Where Africa and Technology Collide!

Great Article on the Massive Chinese Push into Africa

China in AfricaFrom the International Herald Tribune:

There is much to be gleaned from the contrast here. Chinese people today look at Africa and see opportunity, promise and a fertile field upon which their energies, mercantile and otherwise, can be given full play. Too often, the West looks at Africa and sees a problematic pupil, a sickly patient, and a zone of pestilence, where failure looms in the air like a curse.

This is exactly what I’m talking about with the eBay push into Africa and other high risk, high opportunity regions. This is exactly why Mwenda and Bono were hashing it out at TEDGlobal. It’s a mindset difference, and if the West doesn’t watch out, it will lose the African market.


  1. Hmmmm…for me it’s too early to draw any strong conclusions about realtionship dynamics between China and Africa’s countries. But, Hash, you are right this will probably become an even larger story in the coming decades.

    In the short span of time that China has focused its energies on the continent, she has already surpassed France in terms of weight and influence on the continent. The French must be kicking themselves in the rear right now…

    The one thing that I haven’t really been clear on is the effect and impact of Chinese investment on the continent. From what I have read, when they invest in businesses or industries-like in southern Africa, they bring their own labor supply. Meaning that local employment benefits in those instances are minimal at best. But on the flip side when China invests in African industries they put tremendous amounts of capital into them. So there must be some fringe benefits, especially for local small businesses to supply the envoys from China-right?

    Anyway, thanks for keeping us on our toes-Hash!

  2. I am cautiously pessimitic about China’s involvement in Africa. This article doesn’t do anything to change my view. In fact, it is not a great article at all, it’s pretty lame. Want better ones? Let’s begin here: Africa’s China Card

    What is this “Chinese activism” the writer is talking about? What many fail to note is that The Chinese are not looking at Africa as the Land of Opportunity–for Africans. Just like Western countries, they see, and treat, Africa as a breadbasket, a place to gain significant control of natural resources, to offload some of their labor force, and to ultimately sell their finished goods. They could care less if and how Africa develops — strike that: they do care, as long as the development doesn’t affect their access to the basket.

    You can be sure that to maintain that access, they will continue to foster lack of accountability and corruption. Their policy of refusing to acknowledge any governance issues on how money is spent in their projects is a sure signal that they are willing to play the game that’s been going on in Africa for decades: Pay-to-Play. And the Chinese got more cash to spend than anybody on the planet. They’re willing to quid pro quo any project, even if some of the q.p.q. ends up in a foreign bank account. This is the way of the World, they know it, and they’ve come ready to be a player. Their don’t-ask-don’t-tell policies are as sickening as the babble coming out of the holes of the G8 leaders.

    Salvation is not going to come from foreigners. It never does. If anything, Chinese big push into Africa is even more reason for Africans to create their own rules, their own solutions, instead of playing by others or waiting for the carpetbaggers to descend on her countries. Africans have had over fifty years of experience dealing with such nonsense. It is time for it to stop.

  3. There have already been some growing pains in the relationship between China and African nations but there is a lot of opportunity for learning.

    Just having people in the countries working could have a positive effect by taxes from the industry, and, I assume, employee income tax. They would not be able to hire locals right away since even lower skilled jobs need some experience. These new industries provide opportunities for locals to train for and local small businesses to market services to. The governments need to offer economically favorable conditions to keep these new companies happy which can improve infrastructure and decrease red tape for everyone, including the local startups.

  4. Gaulish Ferenj

    June 17, 2007 at 6:57 am

    The question is: Is Africa opened for business? or Is Africa for sell?

    IMHO, China is mainly looking for cheap natural resources.

  5. There is more political undertone to the Chinese invasion of Africa than mere business opportunities. Africa has a bad rap for bad governance – this is no news given the media stories of sit-tight head of states (e.g Mugabe of Zimbabwe) and rampant corruption, misuse of power and internal strife (e.g Darfur, Sudan). The approach of China is to turn a blind eye to these lapses, and pour in money – most of which will end up in politician pockets – to get the natural resource they need badly. Is this “no-strings” attached mentality really good for the continent? Won’t the despots feed off Sino-dollars and get better entrenched to commit more atrocities?

    Secondly, The China-built infrastructure is great to have, but note that China takes out raw materials and send back the finished products to Africa for sale. How is this any different from the style of western trade partners?

    The Chinese incursion wouldn’t mean much if African nations can’t create an internal system to learn from the China and expand their industrial capabilities, and most importantly create the enabling environment for entrepreneurship to thrive.

  6. I’m rather wary of how Chinese do business.

    Remember Sun Tsu – (paraphrased) – before you take you must give.

    (I’ve worked with them before 🙂 )

  7. Black River Eagle has an excellent entry on this topic, here.

    Here’s a snippet:

    ‘The Silent Invasion’

    It is especially irksome to many Zambians that the Chinese have created relatively few jobs in the country. According to Sata, there are already 80,000 Chinese in Zambia, “former prisoners who are housed in labor camps and mine the copper.” The metal is shipped to China in the form of copper ore and processed there. Even the machinery comes from China. The Zambian government allows it to be brought in without imposing any duties. The Chinese workers don’t even leave their camps for lunch or to drink beer, says Sata, who calls them “a strange people.”

    Resentment over the behavior of the Chinese is also smoldering elsewhere in Africa. China’s involvement in the continent creates few jobs, says political scientist Alfredo Tjiurimo Hengari. Instead, he says, “we solve China’s problems by giving Chinese workers jobs in our backyard.”

    According to Hengari, who teaches at the Sorbonne in Paris, Africa is the only continent on which Chinese companies “apply for government contracts, get them and then import Chinese workers.” Kenyan monthly magazine New People calls it a “silent invasion.” Even South African President Thabo Mbeki, whose country maintains close ties to China, has warned that Africa threatens to become an “economic colony” of China.

  8. Joseph Conrad

    June 21, 2007 at 9:21 pm

    It is so good to hear another side of the ‘China-In-Africa’ story from Africans!
    All one hears about China in Africa on US news media is how China is ripping of African nations and the US is always the misunderstood ‘good guy’…Rubbish!

    As I sit reading the NY Times and listening to BBC, I can tell you the Bush and Blair administrations are scared to death at China poking around in Africa’s back yards. After centuries of slavetrading, slavery, neo-colonialism and financing corrupt regimes, the US doesn’t want to lose control of the Sub Sahara.

    Right now, US politicians behind closed doors are super afraid of Somalia becoming another Iraq. They are even more afraid the ‘horn of Africa’ – Somalia, Eritria and Ethiopia – will desolve into one big civil war – just like in the Middle East.

    A closer look at matters in Africa reveals China is no better than the EU or US when it comes to taking African Oil, Diamonds and Caltan for mere pennies on the dollar. China, like the US, is quite willing to aid and abet corrupt, incapable leaders of African nations, watch them become ‘failed states’ after years of US-backed discord, and then ride in, destroy their societies and pillage their natural wealth and OIL!

    As of this writing, Iraq is falling into a US-induced and financed Chaos while Nigeria and MEND fight to the death as US and EU Oil companies despoil the Niger Delta and steal every dollar of Oil and Natural Gas revenue they can!

    Having spent over 30 of my 50 years in Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Ghana, I say to ALL Africans…when all is said and done, ALWAYS NATIONALIZE YOUR NATIONS’ RESOURCES THEN CUT A ‘SUCKER’S DEAL’ WITH THE US – ONE THEY JUST CAN’T REFUSE…

    The alternative to this assertive course of self interest is to become a Black Iraq!

    Good Fortune!

    Joseph Conrad

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