Is China the Key to Africa’s Development?

Slate Magazine looks at the positive side of China’s investment in Africa:

While the United States and Europe still loom large here as cultural and economic icons, China is making inroads into Africa in rivulets. In this city, Tanzania’s second largest, the rivulets take the form of manufactured goods, construction projects like roads and cell-phone towers, and a smattering of Chinese restaurants. For a desperately poor country like Tanzania, this “South-South” trade with China has created massive new opportunities for accelerating economic development.

In recent years, the increase in trade flows between sub-Saharan Africa and Asia has been dramatic—exports from Asia to Africa have grown at an annual rate of 18 percent since 2002. Part of the equation is that low-cost goods from China fit economies like Tanzania’s well. Goods like those sold by Charles are low-quality and sometimes fake, but they are creating new microenterprise opportunities for entrepreneurial Africans. Charles told me he, like many other Arusha vendors who had regular jobs before going independent, worked in a shoe shop until he was laid off.

The new opportunities to trade with China are so tantalizing for Africans that some are returning from abroad to invest in their homelands.

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