Africa's Silk Road: China and India's New Economic Frontier

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Africa's Silk Road: China and India's New Economic Frontier

By Harry G. Broadman
World Bank, 2007
384 pp. $20.00
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China's growing political and economic interest in Africa has been much remarked on in the last two years. Buttressed by considerable economic data, Broadman's work offers a useful summary of it within the broader context of African-Asian relations. Today, 27 percent of African exports go to Asia, almost double the amount of less than a decade ago. Driving this increase are African natural resources, in particular oil, which accounts for almost half of these exports. The relationship between India and the African continent relies on private networks, linked to long-standing Indian populations in the region. The relationship between China and the region, on the other hand, is more recent and more often mediated by formal government-to-government agreements. China relies to a considerable extent on exported labor to the region to sustain its investments. Thus, Broadman notes, some 80,000 Chinese workers now live in Africa. Having characterized these new economic flows between Asia and Africa, the book examines in its second half the constraints on increasing trade and investment flows. Broadman documents in exhaustive detail the litany of regulatory, governance, infrastructural, and policy deficiencies that continue to undermine the growth and diversification of African economies, suggesting that Asian firms are no less negatively affected by them than European and American firms. The only weakness of this otherwise highly informative book is the absence of any kind of explanation for the trends it describes. Indian economic interests in the region seem piecemeal and merely the decentralized results of the independent decisions of many small, family-owned firms, some of which have had interests in Africa for decades. On the other hand, it seems clear that Chinese imports from and investments in the region are part of a fairly recent and well-integrated geopolitical strategy, which cannot be fully understood by a narrow focus on market trends.

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