Chinese company builds goodwill in Africa

Updated: July 15, 2022 Source: China Daily
fontLarger fontSmaller

Angolan employees of the Municipal Engineering Co of China Railway No 4 Engineering Group Co Ltd build the Ekuma Phase-II housing project in Cunene province, Angola. [Photo by SONG WENXUAN/FOR CHINA DAILY]

Modern apartments, hospitals, water, road-building projects improve life, generate jobs, promote local development

Oliveira Palango Julio from Angola said he will never forget his first contact with China Railway No 4 Engineering Group Co Ltd in 2013.

With encouragement from a friend, the unskilled young man left his hometown in Kwanza Norte province to look for his first job. In the country's capital, Luanda, he found the site where a subsidiary of the Chinese company, CREC4 Angola, was working on Luanda General Hospital, built with donations from China.

He said he was awed by the high-rise building under construction. His friend patted him on the shoulder, asking, "Do you like it?"

Julio was hired as one of the company's water and electricity workers. He said that after a month of training, he was able to grasp such techniques as wiring, power connections, risk prevention and other essentials.

Nine years into his work at CREC4 Angola, he now serves as a chief technician on the CREC4 maintenance team for the hospital.

"Today, I have a decent job and income with my professional skills. Now, I also have a happy and stable family, all of which is based on my job and training received," he said. "I would like to sincerely say 'Many thanks, CREC4'."

He said he is very proud of helping the Chinese State-owned company promote local development in Angola, which improves the friendship between the two countries.

There are 12 ongoing projects being undertaken by CREC4 in Angola, including housing, municipal projects, bridges, highways and water plants.

For many years, CREC4 Municipal Engineering Co has followed the principles embodied by the Belt and Road Initiative, including building 14 projects in Angola, according to Mao Hui, a project manager at the company.

For its Angolan operations, CREC4 has encouraged the development of local management, by offering a large number of jobs to locals and nurturing local technical talent while building high-quality projects, he said.

The company called the Ekuma Phase-II new city housing project a good example. The project is in the Cunene provincial capital of Ondjiva, in the country's southern region, nearly 1,400 kilometers' driving distance from the national capital. It includes 244 apartments in 37 buildings, covering 23,604 square meters.

The major public project is set to become a modern commercial housing complex upon completion, Mao said, adding that its top-quality, beautiful environment and excellent support facilities for recreation and shopping will help draw a large number of visitors.

Since starting the project, CREC4 has provided over 460 jobs to locals. Among them, more than 300 have been trained as metal and concrete workers, bricklayers or carpenters. Another 100 or so assistant workers are continuing to receive job training.

"Under the guidance of Chinese construction instructors, I have learned how to tie steel bars," said Felix Aberto, who lives in a nearby village and was among the first group of Angolan workers hired by CREC4 Municipal Engineering.

In his previous job as a handyman, he earned no more than $2.10 a day. Now, with new skills as a CREC4 steel bender, he said he earns a consistent monthly income that has improved his family's wellbeing.

"I am very grateful to CREC4 for giving me this opportunity to work and improve my skills. Many villagers like me have also mastered the skills to do these jobs, increasing their family income and making it easier to find future jobs when this project is completed," he said.

In Luanda, the CREC4-built first phase of the New Center of Cacuaco Social Housing Project was transferred to local operators on March 28 as CREC4's largest overseas building and engineering undertaking.

The first phase, covering 1.7 million sq m of floor space, is on a 200-hectare site. It includes 426 buildings with over 10,000 apartments.

In January, some 50 Angolan lawmakers visited the site and praised the high-quality buildings and support facilities for recreation and shopping in the community, CREC4 officials said.

Along with the housing project, the company also built the NCC Phase I Sewage Treatment Plant, with a capacity to process 20,000 metric tons of sewage per day, with plans to expand to 40,000 tons a day.

The facility is the first modern sewage treatment plant in Luanda. Construction started in 2013 on the plant, with sufficient capacity for the 426 residential buildings, two community schools, two kindergartens and nearby police stations and shopping areas.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali (2nd right) talks with construction staffers when visiting the Chebera Luxury VIP Lodge Project being built by CREC4 First Engineering in May. [Photo by WENG XINHANG/FOR CHINA DAILY]

The company began work on Luanda General Hospital, which covers a construction area of 22,000 sq m, in late 2011 and handed it to its operators in February 2015. It has the capacity to treat up to 800 patients a day. It has 301 beds and specialized departments in areas such as internal medicine, surgery, gynecology and pediatrics.

During the hospital's construction, conditions were often challenging, according to Chen Zihua, a publicity staffer for CREC4, including the need to import construction materials, language barriers, a hot climate, rampant diseases and safety hazards.

The company imported tons of cement and steel, nails, daily necessities for its staff and other supplies from China, he said.

During a trip to Cunene province on April 3, Angolan President Joao Lourenco expressed his sincere thanks to the Chinese government and Chinese builders for their work. Lourenco toured projects such as Ondjiva General Hospital, the Ekuma II new city housing project and water diversion projects.

The projects will help create great potential for the commercial development of the Ekuma II new city, helping bolster economic development of Cunene province, he said.

Angola's Minister of Energy and Water, Joao Baptista Borges, while visiting the water diversion expansion project of the Southeast Water Purification Plant last year, said CREC4's technological capabilities helped to reduce the project's adverse impacts on urban traffic and residents' lives.

Upon completion, the plant will have the capacity to provide 12 million cubic meters of high-quality drinking water each month-equivalent to the amount of water in Hangzhou's West Lake in China-for nearly 3 million people living in Luanda, the company said. About half of the city's needs will be covered.

In Ethiopia, another country in which CREC4 is active, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali made a visit on May 24 to a road and housing project being built by CREC4 First Engineering in the country's Southern Nations, Nationalities and People's Region.

The Chebera project in southwestern Ethiopia is a lodge and road-building project in an area renowned for Chebera Churchura National Park, which has one of the best-preserved ecosystems and newest parks in the country. The project has a contract value of 523.1 million yuan ($78.2 million) and includes the Chebera Luxury VIP Lodge and a new, 115-km road between Chebera and Churchura.

The prime minister toured the Chebera Luxury VIP Lodge project site and listened to reports on its progress, work safety and quality control from CREC4 project leader Gao Zhiqiang. He said he has confidence in the project and hopes the builders will be able to overcome difficulties and have the lodge finished by the end of August.

Since starting construction in June 2021, CREC4 builders have opened roads in forests and built bridges, making steady progress while fighting heat, mosquitoes and the danger of malaria and other diseases.

The magistrate of Ameya county in southwestern Ethiopia thanked CREC4 for providing over 400 jobs for residents and helping promote the local economy through construction and industrial progress, according to He Liming, CREC4 First Engineering's manager for Angola and Ethiopia operations.

Editor: Duan Jing