【英语财经】中国企业大举非洲建厂 China Inc. Moves Factory Floor to Africa

  • 【英语财经】中国企业大举非洲建厂 China Inc. Moves Factory Floor to Africa已关闭评论
  • A+
所属分类:双语财经

2014-5-15 11:57

小艾摘要: Each sparkly green television motherboard that rolls off the Hisense Co. factory line here moves China a tiny step toward a new global manufacturing base. The line's eight South African technicians mo ...
China Inc. Moves Factory Floor to Africa
Each sparkly green television motherboard that rolls off the Hisense Co. factory line here moves China a tiny step toward a new global manufacturing base.

The line's eight South African technicians monitor the assembly process by computer and have incentives to work quickly. In less than a year of operation, they are producing at the same clip of 70 seconds per board as their Chinese counterparts.

But there's a hitch: Hisense factories in China use half as many workers to make the same product. In South Africa, one technician monitors one machine. In China, the company's technicians monitor two machines apiece.

'Step-by-step,' says Jerry Liu, general manager for the Middle East and Africa unit of the home-appliance maker. 'We'll get there.'

Faced with rising labor costs at home and negative perceptions about their employment practices in Africa, Chinese companies are setting up new factories on the continent and hiring more Africans. The companies efforts will test whether the masters of low-cost manufacturing can be as productive in Africa as they are in China.

Many bet they can be.

'China is a resilient investor,' says Martyn Davies, chief executive of Frontier Advisory, a consulting firm that does business in China and Africa. 'You see it in Ethiopia at the bottom end and in South Africa in the higher-end stuff.'

Auto maker China FAW Group Corp. is building a new factory in the South African industrial hub of Port Elizabeth to produce trucks and light commercial vehicles. Huajian Group, a Chinese shoemaker, plans to invest as much as $2 billion in Ethiopia over the next decade to make the country a base for exports to Europe and North America. Chinese factories also produce steel pipe and textiles in Uganda.

Mounting labor costs in China are part of what makes Africa so attractive. The average monthly wage for a low-skilled Ethiopian factory worker, for example, is about 25% of the pay for a comparable Chinese worker, according to the World Bank. As the wage gap widens between unskilled Chinese workers and their counterparts elsewhere in Asia and in Africa, as many as 85 million factory jobs could leave China in the coming years, according to former World Bank chief economist Justin Yifu Lin.

In addition to its pool of low-cost labor, Africa represents an enticing market for Chinese products manufactured on the continent. Africa is now home to six of the world's 10 fastest-growing economies, according to the International Monetary Fund, and many African countries are reducing their dependence on extracting resources, such as oil, metals and gems.

Africa's poor infrastructure and uneven distribution of skills erode its cost advantages, however. The World Bank study estimated that a Chinese worker making shirts, for example, could produce about twice as many per shift as an Ethiopian worker.

The common Chinese response to such productivity gaps has been to send more Chinese workers. China says it dispatched 214,534 workers to Africa last year, about one-fourth of all workers the country sent abroad. That was 18% more than in 2011, according to China's Commerce Ministry, which didn't provide 2012 figures or a breakdown by industry. Analysts suspect the official figures vastly understate the numbers because they don't include entrepreneurs and traders doing business in Africa.

China's expanding African footprint has caused friction, however. A survey from the Ethics Institute of South Africa, a research and training organization based in Pretoria, reported in February that 46% of respondents in Africa had a negative impression of Chinese employment practices, while 19% were positive. Another 55% agreed with the statement that Chinese companies in Africa use only Chinese employees.

Such perceptions are rooted in reality. In Angola and Zimbabwe, Chinese companies bring workers from China for the most basic tasks, such as laying bricks and driving trucks. In Ethiopia, road crews have complained that Chinese supervisors cut their shovels in half so they will use them only for digging, and not for leaning to rest or gossip. In Zambia, Chinese mine bosses have tossed cold water on dozing employees, according to interviews with miners.

Chinese officials, eager to erase China's image as what critics call the continent's 'new colonialist,' have urged its biggest companies to put their best foot forward in Africa. Chinese Premier Li Keqianq visited several African countries this month and promised to ramp up assistance to various projects. Tian Xuejun, China's ambassador to South Africa, says he holds regular meetings with Chinese executives to encourage local hiring, partly to help spur the continent's industrial development.

'We have some experience in this area, and we're willing to share it,' Ambassador Tian says. 'We're teaching people how to fish rather than giving them fish.'

Sinosteel Corp. didn't want culture clashes permeating its workplace, so all but a handful of the nearly 3,000 employees for its mining, manufacturing and trading arms are hired locally, according to Wei Zhong, a deputy general manager in South Africa. 'If you bring so many Chinese workers over, it's going to create conflicts,' he says.

