Kenyan youth workforce urged to learn Chinese language

Experts say that learning the language is crucial for Kenyan youth seeking job opportunities

In Summary

• Recruiters say it is not a must for one to know Chinese but it is an added advantage.

• This is because Chinese companies based in the country rarely require a workforce that can communicate in the language.

Where you can learn Chinese in Kenya.
Where you can learn Chinese in Kenya.

Learning the Chinese language is not a necessity but a booster to innovative Kenyan youth seeking job opportunities in both local and Chinese companies.

Speaking during an innovation and job opportunities in Chinese companies for a sustainable development panel discussion, Sinoma commercial manager Wang Jiamin said student engineers, for example, should learn and understand the language.

This, he said, is one of the requirements they go looking for when they hire young engineers to work in their company.

“For our company, an engineer who understands Chinese has an upper hand because they understand some of the basics and are able to communicate with clients as well as translate,” Jiamin said.

“Speaking the language while at work even enables the young engineer to practice speaking the language and become an expert.”

Sinoma International Engineering is a civil engineering company based in Beijing.

Exhibiting at the Nairobi Innovation Week, the company is set to recruit nine Kenyan engineers and two students who will work under administration.

Sinoma is among the other 17 companies that are also expected to recruit students.

UON Confucious Institute director Wang Shangxue said it is not a must for a Kenyan student to know the language but it is an added advantage.

This is because Chinese companies based in the country rarely require a workforce that can communicate in the language.

“Some companies will, however, require a translator. Based on the data that we have at the institute, we know that said companies need someone who can speak Chinese,” she said.

Unique Brilliant HR group manager Wang Desheng added most Chinese individuals living in Kenya are familiar with the English language.

As a recruitment company for both local and Chinese organisations, Desheng said employers are much interested in developing their organisations and careers in Kenya.

“Most companies we work with are welcoming to all Kenyan people. Whether you can speak or can’t speak Chinese, it is okay. English and Swahili are enough,” he added.

Huawei Technologies Kenya recruitment specialist Matthew Kiptoo noted that as a Kenyan, the biggest challenge he has experienced working in a Chinese company is communication.

“There is a way Kenyans will communicate and there is a way the Chinese or other expatriates communicate that can eventually bring about some misunderstanding,” he said.

“My Chinese colleague might be talking to me while his eyes are red and I might be tempted to think he is shouting and annoyed. In the real sense, he isn’t.”

Kiptoo said the best way to overcome this is to be flexible, positive and quick to adapt in order to correctly fit in.

Apart from proof of language proficiency, Kiptoo added as part of the recruitment process into Chinese firms, perseverance, dedication and flexibility are key.

“We don’t go for people who will at the end of the day tell us that my job description says this or that. We are looking for people who can take up a challenge and in case they encounter a problem, can seek guidance,” he said.

Zhongwu E-commerce Asst. GM Tang Wenyou said recruiters in the cross-border e-commerce sector go searching for individuals who are also open-minded, and willing to learn modern selling skills and how to be online.

This requires confidence and constant interaction.

“The cross-border e-commerce sector is an emerging industry and there is a potential for growth in Kenya. Today, shopping online, ordering food or a taxi online in Kenya is popular and it shows that e-commerce is ever growing and has a bright future and it is not far,” Wenyou said.

“To stimulate its growth, innovation in e-commerce is crucial but it all begins with communication. Chinese people are very vocal people but we notice that sometimes Kenyans are afraid to talk.”

He also said in as much as the industry is experiencing growth, there are still some challenges that can be addressed.

“We need to locally develop innovative logistic foundations. This will enable Chinese e-commerce companies easily find a cost-saving, fast and reliable delivery way to Kenyan customers and vice versa,” Wenyou added.

He also called for the development of innovative payment solutions whereby Kenyan customers will have confidence in paying first and then waiting for their goods to be shipped in.

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