July 1st, 2010
04:52 PM GMT
I was in Cape Town for the Time Fortune CNN Global Forum recently. In addition to reporting, presenting and interviewing, I tried to find a little time to listen to some of the panels. So I hopped in and out of rooms at the Conference Center in Cape Town, trying to suck up as much information and wisdom from the illustrious list of attendees.
As usual, former U.S. President Bill Clinton charmed the crowd with his astute, conversational analysis of world affairs. Graca Machel captured the attentions of a crowd of high-profile women by telling them she would hate to be a president because she’s seen all the nasty back-biting that goes with the number one job. She should know, after all, she is married to former South African president Nelson Mandela and is the widow of former Mozambique president Samora Machel.
I was particularly interested in the Chinese delegations because there are so many stereotypes about Chinese investment in Africa. Many on the continent and the West believe the Chinese have been on a resource grab and are merely repeating the "Scramble for Africa" which saw the European powers dividing up the spoils of Africa in the early 20th century. Others believe Chinese economic power in Africa is fair and brings much-needed infrastructure.
When you work and live in a country with just 45 million people you sometimes forget just how huge China is. During a China roundtable, I was slightly gobsmacked by the enormity of the Chinese market. The chairman and CEO of China Mobile, Wang Jianzhou, told us that his company has 550 million subscribers and that they get five million new subscribers each month.
In fact, the cell phone penetration in big cities like Shanghai or Beijing is at about 120 percent because many people carry more than one phone. They are looking to grow their business in the rural areas, where there is an untapped market of 700 million rural Chinese. Crikey!
Now I know this is not breaking news to any of us. However, the sheer power of the Chinese economy – weak or strong – was reinforced at the 2010 Global Forum. There is a direct correlation between the fortunes of the African continent and that of China, said one expert, if China lags so does Africa.
So, I wanted to know if any of you have stories about business ties between China and African countries? What are the challenges and the successes on the ground?
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