If you say Africa there are many thoughts that come to people: AIDS, abuse, poverty, beauty, history and probably many others. If someone said Africa to me my thoughts would go to what I know – or think I know. My church supports a group in Kenya. We send a group there each year and do work on houses, churches, etc. We see pictures of cute appreciative kids and a lifestyle I can’t truly fathom. My other thoughts of Africa are the stories of massive AIDS on the continent and movies like Blood Diamonds. When I watched that movie I was sure that some of those things happen but there was also a good amount of Hollywood to the drama. I know there is war and abuse. I know that the United States gives a ton of support to the continent and we are pushing human rights issues but I am also not naive enough to think that we are not doing thing under the tables to get what we want.
All that said I recently read a very disturbing article in regards to China’s interactions with many of countries in Africa. This was special report in Fast Company magazine, China in Africa. The article profiles X countries and how China’s involvement in each country pillaging the countries to get the raw materials they need to fuel their economic growth. While the US is trying to improve the social conditions in the country and set a standard that we think should be upheld in Africa, the Chinese are doing just the opposite. They are investing billions of dollars on the continent to secure long term rights to resources. In return they are building soccer stadiums, government buildings, and infrastructure. These things keep the people in power happy and build the things they need to take what they need. The brutal facts are that there are war and extreme poverty conditions that need to change for life to improve for the people in that part of the world. This was a very eye opening article for me and something that all people should read so that they understand the reality Africa is inevitably going to get worse. If the future powers of the world are based on their access to the resources they need the US is going to be in trouble if they expect Africa to be a major source of that.
Mozambique, Zambia, Congo and Equatorial Guinea are the countries that are profiled in the article and only one point on each. The article is amazing and should read in its entirety.
A few of my favorite quotes from the article:
"Let China sleep for when it awakes, she will shake the world." - Napoleon
"The Chinese are building thins in exchange for mining rights, timber rights, fishing rights, and these are absolutely bad deals. We've lost an asset, and in exchange we got a ministry building, which is just an opportunity cost for China."
- Jim LaFleur
"China is like an elephant riding a bicycle. If it slows down, it could fall off, and the earth might quake." - bureaucrats in Beijing