Analysis / From formal- to informal-sector employment: examining the Chinese presence in Zambia


from formal to informal sector employment

Examining the Chinese Presence in Zambia


This report was written by Magpie Advisory Founder and CEO, Aleksandra Gadzala, for the Review of African Political Economy, a Taylor & Francis journal. It also appears in our China newsfeed.


This paper analyses China's recent engagement with Zambia, examining especially Chinese hiring practices, methods of business organisation and the labour conditions maintained by Chinese-operated construction and mining firms. Moving beyond existing analyses which remain focused solely on Chinese trade, aid and investment, this study begins to explore the micro-level of Chinese ventures, arguing that the continued employment of co-nationals as well as the generally substandard labour conditions maintained by Chinese firms lead to the offloading of Zambian workers into the country's burgeoning informal economy. There, newly emerged Chinese businesses stand to threaten local entrepreneurs who lack the resources necessary to parry Chinese competition. The result is a rapidly growing national unemployment rate and an increasing number of Zambians left struggling to sustain their livelihoods. This paper further argues that the characteristics defining China's engagement with Zambia are not particular to the Zambian context alone, but are rather abiding characteristics of overseas Chinese businesses in general. The paper ultimately calls for a policy framework regulating Chinese business activities in Zambia, lest the negative consequences of the Sino-Zambian partnership prevail.


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Taylor & Francis London, U.K.


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