Chinese firms in Kenya hiring more locals than foreigners

GMT 23:28 2016 Friday ,22 April

Arab Today, arab today Chinese firms in Kenya hiring more locals than foreigners

Ngure Njoroge
Nairobi - XINHUA

In the outskirts of Nairobi along Limuru road, an upcoming mall that is under construction is an architectural beauty that will automatically raise Kiambu County's ratings once complete.

Its appearance is reason enough for tourists to troop in to have a piece of it. The mall, which is conveniently perched right at the heart of Runda, has brought both poor and rich together for a course.

James Gitau, 27, a school dropout from Gachie village in Kiambu County, is one of the young men who will go into history as having played part in giving Kenya such a prestigious mall.

Gitau is the first born in a family of six and having lost his dad when he was 17, he assumed his role as the head of his family.

He was forced to drop out of school to give his other siblings a chance as his mother, a city council worker in Kiambu Municipal Council, could not raise enough money to keep all of them in school.

"My mum was struggling a lot, so I had to drop out of school to help her. At least I had a chance to go up to form three. If I didn't do what I did may be my sisters and brothers wouldn't be in school, I thank God just about that time, this project kicked off and I was lucky I got a chance as a worker," he says.

The mall, which will be known as Two Rivers Mall is estimated to cost close to 15.1 billion shillings (about 150 million U.S. dollars) and will be built in phases by Aviation Industry Corporation of China (Avic), which is the main contractor.

Avic is among other Chinese companies that have given Kenyan youth a chance to rewrite their life stories.

Ngure Njoroge, 32, also from Gachie in Kiambu County says he is still alive, thanks to this project.

"I had engaged in lots of bad things before due to job scarcity but I thank God now I have a clean job. I don't have to steal or engage in dubious businesses. I was informed about the Two Rivers Mall by my friend who sells chapatis and tea to the casual labourers. She told me to go try my luck and I got a job," he told Xinhua.

Ngure and Gitau's stories are proof that Chinese firms operating in Kenya hire more locals compared to foreigners in contrast to popular belief that the opposite is true.

In its Policy Research Working paper titled "Deal or no Deal; Strictly Business for China in Kenya?" the World Bank says China ranked fifth job creator through her foreign direct investments in Kenya.

"Contrary to the popular belief that Chinese companies only hire Chinese workers, 93 percent of companies report hiring Kenyan employees; private enterprises are more likely to hire locals than state enterprises," says the report.

"In addition, larger firms are more likely to hire Kenyans than smaller firms. Of the companies surveyed, Kenyans represent 78 percent of full-time and 95 percent of part-time employees," the report says.

Kenya currently hosts around 400 Chinese firms spread across every sector.

The firms have an average of 360 local employees with 70 percent hired on part time while the rest on full time.

Those in the services sector hire 71 percent full-time employees, but the manufacturing and construction sectors hire only three percent full-time employees.

Ninety percent of manufacturing employees are local, and 82 percent of service sector employees are local.

In February 2014, the Sino-African Centre of Excellence (SACE) foundation launched the Business Perception Index (BPI) survey to learn the views and experiences of Chinese companies in Kenya.

China constructed 905.5 km of road in 2006 and invested 227 billion shillings (about 2.2 billion dollars) to rehabilitate the Nairobi-Mombasa road.

Many Chinese firms have been pre-qualified by the government to develop 2,000 km of road in various counties, according to the World Bank report.

China Road and Bridge Corporation is building a 609 km section of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) linking Nairobi and Mombasa for 3.6 billion dollars, and the China Communication Construction company is building three berths at the port on Lamu Island for 467 million dollars.

The SGR has employed thousands of Kenyan youth who had been jobless, giving them a fresh chance in life.

Apart from those directly employed by the Chinese companies, many more Kenyans and especially women who sell food to the labourers have benefited.

"I earn approximately 600 shillings (about 6 dollars) per day from selling tea, porridge and mandazis to the labourers. We feel very good whenever such projects kick off because we know we cannot sleep hungry," says Grace Odhiambo, one of the women who have benefited from the Two Rivers Mall project.

Source: XINHUA

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