February 28, 2012
One hears often that China is superseding the West as the dominant force in Africa. I read it implied most recently this morning in an article by Mwangi Kimenyi of the Brookings Institution. “…U.S. foreign direct investment to Africa remains low and declining relative to other countries – especially China.”
Over the weekend, curled up on a lawn chair along the rippling Nile, I read a back story in Harvard Business Review reporting that America’s KFC plans to open 15,000 outlets in China alone by 2015.
Side by side, these two articles capture why the West isn’t more invested in Africa, a point too often omitted from coverage of China vs. the West in Africa. China isn’t so much beating the West in Africa. Rather, the West goes where it sees opportunity. It doesn’t see much opportunity in Africa. Let China take the gamble, its actions are saying, let it, literally, pave the way with its high-risk, low margin infrastructure projects. If investment conditions improve, we’ll come in. Read the rest of this entry »