A must read book! Listen up, all you former African Missionaries, AID workers, Peace Corps Volunteers and Diplomatic corps!
Time to read about the new kid on the African playing field who is picking up the ball that we-all seem to have fumbled during the last 40 years. That kid’s name is China! Author French has given us an eye-opener of a book and we need to read it and talk about what to do for the future of the planetary game.
In the same way that sixteenth century Europe financed explorers, trappers, traders and entrepreneurs to move to lesser developed parts of the world to begin farming, mining, intermarrying, exploring for new opportunities to benefit the homeland; China is sending its people out on a global diaspora that seems to be infiltrating every African nation. Farmers are being drawn in masses to the vast irrigable stretches along the Niger River in Mali to begin expanding rice production on a massive scale. Miners and engineers are moving into mineral rich nations from Namibia and Mozambique in the south through the Congo and as far as Ghana and Senegal in West Africa, and builders are setting up schools, stadiums, hospitals, roads and bridges in Zambia, Botswana, Nigeria and Upper Volta. All these countries are areas that the West only wanted to exploit but never really develop. Africans, sensing that the rest of the technological world might leave them behind have therefore turned towards a different pole of the planet.
This story, of course, is not all about lovely Chinese altruism, but rather a look at a model of development which the Chinese call win-win but, which in fact often gives the Chinese immigrants favored status in the country to do as they wish, while the African nation gets tokens of development and a lot of cash flowing into the pockets of the high officials within the country in order to keep them mollified. Does anyone out there still remember neocolonialism and imperialism? Will the Chinese become like the Portuguese or the British, or will they move beyond this initial exploitation to develop a vast commonwealth of African nations?
As one who considers himself to be somewhat of an “Old Africa Hand,” I find Howard French’s somewhat rambling dissertation on how China is beginning to wield its power, intriguing yet a bit disconcerting. We could be losing the whole ball of wax of the African continent’s vast wealth while we piddle around trying to see if we can install democratic governments into nations so diverse that we don’t even understand half their languages.
In the same way that it is a must read book, French’s excellent book is also a must discuss book.
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