The Next Factory of the World: How Chinese Investment Is Reshaping Africa

In This Review

The Next Factory of the World: How Chinese Investment Is Reshaping Africa
By Irene Yuan Sun
Harvard Business Review Press, 2017

This book is short on hard data and long on generalizations, but it is nonetheless worth reading because it expresses a popular argument: that China’s growing commercial interest in Africa is fundamentally altering the continent’s business climate and creating the possibility of a manufacturing revolution there. Sun is not concerned with the substantial deals that the Chinese state has brokered with the governments of oil-rich countries, such as Angola. Instead, she focuses on the many Chinese entrepreneurs who are undertaking smaller ventures in Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, and Nigeria. She argues that independent Chinese investors are spearheading the current rapid economic growth in those countries thanks to a willingness to take risks that Western businesses will not. Yet although she tells revealing anecdotes about individual firms, she never provides the kind of systematic data that would make her case convincing. The book is also frustratingly silent on what Chinese investors have done to overcome high labor costs and poor infrastructure, the main constraints on the competitiveness of African manufacturing.

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