It's an uncertain time for the world's economies, but for now
REPORTER: Giovana Vitola
Built over 100 years ago by the British,
QU HAY YAN, ENGINEER (Translation): Well, we are on a tight schedule, for example, we need to complete this section. So we must step up the pace.
Qu Hay Yan is just one of tens of thousands of Chinese involved in Angolan construction projects built with multimillion dollar loans from China and include train stations, suburbs and even cities.
MIGUEL SEMIO, PORTUGUESE ENGINEER: This is a shopping centre, and five-star hotel.
Portuguese engineer Miguel Semio is working on the Comandante Gika project in the centre of the capital.
MIGUEL SEMIO: We are talking about
Semiao says there are not enough workers to satisfy the demands of the Angolan construction boom.
REPORTER: How many Chinese do you have here?
MIGUEL SEMIO: At this moment around 300. But for a normal construction speed we need more than the double.
Helping the newly arrived construction workers with the language barrier is Sabino. He's a translator working the same hours as the labourers.
SABINO, TRANSLATOR: We get up at almost at 6:00 and begin work at 6.30. Sometimes we work all night through until 6:00 in the morning because there is too much work. We cannot stop.
It's lunch time. Sabino tells me that Chinese labourers in
SABINO: Here it is very hard to find rice so we import rice from
So to satisfy demand Sabino says his countrymen are branching out.
SABINO: Tomatoes are very small in
He takes me to a market garden outside Benguela where Chinese farmers are harvesting their latest crops. Chinese farmers are buying land all over the country, to grow food for not only other Chinese, but for locals as well and in the cities there is an increasing number of Chinese shop owners selling Chinese made goods.
MAN (Translation): Without them, I do not know where we would be, they are helping us a lot. They can’t go, they should stay. They are helping us to learn many things, things we did not know and now are learning from them. We were lazy, now thanks to them we know how to build houses.
REPORTER: Do you have any numbers of Chinese coming to
ELIAS ISAAC, OPEN SOCIETY INITIATIVE: In 2009 and 2010, people are saying that between 40 - 60,000, probably now it has gone up because now you can find Chinese people everywhere.
Elias Isaac is the Angolan director of the human rights organisation, Open Society Initiative.
ELIAS ISAAC: And as you know, this country has gone through over 30 years of civil war and most of its infrastructure had been completely destroyed. And what we're seeing is that the Chinese are building or they're rebuilding most...a lot of it. We need infrastructure to develop our economy.
ELIAS ISAAC: The Chinese investment in
Tomas Teixeira is a journalist in
TOMAS TEIXEIRA, JOURNALIST: This is the new Kilamaba Kiaxa area. This is a
Built on farming land, when complete there will be hundreds of thousands of apartments here. But in a country with one of the highest rates of poverty in the world, Tomas says the apartments are beyond the reach of ordinary Angolans.
TOMAS TEIXEIRA: Because most of the people don't have very big salary, so in case these houses are too high in terms of prices it will be too difficult for people to have them.
The reality is slums like this - where millions of people currently live. These men are keen to show me how they have been forced to live since their homes were demolished to make way for reconstruction projects.
MAN 1 (Translation): We were there, they took us from there and put us here, as they build around us, we are being squeezed – it is all piling up and it smells too, from the broken sewers, the streams flowing right here, the kids play there – we have a lot of illness here. It’s a terrible situation, we can’t take it anymore. A lot of people are dying right here.
With no where else to turn these men have come to a new support centre. They are struggling to find jobs and they are angry.
MAN 2 (Translation): I am disabled and here I am with no wages, nothing. I fought to free our country and now I’m suffering. Now I think - why did I fight? I don’t know. For me to build that home so my children would have a place to sleep - I made huge sacrifices, I went to bed hungry. Then along comes the government which I helped and destroys my house, imagine how I feel! I have no income.
MAN 1 (Translation): The Chinese came with their money, their equipment, it’s all theirs.
MAN 3 (Translation): They brought labourers and skilled tradesmen, electricians, plumbers, bricklayers… There was no room for Angolans who could do this work. No jobs for us.
For some the situation is becoming desperate.
LIUSETE ARAUJO, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE (Translation): Having Chinese labourers is devastating for Angolans – they could be doing those jobs. Most Angolans are unemployed and survive on informal trade. The government is not able to find jobs for Angolans, what’s worse – they give labouring jobs to Chinese, not Angolans.
Presidential candidate Liusete Araujo is campaigning hard against the government's cosy deals with
LIUSETE ARAUJO (Translation): One million houses were promised, but what we are seeing is very few houses for people with low incomes and the houses built for them are in poor condition. No fences, no gates and mostly without ceilings, and actually some are still without floors. Most of them also don’t have water or electricity.
RUI FALCAO, GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN (Translation): In the USA there are still people living under bridges, in
Rui Falcao is a government spokesman. He insists
RUI FALCAO (Translation): First we need to know where we have come from, a very long war that almost completely destroyed the country. To rebuild the country we needed resources, if your country can’t solve its problems alone and a friend comes to lend you a hand – do you turn your back or take what is being offered? The international community turned their back on us. The only country that came to help us at the time – to get the country going again was
Grateful for contributions such as this building -
WANG WEI, DIPLOMAT (Translation): The fact is we are building a huge amount here. I believe the reason for this is because they want the Angolan people to reap the benefits of peace and national reconstruction as soon as possible. I can’t say all the buildings are perfect – no company and no country can say that, if we have problems or difficulties, we always discuss them with the Angolans.
Wang Wei is a Chinese diplomat. He says responsibility for the hospital's poor construction lies with the Angolan government.
MAKUTA NAKONDO, CONGRESSMAN (Translation): The problem is the quality. Where are we heading with this Chinese work? Even the new buildings which have gone up in Kilamba already have serious cracks in the walls. From inside, you can see outside through the wall and there are new buildings less than one year old – it’s the old saying – what’s cheap ends up expensive and the work costs even more.
Makuta Nakondo is a congressman with the government opposition.
LIUSETE ARAUJO (Translation): We are worried because the Angolan president wants
RUI FALCAO (Translation): We are doing a lot, given the needs of a country after 40 years of war – these needs are immense.
For good or bad, the Chinese have become an integral part of Angolan society.
MAKUTA NAKONDO (Translation): Yesterday I went to a wedding, there we met a Chinese with a son, a son of mixed race, Chinese-Angolan, already married here with a woman from here and living here with us. So some Chinese don’t even think about going back to
Their lives and cultures will be intertwined well into the future.
MARK DAVIS: It certainly looks better than it did a decade ago and
Original Music composed by Vicki Hansen
16th October 2011