Business / Companies

Chinese firm's towering ambitions in Africa

By Joseph Catanzaro and Li Fangchao (China Daily Africa) Updated: 2014-06-20 09:38

Nie says the BCEG apartment complex was independently assessed by a French company after the explosion, and verified to be structurally sound despite its proximity to the blast.

Congo Army Colonel Serge Oyobe is responsible for patrolling the blast zone, much of which remains in ruins. He, for one, was full of praise for the Chinese company.

"It (the BCEG apartment block) protected the local inhabitants behind the building," he says. "It was a miracle."

BCEG now employs about 400 Chinese workers and 2,000 local workers in the Congo.

Nie says most new local employees come to the job with no skills and require extensive training. But he feels that in addition to building much needed housing and infrastructure, training and employment opportunities are ways BCEG is helping the country develop.

Kambi Bithovenne, 26, has been employed as a scaffold worker with BCEG for four years. The married father of two says he was unable to find a job until the Chinese company gave him a chance.

"I was looking for a job for a few years," he says. "This is my first job after I finished school. It is difficult to find a job here. I learned how to do building from the Chinese technicians. When I came here I knew nothing. Now, even if I don't stay with this company, I can get a good job."

Building site manager Ge Fuqun, 50, has been working in the Congo for about 11 years. Ge, who has a wife and adult son in China, says it can be a difficult environment but he finds the overall experience rewarding.

"I've had malaria three or four times. It's hard to be away from my family. I will be a grandfather soon. It's not easy working here, but I like the Congo people very much."

Nie says construction in the Congo presents challenges different to those in China, not the least of which is the massive logistical exercise required to get anything done.

The lack of a developed manufacturing sector in Congo means almost all the materials and equipment need to be imported from China.

"We have to ship everything in," he says.

While Nie says doing business in the Congo is profitable, he maintains short-term profit is not BCEG's main goal.

"I just hope to be able to bring the traditions, standards and best practices from this company, and spread it here."

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