Somehow I just cannot avoid this subject called Africa. Maybe because there has been a lot of writing going on around it lately. This time I’m addressing the question of the potential Chinese business invasion to Africa and what may come of it.
I’m not trying to create panic nor blaming someone for trying to keep their government along in the global economic race, but when reading the papers and news overall, it appears to me that the Chinese have a nice business target in Africa and they have all the means to succeed there.
In these passed years, even decades, western countries have moved a lot of their lower end productions to China, in the same time giving the Chinese a chance to learn from their business.
Now China is a super power which is said to for example turn the dependence level from others on their behalf. For example it wasn’t than just a while ago when the figures between them and U.S. were something like 80-20 for U.S., but now they are suggesting the odds may almost be even.
This is something that just can’t happen with basic level work where you are just a subcontractor. There’s clearly a strong wave of higher productivity steadily rising in China, and sometime soon the ‘Made in China’ may mean more and more products they have innovated from start to finish themselves, not just products made for foreign companies because it’s cheap to manufacture them in China.
I just read an article on how Chinese are investing more money in doing business in Africa. This means everything from building the roads to high end IT stuff. From where they have learned a lot from these? Some of the knowledge comes from the western companies who some still think that moving their factories saves them something.
How sustainable is this in the end anyway? It’s a hard fact that when the well-being in a country rises and the money comes in from windows and doors, the costs begin to rise as well because everyone [even those poor factory workers] begin to get more money. In the end you’ll be looking how manufacturing things is suddenly just too expensive.
I’d like to point out a one really crucial thing that Chinese have that we in Finland or even in the U.S. don’t have: a hell of a lot of people who they can at the same time keep working on those small end products [the foreign factories and contracts] and in high end products [new innovation and product development], both with quite a small pay. Of course the earnings in China have risen during these years and the middle class is rising there also, but most of them still make less than people in the western countries from the same jobs. For gods sake, we almost need a University degree to even get a work as a janitor here!
So what’s Africa got to do with this post again? The Chinese are now exporting their acquired business knowledge and products there, and even sometimes bringing their own workers with them. This could mean that they get most of the revenue.
And do I have to say it out loud, that the Chinese and most of Africa have closer views about labor rights than we have lets say between Europe and Africa? The gap is large and it just may be, that the Chinese and Africans [Africa is a large continent, but for the sake of this post I’m generalizing it] get along better because of this. Of course one can say that often the human rights haven’t been much of a concern of the western companies either.
Other benefit the Chinese may have is that they have also been under the rule of western colonialists, just like Africa. I don’t know how much difference this makes, but one needs to understand this: many things done in this world are justified with reason, but done based on emotions.
So who’s gonna win this race of ‘returning back to human kind’s birth home”? For example, in the are of information technology the Chinese may have an excellent manufacture line from start to finish: they have the larger knowledge of the technologies and the information learned from others, and they also have a lot of workers to produce things – and a strong government support behind this all.
Western companies and countries have many parties that should work together more. EU and other coalitions try to achieve this, but one can have a lot of different opinions of how they are succeeding.
So what does the Africans have to say to all of this? Well, this is a thing that I haven’t seen almost anyone asking in the western media. Also it seems to me, that they don’t have a clear communications channel to outside world about these things. For example, what is the African Union currently doing? This is something I’d like to hear more of because I really haven’t seen writings about this anywhere.
Are Africans again going to be bystanders in their own continent while the big boys play their Monopoly? Hard to tell, but one thing is certain: it’s hypocritical for westerns say that Chinese are trying to conquer Africa with the wrong way.
Didn’t almost the same thing occur when the western countries began to move their production to Asia after cheap labour and raised their revenue that way? Can we now judge the Chinese when they have learned from others?
And in the end: isn’t China now more developed than it could’ve been, some thanks to the history of foreign investments in their country? Could this same cycle happen in Africa too?