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September 18, 2018

Coal plant does not need 1400 Chinese workers

Cab-hailing technology firm Uber said this week it had quit the Chinese market and sold its operations to a Chinese rival.

It followed a familiar script of American tech firms that have been unable to crack the Chinese market.

Ebay and Amazon are represented by Ali Baba, an e-commerce firm, Twitter by Sina Weibo, Search engine Baidu is the equivalent of Google and so on.

China is a notoriously difficult market to crack as it is so well protected.

A friend who works in the nuclear power industry told me how they won a  bid to do a power plant in China.

Although the job required between 2500 – 5000 workers at peak, the US firm was only allowed to take 200 American workers.

The rest had to be Chinese. Additionally, those 200 were closely monitored, each move they made studied as the Chinese made sure they would transfer as much knowledge as possible.

Here at home as Chinese companies continue to undertake infrastructure projects, it was recently announced that 1400 Chinese workers will be needed to construct the 1,050Megawatt Lamu Coal Plant.

Amu Power, the project developer, says this will be about 40 per cent of the workforce.

Expert sources however say a coal plant requires about 1600 workers suggesting, the Chinese workforce will form the bulk of it.

This cannot be allowed.

There is a reason the Chinese themselves do not allow that many foreign workers to work on their own projects.

It cannot be that we have 1400 roles at the Coal Power plant that have no skilled Kenyans to perform.

The Department of Immigration must demand a detailed breakdown of each of these 1400 workers and what they are going to do.

It must also require the project developer to advertise the same locally to fill as many positions as possible before bringing in the Chinese.

We are already paying a lot of money to Chinese for these infrastructure projects including repayment of loans, we cannot also create manual labour for them when we have Kenyans who need jobs.

As my friend advised, if indeed it is found that there are skill sets that the Chinese need to bring in like say skilled welders to work on the power plant, they must each be shadowed by a Kenyan to ensure this is the last project of this sort that they do in Kenya.

They should transfer the skills to locals who will carry out such future projects.

KenGen is a shining example of this: initially, they had very few skilled drilling engineers for their geothermal projects requiring them to use Chinese rigs and personnel.

Not anymore. After training many engineers, Kengen now drills for others and even consults on a regional basis.

Only, very necessary Chinese skills should be given visas to come to Kenya.

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