Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Chinese firms must share their skills

China needed to share more skills with Africans to avoid resentment when its firms invested on the continent, the head of an engineering conglomerate said yesterday.
But Kola Karim, the chief executive of Shoreline Energy International, which aims to have a 50 percent African workforce in any joint venture, said cheap technology and the retreat of some Western firms from parts of the continent meant deals with China would continue to rise. Shoreline has interests in construction, energy and telecoms.
"They have good technology that is a little cruder, but also very good value," Karim said in an interview at the World Economic Forum in the northeast Chinese city of Dalian.
"But there is on-the-ground resentment, mostly from the fact that Chinese firms don't understand you need to make a value chain. Western firms cost more, but they will use some local labour, so they leave something behind."
Ironically, back home Beijing has used its economic clout and the allure of its vast markets to demand broad transfers of skills and know-how from would-be investors.
Karim said half of the workers in his firm's joint venture projects would be African. This contrasts with Chinese firms that arrive with their own workers, build a project and then leave, giving the local populace infrastructure but no skills. His firm, with turnover last year of $120 million (R868 million), is talking to Jilin PetroChemical about a bid for a Nigerian refinery and has worked with telecoms equipment maker Huawei.

Business Report - Chinese firms must share their skills on the African continent - conglomerate