build it. So what’s the problem? http://www.chinaafricaproject.com/podcast-china-africa-obor-infrastructure-ricardo-reboredo/ http://www.chinaafricaproject.com/podcast-china-africa-obor-infrastructure-ricardo-reboredo/#respond Sat, 16 Sep 2017 23:54:51 +0000 http://www.chinaafricaproject.com/?p=2285 Africa faces a severe infrastructure crisis. Roads, ports, airports, hospitals and telecommunications are all needed to generate the economic growth necessary to support a population that is expected to double by 2050. But that kind of investment doesn’t come cheap. It’s estimated that over the next ten years Africa will need to spend around $100 billion a ...

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Africa faces a severe infrastructure crisis. Roads, ports, airports, hospitals and telecommunications are all needed to generate the economic growth necessary to support a population that is expected to double by 2050. But that kind of investment doesn’t come cheap. It’s estimated that over the next ten years Africa will need to spend around $100 billion a year — an unattainably high figure for Africa’s already financially strained governments.

Unlike economies in other regions, particularly Asia and Latin America, African governments are largely cut off from global capital markets to raise money for infrastructure development due to perception that the continent is just too risky for most international investors. Similarly, after half a century of pumping vast amounts of money into Africa, legacy donors in the U.S. and Europe are curtailing their engagement in Africa amid populist upheavals at home.

Africa Looks East

With few other options available, African leaders are increasingly turning to China for the loans and investments to build out the continent’s infrastructure. And China is more than happy to oblige. Chinese banks, both private and state-owned, have loaned tens of billions of dollars to African governments to build thousands of kilometers of roads and railways, new hospitals, new airports, new internet communications hubs and so on. The scale of China’s infrastructure building boom in Africa is truly breathtaking as the continent is undergoing a dramatic transformation powered by Chinese money, technology and labor.

But… it ain’t free.

Unlike decades past when Africa soaked up billions of dollars in aid and financial assistance from the West that was often written off due to corruption and mismanagement, the Chinese are playing by a very different set of rules. Although the majority of the Chinese money comes in the form of what are known as concessional loans with below market interest rates. Nonetheless, there is still interest accruing on that debt that needs to be repaid. The Chinese are also securing their loans in Africa with natural resource commitments. So rather than pay back their debts with cash, countries like Angola, Sudan and the DR Congo are using oil and minerals as either collateral or a direct form of payment.

While at first glance it would make sense that cash poor economies would use natural resources to pay for infrastructure, after all, central bankers in these countries often don’t have many other options. However, this structure is creating a whole new set of problems. In Angola, for example, so much of the country’s oil is committed to paying back Chinese loans that they can’t generate enough money to sustain the economy, prompting a severe capital crisis which is fueling destructive levels of inflation.

Difficult Choices Ahead

Every week seemingly brings a new announcement of Chinese-financed mega project somewhere in Africa. This week’s announcement of a $5.8 billion power station in Nigeria that will be financed and built by Chinese state-owned companies is typical of the scope and scale of Chinese lending activity in Africa. And with the Chinese money spigot opening even wider as Beijing ramps up spending on its hugely ambitiously One Belt, One Road (OBOR) global trading initiative, the Chinese are seemingly more eager than ever to loan money.

Although there are no precise figures, it’s believed that Beijing has already spent $250 billion around the world building OBOR-related infrastructure, including a new military base in Djibouti, the new Standard Gauge Railway in Kenya and an upgrade to the Suez Canal in Egypt. No one knows for sure how much the Chinese plan to spend on OBOR but some estimates run as high as five TRILLION dollars. Yeah, that’s a trillion with a “t”.

All this Chinese money must be so tempting for Africa’s cash-starved, infrastructure-challenged states but they should proceed cautiously warn a growing number of analysts. “Over-investing in physical infrastructure without establishing corresponding governmental institutions and legal structures can lead to economic and financial fragility,” said Ricardo Reboredo, a researcher who studies Chinese development in Africa. Additionally, he adds, all those new ports and roads can also be used to make it even easier for low-cost Chinese imports to flood local markets in Africa, adding yet more pressure to the economy.

Show Notes:

About Ricardo Reboredo:

Ricardo is PhD student at Trinity College Dublin. His research interests include urbanization, development and Sino-African relations. Ricardo’s current work is focused on the geopolitical and geo-economic impact of Chinese-funded mega projects in Africa, specifically South Africa.

He holds a B.A and M.A from the University of Miami where his research focused on trends in urbanization and economic restructuring in sub Saharan Africa.

 

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Can Chinese Technology be a Game-changer in African Wildlife Conservation? http://www.chinaafricaproject.com/can-chinese-technology-game-changer-african-wildlife-conservation/ http://www.chinaafricaproject.com/can-chinese-technology-game-changer-african-wildlife-conservation/#respond Sun, 03 Sep 2017 08:06:03 +0000 http://www.chinaafricaproject.com/?p=2276 The following article was written by Sun Haolun of China House Kenya in Nairobi “It’s not easy for a Chinese guy to work in wildlife conservation in Africa. In the eyes of  Chinese people, working in the wild of Africa is quite dangerous and crazy. And in the eyes of a lot of Africans, all ...

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The following article was written by Sun Haolun of China House Kenya in Nairobi

“It’s not easy for a Chinese guy to work in wildlife conservation in Africa. In the eyes of  Chinese people, working in the wild of Africa is quite dangerous and crazy. And in the eyes of a lot of Africans, all the Chinese are potential traffickers.” said Simba (real name Zhuo Qiang), who created Mara Conservation Fund, the first Chinese wildlife conservation NGO in Africa, “But once you are in in wildlife conservation, everyone would realize how much a Chinese could do.”

Despite the past difficulties, Simba now is doing well in Kenya, bringing in volunteers, resources, and technology from China.

Technology is indeed vital for wildlife conservation in Africa.

