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Beijing, a Boon for Africa - NYTimes.com

Beijing, a Boon for Africa – NYTimes.com.

In 2009, China became Africa’s single largest trading partner, surpassing the United States. And China’s foreign direct investment in Africa has skyrocketed from under $100 million in 2003 to more than $12 billion in 2011.

To meet the demands of its rising middle class, and to keep economic growth high enough to provide plentiful jobs, China needs resources, land, and oil.  And Africa is willing to supply them.  Is this the next colonization of Africa?  Not necessarily:

China’s role is broadly welcomed across the continent. A 2007 Pew Research Center survey of 10 sub-Saharan African countries found that Africans overwhelmingly viewed Chinese economic growth as beneficial.

There are new jobs in many African nations as a result of this foreign investment, but there are also labor and human rights abuses.  According to the editorial, written by a Zambian,

the onus of policing social policy and protecting the environment is on local governments, and it is local policy makers who should ultimately be held accountable and responsible if and when egregious failures occur.

But if local politicians are getting paid to look the other way, they won’t report violations.  The writer does point out the need for investment in Africa –

With approximately 60 percent of Africa’s population under age 24, foreign investment and job creation are the only forces that can reduce poverty and stave off the sort of political upheaval that has swept the Arab world.

How will China’s investment, monetarily and politically, pay off for both China and African nations?  How will the movement of Chinese workers to Africa affect the demographics of the African workforce?  Will the Chinese be willing to teach native Africans the skills needed for many of the new jobs?  Will they invest in infrastructure other than that needed to remove the raw materials?  How is their investment different than that of the Europeans in earlier times?

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Africa+Chinese=Your Future

Chinese in Africa: The Chinese are coming…to Africa | The Economist.

Trade between the two surpassed $120 billion in 2010, and in the past two years China has given more loans to poor, mainly African countries than the World Bank.

Many people are not happy about this, as the piece points out, but it is what it is. China needs resources, and Africa has them. China has money to burn, and Africa needs it.  It may be a Faustian bargain, but Africa doesn’t have much choice – they are so poor they feel like they have to take what they can get.

On his first trip three years ago Mr Zhu filled a whole notebook with orders and was surprised that Africans not only wanted to trade with him but also enjoyed his company.

But now:

… African attitudes have changed. His partners say he is ripping them off. Chinese goods are held up as examples of shoddy work. Politics has crept into encounters. The word “colonial” is bandied about. Children jeer and their parents whisper about street dogs disappearing into cooking pots.

Partly to blame are Chinese business practices, born in communist systems with little public input:

Chinese expatriates in Africa come from a rough-and-tumble, anything-goes business culture that cares little about rules and regulations. Local sensitivities are routinely ignored at home, and so abroad. Sinopec, an oil firm, has explored in a Gabonese national park. Another state oil company has created lakes of spilled crude in Sudan. Zimbabwe’s environment minister said Chinese multinationals were “operating like makorokoza miners”, a scornful term for illegal gold-panners.

Chinese built projects were so poorly contructed that the roads washed away in the rains, and buildings cracked and had to be closed.

Africans claim Chinese are paying less than minimum wage, are unfair competition, and are paying bribes.  Some of that is true.  But tens of thousands of Chinese businessmen have spread themselves across the continent.  they are committed to building the new Africa.

Many dream of a new life. Miners and builders see business opportunities in Africa, and greater freedom (to be their own bosses and speak their minds, but also to pollute). A Chinese government survey of 1,600 companies shows the growing use of Africa as an industrial base. Manufacturing’s share of total Chinese investment (22%) is catching up fast with mining (29%)

Chinese are using Africa to practice on:

In Africa they can learn the ropes in a region where competition is weak. The continent—soon to be ringed with Chinese free-trade ports—is a stepping stone to a commercial presence around the globe.

Will what they learn here eventually be used against us?

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