African workers offered Chinese opportunities

Updated: 2012-06-29 08:57

By Andrew Moody and Zhong Nan (China Daily)

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 African workers offered Chinese opportunities

Construction worker Jin Xiushan of Gezhouba Group with local African workers. Jin's team is involved in building a major new water treatment plant at Kpong, Ghana. Feng Yongbin / China Daily

Jin Xiushan, a Chinese construction worker in Africa, says the large poisonous snakes that frequently come on site eventually go away if you ignore them.

The 55-year-old is foreman for Gezhouba Group and currently overseeing a team of African workers building a major new water treatment plant at Kpong, 55 km north of Accra.

"We don't kill them. They just go. I like to study the wildlife here, including moles, crabs and the birdlife."

Jin, who is from Xi'an, Shaanxi province, and has worked in Africa for eight years, says he has great camaraderie with local workers.

"They are also friends and very honest and straightforward. I have learnt English from them and now I can also read books in English."

Chinese companies also offer opportunities to Africans they are unable to get from local companies.

Eric Amankwah-Yeboah, 25, studied at a local university and now works as a mechanical engineer for Sunon Asogli Power in the control room of a power station.

He is hoping he will get a three-month placement this year to work for his company's parent company in Shenzhen.

"I hope and pray that I can be one of the ones who go. Many of my friends at university want to work for a Chinese company. There is a very positive, hard working culture here."

Rita Avatsu, 21, and Cecilia Teye, 22, do not quite embrace the opportunity to work for a Chinese company with such open arms.

They work as machine operators for Shinefeel, a private toilet roll manufacturer, in a rural location near Akuse in Ghana.

"The money is not good at all. We just get 9 cedis ($6.2, 6 euros) for a 12-hour day," says Avatsu.

"Although the pay is not good, we still prefer working here to packing bananas or peeling prawns, which are the only other jobs locally."

Lu Zhiliang, the director of the company who sleeps in a bed next to his office, says getting reliable workers is a problem.

"Some just don't turn up when they get paid and only come back again when the money runs out," he says.

For Mary Karuthai, 30, who is head of customer service for Star Times, a new pay TV company, based in Nairobi, Chinese companies impose a discipline that is often lacking in African companies.

"People working for local companies can often be 10 or 20 minutes late and it is not a big issue. Here they are very strict about how you work," she says.

A graduate in management science from Nairobi University, Karuthai joined Star Times 18 months ago. She says she has been offered interesting challenges.

"They give you the opportunity to think critically and you can really explore your potential. You are given the opportunity to actually do it," she says.

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(China Daily 06/29/2012 page5)