July 1st, 2010
04:52 PM GMT
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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?

soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. All

    Stop being politically correct, there are no worthy challenges and successes on the ground based on global business best practices when it comes to China-Africa business.

    It is very simply, China is on a raw material warpath to fuel its raging tiger economy with much needed fuel and the easiest place to get them is Africa. Chinese incursions in Africa has not always been very respectful and based on business best practices and respect for African economies. Surely we cannot call Chinese intimidation, weapon supply to waring factions and bribery of politicians as "correlation between the fortunes of African continent and the Chinese!

    What the Chinese are doing in African amount to serious crimes and human rights abuses. Their supply of weapons to Sudan in exchange for oil has led to the genocide of the people of Darfur. How much more blood natural-resources do they want?

    July 2, 2010 at 7:09 am |
  2. baba buba

    I think westerners either miss understood or jealous about chines relation with Africa.

    West had their chance but never exploited it. when Chinese started building and investing on African economy they began showing their true face. West is self centered and egoist with the imperialistic bigotry. The time is over, they have to accept the reality. World is changing they have to change with time especially the poor Europeans, because they seem they are left behind. They need to worry.

    Africans' depends on humanitarian aid and loan is over, they have to integrate themselves in globalized world and change the lives of their citizens.

    July 2, 2010 at 7:38 am |
  3. Rev

    In my opinion China is the better business partner for most African countries. Since there is no history of colonization it easier for both parties to negotiate on an eye-to-eye level. European leaders generally consider their African counterparts inferior and therefore dictate to them instead of negotiating. Most trade deals with Europe always have many strings attached to them that end becoming very difficult to fully implement.
    Besides the European market is almost closed to products coming from Africa and for the very few products that reach Europe has the power to determine the prices. Europe sacrifices development and self-reliance in African on the altar of human rights and democracy, whereas China believes internal politics is sole duty of each country.
    My belief is that people will fight for the rights and choose a suitable form of government after conquering poverty and dependence. After more than 60 years of failure with Europeans as business partners, I its worth looking east.

    July 2, 2010 at 7:44 am |
  4. raoul

    The Chinese have done more than any aid organisation, christian missionary and European government (all combined) in addressing many of the infrastructure problems plaguing the continent. All you need to do is have a look at the various projects taking place across the continent.

    July 2, 2010 at 8:22 am |
  5. Ray Tsuchiyama


    A recent short essay on China-Africa business, and how multinationals should recruit Mandarin-speaking African students to ensure smooth business interaction with Chinese business people in Africa - hope it is of interest to readers.

    July 2, 2010 at 9:36 am |
  6. Lure D. Lou

    I have heard from reliable sources that the Chinese government is sending convict labor to work on construction projects in Africa. These workers are given one way tickets and no support from Chinese officials on the ground. In Liberia two Chinese workers recently murdered a South African simply so they could steal his computer.

    If this is true and China is using Africa as a dumping ground for undesirables then it gives weight to the notion that China is Africa's newest colonial power because that is precisely the kind of behavior that previous colonial powers engaged in.

    July 2, 2010 at 6:20 pm |
  7. Wendy

    I have to say I feel sorry that some just can not understand China as a rising force and a diverse society.
    Lure D.Lou 's opinion about China is simply based on "reliable"news about "two" Chinese, can two people reflect the reality of a country with a population of more than 1.3billion?Don't you think it's too indiscreet to draw the conclusion?

    July 3, 2010 at 2:14 am |
  8. snshan

    West and specially US should accept the reality that they can't control the whole world any more. China is giving them tough time now and all this propaganda is just to stop China from capturing market. The only challenge that I think of is the western politics.

    July 5, 2010 at 11:48 am |
  9. mj

    By far he biggest colonisers in Africa are former colonialists.
    They still hold the largest amount of resources in Africa and continue to do so.
    The largest amount of uranium resources held is by North America..
    more than the rest of the wolrd combined.

