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Africa will be the next factory of the world after China

2018-08-31  Staff Reporter

Africa will be the next factory of the world after China

Industrialisation has been highlighted in the local media particularly after 38 SADC summits held recently in Windhoek Namibia. This is because industrialisation has been a key driver of economic and social development. Unleashed by China becoming the current factory of the world, great unprecedented changes have happened in China making it a proud wonder of humankind in term of rapid social-economic development. 

China’s relations with Africa have flourished in the past decades with massive Chinese investment across the continent. The newly launched ambitious Chinese “The Belt and Road Initiatives” has covered seven African ports, which will involve more China-Africa interaction and drive and stimulate Africa’s industrialization. A great number of Chinese factories have been opened in Africa creating millions of jobs for African people as a global management consulting firm McKinsey revealed during its fieldwork in African countries visiting more than 1500 Chinese firms engaged in manufacturing. 

The McKinsey field research in Nigeria shows that 85 percent of workers hired by Chinese manufacturers are locals. A larger-scale Chinese-language survey in Kenya found that 90 percent of the employees in Chinese manufacturing and construction companies were local hires.

In Lesotho, Chinese garment factories make yoga pants for Kohl’s, jeans for Levi’s, and athletic wear for Reebok. Almost all of Lesotho’s production is trucked out and packed onto container ships bound for American consumers. Hundreds of employees are employed to work on the manufacturing line at a textile factory in Nairobi, Kenya, where a standard gauge railway system between Nairobi and Mombasa was established with Chinese fund and technology.

As elsewhere in Africa, Namibia also witnesses a lot of direct capital investment from Chinese companies. As Chinese ambassador Zhang Yiming informed the media, 11000 jobs has been created by Chinese investors for Namibian people. Chinese manufacturers in Namibia are mainly in the area of building materials. A number of zinc roof tiles, steel, aluminum products factories have been established across the country. Though not high-skilled manufacturing, these manufacturing dramatically reduce the prices of these building materials, definitely benefiting customers at large. Another manufacturing is Nami Prefabricated Housing, a largest leading prefabricated panel factory in Namibia. Whale Rock Cement, an investment of US$350 million according to the Xinhua News Agency, located near Otjiwarongo, is a newly opened cement manufacturer in Namibia, a joint venture between China’s Asia-Africa Business Management and local partners. This flagship plant constitutes a preferential competition of cement market presenting another value-added dynamic of manufacturing to the building industry. 

This movement of Chinese factories matters because when factories arrive en masse, prosperity soon follows. From Great Britain at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution in the eighteenth century, to America in the nineteenth century, to Japan and other Asian countries in the twentieth, factories have restructured entire economies toward a new, lasting level of wealth. No doubt, Chinese factories in Africa have created broad-based prosperity for Africans and made Africa rich and achieve a dramatic and lasting change in living standards. That’s because manufacturing, unlike agriculture and services, engages mass labour in highly productive ways to participate in the global economy. It’s also because on an individual level, industrialization allows subsistence farmers enmeshed in highly local systems of exchange to transform themselves into consumers and producers in the global economy. Africa, having the largest unemployment rates in the world, will reach 2 billion people by 2050, creating the largest pool of labour in the world. Building factories is hence what African booming population needs badly, hence reducing the burden of unemployment pressure. 

Industrialization is how China reshaped itself from a poor, backward country into one of the largest economies in the world in less than three decades. By becoming the next Factory of the World, Africa can do the same though African countries and societies do not resemble China, economically, politically, or socially. Clearly, Africa today is not defined by poverty: it is characterised by promise and optimism with hundreds of factories on the continent. 

 PICTURE: Yang Ganfu 

2018-08-31  Staff Reporter

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