“Technology should serve as the tool of protecting wildlife.” said Richard Turere, a Kenyan teenage inventor who invented the lion light, a system to scare the lions away in the night and keep the livestock from being killed by the lions, therefore lions from being killed by the Massai people.

Besides lion lights, many devices have been invented to protect wildlife in Africa. In Kenya,  Save the Elephants, an NGO, uses GPS collars to track the elephants and know their whereabouts. After the construction of Standard Gauge Railway, with GPS collaring technology and so on, Save the Elephants found out that although the wild animals did not know how to pass the railway through the artificial underpasses at the beginning, they would eventually adapt to these underpasses.

Despite its immense utility, technology in Africa wildlife conservation seems to be expensive and difficult to afford.

“Those technology is mainly used by big international NGOs. We wish to use collar as well but we cannot afford it,” said Kate from a Kenyan local conservation NGO.

But China might be able to be a game-changer, as technology in China now is advanced and cheap.

“Interestingly, when you bring your product to a Chinese technological company, they would use your method to make a identical product that have the same function, the same quality, and cost much less than yours.” said Michael Mbithi, producer of another wildlife deterrent system in Kenya, “Last month I was in Beijing for a conference, and I created a partnership with the Chinese companies to produce a new model of solar wildlife deterrent lights.”

Mbithi has been working on this system to prevent human-wildlife conflict since three years ago, and one system used to cost over 200 USD and was easy to be damaged. With new partnership from China, he has managed to bring price down to a more affordable level for farmers, and a better design that is less likely to be damaged.

In future, he plans to manufacture this product in China, ship them to Kenya, and then sell it to farmers who are facing challenges of wildlife attacking farms or livestocks. In Mbithi’s eyes, this affordable product could secure a lot of farmers’ property from wildlife and reduce their anger towards wildlife such as lions and elephants.

Not only Mbithi is looking at China for affordable and qualified technology.Wildlife Direct, a Kenyan NGO which was set up by Dr. Richard Leaky, is now planning to cooperate with some Chinese companies and buy some video camera traps, which can be used to take photos of passing animals and also poachers. Price is the main reason for them to look for Chinese partners. “ We know in China so many people have technology services. It helps a lot.” said Jim Karani, legal affairs manager in Wildlife Direct.

However, some people still have concerns when thinking about importing technology from China.

GPS collar has been very expensive in Africa, despite that its impact on wildlife conservation research has been obvious. One collar for one elephant could cost over 5000 USD, and getting collar partially manufactured in China could potentially bring down a lot of cost as well.

“I don’t think I would easily shift my production to China. First, I have never been to China. I am not sure about the quality if it is manufactured in China. Second, I am afraid that my invention would be copied without permission, then being put on Alibaba’s web-stores tomorrow.” said the CEO of a GPS collar equipment company in Africa. He knows bringing invention to China might make it cheaper, but he has serious concerns about doing so. So far, he has been contacting shipping companies to buy some accessories from China, then manufacturing the collar in Africa.

But the growing presence of Chinese products in Africa has started to create a change in perception.

On Luthuli street, the famous electronic product street in Nairobi Kenya, Hun, a Chinese salesman of Aucma said to us: “Our TVs’ price is affordable for most residents here, and the quality is good enough to overwhelm other TVs here.”

His words were confirmed by a Kenyan shop owner of another store: “I use the Aucma TV, the quality is very good. I bought it with 30,000 Kenyan shillings, that’s within my budget. Now all of my families enjoy it.”

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How Chinese Companies Deal with Labor Strikes and Unions in Kenya http://www.chinaafricaproject.com/chinese-companies-deal-labor-strikes-unions-kenya/ http://www.chinaafricaproject.com/chinese-companies-deal-labor-strikes-unions-kenya/#respond Sun, 03 Sep 2017 07:39:52 +0000 http://www.chinaafricaproject.com/?p=2272 The following article was written by Tang Yuchen, a youth fellow at China House Kenya in Nairobi “There were hundreds of thousands of people, like a black storm sweeping across the field. Tires were burned, stones were thrown everywhere as if it was a war movie”, Mr. Lu painfully recalled his first labor strike experience, “When ...

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The following article was written by Tang Yuchen, a youth fellow at China House Kenya in Nairobi

“There were hundreds of thousands of people, like a black storm sweeping across the field. Tires were burned, stones were thrown everywhere as if it was a war movie”, Mr. Lu painfully recalled his first labor strike experience, “When someone threw stone at you, you could never know who that was because there were too many people. Even the police could not arrest them all in.” Mr. Lu has been working in one of the biggest Chinese central enterprises for 8 years, and labor strike has been a nightmare for him and his colleagues.

Nowadays, China has become Africa’s largest trade partner and has greatly expanded its economic ties to the continent. According to Ministry of Commerce People’s Republic of China, in 2015, China’s foreign direct investment totaled $66.4 billion across Africa. But its growing activities have raised controversies in the global society, especially in labor relation.

Mr. Eric, the labor officer on duty this week, provided explanation for comparatively more labor disputes associated with Chinese companies. Language is considered as the leading factor. “There are language barriers for Chinese enterprises, both with labor office and employees,” Mr. Eric said.

The miscommunication contributes into information asymmetry. When employees comprehend the order incorrectly and do wrong things, they will receive dismissal from the employer. As friction between employees and employers accumulates, labor strikes occur. When labor union looks for negotiation with Chinese employers, they either refuse or can’t communicate, forcing Ministry of Labor to adopt legal procedures by taking them to the court.

Unfamiliarity to employment system increases labor disputes as well. When Chinese come, they are unfamiliar to the law and always attempt to deal with issues by simply finding a lawyer. The problem is that they cannot even find a right lawyer. “How can you expect a criminal lawyer to deal with labor issue?” Labor officer Mr. Antony said, “Only when labor strike starts did the lawyer concede that he didn’t know anything about labor law.”

Labor unions are among the biggest headaches for Chinese companies.

