China Gets Africa?

by Chris Kamalski

I can’t find the link online at, but the end essay of the most recent print mag contains a fascinating article entitled ‘China’s Africa Gambit.’ It speaks of Asia’s largest consumer economy’s calculated risk that Africa is the ‘next great’ untapped consumer market, and in fact statistics show that African economies have been growing at 6-7% GDP the past decade, which is a figure that mirrors India’s impressive GDP growth at the same time.

Here’s the money (HA!) quote:

“Our common impression of Africa owes more to Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness than we would like to let on: Africa is inscrutable, wild, primitive and decades away from genuine modernization. Like the European businessmen in Conrad’s 1902 novel, we assume Africa’s only assets come from the land or beneath it. In the Heart of Darkness it was ivory. Now it is oil and minerals.

But China has caught onto something that eludes most governments and companies in the West. Chinese state-owned and private enterprises believe African consumers could be the great untapped gold mine. Beijing’s engagement with African leaders and governments is increasingly about ensuring that Chinese firms are best placed to sell their products when Africans start buying.”

I am still working out my thoughts regarding capitalistic consumerism, and I know Beijing is simply looking at its bottom line, but I wonder if Chinese engagement with African leaders could actually empower African nations towards healthy growth and competition? Hmm…