The real story of China in Africa
Updated: 2014-08-08 08:18
By Chen Weihua(China Daily)
It was a pleasant surprise to hear the announcements in Chinese on an Ethiopian Airlines flight from Washington to Addis Ababa. It shows the welcome arms Ethiopia is extending to Chinese.
In fact, the cab driver taking me to Washington's Dulles Airport in the morning was excited to learn that I was going to Ethiopia. She said I should also go to her hometown Uganda, only a short distance from Ethiopia, where Chinese are also welcomed.
While poverty and diseases still haunt many African nations, the continent's economy is taking off in a big way, and China has been part of that in the past decade.
There has been plenty of Western criticism, often stereotyped, about China's involvement in Africa. A former New York Times reporter wrote a book this year simply based on some brief and random chats with several Chinese living and working in Africa. The one-sided narrative in the book is from the same prejudice people often hear.
What I have seen and heard in the last few days in Ethiopia defy much of the Western narrative. Chinese companies are not only welcomed, but also play a major role in job creation, economic and social development.
Yonas Getachew, who has been handling contract management for the Ethiopian Branch of ZTE, a telecom giant from China, talked about how happy he is to come to the office every day, as he learns new things in a very good working environment.
He is very proud to be a ZTE employee because the company has not only helped build Ethiopia's telecom infrastructure, it has also been practicing good corporate social responsibility, such as donating books to the local community. His pride is on his face when he said his good salary allows him to support his family.
Getachew sounded more than a ZTE employee when he said China's economic achievement in the past decades has set a good example for his country.
While ZTE has hired more than 100 Ethiopians, Huajian, a Chinese shoe manufacturer, has about 3,200 local employees in its factory in the Eastern Industry Zone, about an hour drive from the center of Addis Ababa. Its own future industry zone to be built in Addis Ababa is expected to boast more than 50,000 employees, most of them locals.