Importing Chinese workers wasn't an option for Hisense, says Africa general manager Mr. Li. Chinese workers would need to be fed and housed, he says, creating a whole Chinese support structure that wouldn't be commercially viable.

Still, Hisense faces a skills gap. The home-appliance maker, which employs about 10,000 engineers world-wide, estimates that there are only about 35,000 engineers among South Africa's roughly 50 million people. The challenge was how to hire technicians and engineers in a country--and on a continent--where there aren't many to go around.

Hisense ultimately decided to set up on the factory grounds of a South African television maker that had gone out of business years before and hired many of the company's former workers. Hisense also established training programs inside the factory to bring workers up to speed on its manufacturing process, which includes the computer-aided assembly of motherboards.

'South Africa doesn't have an unemployment problem. It has an unemployable problem,' says Ebrahim Khan, the company's Cape Town factory manager.

The Chinese company, which is based in Qingdao, offered about $580 a month for entry-level technicians, much less than the average of $800 at its nearly 20 factories in China, Mr. Li says.

The Chinese government-backed China Africa Development Fund took a minority stake in the factory on the condition that Hisense hired its factory workers locally. Today, 95% of the factory's 600 employees are South African.

On a recent morning at the plant, South African workers installed refrigerator doors, assembled flat-screen television sets and conducted final tests before the products were loaded on trucks. The only factory employees standing around were the Chinese line supervisors.

To encourage efficiency, Hisense allows shifts that hit their weekly production targets early to take the rest of the day off, meaning Friday's workday often ends early. When Chinese executives raise production goals, factory workers grumble but pick up the pace. Going out of business isn't something anyone wants to consider.

'You just do your work, do your part,' says Valerie Jacobs, who came to Hisense last year after losing her job at the failed television maker. 'No standing around.'

Charlie Shoemaker for The Wall Street Journal海信支付给南非开普敦电视机工厂工人的工资低于中国工厂水平。
海信(Hisense Co.)位于南非开普敦的生产线上每下线一块闪着绿光的电视机主板,就意味着中国朝着新的全球制造业基地又迈出了一小步。

这条生产线的八名非洲技术员通过电脑监控组装流程,他们也有加快工作速度的动力。经过不到一年的操作,他们生产主板的速度已能和中国技术员媲美,生产每块主板仅需70秒。

但不足之处是,同样生产这些产品,海信中国工厂的员工人数要比南非少一半。在南非,每位技术员负责监控一台机器,而中国工厂的技术员是每人监控两台机器。

海信中东和非洲部门总经理刘斌表示,南非工厂也能一步一步赶上中国工厂。

由于中国国内劳动力成本不断上升,加之中国企业在非洲的雇佣政策遭遇负面评价,中国企业目前正在非洲设立新的工厂,并雇佣更多当地员工。中国企业的这些举措是一个测试,看低成本制造企业在非洲的生产力能否达到和国内一样的水平。

很多人认为这些企业能。

咨询公司Frontier Advisory的首席执行长戴维斯(Martyn Davies)表示,中国是一个适应性很强的投资者,既能在埃塞俄比亚进行最低端的生产,也能在南非从事较高端的生产。Frontier Advisory在中国和非洲开展业务。

汽车生产商中国第一汽车集团公司(China FAW Group co.)正在南非伊丽莎白港(Port Elizabeth)工业中心新建一家卡车和轻型商用车生产厂。中国制鞋企业华坚集团(Huajian Group)也计划未来10年向埃塞俄比亚投资多达20亿美元,使该国成为华坚集团向欧洲和北美出口产品的基地。中国工厂也在乌干达生产钢管和纺织品。

Charlie Shoemaker for The Wall Street Journal海信称,开普敦工厂600名员工中95%都是南非本地人。
中国劳动力成本的不断上升也是促使中资企业前往非洲的原因之一。例如,根据世界银行的数据,一名低技能的埃塞俄比亚工厂工人的月均工资仅为同类中国工人的约25%。世界银行首席经济学家林毅夫(Justin Yifu Lin)表示,随着低技能中国工人与亚洲其他地方以及非洲同类工人的工资差距扩大,未来几年可能有多达8,500万个工厂岗位离开中国。

除了拥有大量低成本劳动力外,非洲也能为在当地制造的中国产品提供诱人的巨大市场。国际货币基金组织(International Monetary Fund)的数据显示,全球增长最快的10个经济体中有六个在非洲,此外,许多非洲国家也在降低自身对石油、金属和宝石等资源进行开采的依赖。

