China’s influence on African work ethic gives it an edge
Published: Mar 26, 2021 09:13 PM
China-Africa relations Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

China-Africa relations Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Labor productivity in African nations has always been low compared to other countries in the world for many years. As a result, this has led to low incomes and high poverty levels in a continent that is endowed with abundant natural resources.

Part of the reasoning behind this phenomenon is that the majority of the jobs generated in Africa are mostly unproductive and informal, hence they are inherently low-paying.

It is the traditional organizational orientations that continue to slug Africa's effective utilization of man-power that is hurting its quest for improved work rate.

As a matter of fact, Africa has been hesitant to permit women to meaningfully engage and participate in leadership in various sectors of the economy, their qualifications notwithstanding. Coupled with the top-down management styles and closed-door policies in organizations, output in the economy continues to fall below expectations in the region.

Times have changed, though, and so has the continent's approach to various issues. Across Africa, governments and organizations are progressively embracing technology. 

This is being done with the goal to respond to the below-par production by ensuring that the same amount of output can be produced with fewer resources, or more output can be produced with the same amount of resources. 

Further, a broader ray of hope lingers on the horizon which may stimulate a complete rethink of Africa's work-force engagement and significantly transform its economic potential. The coming of China is changing the region's way of doing things in various ways. One distinguishable example is the introduction of a new working culture in Africa.

Driven by the hunger and crave to give Africa a new face, away from the perceived one that is engulfed by poverty, ignorance and diseases, China and the continent's leadership have been engaging in heavy and extensive works ranging from roads, airports, seaports to power connectivity. 

In this new move that anchors the transformation agenda of the African countries, Chinese firms have been compelled to work around the clock to beat tight deadlines without eroding on the quality of their outcomes. 

From Kenya's Nairobi Expressway to Uganda's four-lane, dual carriage Busega-Mpigi Expressway to Tanzania's Mwanza-Dar es Salaam modern rail line, Chinese firms have been encouraging their workers to operate in shifts throughout the day, deepening further the accomplishment of the much-anticipated 24-hour economy dream in Africa.

This shift in working patterns that typically employs three, eight-hour shifts to offer the 24/7 coverage has broken the barriers between day and night in Africa, effectively ushering in flexible working hours. This has resulted in the creation of more employment opportunities, particularly to the youths. In turn, this has empowered them economically, translating to dipping crime rates.  

It may be wrong to think that this working culture is confined among Chinese firms only. This new way of doing things has stretched and been embraced by local organizations, and even those firms from the West operating in African countries. They run from shopping malls, hospitals, media companies to even entertainment joints and telecommunication companies.

Besides the introduction of the 24-hour economy, which has now been intermittently disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak protocols, one other conspicuous working culture that China is growingly inculcating in Africa is the division of labor where work is broken down into a number of tasks with each carried out by a separate person or group of persons qualified in that particular assignment.

This has consequently reduced production time, lowered production costs, enhanced productivity and inspired inventions. One hopes China-Africa cooperation will continue blossoming for more development to be realized between these two regions.

The author is a researcher and expert on China-Africa cooperation based in Nairobi, Kenya. Follow him on Twitter @kapchanga. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn
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