A must read book!
Listen up, all you former African Missionaries, AID workers, Peace Corps Volunteers and Diplomatic corps. We've dropped the ball in a very important part of the world! 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 Howard W. French has given us an eye-opener of a book and we need to read it and talk about how Africa fits into the long range planetary game. This is a quantum leap forward from the struggles outlined in my own Africa historical fiction novel of the 1990's.
China is sending its people out on a global diaspora that seems to be infiltrating every African nation; much the same way that sixteenth century Europe financed entrepreneurs, trappers and traders to move to lesser developed parts of the world to benefit the homeland. Chinese farmers are being drawn enmass to the vast irrigable stretches along the Niger River in Mali to begin expanding rice production on a gigantic scale.
Chinese miners and engineers are moving into mineral rich nations from Namibia and Mozambique in the south through the Congo and on north into Ghana and Senegal in West Africa. Scores of Chinese builders are setting up schools, stadiums, hospitals, roads and bridges in Zambia, Botswana and Nigeria. All these countries are areas that the West only wanted to exploit but never planned to develop. Africans, sensing that the rest of the technological world might leave them behind have therefore turned towards the rising sun to find new funding and expertise.
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.
Buy it, read it discuss it and then act upon it!