Since that visit, I have heard about the steady expansion of Chinese investment throughout the continent of Africa, the most common explanations for which have been its interests in petroleum and other minerals and a general interest in expanding its geopolitical sphere of influence.
This morning I heard two additional and important explanations in an NPR story about Chinese investment in Tanzania and Zambia. Howard French indicates that Africa's growing population is seen as a desirable consumer market, whose one billion people may number two billion by the end of the century.
The author of China's Second Continent goes on to suggest something much more intriguing, though. Geographic illiteracy in the United States contributes directly to China's comparative advantage in the continent. Many of the projects funded by the United States through the Millenium Challenge Grants mentioned above are actually completed by Chinese companies because U.S. investors have so little understanding of the varied opportunities available throughout the continent. Victims of the uniformly dismal portrayals of Africa in U.S. media and publishing -- which I recently discussed in A Billion People Plus One Tree -- they do not even think to compete for work there.
|There is a lot more to Africa than this tree. Thinking otherwise is an expensive form of ignorance.|