Perceptions on the impact of Chinese businesses in Namibia: A case study of the retail and construction sector in Windhoek.
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There are conflicting perspectives on the increase of Chinese business in Africa and in particular in Namibia. This study hypothesized that in Namibia, local communities, political leaders, local business community and workers operate on distinct repertoires, i.e. local communities tend to regard Chinese traders as a most welcomed addition to the local market as providers of affordable goods and services. Government, which is a signatory of various bilateral agreements with the People's Republic of China, believes in economic liberalisation and attraction of foreign investment. The local business community on the other hand, feels the pinch of market threat by the influx of Chinese businesses in particular in the construction and the retail sector. There are claims of unfair competition by Chinese businesses, in particular with regard to state tenders. According to this view, Chinese businesses do not have to adhere to the same costly legal provisions as local or South African companies have to, due to political favouritism and alleged corruption benefiting the Chinese. Organised labour (trade unions) seems to be concerned by the frequent non-adherence of Chinese businesses to Namibian labour law and affirmative action legislation. There is also evidence that Chinese companies bring along their own low-skilled labour from China, thereby taking away work from Namibians. Namibian employees of Chinese companies are expected to compare their situation in terms of pay, working conditions (working hours, annual and compassionate leave, management style etc.), fringe benefits (medical aid, pensions) to their counterparts in other (Namibian and foreign) companies. The principal questions to which this study tries to find an answer are: (a) What are the characteristics and the consequences (positive and negative, short-term and long-term) of Chinese economic activity in Namibia's commercial and construction sector in particular? (b) What has been the local response to the increased Chinese presence? (c) What are the policy suggestions in order to, on the one hand, maximise the benefits to Namibia and, on the other hand, minimise the costs and negative impacts of the Chinese expansion into the Namibian society?
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