不过,糟糕的基础设施和技能分配的不均衡削弱了非洲的成本优势。世界银行估计,同样是制作衬衫,在一个班次内,一名中国工人的产量可能达到一名埃塞俄比亚工人的两倍。

对于这一生产率差距,中国采取的做法一直是派遣更多中国工人前往非洲。中国表示,去年派往非洲的工人数量为214,534名,占外派总人数的约四分之一。根据中国商务部数字,这一对非洲的外派人数较2011年增加了18%。商务部未提供2012年数据或行业分类数据。分析师们认为,官方数据存在严重低估,因为其中未包含在非洲做生意的企业家和贸易商。

但中国企业在非洲的扩张之路引发了摩擦。总部位于比勒陀利亚的研究和培训组织南非伦理研究所(Ethics Institute of South Africa) 2月份发布的调查报告称,非洲46%的受访者对中国的招聘活动持负面印象,同时19%的受访者持正面印象,另外55%的人则认为建在非洲的中国企业只使用中国雇员。

这种感受是有事实依据的。在安哥拉和津巴布韦,中国企业从中国招聘工人从事多数基本工作,例如砌砖和开卡车。在埃塞俄比亚,铺路工人曾抱怨称,中国监工将他们的铁锹截掉了一半,这样他们只能用铁锹来挖掘,而不能靠着休息或者闲聊。在赞比亚,据接受采访的矿工称,中国矿老板曾将冷水泼在打瞌睡的雇员身上。

批评者称,中国是非洲大陆“新的殖民者”,中国官员渴望消除这种影响,他们已经敦促大型中国企业在非洲展示出他们最好的一面。中国总理李克强本月访问了几个非洲国家,承诺加大对各种非洲项目的支持。中国驻南非大使田学军称,他定期与中国企业的高管会晤,鼓励他们在当地招聘员工,在一定程度上帮助非洲发展工业。

田学军称,中国在这方面有一些经验,愿意拿出来分享。他说,中国在授人以渔,而非授人以鱼。

据中钢集团(Sinosteel Corp.)南非副总经理卫中称,中钢集团不希望文化冲突渗透到工作场所,因此该公司矿业、制造和贸易子公司近3,000名雇员中只有一小部分不是本地雇员。他说,如果带来那么多中国工人,就会产生冲突。

海信非洲总经理称,对海信来说,并不考虑将中国工人输送到非洲。他称,中国工人有餐饮和住房要求,这就需要建立一整套中方支持架构,经济上来说并不可行。

但是海信也因此面临着工人技术差距的问题。海信在全球雇有约1万名工程师。该公司估计,在南非约5,000万人口中,工程师数量仅有约3.5万人。海信面临的挑战在于,如何在一个工程师数量不多的国家和大洲招募到技术人才。

海信最终决定,在一家几年前就已歇业的南非电视机厂商的工厂原址建厂,并招募该南非厂商的许多原雇员。海信还在工厂内设立了培训项目,帮助工人跟上海信的制造流程速度,其中包括在电脑辅助下进行主板装配。

海信开普敦工厂经理Ebrahim Khan称,南非面临的不是失业问题,而是工人技术不够无法被雇佣的问题。

总部设在青岛的海信在中国拥有接近20家工厂。刘斌指出,海信在非洲付给初级技术人员的月工资大约在580美元,显著低于中国工厂里800美元的平均水平。

中国政府背景的中非发展基金(China Africa Development Fund)与海信共同投资建立了该工厂,持有少数股权,当时提出的条件是海信聘用当地员工。如今,该工厂600名员工中95%都是南非本地人。

近期的某个上午,南非工人们给冰箱按上了门,组装好了平板电视,并进行产品装车前的最后检测程序。比较空闲的只有中国籍的生产线主管。

为了提高效率,海信允许达到周产量目标的班次早下班休息,也就是说,每到周五员工们通常能提前下班。当中国高管们上调产量目标时,虽然工人也会发发牢骚,但速度很快就能提上来。谁都不想丢掉这份工作。

去年进入海信的雅各布斯(Valerie Jacobs)说,你所需要做的就是尽职尽责,不要无所事事。她之前曾在那家南非电视机厂工作过,工厂倒闭后她也丢了工作。

本文关键字:财经英语,小艾英语,双语网站,财经双语,财经资讯,互联网新闻,ERWAS,行业解析,创业指导,营销策略,英语学习,可以双语阅读的网站!
  • 我的微信
  • 这是我的微信扫一扫
  • weinxin
  • 我的微信公众号
  • 我的微信公众号扫一扫
  • weinxin