Excavators from China have become popular exports to African countries as the number of Chinese engineering and China-Africa cooperation projects under the Belt & Road Initiative grows.

Chinese are also offering training to local employees in Africa, giving them opportunities to become machine operators instead of manual labourers. As a result, their incomes have gradually increased, leading to an improvement in their living conditions.

Li Sha is Vice President of the Sunward Equipment Group, which sells excavators to African countries. “They are mainly exported with Chinese enterprises that go to Africa for construction projects,” Li said.

“The Belt & Road Initiative brings many opportunities for Chinese enterprises to cooperate with African countries, and these companies bring our excavators to Africa,” she added.

Orders for excavators from African countries such as Rwanda are increasing on cross-border e-commerce platforms such as alibaba.com.

More than $2 billion of engineering machinery products were exported to Africa in 2017, growing 18.2 percent compared to 2016, according to statistics alibaba.com provided.

One Chinese vocational training school started giving lessons on excavator operation in Rwanda to help local people learn how to operate the machines after buying them.

“It is easy to learn to operate excavators and after mastering the operation skills, local employees’ salaries will go up a lot,” Li said.

Pay Raises

A video posted by alibaba.com on its official Weibo account shows that a worker from Rwanda can get RF200,000 per month, about 1,500 yuan ($211), compared to the average monthly income of 500 yuan in the country.

In the video, a worker stands on an excavator at a construction site saying that this is a high income for local residents.

Li noted that manual labour costs in African countries are low, but someone who learns how to operate an excavator can see a significant increase in salary.

Excavators are also highly prized in other African countries. For example, advertisements for the machines can be seen around Abidjan international airport in Cote d’Ivoire, as a photo posted online shows.

Another photo shows excavator advertisements printed on arrival cards at Mali’s airport.

Growing Market

A New kind of amphibious excavator independently researched and developed by a Chinese enterprise was exported in batches to Africa in June 2017, according to a report on news.

The Vice President of the engineering machinery company Sunward Equipment Group said that they mainly sold excavators to developed regions such as Europe and US, but orders from Africa are now on the rise.

Although more excavators have been brought into African countries, there are few local employees who know how to operate the machines.

As a result, some Chinese vocational training schools have begun offering training to locals. One of them signed a cooperation agreement with the Rwanda government in February 2018 and held its first class in June, Guangming Daily reported.

The report said that the class recruited 34 students as soon as it opened. It mainly trains students to operate and maintain the excavators.

After three months of training, students who pass the examination can obtain a certificate endorsed by the Rwanda government. The certificate allows them to find jobs at local construction companies.

“Foreign students can go to China to learn skills, and Chinese schools can also go abroad to open classes in other countries,” the President of the vocational training school said.

“The training schools not only teach us survival skills and ability to change our home, but most importantly, they give us dignity. They are Starbucks from China for us,” said one excavator operator in Rwanda.