A multi-billion shilling investment by Chinese Road and Bridge Corporation (CBRC) constructing 609km railway line from Mombasa to Nairobi caused a bit of commotion in August when it was revealed to the Kenyans that Chinese were coming to the country with 5000 of its own workforce. Surely that can’t be too great for Kenyans unemployed youths.
This is not to undermine the importance foreign investors coming to Africa but rather a note for Africa to pay attention and look well into the future before committing into accepting projects of any sorts knowing fully well that investors are in the continent to maximise returns on their investments. It is in their best interest to leave the ‘tricky’ bits of the agreement to the last but it is our responsibility to make sure every aspect of agreement is ironed out that the benefits to local people and economy make absolute sense for us.
Admittedly, Nigeria for example though have huge population to boast of but not enough of our graduates are trained in the field that could add value. If we look at it from investors point of view, it is not Chinese responsibility to train our people, that’s our job however, we can use our huge human capital to our advantage to insist on favourable percentage of our people to be involved in projects. Actually this is exactly what Chinese did to the big American companies in the late 1970s.
This is not a favour it is business.
For now, Kenya is stuck for with 5000 Chinese workers – better luck next time. Nothing wrong with 5000 Chinese workers in Kenyan only that labour is what we have most on the continent. And this brings me to the need for Africa to find a better way to work together – amazing that we tend to unite on all fronts except when the deal is important for the masses.
Why is this my headache given Nigeria has enough of wahala you ask? Nigeria is very bad accumulating public debts with no thoughts to future generations. Fine prints are the last thing we pay attention to. Only a few years ago we managed to get out of a mountain of debts from the Paris Club – thanks to the Minister of Finance, Madam Okonjo-Iweala.
The intention behind many of these projects across the continent were amazing and no doubt needed especially the transportation links, electricity etc. but we are responsible for understanding the terms and conditions clearly before signing otherwise future generation would not be too pleased.