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China's Commitment to Africa
Cover Stories Series 2011> China's Commitment to Africa
UPDATED: September 19, 2011 NO. 38 SEPTEMBER 22, 2011
Creating Opportunities in Africa
Chinese enterprises generate jobs for Africans while exploring the vast potential of the continent

CRAMPED STYLE: The waiting hall of the Zanzibar International Airport. A Chinese construction project will help alleviate crowding at the airport (DING YING)

ROOM TO GROW: This drawing shows the new terminal of the Zanzibar Airport currently under construction. It will have an expanded capacity to accommodate three planes simultaneously. The airport can now handle only one (COURTESY OF WU QING)

Their cooperation also opens markets for both sides. ICBC and SBG agreed in August that ICBC will purchase 80 percent of the Standard Bank Argentina. Argentina and Africa don't have a big trade volume. But China currently is Argentina's second biggest trade partner. Plus, there are many Chinese enterprises in this South American nation. If the purchase gets approved, ICBC will be the first Chinese bank to enter Argentina and it will own 103 branches in the country.

While making profits, ICBC attaches great importance to the interests of its clients and employees as well as the communities where it operates, he said.

In China, ICBC pays great attention to the government's environmental protection policies. It prefers green loans, and has dropped all projects that might bring high-energy consumption and high pollution. In South Africa, ICBC and SBG also follow environmental protection principles when granting loans.

SBG has over 50,000 employees in Africa, and over 50 percent of its managerial staff is from the local black population. ICBC and SBG have jointly created many job opportunities throughout Africa. They have also offered preferential loans for small and medium-sized enterprises to improve their financial conditions.

As the biggest shareholder of SBG, ICBC supports SBG to spend millions of dollars sponsoring young artists, singers, actors and actresses, while donating to AIDS-patients and orphans every year.

Building a future

Bakari Omari, a 21-year-old man from Tanga, the second biggest city in Tanzania, is among the numerous Africans that have benefited from Chinese investment.

Omari grew up in a poor family with several kids, and only finished seventh grade. It was hard for him to get a job in his hometown. In February when he heard there was a Chinese enterprise in Zanzibar recruiting workers, he went there and got his first job.

He now earns 4,500 shillings ($3) for one day's work. Normally, local enterprises only pay 4,000 shillings ($2.7) per day for workers. "I hope I can work here all along, and make 5,000 shillings ($3.3) for a day," he said.

His goal is to make some money and then go back for further education. "I hope I can live better than people in my neighborhood," he said.

Omari is working on a project for the Beijing Construction Engineering Group Ltd. (BCEG)—a new terminal building for the Zanzibar International Airport. The Chinese Government provided a 30-year preferential loan of 480 million yuan ($73.85 million). The whole project will cost $704 million.

The project started in February, and will be finished by January 31, 2014, according to BCEG. The whole project includes a 17,000-square-meter terminal building, a small power station, and a bigger apron. When the new project is finished, the airport will have the ability to hold three airplanes, and will be able to service 3 million passengers every year. "The new terminal will be a landmark of the Zanzibar region and the whole of Tanzania," said Wu Qing, a BCEG representative.

"We needed at least 120 workers every day for underground works. Now that those works have finished, we need only 60. All the workers are Tanzanian citizens," he said. "Our supervisors are mostly local people, too. They can get 10,000 shillings ($6.6) per day, which is a pretty high income in the country."

The Zanzibar Airport is only one of the many projects BCEG has contracted in Africa. From 2004 to 2010, its contract volume in Tanzania alone reached $2.39 trillion. "Our techniques and quality are as good as U.S. and European companies. But our cost is much lower than those companies," Wu said.

"It is not fair to say Chinese enterprises hire only workers from China," he said. "Our projects bring a lot of job opportunities for local people, not just in Africa. In Mongolia, at lease half of our employees are local. In Malaysia, all employees must be Malaysian or Indonesian, due to local regulations."

By conducting overseas projects, BCEG can make a profit while helping local people, Wu said. BCEG also trains its local employees during project construction. "Our young workers may hopefully become outstanding experts in construction in their country in 20 years' time. Some of them are very industrious," he said.

(Reporting from Johannesburg, South Africa, and Zanzibar, Tanzania)

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