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The Next Factory of the World: How Chinese Investment Is Reshaping Africa Hardcover – November 7, 2017
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Advance Praise for The Next Factory of the World:
Deborah Brautigam, Bernard L. Schwartz Professor of International Political Economy and founding Director, China Africa Research Initiative, Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies--
"Irene Sun's stunning new book on the rise of Chinese manufacturing in Africa takes us far from the superficial picture of Chinese investors as 'new colonialists.' Combining a journalist's pen and a business analyst's training, Sun grounds her astonishingly detailed portrait in extensive fieldwork and data, but most vividly in stories of the Chinese and African pioneers who just may be kick-starting Africa's industrial revolution."
Aliko Dangote, Chairman and CEO, Dangote Group--
"I agree with Irene Yuan Sun that Africa is on a clear path to industrialization and becoming the next factory of the world. This well-researched book provides practical lessons and raises pertinent questions. I highly recommend it to policy makers, entrepreneurs, academics, or anyone interested in the future of the global economy."
Huan Hsu, author, The Porcelain Thief--
"A fascinating synthesis of reportage, personal history, and economic research. Sun is uniquely positioned to weave the narratives of Chinese and African factory owners and workers with the macroeconomic forces surrounding them in a smart, intimate exploration of the complexities and possibilities of Sino-African industrialization."
Calestous Juma, Professor of the Practice of International Development, Harvard Kennedy School; author, Innovation and Its Enemies--
"This book is a vivid account of how China is reshaping the future of Africa. It is written in an accessible way while preserving its analytical rigor. I recommend it as an antidote for pessimism."
Jonathan Woetzel, Senior Partner, McKinsey & Company--
"Irene Yuan Sun provides a memorable and challenging narrative of the industrialization of Africa and the China-Africa relationship, two of the most important trends in development today. Combining first-person research, a deep understanding of development theory, and an encyclopedic grasp of the African landscape, this is the one book to read if you want to understand both the opportunities and the hard choices Africa faces."
Yinuo Li, Director, China Program, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation--
"Impressively intertwining personal stories with the epic industrialization movements in China and Africa, this important book both increases our big-picture understanding and sheds needed light on factory floors dotted across the continent. We are fortunate to be able to peek into this fascinating world with Sun's sharp eyes and analysis."
About the Author
Irene Yuan Sun co-leads McKinsey & Company's work on Chinese economic engagement in Africa and is the lead author of McKinsey's research report on this topic. Previously, she taught secondary school in rural Namibia. She is a graduate of Harvard Business School, Harvard Kennedy School, and Harvard College.
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Brightly written by an ivy league academic who has a style that draws the reader in. She is as engaging as a thriller writer but to a very serious purpose.
It is difficult for me to wrap my head around the fact that, only 25 years ago, China was poorer than Kenya, Lesotho, and Nigeria. Since then, it has freed millions of people from poverty and now challenges the United States for having the world's largest economy. How to explain this transformation?
Sun observes that, when factories arrive en masse, prosperity soon follows. "From Great Britain at the dawn of the Industrial Revolution in the eighteen century, to America in the nineteenth century, to Japan and other Asians in the twentieth, factories have restructured entire economies toward a new, lasting level of wealth. That's because manufacturing, unlike agriculture and services, engages mass labor in highly productive ways to participate in the global economy. It's also because on the individual level, industrialization allows subsistence farmers enmeshed in highly local systems of exchange to transform themselves 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."
Meanwhile, since the early-1990s, these are among the products that are no longer manufactured in the United States: Rawlings baseballs, Gerber baby food, Etch-a-sketch, Converse athletic shoes, stainless steel rebar, Mattel toys, minivans, vending machines, Levi jeans, Radio Flyer's red wagon, television sets, cell phones, major railroad parts, canned sardines, and incandescent light bulbs. Indeed, according to The American Prospect magazine, the United States has lost about 50,000 factories since 2001.
Sun points out that the current Factory of the World, China, is the first developing country to assume such a global leadership position in the world." It took the lead in launching the $100-billion Asian Infrastructure investment Bank and the $40-billion Silk Road Fund and joined Brazil, Russia, India, and South Africa, to launch 100-billion New Development Bank. Now that is worth tweeting about!
If and when Africa becomes the next Factory of the World, its development will also have happened "in factories and shops, in run-down government offices and on unwieldy pieces of industrial machinery, in the machinations of men trying to start their own businesses and the spirit of women going to work for the first time. True development is a micro process, not a macro one...It is not about grand ideas and dogma but, rather, about incremental change and creativity under trying circumstances."
I am deeply grateful to Irene Yuan Sun for helping me to gain a much better understanding of forces, factors, issues, perils, and opportunities associated with the relationship of the current Factory of the World, China, to the development of what "might very well become the next Factory of the World," Africa. I am also eager to share her thoughts about the possible (if not probable) role that the United States will play during that transition.
This was a fascinating, well-researched and carefully presented book that provided a total look at the situation-to-date, noting how Chinese companies have been establishing a foothold in Africa. It is not necessarily a new event either, although activity is ramping up today. China’s interest in China is different to that the west has held in the past, seeking to do more than just development aid. This has led to some criticism, suggesting that China is just another asset-stripper and exploiter of the continent and its resources, albeit under a different guise. The author and her research begs to differ. The partnership may not be symmetric, but there is real scope that Africa is the next powerhouse-in-waiting, aided and abetted by Chinese money and know-how.
The book is split into two halves. The first is the realities and situation so far. The latter is the possibilities that can be generated and intimation of what may occur. Credit must be given to the author for this book and its ability to service different audiences at the same time. To a general reader it is an engaging read for the broader story and its individual components. For the focussed economist or business executive it gives all the foregoing and a lot of nuanced, detailed information as well. It is not a hagiography or fluffy PR book and extensive notes for further research and reading are provided for those who want it. The less-attractive side of this development is not being hidden, nor excused. Things may, however, get better with time and experience.
It is very feasible that even in my lifetime there will be some major tectonic shifts in economic power. In the past decade or so we may have only had a taste of what is to come. May we see one-time leaders being – eventually – being ‘developed’ by those who once did all the ‘developing’? Interesting times can lay ahead, that is for sure.
Christmas is coming. If you don’t have a direct need for this book and its intelligence today, why not treat yourself for a bit of holiday-time reading, as it will be a lot more informative and engaging than a lot of the stuff that may appear on the small screen!