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


  • Aleksandra W. Gadzala


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.

Suggested Citation

  • Aleksandra W. Gadzala, 2010. "From formal- to informal-sector employment: examining the Chinese presence in Zambia," Review of African Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 37(123), pages 41-59, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:revape:v:37:y:2010:i:123:p:41-59
    DOI: 10.1080/03056241003637904

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Haan, Hans Christiaan., 2002. "Training for work in the informal sector : new evidence from Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda," ILO Working Papers 993580143402676, International Labour Organization.
    2. Harry G. Broadman, 2007. "Africa's Silk Road : China and India's New Economic Frontier," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 7186, October.
    3. repec:ilo:ilowps:358014 is not listed on IDEAS
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    Cited by:

    1. Romain Dittgen, 2015. "Of Other Spaces? Hybrid Forms of Chinese Engagement in Sub-Saharan Africa," Journal of Current Chinese Affairs - China aktuell, Institute of Asian Studies, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies, Hamburg, vol. 44(1), pages 43-73.
    2. Xing, Yijun & Liu, Yipeng & Tarba, Shlomo Yedidia & Cooper, Cary L., 2016. "Intercultural influences on managing African employees of Chinese firms in Africa: Chinese managers’ HRM practices," International Business Review, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 28-41.
    3. Kohnert, Dirk, 2010. "Are the Chinese in Africa More Innovative than the Africans? Comparing Chinese and Nigerian Entrepreneurial Migrants' Cultures of Innovation," EconStor Conference Papers 119528, ZBW - German National Library of Economics.
    4. Kohnert, Dirk, 2010. "Drivers of change or cut-throat competitors? Challenging Cultures of Innovation of Chinese and Nigerian migrant entrepreneurs in West Africa," MPRA Paper 23132, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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