The New Africa: Visit Africa. Bring checkbook.

Jonathan Power – The International Herald Tribune

Copyright The International Herald Tribune
The planned purchase of a 20 percent stake in South Africa’s highly successful Standard Bank by the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the world’s largest bank by market capitalization, is the biggest foreign direct investment in South Africa since the demise of apartheid.
This signifies a degree of engagement by China that is way beyond the “resources grab” that many have accused China of in its recent dealings with Africa. This, as the Financial Times reported, “is evidence that China is looking for a deeper relationship.”
For the ICBC this is an important step in its quest to become a global bank. Its chairman, Jiang Jianqing, says, “We are focusing on merger and acquisition in emerging markets in Asia and Africa because these places enjoy high growth rates and have great potential.”
As Chinese and Indian investors almost pour into Africa one wonders if their European and North American competitors have woken up to the fact that Rip Van Winkle is waking up in Africa.
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The fact that a top Chinese banker brackets Africa with Asia is one more sign that the Asians themselves see what is happening in Africa as a repeat of what happened to them 20 and 30 years ago.
They can see the potential while Western commentators, their spurious words tasting of sour grapes, point an accusing finger at China in particular, accusing it of planning to rape Africa as the Europeans did a century ago.
This is not rape, by any stretch of the imagination. This is business opportunity. Africa in many countries is on the way to booming and Africa is looking for marriages of convenience with willing investors in railroads, toll roads, ports, motorbike and cement factories. Already there are over 900 Chinese companies working in Africa.
The International Monetary Fund in its new “Regional Economic Outlook” estimates that next year the growth rate in sub-Saharan Africa should reach almost 7 percent. This is an average figure, pulled down by including the likes of the Congo, Somalia, Zimbabwe, Ethiopia, Eritrea and the Sudan. But most of black Africa is on a sustained upswing, helped by high commodity prices (which the IMF says has not been a critical factor) and successful debt relief.
It is happening, despite stagnant aid, because of increased private capital inflows and rising domestic investment and productivity. The significant decline in deadly armed conflicts has also helped. The ex war-riven states, Liberia, Sierra Leone and the Congo are growing at 5 percent.
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