Labor union is a channel for workers to reach employers in the purpose of dealing with labor issues. Kenya Building Construction, Timber and Furniture Industries Employees Union, which has connection to approximately ten Chinese construction companies like CRBC, Catic, CCCC, recruits 51% of workers from one company in order to let it sign recognition. Then they start negotiating about the collective bargaining agreement, which involves all sections of labor issues that both parties are binding to. For maintaining the membership, each worker is charged by 2.5% of his or her wages monthly.

When asked about cases of Chinese companies, a labor union officer complained, “Chinese companies are hard to reach because they always try to confuse the meeting by pretending that they don’t understand English.” When it is difficult to negotiate with the company, labor union initiates labor strike because it has much stronger influence than individual or small groups of workers. Therefore, in most cases, the frequency of labor strikes is positively correlated with the involvement of labor unions.

While labor union struggles in negotiating with Chinese companies, Chinese companies are also having a tough time addressing labor strikes and pressure from labor union. One interesting phenomenon is that even though there are more legal loopholes within the operation of private enterprises, labor issues are reported less.

According to the speculation from some Chinese employers we’ve interviewed, labor unions, as private organizations, also operate based on economic incentives. For Chinese private companies, they tend to have fewer workers, indicating fewer economic reward from membership fee. They can also retreat easily thus not being suitable for a long-term target. On the contrary, state-owned enterprises and central enterprises employ more workers and have more stable projects, therefore struggling more with labor unions.

“At the beginning, we did wrong because our wages were actually low and did not follow the labor law, thus we stepped back and raised their wages. After that, workers started to feel that labor union is indeed something that can bring them benefits, so more and more workers started to join and listen to the labor union. We cannot even continue our operation”, said by Mr. Ivan, the project director from one Chinese state-owned company, “Labor union is like a cult, which gives workers benefit at the beginning to recruit and control them.”

Despite of all types of troubles from labor strike and labor union, Chinese industries adapted quickly and reduced their labor issues significantly. When they have more experience with labor union and labor law, they are able to respond quickly and precisely. Some of the enterprises negotiated with labor union to use three warning letters, meaning that as long as an employee receives three warning letters, he or she can be summarily dismissed without early notice or compensation. “We always distribute two letters to every worker, so that we can fire him or her at any time”, the executive director from one of the biggest ongoing construction projects said, “but this is not discrimination, but a use of law to protect company just like workers using law to protect their own rights.”

Some of companies also concentrate on the selection of workers. “Many workers have either seen or participated in labor strike. Even though they might not be the leaders, as long as they have seen the situation, they became experienced in labor strike and knew what they should ask for. These type of workers became to be seditious. Other workers might come from companies that give high wages, they become dissatisfied about the wages we provide, even though our wages are not so low compared to other Chinese companies.” By distributing questionnaire for workers to fill in during the recruitment process, companies give workers background checks and filter out some potential troublemakers.

Companies target at labor union as well. “We know workers start strike because of the incitation from labor union, therefore we reach oral agreement with workers to make sure that as long as they join labor union, they are going to be fired. We know it is illegal to do that, but we still reach oral agreement with workers”, as one Chinese manager exposed to us. Since there is competition between all types labor union for gaining more membership fee, each of them will try to intervene as long as there are workers that are from the occupation. This always complicates the situation and makes it harder for Chinese industries to operate properly. “We talked to our own union and even paid them, using them as a way to prevent other labor unions from coming in”, Ms. Ying, human resource manager in one state-owned company, leaked the information to us, “Sometimes if we had a good relationship with labor union that is in charge of our own area, they can help us deal with some problems because they are ones which are trusted by workers.”

Except for dealing with issues internally, Chinese companies search help from outside as well. “Even though they cannot catch the one who threw stones, they can still add pressure to the labor force”, said by Mr. Wu, a project director in one state-owned company. When there are hundreds of workers flowing into the place, Chinese companies need more security forces to protect themselves. Some of them even have three checkpoints. “We will pay police officers to ask for special protection”, Mr. Han, the executive director from one central enterprise exposed, “so that all Chinese can retreat and let police manage the situation when labor strike occurs.”

Be sure, there are problems everywhere: “Labor union failed us”, “Labor union intentionally makes troubles”, “Chinese companies never cooperate”. But at least the official from labor union gave us a bright outlook, “when there are complaints, there are opportunities for development because people are changing.”

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[AUDIO] Here’s How China Is Changing Africa’s Future http://www.chinaafricaproject.com/podcast-china-africa-future-cobus-van-staden/ http://www.chinaafricaproject.com/podcast-china-africa-future-cobus-van-staden/#respond Sun, 03 Sep 2017 05:05:06 +0000 http://www.chinaafricaproject.com/?p=2267 Amid a surge of European and U.S. inward-looking nativist populism, the West’s longstanding influence in Africa is in retreat. At the same time, China appears to be doubling-down on globalism with a trillion dollar bet called “One Belt, One Road” or OBOR. OBOR is China’s hugely ambitious global mercantile agenda that aims to connect the PRC ...

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Amid a surge of European and U.S. inward-looking nativist populism, the West’s longstanding influence in Africa is in retreat. At the same time, China appears to be doubling-down on globalism with a trillion dollar bet called “One Belt, One Road” or OBOR.

OBOR is China’s hugely ambitious global mercantile agenda that aims to connect the PRC to trade routes across the Indian Ocean through the Middle East, Europe and back to China via Central Asia. Already, Beijing has spent an estimated $250 billion, some in Africa where it is either building or has plans to construct railroadsdata centers and its first ever overseas military installation among dozens of other planned infrastructure projects.

