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Data: Chinese Contracts and Workers in Africa

Chinese Contracts and workers in africa


To access China-Africa labor and contracts data, click here.

To access anecdotes on Chinese workers in Africa, click here.

CARI Data Overview

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In 2015, the gross annual revenues of Chinese companies' construction projects in Africa totaled US$55 billion. The top 5 countries are Algeria, Ethiopia, Angola, Kenya and Nigeria. These top 5 countries account for 48% of all Chinese companies’ 2015 construction project gross annual revenues in Africa; Algeria alone accounts for roughly 15.1%. Except for a slowdown in 2011, the gross annual revenues of Chinese companies' construction projects have been steadily increasing since 2000.

The number of Chinese workers in Africa by the end of 2015 is just over 263,000 according to official Chinese sources. This is an additional 4,289 workers than in 2014, which indicates that 2015 has a much slower growth rate than 2014 and 2013, each of which added 45,000 and 33,000 workers comparing to previous years. In 2015, the top 5 countries with Chinese workers are Algeria, Angola, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, and the Republic of Congo. These 5 countries are responsible for more than 60% of all Chinese workers in Africa at the end of 2015; Algeria alone accounts for more than 35%. These figures includes Chinese workers sent to work on Chinese companies’ construction contracts in Africa ("workers on contracted projects") and Chinese workers sent to work for non-Chinese companies in Africa ("workers doing labor services").

Existing Data

Official Sources
Several Chinese government sources report figures of Chinese labor abroad and Chinese contract values fulfilled abroad, but all sources report the same numbers. These sources include the China Statistical Yearbooks, the official website of the National Bureau of Statistics, the China Annual Bulletin of Statistics of Contracted Projects, Labor Cooperation with Foreign Countries, and the Almanac of China’s Foreign Economic Relations and Trade. All sources have matching figures, the difference being the range of years covered. The labor data for 2010 was not available in any of the government sources.

Other Efforts
There is currently no public database that CARI is aware of that reports on similar figures. 

Why CARI Data?

CARI has compiled the labor and contract figures from all of the above Chinese government sources to cover as many years as possible. The figures are converted to millions of US$. 

Anecdotes & Data

It is widely believed that Chinese companies refuse to hire Africans and bring in all their own workers. The real story is more complicated. We have not yet seen a case of a Chinese company in Africa hiring no local workers at all, but the percentage of Chinese and Africans varies widely. Many factors affect this: local labor laws, the work permit regime, enforcement of work permits, the availability of skilled labor and its cost. In Angola, for example, emerging from decades of civil war, skilled and literate workers are scarce and expensive. Here, Chinese firms find it pays to import workers from China. Below we provide official numbers on annual number of Chinese workers in African countries, as well as the annual Chinese contract turnover by country. We have also supplied a growing list of anecdotes where we found information about the proportion of Chinese and Africans working on any given project, and the extent to which African managers and skilled labor are present.