Like I said in my previous post, I was in Zambia for a month recently. A lot of things are the same, but others have changed.
One thing that struck me was the number of Chinese and their businesses in Zambia! We had a few when I left more than a decade ago, but now they seem to be everywhere. I am told that they are even in the remotest areas of Zambia. I have some reservations/questions/thoughts about this, namely:
- What is it that the Chinese see in Zambia, that we the Zambians do not see? There definitely must be something, otherwise they would not have come. I know it is economic based because they are opening up a lot of businesses there. I am not against the Chinese, but I sometimes just wonder how foreigners can see potential in a seemingly ‘potential-less’ place – at least according to some Zambians. I hope that our eyes are opened as wide as the Chinese’s so that we can take advantage of what we have.
- Not all Chinese are professional or skilled workers. In the earlier years, the Government used to tell us only Chinese with skills that cannot be found locally would be given work permits, but what happened? A lot of Chinese laborers were allowed to enter Zambia for work. Why do we need foreign laborers when we have our own? I have no problem with hiring foreigners who have rare skills because they will help develop the country and locals may learn from them.
- Chinese seem to invite other Chinese to come over. This is just my thinking and I do not fault them at all. If anything, kudos to them. I too would invite a relative or friend to join me in greener pastures if I had the chance to do so.
- Chinese destroy local businesses. Case in point is a friend’s farmer aunt whose customers have been lured away to a neighboring Chinese farm. Said Chinese farmer built a dormitory for his Chinese laborers to live in and pays them less than minimum wage. As a result, he can afford to charge very low prices for his produce and still make a profit. Rumor has it that these laborers were prisoners in China and were sent to do their sentence in Zambia. Who knows? Such rumors started in the late nineties at another construction in Lusaka. Maybe it’s true, maybe it’s not.
- Chinese seem to have access to credit to start business while many Zambians do not. I can only imagine how it would be if many Zambians had access to credit in order to open up new businesses. As it is, some banks reject their customers’ applications for loans only because they do not have formal employment. A friend who left her job to run her businesses full time only recently realized that her bank cannot (or rather will not) give her credit even though she is making more money now than she was when formally employed. The mind boggles.
- There are some below par Chinese goods that are allowed into the country. This gets to me.
I do not blame the Chinese for coming to Zambia in such large numbers. I blame the government for not regulating the calibre of people allowed into the country.