Chinese companies revitalize South African economy, change local life

The city of Nelson Mandela Bay, located along the southern coastline of South Africa, is an important port city connecting the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean. Driving along the coastline all the way to the north, more and more factories would appear in horizon, reminding that this is South Africa’s first special economic zone- the Coega Industrial Development Zone.

Among the logos of settled enterprises the zone put at entrance of the office building, China’s leading automakers FAW Group and BAIC Motor Corp. are eye-catching.

An employee with the park said Chinese enterprises are star companies that have made the place much more attractive, as they were often selected by visitors as a must-to-be destination.

“The policy makers of the park plans to build a car production base with the aim of drawing more investment,” said Liu Shijie, assistant to general manager of FAW Group’s South African manufacturing branch.

Liu said the park, while introducing capital, often takes his factory as a role model to boost potential investors’ confidence in their prospects.

When FAW Group’s South African factory was put into production in 2014, its inauguration ceremony was attended by then South African President, indicating the great importance the South African side placed on Chinese investment.

Now the factory produces over 1,000 trucks each year. “The sales has been rising to exceed that of some European and Japanese brands, updating the public’s impression of China-made cars,” Liu said.

In front of the FAW factory lies the construction site of BAIC Motor Corp’s factory which is about to run for operation soon.

The 54-hectare factory, which is expected to have welding, painting and assembly workshops, is designed to produce 50,000 passenger vehicles by 2022 and 100,000 vehicles in the longer run.

The cars produced here will be sold to not only South Africa, but also to south of the African continent, Europe and the Oceania. Of the cars manufactured by the plant, 60 percent is planned to be sold overseas in the first step.

The factory is estimated to provide 15,000 jobs for local residents, create an added value of 18.6 billion yuan once production capacity is maximized, and expand South Africa’s exports by 6.2 billion yuan.

As the largest greenfield investment in South Africa in the latest 40 years, the BAIC Motor factory is expected to be the biggest auto manufacturer in the country and even the continent in terms of single investment.

“Our dream has come true,” Eastern Cape premier Phumulo Masualle gave his thumbs up to the project.

“Like a Chinese proverb ‘the journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step’, we witnessed how the investment project was turned into a tangible result and felt happy for this, just like an architect when he sees his blueprint has been turned into buildings,” the governor said.

The parts would be supplied by both Chinese and local manufacturers, so that a 60 percent of localization rate would be ensured to drive local economy, said Sakhumzi Somyo, vice governor of Eastern Cape.

South Africa’s non-commercial vehicle market has shrunk in recent years, but the Chinese firms have injected great confidence into local market by bringing businesses to upper and down chains and drawing other foreign firms to increase investment, said Yao Haiyang, a manager of the FAW factory.

The suburb of Nelson Mandela Bay is home to a number of international car manufacturers and their workers, and a great deal of new jobs added by Chinese companies will help them live a better life.

“The Chinese companies gave me a chance to change my life,” said Patrick Mbuyi who now works for FAW factory, adding that he feels comfortable and respected in the job.

“I grew up with the factory. The Chinese technicians helped me warmheartedly and we become good friends,” added the man who was once unemployed and poor before being employed by FAW factory in Johannesburg in 2010. He moved to Nelson Mandela Bay in 2014 as the factory moved there.

Now a skilled worker full of energy, he attributes all his changes to China. “Our Chinese colleagues are hard-working, generous and smart, I told myself to work like them. Not only my life is getting better because of the Chinese companies, the destiny of a lot of other people has changed as well. We are very grateful!” said Mbuyi.

(The story is also published on People’s Daily Online)