ODI: Africa ‘more flexible’ but also ‘more challenging’
plans to build another cement factory in aWest African country over the next three years. It already has a cement plant in Ethiopia, and it has delivered mine loaders to Tanzania and concrete and power plant equipmenttoAngolaover past eight years.
NHI President Geng Hongchen said that African markets are “more flexible” when it comes to business practices and industrial development compared with Southeast Asia or Latin America.
“Chinese service and infrastructure companies usually need to spend time determining what kind of building materials or heavy machinery African governments urgently need, or which industry to treat as a priority. Then it’s easy to complete the paperwork and get down to business,” saidGeng.
Restrained by weak industrial and logistics foundations in sub-Saharan Africa, many African and foreign construction contractors have to cope with local cement that costs too much and is often in short supply. That makes it hard to complete projects on time. Delays caused by sub- standard port facilities and bureaucracy, and delayed shipments from Asia, Europe and North Africa, makematters worse.
“It appears we have found a new growtharea in Africa’scementindustry, and investing in this sector will be one of our focuses this decade,” saidGeng.
The company began building a cement plant in 2013 for Habesha Cement Share Co, an Ethiopian government-owned company, at a site west of the capital of Addis Ababa.
NHI helped train more than 310 local workers to manage, operate and maintain the plant. There are now 450 workers on site, of whom 70 are Chinese, and annual production capacity is expected to reach 1.4 millionmetrictonsbytheendof thisyear. NHI now has sales and manufacturing facilities in 13 countries in Africa.
CCDI Group, a Beijing-based architectural firm, worked on the design of the venues for the All-Africa Games in Brazzaville, the capital of the Republic of Congo, which are to be held in September.
The games are much bigger than in 1965, when the country hosted 30 nations and 2,500 athletes at what were then Games.
The project, which includes a 62,000-seat stadium and facilities such as outdoor venues and surrounding roads in the northern outskirts of Brazzaville, is valued at $441 million.
Wang Jiayi, the project’s field manager, said that project design in Africa is more challenging than in China.
Taking a weekend off has become a luxury for theteam’s architectsand engineers because of the heavy workload, and they work under a totally different system of construction standards.
“Our team cannot apply Chinese standards to build stadiums here. Every detail needs to be run by our Congolese clients and their French supervision company, the project’s third party invited by the Congolese government,” saidWang.
Despite the challenges, the Chinese company aims to invest more in Africa to turn the continent into its biggest market over the next decade.
The games project is CCDI’s first in Africa, andqualityis essential inanew market where price is still a sensitive issue. Wang said the company aims to win more bids in Algeria, Cameroon and South Africa, as it believes that its local sales and technology support networks, competitive prices and technology will help it gain contracts.
Companieswillneedhelpfromthe Chinese government.
“The government will move faster to build a system for providing financial services for outward investment, expanding the channels for using foreign exchange reserves and providing better financial, information and legal services as well as consular protection for Chinese enterprises investing overseas,” said Shen Danyang, spokesman for theMinistry of Commerce. Contact the writer at email@example.com