    Asians have been in Africa for generations.If they were really
    truely colonialists they would of invaded,take land from locals by force,

    July 5, 2010 at 9:01 pm |
  10. Ian Hugh

    "Many on the continent and the West believe the Chinese have been on a resource grab and are merely repeating the "Scramble for Africa"

    The author was repeating "yellow" journalism. If the Chinese occupied lands, enslaving/killing locals, didn't pay neo-market prices for the resources, then it might be valid. Baring there isn't any of such evidence, it's RACISM or jealousness to even mention it! It seems it's alright for the Westerners to go to developing countries, pay locals peanuts and expect them to build quality products or provide quality services. But nothing the Chinese does will satisfy disingenuous people.

    July 6, 2010 at 6:56 pm |
  11. Ian Hugh

    instead of neo-market, I meant to say near-market, in the previous message.

    July 6, 2010 at 7:02 pm |
  12. stanley

    Am Kenyan and its clear in our country that china has the same effect it has on other African nations they seem to have the option of exportingnew technologies and cheaper products in terms of cost,The challenge I think is the genuineness of what they do and the aim they have in the long run,It seems everyone comes to this 'poor continent' to get rich and I would be forgiven for passing the same judgment on china,however that stated the impact of the of china contribution to my country is a welcome move most Kenyans actually like china theory in terms of technology importation to Africa.

    July 7, 2010 at 11:15 am |
  13. David

    At the end of the day, Africa has to take responsibility for its own future and well being. Otherwise these decisions will be taken by others.

    July 9, 2010 at 12:04 am |
  14. CLARK

    Is US sensitive to China too much?That's because China is really growing too much

    July 9, 2010 at 3:35 am |
  15. Yoka Bony

    China shall base its business with Africa on African developement and its shall invest completly in Africa. The Chinese shall bring a great historical trade with Afirca that shall change Africa from the poorest continent to the fastest developping continent on the planet.

    July 12, 2010 at 9:22 pm |
  16. Jal Mian

    I am appalled at the extent to which the West is media brainwashed. Are the intellectuals of west being replaced by retards? At every turn I see East-West confrontation orchestrated by the west sitting in judgement as if they had never thrown a stone in their life. China is a commercial not colonial late comer to Africa. Sadly, Africa has already been bled by the English, the Dutch, the Belgium, the Germans, the French, the Italians, the Spaniards, etc., etc., and is still being bled by the likes of De Beers, Shell, etc., etc. I wonder what China will manage to squeeze out?

    July 15, 2010 at 2:36 am |
  17. Nick

    speaking as an expat living embedded here in china for 2 years now and an avid student of Chinese culture and history, one only has to look at Mao's vie for global leadership of the poorer countries or the approach taken during the Ming period to exert control over Africa and you clearly understand what is going on now; different leaders same thousand year approach. spend money, keep the countries dependent and take what you can. A study of how the Chinese kept the Mongols at war for hundreds of years prior to Genghis Khan reveals striking similarities with china's current approach to Africa and ethnic tensions. China has never used force as its key to expansion rather choosing more subtle economic methods to control an area external to it's borders. Maybe the world needs to redefine terrorism to also include an economic definition as well

    July 18, 2010 at 9:12 am |
  18. Shenoy

    The West enslaved the Africans by force. They had to fight their way in, and have been well rewarded for the same. Even the next few generations of the West will enjoy the benefits of what their forefathers did in Africa.
    China is starting to enslave Africa by bribing the "leaders". They are getting in a nice friendly way. They will also enjoy the benefits for the next few generations.
    The only ones left behind is common African, who is being exploited all the time. Without good leadership, the common African person will continue to contribute to generations of Chinese and the West.

    July 21, 2010 at 5:31 am |
  19. ewright

    The Chinese are everywhere in Africa. They are building Malawi's new parliament building "for free." They are building the road to the uranium mines in Malawi. They are building the new airport terminal in Maputo. They are running mines in Zambia.

