The Next Factory of the World
Irene Yuan Sun.
China is now the biggest foreign player in Africa. It’s Africa’s largest trade partner, the largest infrastructure financier, and the fastest-growing source of foreign direct investment. Chinese entrepreneurs are flooding into the continent, investing in long-term assets such as factories and heavy equipment. Considering Africa’s difficult history of colonialism, one might suspect that China’s activity there is another instance of a foreign power exploiting resources. But as author Irene Yuan Sun vividly shows in this remarkable book, it is really a story about resilient Chinese entrepreneurs building in Africa what they so recently learned to build in China–a global manufacturing powerhouse. The fact that China sees Africa not for its poverty but for its potential wealth is a striking departure from the attitude of the West, particularly that of the United States. Despite fifty years of Western aid programs, Africa still has more people living in extreme poverty than any other region in the world.
Those who are serious about raising living standards across the continent know that another strategy is needed. Chinese investment gives rise to a tantalizing possibility: that Africa can industrialize in the coming generation. With a manufacturing-led transformation, Africa would be following in the footsteps of the United States in the nineteenth century, Japan in the early twentieth, and the Asian Tigers in the late twentieth. Many may consider this an old-fashioned way to develop, but as Sun argues, it’s the only one that’s proven to raise living standards across entire societies in a lasting way. And with every new Chinese factory boss setting up machinery and hiring African workers–and managers–that possibility becomes more real for Africa. With fascinating and moving human stories along with incisive business and economic analysis, “The Next Factory of the World” will make you rethink both China’s role in the world and Africa’s future in the globalized economy.