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Making a difference in Africa

Chinese professionals, working on diverse projects in Africa, share transformative experiences — improving infrastructure, health, and education — while fostering mutual respect and cultural exchange, shaping a brighter future for both continents, Li Xinran reports.

By Li Xinran | China Daily | Updated: 2024-01-31 11:28
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Heating up cooperation

While the Republic of Equatorial Guinea was Huang's first trip out of China, Li Haitao, 33, has been a seasoned traveler who has worked on several international projects around the world.

He is now the project manager of the Sosian Geothermal Power Plant, which is built by Kaishan Group, working in Nairobi, Kenya.

According to Li, geothermal power plants need to be built in countries with ample geothermal resources. This is why they are mainly distributed in the transitional part between the Earth's tectonic plates where there are frequent crustal movements, resulting in abundant geothermal resources. "I have worked in several countries like these before, including Turkiye, the United States, and Hungary," Li said.

However, among all these countries, Li believes that Kenya is particularly rich in unexpected discoveries and surprises.

"About 95 percent of the local people I have encountered so far can have daily conversations in English," he said.

Li was also surprised by the level of education of his Kenyan colleagues. "Many of our workers have college degrees. I have been in multiple situations where our local staff requested leave to attend training or doctoral thesis defenses."

According to Li, the company provides regular training for the local staff, hoping that they can take on more responsibilities and more technical jobs.

"In the beginning, the company sent over 40 Chinese employees here to build the power plant. Two years later, there are only 10 of us now. In the future, we hope to reduce the number to three for core management," said Li.

Other than providing job opportunities and training for local people, the power plant has made a significant contribution at a broader scale.

"Since geothermal power is a green and relatively low-cost energy source, it has been effective in driving down local electricity prices," Li said.

Kenya has been developing geothermal energy since 1981. Most of its partners at that time were Japanese and European companies. Kaishan is the first and only one from China.

"There have definitely been challenges along the way. For instance, I have run into several cases of labor strikes, demanding higher salary," said Li. "In my experience, the only solution is communication with mutual respect. So we would take their requests into consideration, communicate the project schedule in advance, and provide bonuses for outstanding employees."

In Li's opinion, Kenya is a relatively developed country, where most daily shopping needs can be fulfilled, and communicating with government departments is usually smooth. But for Ye Zhaoying, who used to be a data analyst and consultant for the office of the United Nations Development Programme in Sao Tome and Principe, her experience in Africa was quite different.

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