NAIROBI - European media regularly report on human rights violations by multinational companies 'from here'. Various Flemish media reported that a Brussels construction company would engage in forced labour in Qatar in preparation for the World Cup. Swedish journalists Tobias Åkerblom and Moa Kärnstrand revealed that a Swedish clothing brand would employ children aged 14 in Myanmar. However, multinationals born and raised in emerging economies are often forgotten.
"Decisions made by CEOs and Boards in Brussels or Stockholm worry the western public more than the choices made by managers in Nairobi or Seoul. Yet their choices have an impact on their lives too. "Aleydis Nissen researched this blind spot in the Kenyan flower industry and the South Korean electronics industry.
Roses from Kenya: one plantation is not the other
The working conditions on flower plantations in Kenya regularly make the news. Dutch journalists report on everything that goes wrong there, from toxic chemicals to tax evasion. That is only normal. Most of the roses at the Dutch auction come from Kenya. Unfortunately, these news items only tell half the story. While Dutch and other European entrepreneurs are being hacked off, not a word is said about the Kenyan elite and Indian entrepreneurs - who control half of the companies. This navel-gazing is having disastrous consequences for a large proportion of the workers in Kenya.
Electronics from South Korea: closely linked to power
Even if you never bought a Samsung smartphone or television, most certainly you will have merchandise from the South Korean conglomerate. Together with compatriot SK Hynix, Samsung produces most of the DRAM semiconductors and NAND memory worldwide. Several central components are still produced in South Korea today. And that does not benefit all South Koreans. Factory workers still have the greatest difficulty in proving that they contract nasty diseases such as leukaemia at work. It is just as difficult to prove it. In South Korea, Samsung's tentacles reach to the highest echelons of power.
PRINT (In Dutch)
- In Kenia is de ene rozenplantage de ander niet: 'Klagen is ontslag vragen', Knack.be, 24/10/2020
- Elektronica uit Zuid-Korea: nauw verbonden met macht, EOS, 21/12/2020.