AVIC works to make Africa soar

China Daily, October 12, 2015

The two units are now up and running and have yielded excellent profit for the owner.

The company is now preparing to invest in the energy industry in Turkey instead of being involved only in an EPC project.

With approval from Turkey's government, the company plans to work with China Power Investment Corp and a Turkish partner to build two 600,000 kW power units. The total amount of investment may reach $1.4 billion, he said.

The company is now hoping to replicate this experience in Africa. "We tried several times in Kenya to bid for coal-fired and gas power generation projects two years ago," Liu said.

"The bids are still in process. We have done market research into hydropower and coal-fired power in Zambia, gas power in Gabon and Egypt, and oil-fired power and gas power in Ghana."

While many banks are willing to offer financial support for those projects because of good design and economic feasibility, the company can also obtain strong support from China Exim Bank's concessional loan and preferential export buyer's credit.

Liu pointed out that the development of new energy in Africa is still restricted by cost, though his company is prepared for that.

"Actually, we have done some new-energy projects in Europe and the United States. It's government subsidies that make those new-energy projects there practicable," he said.

"In Africa, however, many governments are still drafting a subsidy policy for new energy, so we are still observing the market. New energy could be quite prosperous if African governments had clear policies."

While energy can be a problem for many Chinese companies in Africa, a lack of talent can be another hindrance. There is a large population in Africa, but very limited talent, making technical and vocational education and training urgent as well as necessary.

"The population in Africa is increasing, but there is a big problem as many youths are unemployed and lack skills to make a living," said Liu.

"Since (vocational training) is seriously needed ... this offers a good business opportunity to AVIC International.

"We have training contracts in about six African countries, including Kenya, Gabon, Zambia and Uganda. We bring into consideration both different countries' developmental orientation and the skilled labor Chinese companies there need, and design different training programs accordingly."

In Gabon, for example, AVIC International has set up not only machining and electronic training programs, but also training programs for the country's petroleum and timber industries.

The company also rolled out aeronautical maintenance training programs to fuel the country's hope of becoming a regional aviation hub.

Civil engineering programs are expected to help relieve Chinese companies' problems with the shortage of talented employees for their infrastructure projects, Liu said.

In Kenya, the company has launched Africa Technical Challenge, which aims to cultivate a spirit of entrepreneurship and facilitate self-employment among young people.

Winners were awarded cash last year, but the three outstanding participants also received scholarships to study at engineering universities in China.

As for the top two teams, they signed a spare parts manufacturing contract worth $100,000.

Liu said the spare parts the top two teams made will be used in the company's equipment in Kenya, so as to encourage young people to obtain more skills and find their professional directions.

"We have gained some experience from Africa Technical Challenge and would like to promote the experience to more African countries," Liu said.

"While equipping young people with skills, which can be used in their work and promote their countries' development, our (training) program can also help the young lead a better life.

"This can sometimes be even more significant than the upgrading of the countries' hardware facilities," he said.

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