Despite the many misgivings Africans feel about China, they are also making a hard-nosed calculation that the continent can profit from a close relationship with China in a way it can’t with the West

With so much money flowing around amid a concerted Chinese-orchestrated, OBOR-themed propaganda push, it is easy to get carried away by the audacity of the whole project. A trillion dollars? What country is spending that kind of money in this day and age? No one but the Chinese. So, it’s important to keep some perspective here and to appreciate that OBOR will never be able to live up to the massive hype, nor will it likely deliver the “win-win” benefits so often promised to Beijing’s partners in Africa and elsewhere around the world. But that doesn’t mean OBOR will not have a tremendous impact on certain parts of Africa and continue to re-orient the global trading system away from its once deeply entrenched pillars in the West towards new centers in the East.

As Africa’s primary trading alliances shift from West to East, the continent’s diplomatic and political allegiances are also expected to follow. Although there is considerable apprehension among many African leaders about becoming too dependent on China, there is also a growing sense that it would be foolish not to follow the shift in geopolitical power that increasingly favors Asia over the U.S. and Europe.

“Despite the many misgivings Africans feel about China, they are also making a hard-nosed calculation that the continent can profit from a close relationship with China in a way it can’t with the West,” said Dr. Cobus van Staden, Wits University lecturer and co-host of the China in Africa podcast, in a recent column published in the Huffington Post.

In this edition of the show, Cobus joins Eric to discuss why he thinks OBOR is so transformational, even as China’s trade and immigration levels with Africa are steadily declining.

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African Female Workers in Chinese Companies in Kenya: Myths and Challenges http://www.chinaafricaproject.com/africa-kenya-workers-women-female-chen-jin-china-house/ http://www.chinaafricaproject.com/africa-kenya-workers-women-female-chen-jin-china-house/#respond Sat, 02 Sep 2017 21:00:21 +0000 http://www.chinaafricaproject.com/?p=2229 The following article was written by Chen Jin, a youth fellow at China House Kenya “Honestly, we don’t want any female workers here.” Ms. Zhou, manager of an upscale Chinese restaurant in Nairobi, put it without hesitation. Indeed, local women are under-represented in Chinese companies operating in Kenya. Over the past five years of Belt and ...

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The following article was written by Chen Jin, a youth fellow at China House Kenya

“Honestly, we don’t want any female workers here.” Ms. Zhou, manager of an upscale Chinese restaurant in Nairobi, put it without hesitation. Indeed, local women are under-represented in Chinese companies operating in Kenya.

Over the past five years of Belt and Road Initiative, Chinese entrepreneurs are swarming into Africa market. According to the newly released McKinsey report in 2017, there are over 10,000 Chinese-owned enterprises operating in Africa today. In Kenya, the number can be around 400. While Chinese companies are certainly the “rising star” offering great job opportunities in Kenyan labor markets, the employment issues could be intriguing. Apart from McKinsey’s concerns about employment formality and working conditions, the gender perspective remains much in a myth to address female labors in Chinese companies.

In Kenya, cultural norms sustain that certain works requiring physical strength are masculine while females should play the role related to housework. Such gender roles could contribute to the employment gender ratio in Chinese companies as an overall cultural norm. As shown in the graph, the ratio differs dramatically in the three most popular industries for Chinese companies, which are construction, catering and hospitality industries.

The eye-catching Chinese presence in construction industry has helped to deal with the surplus labor force in Kenya. Especially, construction sites for local infrastructure can usually employ up to thousands of labors. “During the construction period of Southern Bypass (in Nairobi), the number of local workers reached 1,600 and they worked for 3 years,” described proudly by Mr. Li, branch manager of one of the largest Chinese central enterprises in Kenya.

When it comes to local female labors, it is a quite different story. Based on the site visits to two Chinese state-owned construction tycoons and two private ones in Nairobi, the number of women workers never goes beyond 10 and they are responsible solely for kitchen chores and cleaning works. No wonder Mr. Xiang, site manager of a new project financed by the World Bank, finds himself in an awkward position that “when the World Bank had its due diligence check last month, the chairlady complained for not seeing female workers here.”

Physical strength and technical skills are two reasons that construction companies prefer male workers. “Most of the jobs (at construction sites) are technical and strength needed, such as rebar workers, crane drivers and even subs doing carpentry and plasterwork. Women are only employed to complete simple tasks,” explained Engineer Chen from a private residential construction site, days before he laid off 15 out of the 22 ladies doing cleaning works on site.

Relative physical weakness and lack of skills make female labors disadvantageous to get a job, which also lead them to get paid less. From interviews with over 20 women workers in Chinese construction companies, they are normally paid by day at the amount of 300 to 400 shillings (approx. 3 to 4 dollars). And working at the same position as subs, women are paid around 15% less than men per day. For the skilled works, the gap can be greater.

“Ladies are crying,” one of the cleaning workers kept saying while the interview was carrying on. Most ladies on the construction sites are from Kwangari and Kibera in Nairobi, where low-income households and slums are located. For such family, “the average number of kids can be five and above,” stated by Audrey from Femme International, a women empowerment NGO based in the slum. It is thus not surprising to find young single mothers crying for a higher salary when they have to support the whole family.

Besides the pay gap, sexual harassment from the Chinese managers and foremen is another great challenge. It took Beatrice, head of the female cleaning workers, a while to disclose it in her workplace. “He would touch you. If you do not refuse, he would come closer. And if you love him back, he would use you. And even misuse you.” It is especially true with the less-educated Chinese foremen who live apart with their wives in China. To satisfy their libido, some would simply offer small money in return for sex, which can already be a great lure to the low-paid female workers.

To turn the tables, Chinese construction companies are also making efforts to prevent sexual harassment, though largely by cutting the number of local female labors at current stage. As acknowledged by Mr. Xiang, the affairs once got media exposure can be a real “scandal” from the perspective of public relations, making female workers even more unfavorable in Chinese construction companies.

Construction is not the only industry that has strong inclination against female labors. Chinese restaurants in Kenya are also employing more male workers, contradictory to the traditional conception of female gender roles in service sectors. Based on the interviews with three medium- and high-end Chinese restaurants, the average gender ratio of their local employees is 4:1 (M: F). One of the Chinese restaurants with KTV venues and nightclubs has only two waitresses out of the total 15 local workers.

