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4 Apr 2019

David Pilling & Emily Feng, OZY (USA)

The impact of Chinese investment in Africa, including development, job creation & possible environmental degradation

"How Chinese entrepreneurs are quietly reshaping Africa"

 ...Wu is one of an estimated 1 million Chinese citizens who have ventured to Africa over the past two decades to seek their fortune. Like many others, he sees in Africa’s raw energy and ambition an echo of the forces that were unleashed by Deng Xiaoping’s reforms of 1978...People like Wu have been persuaded to test their ambition in far-flung corners of the world amid rising labor costs, industrial overcapacity and more stringent environmental standards back in China. While many entrepreneurs have looked closer to home, to countries such as Cambodia, others have struck out to Africa...

“Chinese manufacturing investment is the best hope that Africa has to industrialize in this generation,” she says. “Chinese involvement in Africa is not just about state-driven efforts. A just as large, if not larger, component is these private enterprises, which are more job-intensive, which localize quicker and which have a much larger economic and social impact.”...Not all Chinese entrepreneurs have a positive impact. In Madagascar, they are blamed for illegal exports of rosewood and zebu, a type of cattle. Chinese demand for African wildlife also fuels poaching, from Zambia to Mozambique.

There are cultural obstacles too. Across the continent, Africans accuse Chinese workers of refusing to integrate, working in unmarked offices and dormitories. They are accused of bringing in their own labor, though companies have quickly learned they need to provide local employment if they want to stay in business...Nor does Sun see the arrival of Chinese entrepreneurs as a magic bullet. The author accepts that, along with the promise of factories and jobs, they may bring environmental degradation and friction with African communities. “But they are extremely entrepreneurial and they are doing profoundly important things,” she says. “Not all good, not all bad. But we have to pay attention.”