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Chinese firms help Gabon progress

Updated: 2014-07-25 08:44
By Joseph Catanzaro and Li Fangchao ( China Daily Africa)

AVIC's Vice-President, Liu Jun, says his company believes a skilled workforce is the foundation for successful nation building. A similar initiative AVIC launched in Kenya in 2009 has provided employment to 1,500 graduates, and the company is now in talks with the government there to massively expand the school to cater to as many as 20,000 students a year.

Liu is open about the fact that African students learn on Chinese machinery, which in turn is expected to boost the sale of Chinese-made equipment. But he maintains this will lead to further mutual benefits because AVIC will consider setting up spare-parts manufacturing centers for Chinese equipment in Africa if the demand is there. That means more local jobs, he says.

"This is not pure donations or charity," Liu says. "It is a business. We believe we use the power of commerce to help people."

While healthy revenue from Gabon's resources sector means it is classified as a middle-income nation, the disparities between town and country, and rich and poor, are enormous. The figures from the World Bank show per capita national income is $14,090, but the wealth is concentrated, and almost a third of the population still live in poverty.

Knowledge transfer is one of the best ways China can help Gabon's disadvantaged raise their standard of living, Jebbari says.

"Like any investor it (China) wants to make money, but it also wants a transfer of technology and knowledge so Africans can learn how to do things. The Chinese have the capacity to help Africans and African countries reach the point that we want to reach."

The 93 km section of road CRBC is building from Port-Gentil is only the first phase of a planned two-stage development. More cash and another 270 km of blacktop will be needed to link up the initial stretch with the national highway that leads to Libreville. But the plans are drawn up, and Yang believes completing the challenging project on time will help his company secure the contract for stage two.

In Yang's opinion, building bridges culturally and commercially can be achieved by doing a good job of building them, literally.

"We will be building the third and fourth-longest bridges in Africa to finish stage one of the project, both over marshland, both around 5 kilometers long.

"Gabon will make up its mind about us depending on what we build. It will all come down to the results."

Contact the writers at josephcatanzaro@chinadaily.com.cn

(China Daily  Africa Weekly 07/25/2014 page6)

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