Male workers are deemed to work with more aspiration, learn with less time and be capable of doing heavy work. It remains in a myth why they could earn such a high reputation in restaurant employment. On the opposite hand, women are thought to be less passionate about work and with obvious physical weakness. “Local female labors might think (certain tasks) are for men only,” a front desk manager of a Chinese restaurant said. The manager then explained that certain waitresses are not able to open wine bottles and use Chinese traditional rolling pin after she taught them several times.

Characterized with efficiency, the Chinese value time a lot. Lateness for work happens more often among female workers and usually disappoints their Chinese managers. But female workers have their own excuses. “They need to finish duties at home, and they have to hold up more family burdens,” said Jimmy, manager of a Chinese hotel equipped with a restaurant.

The pregnancy has also been a long concern for Chinese companies. Operating the high-end restaurant Hinata, Ms. Zhou complained, “Today this lady can be pregnant. The next day, she is on her period. Things can go on and on and they always have some special requests.” In the industry whereby a lot of time and efforts are demanded, female workers cannot even guarantee regular attendance once pregnant. And the practice of maternity leave is not prevalent among Chinese restaurant. Instead, Chinese managers would rather simply dismiss the pregnant waitress with an oral notice.

Women in hospitality services are relatively more popular. Chinese hotels are inclined to hire female receptionists and hired all women for room services like cleaning the toilets. Different from the construction works requiring strength, occupations like bed making and front desk receptionist requires carefulness and interpersonal skills to serve the customers with politeness and hospital attitudes.

Therefore, Chinese hospitality sectors tend to rate education level as a priority. “ (In our hotel) salary depends on education first, and experience” Jimmy shared with us. The graph below demonstrates a relationship between education level and wage of female labors in work fields of construction sites, hotels, restaurants and housekeeping.

Even though relatively better-paid, receptionists in Chinese hotels still have complaints about the “sweatshop-like” efficiency, “for people who work nightshift for 16 hours, the next day is going to be tired. And that day would just be sleeping.”

To address the female labor issues, a lot of international NGOs and community-based organizations in Kenya are devoted to female vocational training in areas of catering, hospitality, housekeeping as well as construction works. Yet a promising cooperation between NGOs and Chinese companies need the efforts from both side. “We don’t know any Chinese companies, ever. Of course we would like to work with them,” said Peter, U-TENA resource mobilizer who devoted to address the female joblessness issues. On this canvas, one side stands the not so empowered African females and on the other side the newborn Chinese business. To which extent will these two groups crush, it is still within a blessing.

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[AUDIO] China’s StarTimes is now one of Africa’s most important media companies http://www.chinaafricaproject.com/podcast-china-africa-startimes-media-tv-dani-madrid-morales/ http://www.chinaafricaproject.com/podcast-china-africa-startimes-media-tv-dani-madrid-morales/#respond Sun, 27 Aug 2017 06:07:35 +0000 http://www.chinaafricaproject.com/?p=2260 The Beijing-based StarTimes Group is now one of Africa’s most important media companies with 10 million subscribers across 30 countries. The pay TV company is leading the continent’s transition from analog to digital television with some of the world’s most affordable cable/satellite TV packages priced as low as $4 per month. In the burgeoning Digital TV ...

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The Beijing-based StarTimes Group is now one of Africa’s most important media companies with 10 million subscribers across 30 countries. The pay TV company is leading the continent’s transition from analog to digital television with some of the world’s most affordable cable/satellite TV packages priced as low as $4 per month.

In the burgeoning Digital TV sector, StarTime is far and away the market leader. The company’s reach covers 90 of the continent’s population powered by 5,000 distributions and 3,000 convenience shops where consumers buy their services and pay monthly bills.

Unlike standard cable and satellite TV bundles in other regions of the world, you won’t find CNN or other major Western channels on StarTimes’ platform. In addition to dozens of local African channels, there is a wide selection of Chinese news, entertainment and sports programming.

Although StarTimes is technically a private company with no official government affiliation, the pay TV operator is playing a vital role in China’s soft power diplomacy agenda in Africa. “There’s a huge ideological element” to StarTimes’ African operations, said Dani Madrid-Morales, a doctoral fellow at the City University of Hong Kong who has researched the company. “It’s a huge effort to get Africans to understand China. Even the selection of TV shows is very carefully done. It’s very specific shows that showcase an urban China, a growing China, a noncontroversial view of China.”

In addition to broadcasting Chinese and African national channels, StarTimes is also producing more of its own content in local languages, including Swahili, from its new production facility in Nairobi.

Dani joins Eric & Cobus to discuss what’s behind StarTimes’ aggressive expansion in Africa and how the company plays a critical role in China’s broader effort to influence African ‘hearts & minds.’

Shownotes:

About Dani Madrid-Morales:

Dani Madrid-Morales is currently a PhD Fellow at City University of Hong Kong. He previously worked for almost a decade as a scriptwriter, reporter and editor at Televisió de Catalunya. He also taught media-related and East Asia-related courses at City University of Hong Kong, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona and Universitat Oberta de Catalunya.

His academic interests lay at the crosspoint of communications, politics and popular culture. Geographically, Dani’s work focuses on East Asia, where he’s lived and studied for several years. Thematically, Dani’s research crosses different areas, including international communication, popular culture in East Asia, media representations and portrayals of contemporary Asia, as well as computational social sciences.

 

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[PODCAST] Wolf Warriors 2: Why a China-Africa Blockbuster is Blowing Up the Box Office http://www.chinaafricaproject.com/podcast-wolf-warriors-2-china-africa-blockbuster-blowing-box-office/ Sat, 19 Aug 2017 13:43:14 +0000 http://www.chinaafricaproject.com/?p=2254 Wolf Warriors 2 is the movie sensation of the summer in China, taking in over a record $630 million in box office receipts. The movie is so popular that is now the first non-Hollywood film to ever break in to the top 100 highest grossing releases. Set in a fictitious African country, Wolf Warriors 2 ...

