During the past few decade, the people’s Republic of China has greatly increased it’s economic involvement in Africa. The continent is proves to hold an unimaginable amount of untaped natural ressources. The PRC is quickly becoming the major player in the scramble for these ressources, which include diamonds, gold, oil, wood and minerals. The question on everyone’s mind is “Is it ethical”? Many believe that Africa is being exploited in this long period of continental wide dis-unity and strife.
Link to the BBC article here
The matter is simply to confusing for me to even comprehend, therefore I looked for articles that first showed the small scale. This article written by Steve Herrman on the 3rd of November, 2011. The title of the article is “China mines in Zambia “unsafe” says Human Rights Watch”. It is a rundown of the activities of Chinese State-run company in a copper mine in Zambia, which is one of the landlocked countries’ main industries. This particular Chinese state-run company has come under fire by the Human Rights Watch for threatening to fire their employees if they ever gather under a union. I found this to be odd since China is a technically COMMUNIST country, which should encourage the unionization of workers. The new president of Zambia, Michael Sata, need to fulfill his election promises of protecting his people from this sort of blatant abuse. The company denies all the allegations from the HRW. It seems the country doesn’t have any other options because copper mining is responsible for 3/4th of the exports. Workers in the mines have been reported to work for 12 to 18 hours shifts while the national laws dictate a maximum of 8 hours shifts. The report, however, stated that the condition has improved in the past few years. The name of the Chinese company is CNM (China Non-Ferrous Metals Mining Corporation), which also mines zinc, aluminum and nickel. Daniel Bekele, the African director of the HRW admits that the investments in Zambia’s natural ressources can be mutually beneficial, the way the workers are treated and the way the government ignores it must be reviewed. He also says that the conditions inside the mines are strikingly similar to the conditions in Chinese mines. This made me think for a second that perhaps the HRW (headquartered in New York) were perhaps ethnocentric in their approach, yet, the exhaustingly long workdays and the prohibition to form a union is simply inhumaine.
The spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry in Beijing, Hong Lei, stated that the report did not reflect the conditions properly and were “inconsistent with the facts”. But the report has taken into account individual interviews of 170 miners, with more than 85 of them working for Chinese companies. The article quotes some of these workers who claim to have hazardous work conditions and their life and health is often disregarded and is seen as replaceable. Michael Sata has been a critic of the Chinese companies, yet has tuned down this approach after having been elected. The article finishes with the stats, $400 million in investment in Zambia, and the conclusion of the HRW which is calling for “effective regulation” of the mines.