Liberia: Robberies Reports Scare Chinese Railway Investors

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Monrovia – Officials of a Chinese Railway Company operating in Liberia have broken silence on their fears of losing their lives or their equipment to armed robbers they were only imagining, based on reported robbery attacks on their compatriots in different economic ventures across Liberia.

Report by Samuel G. Dweh/freelance journalist (+231) 886-618-906/776-583-266; [email protected])

“Our safety and the safety of our investments…A Chinese woman stabbed at the MVTC (Monrovia Vocational Training Institute) and died later. A Chinese man stabbed at the Ministerial Complex of Liberia, and now in critical condition. A Chinese man robbed at a Chinese Logging Company in Buchanan (Grand Bassa County).”

These statistical complaints came from An Fengbin, interpreter of State-owned China Railway No. 5 Engineering Group Engineering Group Co. Limited, to a team of Liberian journalists at the Company’s Head Office in Congotown, December, 2018.

With the Company’s Deputy General Manager, Zhang Shihua, An Fengbin was responding to a journalist’s question about ‘risks of doing business in Liberia’.

During introduction, Mr. Zhang Shihua said China Railway No. 5 Engineering Group Engineering Group Co. Limited arrived into Liberia in 2010, through China Union, another Chinese Railway Engineering Company.

“We are among the World’s top 500 Railway Engineer Companies. In Liberia, we started operations first on the Bong Mines Bridge, in 2012, under the China Union,” Mr. Shihua said in Chinese through An Fengbin.

The Company’s first project, after it separated from China Union, was construction of a 66-kilometer road connecting Maryland County’s capital (Harper) and Rivergee County’s central commercial district (Fish Town)

The Harper-Fish Town road project, as it is popularly known in Liberia, was sponsored by the African Development Bank, disclosed the Company’s Deputy Managing Director.

“We got the project through a bidding process. We are still on the project,” Mr. Shihua said.

All the Company’s field works equipment are stationed in Maryland County, South-eastern Liberia, Mr. Shihua explained further.

China Railway No. 5 Engineering Group Engineering Group Co. Limited is looking out for its second contract from the Liberian government—now headed by George Manneh Weah.

 “We are hearing about other government projects coming. We are hearing about the upcoming Coastal Road construction project by President Weah’s government…We are hearing about the Zwedru (Grand Gedeh County)-to-Ganta (Nimba County) road project,” Deputy General Manager Zhang Shihua expressed his hope for the entire Company.

Other more experienced Chinese road construction companies—CICO and CHICO—are reported also having interest in these upcoming road projects. But Mr. Shihua believed his Company has the biggest advantage.

“We have no match,” he boasted for his entity.

On challenges to its operation, China Railway No. 5 Engineering Group Engineering Group Co. Limited, through its Deputy Managing Director, pointed to delay by Ministry of Public Works on processing papers and poor conditions of Liberia’s roads during rainy seasons as top on the list of barriers.

“The bad road conditions often delay transportation of our equipment to job sites,” he said.

On losses to the Company, Mr. Shihua mentioned ‘revenue losses’, “due to bad road”, and payment of ‘death fees’ to one of the Company’s Liberian employees who died days after his collision with one of the machines operating a conveyor belt.

“I can only remember the Company giving the victim’s two years’ wages to his family, beginning from the day he died,” translator An Fengbin replied to a journalist’s question of how the Company compensated the death employee.

Mr. Shihua said his Company has a presence in Ghana, Benin Republic, Cameroon, Kinshasa (DR Congo, and many other African Countries. “We are also into construction of harbor, tunnel, hydro, and into maintenance,” he read his Company’s other areas of expertise.

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