Monday, August 26, 2013

New Research on China/Brazil & Agriculture in Africa

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The latest edition of the IDS Bulletin reports on the first round of research from a four country project on China & Brazil's agricultural engagement in Africa, organized by the Future Agricultures Consortium.

I've read all of the papers that focus on China and Africa. Among them, I particularly recommend the overview paper by Ian Scoones, Lidia Cabral, and Henry Tugendhat, "New Development Encounters: China and Brazil in African Agriculture" for its scope and comprehensiveness, particularly in the five key questions it asks (pp. 10-13):
  • What is the political-economic context for these development encounters?
  • What relationships are being built on? 
  • What perceptions and political interests underlie these development encounters?
  • How are negotiations on agreements carried out?
  • What project-level interactions occur that shape development encounters?
This is a useful way to organize our thinking about these issues. Also excellent (as always) is a paper by the thoughtful Lila Buckley, who has been a guest-blogger on this blog: "Chinese Agricultural Development Cooperation in Africa: Narratives and Politics".

There are case studies on Chinese and Brazilian engagement in Ghana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Ethiopia. With regard to China, the Mozambique study was very good, with useful detail supplied by its seven (yes!) authors. It was the only case study to clearly reflect interviews and field visits. I was a bit disappointed that several of the other case studies appear to be descriptive overviews that could almost have been done (or perhaps were done) without any fieldwork. It's a starting point, at least, and no doubt the next round of this research will provide more detail.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

China, Africa: Illicit Small Arms & Second-Hand Clothing Exports

Second-hand clothing market, Ivory Coast: Radio Netherlands
Security threats to Chinese workers and investors in Africa are part of what seems to be growing Chinese official interest in curbing (illegal) arms exports to Africa. A report from Xinhua via ChinaWire has some interesting quotes from Chinese attending a July 2013 conference on this issue in Nairobi.

ChinaWire also included this fascinating story on China's second-hand clothing exports to Africa. Africa watchers have long been familiar with the second-hand clothing markets. When I was doing my Ph.D. research in Liberia, a Peace Corps friend bought a used bowling league shirt in his market, and surprised me by wearing it when we went bowling in Abidjan during a trip to the Ivory Coast. Like China's export of new clothes, these used clothes from the West have long been a challenge to textile manufacturers in Africa. I guess we could have expected that Chinese exporters would join this market, as they have so many others formerly dominated by the West. 

ChinaWire is a great source for collecting Chinese media reports. They regularly collect material on China-Africa, as well as other topics of interest. Highly recommended.

Monday, August 19, 2013

'The Dragon's Gift' in Africa

Entebbe, Uganda airport bookstore. Photo: Linden McBride
When I published The Dragon's Gift, I hoped it would be available across Africa. But I knew little about the business side of publishing. Oxford's Southern Africa branch in Cape Town is mainly focused on textbook publishing, and declined to market it. Therefore, it was not picked up by any of the South African book chains. It is still available in Africa -- but at a high price (over $50 compared with $19.76 on and generally in only a few locations. Just last week, however, I had two emails from people who saw it for sale in airport bookstores: in Entebbe, Uganda, and in Nairobi, Kenya -- at a hefty mark-up.
What I've learned from this: if you want to have your book marketed in Africa, do not sign over world-wide rights to your publisher. Keep the rights for publication in Africa, and negotiate this separately with a publisher based on the continent -- or one with a hearty distribution network.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

South Africa or China? Who Will Win Race for Africa's Middle Class?

I recently came across an article on investing in Africa by South African journalist Thabang Mokopanele:
South African retailers are driving commercial development in Africa. As they expand so does the need for retail and office space in cities such as Lagos, Ghana, Nairobi, Maputo and others. "If you look at Lagos and Ghana the buildings around these cities are old and derelict and were built in the 1960s," Mr Mackintosh said.
What happened to the Chinese? Although a lot of people comment that the Chinese are "everywhere" in the retail sectors in Africa, I see a lot of small-scale Chinese activity and a lot of large-scale South African activity. Look at Arcades, Manda Hill, or another of the new malls cropping up in Lusaka, Zambia, for example. You can get a cappuccino at Mugg and Bean, groceries at Shoprite or more upscale food at Woolworths, appliances at Game, clothes at Truworths or Uzzi, have lunch at Ocean Basket, and did I mention the South African banks: Standard Chartered, FNB, Stanbic, and so on. If all that shopping tires you out, you can take a room at South African-owned Protea Hotel.

A private Chinese company has built a big new hotel in Lusaka: the Golden Bridge (right). But in my recent visit it was not easy to find any prominent reflection of the more upscale Chinese retail sector. Little Chinese shops were scattered here and there. Chinese were selling chickens at the city market, and vegetables at the Tuesday market.  I walked through Kamwala market several times, and found a few Chinese shops, but staffed by Zambians; their Chinese bosses were not on the premises. An upgraded section of the Kamwala market was constructed by the same Chinese firm that built the Golden Bridge in a joint venture with the city of Lusaka, but their tenants seem to be mainly Zambian.

Chinese cities have the fanciest of malls, just as South African cities do. But while the South African companies that invest in Zambia's retail sector come from the prominent side of South African retail, that doesn't seem to be the case for the Chinese. Why not?