Chinese overseas infrastructure investment in Africa
2019 is not yet halfway but the industry has already experienced a lot of causalities with Group 5 as the latest of companies to file for liquidation question that bogs the mind is ,do we need a foreign “saviour” in Africa to resuscitate our construction industry? China is establishing itself as a global construction and infrastructure powerhouse.
Chinese investments abroad have been rising fast since the government launched the “Go Out Policy” in 1999. In 2014 alone, China’s outbound capital flows increased 14 percent, to nearly $103 billion. While companies headquartered in other countries such as the US and Japan remain major players on the global stage, the pace of growth of Chinese investment overseas is notable.
Since late 2011 the policy focus of the regulation of overseas Chinese investment has shifted from protecting Chinese investment and personnel to guaranteeing social license based on due diligence and localization.
So, too, is the extent of guidance available to Chinese firms to ensure that their operations mitigate social and environmental risks. This includes “Green Credit Guidelines” for project finance, the Ministry of Commerce’s “Regulation on Overseas Investment”, and the construction industry-led “Guidelines for Social Responsibility in Outbound Construction Investments.”
An important role for business, government and civil society is ensuring that these guidelines are respected in practice.
Project investments can generate welcome jobs and infrastructure in host countries. Yet they can also be accompanied by the forcible re-location of local communities, environmental pollution, and abuse of workers.
We have seen quite a number of multi-million construction and infrastructure projects across Africa by the Chinese. Notably is the Sino Zambia bridge construction, Tanzania road construction and many more.
In as much as the developments are welcomed, so is the need for scrutiny vis a vis human rights. There has been numerous complains of abuse at Chinese construction companies Sino Hydro workers complain of
Workers of Sino Hydro have complained of abusive language and beatings by Chinese supervisors. They told member of parliament, Greyford Monde that they suffered regular beatings and were subject to poor safety conditions including failure to replace protective clothes. The workers also complained of threats of being fired when they report the abusive language and physical abuse. One worker said the Chinese either bribe or threaten them so that they do not report. Sino Hydro manager, He Zhijun, said. Sino Hydro salaries are much higher than. other construction companies.” He also said the company gave uniforms to the employees which include safety shoes, gloves, helmets [etc.]…every six months. He said a few employees sometimes misled the public and by so doing tainted the good image of the company. He said Sino Hydro…strictly subscribed to safety standards and adhered to all norms and traditions of the local people. He dismissed accusations that Chinese managers were beating employees.
There are a number of things that needs to be done to change the construction sector through welcoming Chinese investments. Firstly ,the government needs to align its policies with corporate human rights due diligence. Secondly, the hard hat professionals must be allowed to work within those Chinese companies. Lastly human rights abuses must be reported and solved at whim.
In conclusion, all is worthwhile when there is no harm. With the Chinese infrastructure development in Africa it is yet to be found out if its shooting ourselves in the foot or a blessing.