Chinese Nationals in Namibia – Embassy Responds to Questions

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There has recently been wide coverage in the local media on Chinese nationals living in Namibia. Questions in this regard have been raised with the Chinese Embassy. Following are excerpts of an interview which Xinhua news agency had with the Information Officer of the Chinese Embassy in Namibia, Li lingxiao: Q: It is said there are 44ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 000 Chinese nationals in Namibia at present. What is your estimate? A: The Embassy has no accurate statistics of the number of Chinese in Namibia as yet. A rough estimate by the Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Namibia puts the number at around 1ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 500, fewer than 1ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 000 of whom are investing and conducting business activities in Namibia or who are their relatives. Apart from those, about 150 Chinese work in the Ramatex factory. Some Chinese construction companies employ about 300 – 400 technicians when their work is at its peak, or several dozens in the slack season. Normally, construction technicians do not normally bring their relatives with them and commute between China and Namibia, depending on the amount of work. A case in point is the China Jiangxi Corporation for International Economic and Technical Cooperation, which only has three people in Namibia doing maintenance work on the two Regional Council buildings. However, when the two buildings were under construction, a dozen people from China were employed. It is an exaggeration to put the number of Chinese nationals in Namibia at 44ÃÆ’Æ‘ÀÃ…ÃÆ”šÃ‚ 000. It would be more than welcome if those who said so could provide the Chinese Embassy with supporting evidence. Q: It is said that the China Jiangxi Corporation for International Economic and Technical Cooperation is a small company but that the Namibian Government still supports it in its efforts to bid for tenders. What is your comment on that? A: China Jiangxi Corporation for International Economic and Technical Cooperation is not at all a small company. The two Regional Council buildings in Outapi and Rundu were constructed by it. The company also undertook many larger projects in other African countries. As mentioned earlier, they now have only three people in Namibia doing maintenance on the two buildings. They employed more people from China when they were constructing the two buildings. They employed mainly locals when working on projects. Q: It is alleged that some Chinese construction companies in Namibia do not comply with the Labour Act and that many malpractices were exposed. What is your comment on that? A: Chinese companies have all along been requested by the Chinese Government to abide by Namibian laws and regulations, to respect the customs of and get on well with locals and operate on the principle of honestly implementing contracts, ensuring good quality and practising righteousness. To the best of my knowledge, Chinese companies have carried out those requests to the letter. If anybody finds evidence of violations by Chinese companies against the aforementioned requests, he or she will be more than welcome to report this to the Chinese Embassy so that we can set wrongs right. Q: It is alleged that the quality of projects by Chinese construction companies is poor. What would you like to say about that? A: As far as I know, most of the projects by Chinese construction companies are of good quality. No other foreign company is able to produce the same quality project at the same cost. This is mainly because Chinese companies work hard and do not seek to maximize their profits. Many of the people who have ever worked with the Chinese cannot but highly admire them for their very hard work and the simple lives they lead. Many of our local friends speak highly of the quality of projects by the Chinese and express the hope that the Embassy would recommend Chinese companies to them when they build houses. It is fair to say that it is the quality, price and speed of Chinese companies that have guaranteed their survival and development in Namibia. Some friends say it is because of the entry of Chinese companies that the profits of Namibian contractors in the building market declined from 30% to 10-15%, which means that the Namibians can spend less to build more houses, that those who could not afford to build houses can do so now and that the Namibian Government can reduce its costs, afford more houses and do more for the people with less money. Therefore, they welcome Chinese companies and hope that Chinese companies are involved in more areas to lower the cost. However, there are others who are not happy to see the fall of their profits and therefore try to edge out Chinese companies. Q: Some people complain that the s alaries offered by Chinese companies are too low. What do you say to this? A: I think Chinese companies should abide by local regulations in terms of salary. If there is a clear provision on minimum wages, Chinese companies must act accordingly. On this basis, salaries can be negotiated in accordance with the quality of employees and the affordability of companies. If there is not a clear provision on minimum wages, the two sides can negotiate and reach an agreement of their accord. It is our hope that the salaries offered by Chinese companies can be the best within its capacity. Most of the coverage about employees being on strike for better pay has nothing to do with Chinese companies. If Chinese companies are found not complying with local laws and regulations, they should be reported to the Chinese Embassy. Q: Some people complain that Chinese companies do not hire locals and thus snatch jobs from them. Do you think this is true? A: I have so far not found any Chinese company that does not hire locals. It is common sense that hiring employees from China is more costly than hiring locals. Any company will have to take into consideration its labour costs. To guarantee the quality of projects, Chinese companies do sometimes hire more competent technicians from China. As long as locals are qualified for the work, Chinese companies would like to hire locals. I am sure other foreign companies are doing the same. More over, Chinese companies attach great importance to the training of locals. Q: It is said that Chinese companies sometimes receive favourable treatment when bidding for tenders and getting work permits. Is that true? A: On the contrary, we often hear complaints from Chinese companies that they sometimes find it very difficult to get work permits. At least, they have never enjoyed any treatment more favourable than that of nationals from other countries. In terms of bidding for tenders, Chinese companies compete with other foreign companies on an equal footing. No special treatment has ever been granted to Chinese companies. Q: It is alleged by some that China is now plundering Africa and practising neo-colonialism in Africa. What is your comment on that? A: Africa is a continent long occupied and ruled by colonialists. The Africans gained independence and emancipation only after many years of hard struggle, in the course of which the Chinese government and people have all along been firmly supporting them. Since Africa became independent, China has been developing friendly cooperation with Africa on the basis of the five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence. China and Africa have enlarged their cooperation over the years, thanks to their respective developments. Having been victims of colonialist pillaging and oppression for many years, African countries are willing to develop a new type of cooperation with China to seek economic independence, now that political independence has been won. Cooperation between China and Africa is based on equality and mutual benefit and not on pillaging or neo-colonialism. It is noteworthy, however, that it is not Africans or those who care for the interests of Africa who spread the aforementioned rumours. I am confident that Africans will not believe it. Not long ago, some people increased their efforts to disseminate malicious rumours when the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation Beijing Summit was held. The presence of Heads of State, Heads of Government and representatives of 48 African countries at the Summit speaks volumes on Africa’s response to that.