    Their work is sub-standard. I don't think they've heard of worker safety – or they pretend not to understand. If there is a safety issue, they pull out a plain envelope full of cash and pretend they don't understand English. It's cheaper to pay a bribe than provide helmets and boots for their mine workers.

    They flood local markets with inferior, cheap products that were probably rejected in Western countries due to unacceptable lead and cadmium content. People look at cost, not quality. All those pirated DVDs? Great benefit to the poor who can afford $2 for a pirated DVD, but not the $20 a genuine would cost.

    They give loans to African nations for projects that run. They bring in their own equipment, their own materials. Their own workers. They even have Banks of China going up.

    They may be building, but the work is substandard, they aren't providing many jobs for the locals; they treat locals like crap; they perpetuate corruption.

    US jealous? Well, we could have been in there building better infrastructure, but we weren't. Maybe the US should have been in Africa building roads, airports, hotels, with US equipment, materials and workers. It might have boosted the US economy.

    Instead the US and Europe donate money for humanitarian projects that may allow corrupt African governments to pilfer the coffers. After development aid wanes and NGOs pull out, how many of their projects still exist after 5, 10 years later?

    At least with infrasture projects, you may still see a road, thought full of potholes.

    July 23, 2010 at 1:52 pm |
  20. FairieChoCK

    I believe a lot of the commentors talk 'cock and bull' and insincere as maybe they have not landed in Africa before;and local Africans could be more sincere and more receptive to China.I have not been to Africa.I believe Africans don't wish to stay forever in a pondok.
    But you ponder over the following two facts:
    1)During 15th century,Ming Emperor(s) sent troop to West Africa,but never conquered and ruled,let alone annahilated and annexed the land.
    2)Later,the Europeans and United States came,one after the other.So,the illegal human beings were transacted;land were annexed and colonised;land were also bought(at what price?)and being cleared for cultivation of rubber trees and mines excavated and shipped out.
    And the new generations of so-called developed countries feel embarrased and apologetic.And some of you now throw mud around and tell us the Chinese are devils?

    August 4, 2010 at 2:36 pm |
  21. FairieChoCK

    East Africa,i mean

    August 4, 2010 at 2:37 pm |
  22. Jet

    I believe the West has done what it can to help Africa. The U.S.A. simply has too many interests in the globe and does not have the resources to focus in all parts of the globe. The Africa-China connection is important to both continents.

    I would like to encourage readers that has critical opinions about China spend a little bit of time researching neutral to positive side of China and perhaps visit its beautiful ancient country and its rapid development areas in the past 30 years. China is very different than many people perceive in the West.

    We are one world. We need to have multilateral relationships and balance of power. As we can see in North America, policy makers leaning too much to the right or the left and sometimes at the center do not last. I am encouraged to see the major powers of the world working closer than ever before. I believe in a better world and a better Africa by having China investing there.

    August 7, 2010 at 12:33 pm |
  23. charlie

    I think it is as simple as this;The Chinese are better business people than the Europeans and Americans.
    Their ability to come into Africa at this time and is taking over many major projects shows that they really understand what Africans need
    They may not be the best type of people to deal with because of their approach towards making money which does not interfere and is never sensitive to local politics and could make substandard quality products.Otherwise they offer the opportunity for round table and one-on-one negotiation without any pre-conditions unlike their predecessors who came in with superiority complex and dictates the rule .
    This means that,they also give everybody they are dealing with the opportunity to make a choice which is what every single right thinking person want .
    They are also integrating with the people which makes it better and faster to understand the real African problem.

    August 9, 2010 at 4:14 am |
  24. VanessaPalm

    A few weeks ago i was reading some article about the global crises as it afects the global population grouth. Do you think this could be true and couples make less children now in these hard period? This is the place where i`v read the article: freenuderooms.net . I know that now its harder to raise children but really where are we heading to if there are less children born? A civilisation of old people?

    February 10, 2011 at 3:57 pm |

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