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Wolf Warriors 2 is the movie sensation of the summer in China, taking in over a record $630 million in box office receipts. The movie is so popular that is now the first non-Hollywood film to ever break in to the top 100 highest grossing releases.

Set in a fictitious African country, Wolf Warriors 2 depicts a former Chinese special forces operative in an active war zone to rescue a group of Chinese compatriots and locals from a posse of blood-thirsty Western mercenaries. Marital arts star Wu Jing directed and stars in the movie as the lead character Leng Feng who blows up pretty much everything in his way as he rescues the innocent and kills the bad guys.

Wolf Warriors 2 is more than just an action movie, it also highlights a rising level of patriotic identity in China that now extends internationally. The film’s tag line “whoever offends China will be hunted down no matter how far away they are” embodies this new assertive globalist message that China’s interests extend far beyond its own borders and that when challenged, Beijing will respond to protect its people and interests overseas. Moviegoers have long been accustomed to watching these kinds of films coming from the United States, whether it’s the nationalism portrayed in Top Gun or the lone soldier seeking justice that was the Rambo series, but this is an entirely experience seeing it in distinctly Chinese context.

In this edition of the China in Africa Podcast, Eric & Cobus discuss why Wolf Warriror 2 is so important both to understand Chinese popular opinion of Africa but also to gain an insight into a more muscular Chinese worldview.

Shownotes:

 

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Law Enforcement Changes Chinese Involvement in Ivory Trade in Kenya http://www.chinaafricaproject.com/china-kenya-kws-wildlife-service-ivory-enforcement-china-house/ http://www.chinaafricaproject.com/china-kenya-kws-wildlife-service-ivory-enforcement-china-house/#comments Tue, 15 Aug 2017 01:14:18 +0000 http://www.chinaafricaproject.com/?p=2249 The following article was written by Jing Wang, a youth fellow at China House Kenya “Whatever you do in Kenya, you avoid meddling with wildlife affairs — they get you into serious trouble”, said Angela Chang who has stayed in Kenya for more than 15 years and witnessed the change of Chinese participation in illegal wildlife ...

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The following article was written by Jing Wang, a youth fellow at China House Kenya

“Whatever you do in Kenya, you avoid meddling with wildlife affairs — they get you into serious trouble”, said Angela Chang who has stayed in Kenya for more than 15 years and witnessed the change of Chinese participation in illegal wildlife trade, “Here sometimes animal lives matter more than those of humans.”

Since 1960s, Chinese began to arrive in Kenya and the population of Chinese in Kenya grew to about 60,000, according to estimation of Chinese community leaders. Alongside Chinese modern migration, one particular local trade boosted- the illegal ivory trade.

According to some Chinese residents who have been in Kenya for long, before 2010, many Chinese people who came to Kenya were advised either by their friends or local guides to purchase ivory products as souvenirs for their families, since they were cheap and carried with themselves cultural values treasured by the Chinese- ivory carving in 2006 was officially designated as a national intangible cultural heritage in China.

Daisy Deng, a Chinese lady who came to Kenya as early as 2003, claimed to have bought five ivory bangles for her friends back in 2007 under the advice of her local Chinese friends. She bought those bangles for 300 shillings (about 3 US dollars) each, a price significantly low compared to those in China which cost at least 1000 USD per bangle, and brought them back in her suitcases, which did not undertake much inspection.

Caroline Lin, secretary of a local Chinese association, admitted to have bought several ivory trinkets back in 2009. She explained that she was pretty ignorant of how ivory was acquired, not to mention ivory’s true value back then, and she bought ivory purely out of the reason that every one else[ Chinese] was buying it.

Image of seized contraband ivory circulated on Chinese social media.

This rampant situation of purchasing ivory products in Kenya continued until 2010 when the Wildlife Bill began to take shape; law enforcement gradually became strict. This incurred several seizures of ivory at the Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, with exposure showcasing consequences those criminals had to face.

“A total of 2,000,000 US dollars were fined in 2013”, remarked David Wu, one prominent Chinese business leader in Kenya who usually helps bail Chinese people out from jail after they got arrested, “there were Chinese nationals getting caught at the airport every month in 2011”, he said, “sometimes there were as many as three cases per night.”

Ivory seizures involving local Chinese nationals from Kenya slowly diminished after 2015, and many interviewees during our investigation stated firmly their attitude that they would not touch ivory products at all. In 2016, a manager of a Chinese state-owned enterprise who was offered a raw ivory tusk for 5,000 shillings by a Kenyan worker on his construction site firmly refused this deal.

Chinese people’s change of attitude towards ivory trade may have happened for good reasons.

Firstly, many Chinese interviewees explained their change of attitude with the reason that “ the price is too high to pay”, a sentence that could be interpreted at two layers of different meanings.

One layer is that as more and more people became interested in ivory, the price for ivory skyrocketed, which makes ivory undesirable for the group of Chinese who were mainly attracted by the low price of ivory. “Ivory products were much cheaper many years ago…they do not worth that much money demanded nowadays”, exclaimed a business migrant who has stayed in Kenya for twenty years. In the eyes of his and other Chinese, ivory is worthy of being purchased only at low price.

The other layer is that as more and more Chinese nationals got caught and were fined heavily, therefore many local Chinese are scared by the consequences they have to face if they ever get caught with ivory products.

On April 28th, 2014, four Chinese nationals were caught in possession of ivory and paid a fine of 520,000 RMB.

On May 14th, 2014, one Chinese national was caught carrying more than ten ivory bracelets and pendants, which weighed up to 1.5 pound. He was imprisoned for half a year.

