Saturday, October 27, 2007
By Chibaula Silwamba
Saturday October 27, 2007 [04:00]
COMMERCE, trade and industry minister Felix Mutati has called for enforcement of labour laws to address the problem of influx of Chinese labourers in the country.
In an interview in Lusaka on Thursday, Mutati admitted that there had been concerns about the influx of Chinese labourers in the country.
“That concern has been expressed from many quarters about the employment and bringing in of labour, etc. We have labour laws in this country which are very specific and clear,” responded Mutati when asked about Chinese labourers coming to Zambia. “But the challenge for us is basically enforcement of the law. So we need to enhance our enforcement efforts. That is all it requires.”
Mutati observed that there was a perspective that was developing that Africa was surrendering itself to the invasion by China, particularly in the area of trade and that the continent must re-look its relationship with China.
“Now if you look at the scale of trade globally you will see that the trade between China and Africa is probably less than five per cent compared to the trade between the Western world and China. And one of China’s biggest trading partners is the US. So from an African perspective what we are saying is that given the volume of trade and investment between the West and China which obviously has been sustainable, we ask a question: If it’s good for them, why should it be bad for us?” Mutati wondered.
“They are the ones that are doing big business with China. Now they are saying it’s bad for Africa. That is a contradiction, isn’t it? Specific example in Zambia, there is the expansion programme of Chilanga Cement now called Lafarge which is owned by Lafarge of France. Now when they were carrying out an assessment to offer the contract for the expansion programme, I think the expansion is about US$150 million there about, they searched around the world for best delivery, cost and technology, and sitting in Paris they offered it to a Chinese company. We did not pick the Chinese contractor, they made their own assessments and they saw the merits in awarding that particular contract to Chinese.”
He said another example was at Konkola Copper Mine (KCM) where NFC of China was sinking a shaft.
“Again KCM is owned by a company listed on the London Stock Exchange,” he said. “So all we are saying is that our colleagues are making decisions to trade and invest in China and vice verse and Africa is saying they shouldn’t be denied the similar opportunity.
We remain alive to the fact that trade with China obviously like any other country in the world may have its own difficulties but these are the challenges that individual countries have to address.”