Africa's Last, Worst Hope by ProQuest


Any development that might lift this sad continent out of its present state would at least justify the optimism. This is how many people quite reasonably view China's powerful new engagement in Africa It may be whoUy cynical, they argue, but Utopian and idealistic interventions have all failed. Much of Africa's existing infrastructure and its most powerful and developed economy in South Africa are the results of comparable Western cynicism in the past. Perhaps straightforward crudity-hard cash, roads, clinics, and railroads in return for oil and minerals-will work where benevolence did not. As one academic expert on the subject said to me, "The only country that ever got rich from donations was the Vatican." Perhaps China's hunger for new markets will lift African economies out of their pitiful condition and start them on the long road out of the Third World. It is not as if there is much chance of Africa once again becoming the sort of Garden of Eden that some believe that it was before outsiders burst in.The Chinese are also highly sensitive to criticism of their safety record. My colleagues and I went to look at and photograph a dispiriting little roadside cemetery, laid out among the dry, tall grass right at the entrance of the Chambishi copper mine, which shelters the remains of 54 mineworkers killed in an explosives disaster in 2005. Local people are inclined to blame the Chinese for this event. Within a couple of hours, local "security" officials were buzzing around, anxious about what we were up to. They had obviously been tipped off by the Chinese managers who had seen us among the gravestones. No wonder they are sensitive. An African mine executive recalled the day three years ago when Zambia, a country of 11 milUon people, went into official mourning for the victims of this catastrophe. A Chinese supervisor said to me in broken English, "In China, 5,000 people die, and there is nothing. In Zambia, 50 people die and everyone is weeping. To [the Chinese], 5

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