Sunday, February 24, 2013

Interview: Kumbukilani Phiri

I recently reached out to Kumbukilani Phiri, a Zambian who works at the Sunshine Kaidi New Energy Group and who speaks fluent Mandarin after studying Civil Engineering in Guangxi university. As someone whose professional and educational experiences are the product of the Sino-African relationship, I am so very fortunate that someone with his insight and background allowed me to interview him.

1) What do "China-Africa relations" mean to you?

  The China-Africa relationship would be more meaningful if it was a win-win situation. The current state of affairs is that while China knows what they need from Africa and are ready to tailor their agreements and contracts based on what they need,however African countries do not seem to know about what they need from China. This has resulted in a situation where people are beginning to feel that African's are getting a raw deal from China which is not the case. My belief is that if African's would sit down and strategise on how to engage China, things would improve for them.

2) What is one thing that Chinese people and/or African people are doing well in that relationship?

  The one thing that Chinese people and African people are doing well in this new relationship is a two sided thing.
-The Chinese investment that is coming into Africa is of course a very good gesture from the Chinese.
-Africa allowing China to invest in Africa is also equally a good thing. However, this would be even better if Africa gave terms of how China should go about their investment in Africa. Firstly it is common knowledge that, when China does an investment, most of the senior management jobs including technician jobs are given to the Chinese and Africans only get jobs of labourers which is of course not good for technology transfer which Africa dearly needs to develop its local based capacity.

3) What is one thing that Chinese people and/or African people can improve on in that relationship?

  The one thing that both China and Africa need to do to improve this relationship is for Africa to rise up and challenge the current status quo. Firstly I would like to say that China needs Africa and vice versa but Africa has more to gain from China if they understood how to engage China. Africa is now a landlord to China and they have a better advantage to negotiate good terms of partnering with China. If this situation is not changed soon, I see many problems arising from this new relationship as Africans one day will wake up and realise that they have been treated unfairly by China, and this will cause a lot of problems in some cases might even be worse and lead to civil strife.

Note: this style of three-question interview was suggested by Eric Olander.

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