“You know how popular us Chinese people were with the local newspaper”, joked one Chinese manager who runs a private-owned enterprise in Kenya, “the local media follow us up like paparazzi and that’s how the local Chinese people receive information about major ivory seizures involving Chinese nationals and the harsh punishments they had to face….we read about such cases almost every week… we are all constantly reminded of and frightened by those terrible consequences… we dare not touch ivory products again”.

Secondly, under the pressure of strict enforcement of WCMA, the Chinese embassy in Kenya and a lot of Chinese enterprises began to promote the importance of wildlife conservation and the legal consequence of involvement.

For instance, one Chinese state-owned enterprise educates their employees of the local legislation that forbids trade in ivory before they come to Kenya; after they arrive in Kenya, the enterprise will take them to a special meeting arranged by the enterprise that educates them again of the local law and the consequences of participating in illegal ivory trade.

Thirdly, many Chinese people in Kenya are enraged by such cases that corrupt officials in Kenya purposefully malign the Chinese of illegally buying ivory and therefore tried to clear Chinese notorious reputation as ivory buyers.

In 2016, several policemen searched Mr. Bob (a Chinese businessman) in the name of a security check. After Mr. Bob returned from a phone call outside the silo, the policemen showed him a raw tusk of ivory and claimed to have found it in Mr.Bob’s stockpiles. Mr.Bob was terrified because he had never purchased any ivory before, not to even mention putting it in his silo. Moreover, when the footage of camera hidden in the silo was checked, it showed clearly that the policemen went directly to a corner of the silo, with their back to the camera, and “ found” the ivory tusk easily, as if they had previous knowledge about the hidden place of the ivory. This case remains controversial and has not been concluded yet.

“Today no Chinese in Kenya would touch ivory,” said David Wu who still helps bail Chinese out of jail. Today, he is still busy, although the Chinese he bails out from Jomo Kenyatta Airport police station are usually on transit, mostly from Mozambique and DRC.

“90% of them are from Mozambique,” said David.

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In Kenya, When Young Chinese Met The Maasai For Anti-Female Genital Mutilation: A Reflection of Chinese Volunteers In Africa http://www.chinaafricaproject.com/kenya-china-africa-fgm-female-mutilation-china-house/ Tue, 15 Aug 2017 00:42:06 +0000 http://www.chinaafricaproject.com/?p=2237 The following article was written by Bu Fan, Chen Si, Sun Jiayi, Ting Yujan, youth fellows at China House Kenya “You are seen as role models. From you, they will have that motivation,” Abdirisack Jaldesa, the governor of Oloitoktok said to us, “In the future they will want to be you.” We are not sure how ...

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The following article was written by Bu Fan, Chen Si, Sun Jiayi, Ting Yujan, youth fellows at China House Kenya

“You are seen as role models. From you, they will have that motivation,” Abdirisack Jaldesa, the governor of Oloitoktok said to us, “In the future they will want to be you.”

We are not sure how true this is or how much we could help our friends in Africa, but we are sure this experience in Africa has shaped us.

In July 2017, we, a group of 14 Chinese volunteers, arrived in Oloitoktok, Kenya. During this visit, we researched and learnt about the traditional practice of female genital mutilation (FGM), brought funds to help an anti-FGM NGO rent a new rehabitation center and interacted with local children via teaching. More importantly, we will share this unique story with people in China.

This is our first trip to Africa, through a platform called China House, which connects young Chinese with different projects in Africa. We signed up for this program because we are passionate about women empowerment and eager to learn about what we could do as global citizens.

FGM in eastern Kenya

FGM is the ritual practice of removing some or all of the external female genitalia from girls generally between 5 and 15 years of age and is usually carried out by circumcisers using blades, not doctors, in unsafe and non-sterilized manners. This practice may cause problems and diseases such as infections, difficulty in urinating, chronic pain as well as childbirth complications.

In Kenya, FGM is banned by law since 2011. However, according to Soila Sayialel, co-founder of Maasai Girls Lifetime Dream Foundation (MAGRIAF), some Kenyan tribes still keep high FGM rates nowadays, and the rate is still about 78% among Maasai girls. In Maasai culture, she explains, females were traditionally required to undergo FGM in order to get married.

Nice’s House

After a five-hour-long and bumpy bus ride, we arrived in Oloitoktok, Kenya. Together with staff members of MAGRIAF, we met a girl who recently almost underwent FGM.

Our bus took us to the village till where it couldn’t move further because of the narrow road. We were surrounded by trees and crops. We kept walking on the dirt road for about 15 minutes till we reached a house built with branches and clay, black plastic to cover holes on the walls waving in the wind. We were told the father of this family, 75 years old, was blind, and the mother had mental issues. They have four daughters and no boys. The mother was away from home when we arrived. Sayialel believed she was out begging for food.

Then, the 15-year-old girl who escaped FGM, Nice Lasola, walked out to greet us. She wore a gray sweater and appeared shy. She spoke Maa, the Maasai language, and barely spoke English, which was her favorite subject at school. Her teacher from school, Grace Koruta, helped translating. We learned that she had heard from her parents they were planning to cut her, so she ran to her school, which was about two kilometers away in distance, and reported to the head teacher. The head teacher then came to talk to the parents, resulting in the parents agreeing not to have Nice circumcised.

We moved inside the house and sat down close to Nice on wooden benches.

We learned that Nice was the second born of the family. Her older sister was circumcised two years ago and married off when she was 17. She has one child now.

Inside Nice’s house

The teacher kept on explaining that Maasai families tended to see daughters as properties that could be traded for cows and goats. However, we heard that the older sister’s “price” was only promised but not yet paid.

As we could see, the family was in poverty and could not support the daughters’ education. The co-founders of MAGRIAF, Sayialel and Sari believed leaving Nice with her parents could not be a long-term solution to her problems, as the parents might try to send her faraway for circumcision, such as Tanzania, where restrictions are less strict and monitoring groups are less effective. They said they would arrange for Nice to move to a rescue center soon and look for funds to pay for her education.

