By Staff Writer
Despite the negative narrative about Chinese economic cooperation with Africa, figures and statistics keep defying this narrative.
For example, according to the figures released by the Zambian ministry of commerce trade and industry, 27,000 jobs were created across the country in the ended year.
The ministry explained that these jobs were created largely through small and medium sized enterprises as well as cooperatives and clusters.
Experts are quick to point out that the bulk of these clusters are borne by Chinese investment not only in Zambia but across many African countries on the continent.
The concept of a business cluster refers to a geographical concentration of inter connected businesses, suppliers and associated institutions in a particular field.
These can either be in the form of big scale industrial manufacturing entities producing large volumes for export or medium operators targeting local consumption.
Clusters are considered to be accelerators in increasing production overall.
The establishment of economic zones by the Chinese in various parts of Africa conforms to this concept.
In as far as SMEs are concerned in Africa, the advent of comparatively cheaper Chinese technology has spurred the growth of SMEs especially in the area of agro processing.
Chinese hummer mills are in operation in the remotest parts of Africa, so are basic oil extraction machinery, block making equipment, chicken rearing facilities and many more.
The Chinese based solar technology has revolutionalised small scale electronic entrepreneurs on the continent.
Random preliminary figures from different countries indicate that there has been a positive contribution of employment creation in the various sectors of the economy in Africa in 2018.
Experts do not dispel the fact that non-Chinese capital has also contributed to employment creation.
The point is that overall, the Chinese contribution is on the ascendancy owing to the pattern and mode of investment activity in Africa.
An average of two thirds of new jobs on the continent are attributed to Chinese investments.
Non-Chinese investment, mostly western, with a little bit from other sources including Asia and Arab-middle eastblock do make a contribution of sorts.
The fact is that fresh western investment in areas like sub-Sahara Africa are not that regular and certainly not in SMEs.
By last year, although China was ranked 7th globally in terms of project numbers in Africa, they created more jobs on average.
By 2016 China had created an estimated 30,000 jobs in Africa through its Foreign Direct Investments.
The figures are projected to be much higher by now given the increase in the volume of investments coming into Africa in the period.
According to a survey for 2018, contrary to claims that Chinese firms hire their own labour from the Chinese main land, three quarters of the labour hired for most manufacturing is drawn from the locals.
Huajian International Shoe City, the sprawling massive industrial footwear production company in Addis Ababa employs over 7,500 people.
Of this number less than 4 percent are Chinese recruited from China.
The company’s policy is that as long as the locals have the required skills needed in various departments, both skilled and semiskilled, they will be employed as a way of empowering them.
By 2015, China was the fifth job creator in Kenya through Foreign Direct Investment.
Approximately 93 percent of Chinese companies in that country hire predominantly local employees.
This has been evident in the Mombasa-Nairobi standard gauge railway line project.
In Malawi, projects like the 73 billion Malawi Kwacha business park in the capital city Lilongwe was projected to create approximately 1,500 jobs at the beginning of execution in 2018.
This was projected to rise to 2,000 indirect jobs eventually.
Once fully functional, the park would generate additional jobs as entrepreneurs and investors come up to launch businesses.
In Zimbabwe the decision by many young professionals to master Mandarin is reported to be boosting prospects for young employment seekers there.
China and Zimbabwe have comprehensive economic cooperation ties going back many years and Chinese companies operating in the country have invested billions over the years creating many job opportunities for the local labour market.
The trend of increasing employment levels on the back of Chinese investment can be traced as far as a decade ago.
In 1997, an independent research sampling 38 African countries concluded that Chinese direct investment had a significant growth effect on employment levels in the economies surveyed.
The way forward for African economies to sustain this trend in employment growth is to look into areas that render support to the process.
As the Zambian commerce ministry notes, there is need for banks and other financial lending institutions to buttress these activities by lending to the sectors.
There is need for many players in Africa to come aboard and support SMEs by increasing available loan financing.
The archaic attitude of looking at SMEs as risky areas for lending does not help the situation for Africa.
Financiers need to be innovative and proactive in adapting to the changing times, this is the only way in which they can be relevant players in Africa’s economic growth.
The Chinese are doing their part the onus is on Africans to play their role too.