THE CHINESE IN UGANDA
China is the largest trading partner of Uganda. China has funded and constructed major infrastructure projects for the country. These include a $1.7billion hydropower dam in Western Uganda and the Mandela National Stadium. Chinese investors tend to bring their own people to work on these infrastructure projects. Officially there are 4000 Chinese nationals in Uganda. But when undocumented Chinese migrants are included, that figure increases to 50,000 Chinese nationals.
It is a missed opportunity for employment, employing Chinese laborers instead of Ugandans. Yet, what is less discussed is the impact the influx of Chinese workers has had on African societies. The intermixing of Ugandans and Chinese was a major concern for the government, back in 2017. “We have many who are marrying, and even reproducing,” an official complained to a parliamentary committee.
PROBLEMS FOR FAMILIES
Most Chinese development agencies ship their workers from construction site to construction site. This allows the workers to mix with local communities for short periods of time but never long enough to start a family. Chinese workers are adding to the numbers of single mothers across Uganda.
For example, there is the story of Jacqueline Adero in Arukolong. A Chinese national named ‘Yahang’ fathered her two year old child. ‘Yahang’ worked on the Karuma Dam, where Mrs Adero had gone to find a menial job and ended up in a relationship with a Chinese construction worker. Yahang had promised to take Mrs Adero and the baby back to China with him. Instead, he left them behind.
This is often a taboo subject. Discrimination towards inter-racial African-Chinese families is common in both China and Africa. As a result, events like these could be far more spread than are reported. The influx of Chinese men is only worsening existing difficulties for gender equality rather than making new ones. These include the difficulties of raising a child as a single mother – both economically and culturally. But this influx adds an extra dimension to the problems women face. In particular, there is the false hope of a new life in China that can turn into raising a fatherless child.