Prior to this trip, we raised approximately $7,500. Using this money, we rented a new house for three years and equip all the facilities, and also paid for tuition and living expenses of the 5 new resident girls for the next one year. Soon it will be the new home for more than five girls, including Nice.

Can Chinese Be Of Help to End FGM in Africa?

We prepared and taught classes at Inkisanjani Primary School, where 92% of students come from local Maasai tribe. We visited families of Maasai girls who ran away from home to escape FGM. We also wrote about our experiences and published stories to raise public awareness of this challenge and to raise funds for anti-FGM organizations like MAGRIAF.

The house we rented for MAGRIAF

As China becomes more influential in Africa, we believe Chinese could help with social issues in Africa.

Based on a 2017 report titled “The Closest Look Yet At Chinese Economic Engagement In Africa” by McKinsey&Company, China-Africa trade has been growing constantly at about 20% per year since the turn of the millennium; China’s foreign direct investment to Africa has been increasing at a rate of roughly 40% over the past decade.

Decorating the new house for MAGRIAF

It seems to us that traditionally, Chinese in Africa tended to be business-oriented. But we believe people like us are the new trend: young Chinese coming to Africa for development projects. We know that China House held another program this summer that sent several young Chinese volunteers to a Kenyan slum to learn about its issues. We also know people who already volunteered or plan to volunteer in Africa. For example, an 18-year-old friend told us that we outsiders could not act as if we were saviors; we had to go to the actual place to learn about the real issue and then try to help. She expressed her desire to volunteer in Africa during future school breaks.

Maybe short-term volunteers cannot provide much help, but fund-raising can. We have witnessed how Chinese funds could be raised to support issues like anti-FGM and development of Maasai villages. Before our trip, we already started a campaign to ask for donations to Maasai girls. We received 851 pieces of donation material, including office stationary, hygienic products, clothes and other items from China, and a few donations from Chinese communities in Kenya, including 11 mobile phones from a Chinese tech company named TECNO.

Donations from China

We will keep the campaign going to raise more funds and goods for our African friends. Another good example is that we know a Chinese high school student who volunteered in Kenya for two months last year, during which he shared his experience with the locals on how to manage personal finances and start small businesses. He felt strongly connected to Kenyan youth. After he left, he founded an organization to raise funds for African orphans. So far, he has raised over $6,000 to help over 50 African orphans pay for school fees. He is looking to expand his organization and looking for new ways to reduce poverty in Africa.

We also heard that Chinese companies in Kenya are interested in launching Corporate Social Responsibility programs. And we are writing a proposal to pitch them.

“White Savior” is not Our Goal

We know the story of “white savior”. In the past, some people came to Africa pretending they were saviors while they were ignorant and reckless. We keep it in mind. Indeed, we feel we are here to learn.

Meeting Emmram was an example. During a career path class that we taught at the local school, we asked students about their future dreams. Then, 16-year-old Emmram stoop up slowly. Firmly, he said: “I want to be the president.” He said there were problems in Kenya, such as poverty, corruption, FGM and water shortage, and he wanted to become the president to solve those problems. We will share this story with our young Chinese fellows and encourage them to start planning for the future early.

Compared to westerners, we Chinese are newcomers and know little about Africa. And Africa knows little about us. However, maybe there is more chance for a different future for such a new relationship.

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[PODCAST] Does it make sense for Africans to learn to speak Chinese? http://www.chinaafricaproject.com/podcast-china-africa-mandarin-chinese-language-education-mark-kapchanga/ Sun, 13 Aug 2017 00:00:35 +0000 http://www.chinaafricaproject.com/?p=2225 Nairobi-based journalist Mark Kapchanga contends that it is time for Africans to learn to speak Chinese. In a provocative column published last month in the Chinese newspaper Global Times, Kapchanga warned that Africans are at risk of being on the losing end of an “information asymmetry” unless they begin to learn Mandarin in order to better negotiate with ...

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Nairobi-based journalist Mark Kapchanga contends that it is time for Africans to learn to speak Chinese. In a provocative column published last month in the Chinese newspaper Global Times, Kapchanga warned that Africans are at risk of being on the losing end of an “information asymmetry” unless they begin to learn Mandarin in order to better negotiate with the continent’s largest trading partner and second largest source of foreign investment.

Kapchanga also urged the Chinese government to redouble its efforts to expand Mandarin language training in Africa: “the biggest challenge ahead now is for the Chinese to take a step and start teaching Africans their language. Today, most Africans speak Western languages such as French, German and English, thanks to the colonialists. It is time, too, for the Chinese language to be inculcated in African countries’ education system.”

The Kenyan journalist said he was inspired to encourage Africans to learn Chinese after a recent visit to Beijing where he met a number of young Chinese executives who were fluent in a variety of African languages.

Language, though, is a highly contentious issue in Africa and Kapchanga’s column touched a nerve on social media where people from across the continent expressed their outrage over the suggestion that should learn yet another foreign language. “When the Europeans came they imposed their languages on us and now the Chinese? Why can’t those imperialists learn African languages?” decried LinkedIn user Simbrashe Chinanga from Zimbabwe. Chinanga’s frustration is representative of a large number of Africans who worry that their own indigenous cultures will be further diluted by studying Mandarin after centuries of imperial European rule.

Show Notes:

About Mark Kapchanga:

Mark Kapchanga is a media and economic consultant. He is a columnist for China’s Global Times newspaper and a former senior economics writer for The Standard newspaper in Kenya. Before that, he worked for the Nation Media Group’s The East African newspaper covering Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Burundi. He intermittently corresponds for Beijing-based Global Times and South Africa’s Africa In Fact. Mark holds a Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting) degree from the University of Nairobi, MSC-Financial Economics from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, and an MA in Multimedia Journalism from the University of Kent, United Kingdom. He is currently pursuing a PhD in business reporting.

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