Opinion (Part Two): Is The Chinese Honey In Zambia Over?

Part 2

Current statistics show that the Chinese have invested about $4 billion in Zambia, and our trade with China keeps on increasing year on year. The Chinese construction companies get more than 80% of all construction contracts in the country for our airports, roads, power generation, etc. Therefore, our Chinese colleagues are here to stay.

Zambia is currently undergoing unprecedented construction boom. The last time I saw such construction taking place at the same time was during my time in China where I was studying civil engineering.

However, the difference between the massive construction in China and our massive construction in Zambia is that more than 80% of their construction in China was done by themselves, whilst here it is the direct opposite.

Honestly there is a problem here. At the time when China was undergoing massive construction, many jobs were created for the local people for project managers, engineers and general workers. However, this is not the case for Zambians because we are not in control of the industry.

Therefore, we are failing to realise the true benefits in job creation for our people, more especially the highly skilled such as project managers and engineers. To start with, the Chinese companies constructing our infrastructure mostly employ Chinese engineers from China and only employ general workers from Zambia on a minimum wage.

Only a handful of highly skilled Zambians are employed as project managers, engineers and Directors. The excuse that is normally given for this is that Zambians are lazy. However, research has shown that the major reason for this is actually language and cultural barrier.

Of course we cannot rule out completely that Zambians are not as hardworking compared to the Chinese workers. In special cases, if a highly qualified and skilled Zambian is employed by the Chinese company, they mostly do not stay for long because the conditions of service will not match other foreign companies in the same sector.

This has contributed to the high Zambian employee turnover for most Chinese companies compared to other foreign companies in the same sector.

Since language was identified as one of the critical factors to why the Chinese do not employee Zambians in favour of their country mates, it is important for us to look at our immigration law. Before, it was a basic requirement for foreigners coming to work in Zambia to be proficient in English language for them to be given a work permit.

However, over the past few years, we have seen a number of Chinese who can hardly utter a word in English working in Zambia.This lack of English language abilities by our Chinese colleagues somehow disadvantages Zambians as instead of them employing Zambian juniors to work with them they will prefer employing another Chinese and avoid speaking through a translator.

If you visited a Chinese company today, you will notice that apart from the general workers, drivers and perhaps receptionist, the rest of the management team is most likely going to be Chinese. So, how are our Zambian brothers and sisters going to get the much needed experience to one day run a big company like the Chinese companies we have today?

To be Continued……………………….

Article by Kumbukilani Phiri and Durban Kambaki
Chinese Scholars


  1. zona

    No,these pipo are looks like honeymoon,Bt there are not,look in Zimbabwe want these pipo were doing!!!!akuba vabwili muno muziko ….

  2. Zambia@53

    Zambians are not honest. If Zambians can start their own firms and be honest when the win government tenders, then they will have the chance to be managers.

  3. Voltron

    Its high time our government realised the problems they are putting on Zambian s.At KCM, its bad as to what is happening. They are even they it’s our mine and not yours even if they don’t follow safety standard. But miners are also thinking of protesting as to the working culture and may thinking of just killing two or more of Chinese.its tons be war. Bad decisions from our government. Why have we moved away from Whites as investors first of all?

  4. Voltron

    Please when we comment, put our comments there because what I wrote I’d truly what is happening at KCM.Fine.

  5. chisanga

    Do you know the country which mostly funds project in Zambia??
    I am sure when you get the answer you know why China does this

    • George

      Continued…zambians don’t want to learn either. Only quick money or free stiff r an incentive to us

  6. George

    I don’t buy this b’s of blaming the Chinese. I am a Zambian in diaspora. In the last 10 years, i have put out up to $150,000 to higher Zambian firms to do various construction projects, small retail, residential, boreholes etc. Nothing complicated. Summary of my experience, Zambians (including so called educated ones) are lazy, dishonest, unprofessional, dont keep time, unethical, poor work ethics, very very poor communication skills, only looking 4 a quick buck but sure do little for it. Very Sad. The Chinese r jst the opposite. Give due 4 those who deserve it.

    • Adage

      Its true that Zambians are lazy though we should not generalize. There are hard working Zambians who also do good jobs but yes there are lazy ones too and they might be many. If you leave Zambians alone to do a job you will cry because they will be stealing the materials and then do a poor quality job. Give a Zambian a job and be on his tail otherwise nothing good will come out of it. I lived in Ittawa Ndola just two years ago and a contractor was given a job to do drainage and pavements. Go there today and see the pavements in Mwasumina road. You will not believe they done recently. Infact what used to happen was that where they had finished doing the job it was already wearing out even before they went far.
      Give a job to a Zambian a simple job supposed to take two months, it will take 5 years. Zambian done jobs cannot even be put on the category of sub standard but worst.

  7. patzan

    Kumbulukani Phiri, I enjoy reading your articles about Chines, so far two.You are a good writer but between writing about Chinese honey in Zambia and having yourself rescued with your timber processing company,which one comes first? Remember both involve government. Any way, just an advise!

  8. One frozen

    Chinese,is very stupiet inside?

  9. B.Muwowo.

    Sad situation. But the truth of the matter is that most of our skilled are only good at speaking good English and neck ties, but zero performance. The moment they get good job, they would start employing relative,go polygamous and travel a lot at the expense of production. A Chinese will always be on sight and looking at ways of beating deadlines.

  10. George

    I agree. We don’t have to generalize. Truth is our government is doing a very poor job making & implementing workable & favorable policies for Zambian. our people make it even more worse by being lazy…….long story short, problem is societal & cultural as well. Not only political. Even a Chinese cabinet in Zambia can’t turn things around bcoz the masses r under performers.

  11. TJ

    Patrotism is the only remedy for Zambians.Zambians should Be honest,work hard, love one another,respect their leaders and follow the ten commandments of the bible.Zambia is also great with its people and Zambians should be proud of themselves whether they are ” sleeping or not”.

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