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Chinese Trade in Angola Helps Recovery

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Two-way trade between Africa and China has been an outstanding success story of the past decade. It has led to significant new investment in the continent and brought many new job opportunities. The Chinese community in Africa comprises a mix of entrepreneurs and workers. In formerly war-torn Angola, Chinese workers and investors have led an economic boom as the country recovers from decades of conflict.

The Chinese are generally young, well-educated, English-speaking, ambitious and hard-working. Estimates put the number of Chinese people in Angola at 100,000, and about 1 million across Africa.

The reason these bright young things need to come to Africa goes back to the essential reality of modern China: despite rapid economic growth, per capita incomes classify it as a poor country. While the outside world sees the glitzy, go-go progress of China’s cities, the country’s rural poor go unseen. Around 400 million of China’s 1.3 billion people have annual per-capita income equivalent to US $8,000, while the remaining 900 million have per-capita incomes as little as one-tenth that amount.

Some 6.3 million people in China will graduate this year from university, and it is still very hard for a well-educated Chinese person to get a good job right away. More than a quarter of these graduates will be unemployed, according to the Education Ministry.

There has also been disquiet in parts of Angola over China’s role, with some calling it “neo-colonialism”. But clearly, both Africa and China have much to gain by increasing cooperation.

In the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guangzhou), a trading hub nicknamed “Africa Town” has emerged since 1998. There are officially 20,000 African traders and entrepreneurs in the city of 18 million, but unofficial estimates put the number at more than 100,000. This African trading hub has emerged to the benefit of both the Chinese and Africans. It is a coming together of small traders matching Africa’s strong demand for consumer goods with China’s manufacturing powerhouse.

In Angola, the mix of entrepreneurs and workers is having a big impact on the country’s development.

Betty, a 22-year-old Chinese woman who has various projects in Angola, including the local Chinese language newspaper, is a typical go-getter.

“I am doing much better here than if I had stayed in China,” she told the BBC.

Another beneficiary of the two-way trade is Deng, a construction a worker: “I earn twice as much as I would at home and I have got a better job,” he said.

For most Chinese, foreign travel is still rare and the excitement of going to Africa to work both attracts and repels because of the continent’s reputation.

“At first I found it frightening, “said Wang. “You hear lots of stories of Chinese people being robbed by the locals.” But he found “there are great opportunities here.”

Another, Jet, who runs an air conditioning business, came to Angola five years ago.

“Everything had been destroyed,” he recalled. “There were no roads, railways, shops, nothing. Some Western companies were already here selling their products but I knew I could import things cheaper from China.”

The large infrastructure projects being undertaken by major Chinese companies are also creating new opportunities. Many Chinese labourers are working on building roads, railways, hospitals and vast housing complexes.

One of the more visible symbols of Chinese investment in Angola is the restoration of the Benguela Railway (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Benguela_railway), considered one of the great routes of Africa and built by British contractors. An engineering triumph, its 1,344 kilometres (835 miles) of track stretch up the Angolan coast, right into southern Congo. The railway took almost 30 years to build in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but little remained. Until very recently all but a tiny stretch of the line was closed. Now Chinese investment is rebuilding the railway and bringing economic improvement in its wake.

“I couldn’t do this before the railway was fixed,” a woman using the train to get to the market to sell her plump red tomatoes told the BBC. “Before, I had to travel by car which was much more expensive.”

And her income has improved along with the refurbished railway. “I am not rich, but a bit richer,” she said.

And unlike the British, who used the railway to export copper without paying for the resource, the Chinese labourers are getting paid and the Angolan government is paying back the Chinese loan for the railway repairs by selling oil overseas for a market rate.

Published: October 2010

Resources

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

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Africa to Get Own Internet Domain

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Africa is in the midst of an Internet revolution that is set only to accelerate. The continent is one of the last places to experience the information technology revolution that has swept the world in the past two decades.

Africa has been at a disadvantage for several reasons, the most basic of which has been the lack of bandwidth capacity available from the undersea cables that connect other continents to the Internet. A map showing the world’s undersea cable links says it all: the majority of traffic goes between Europe and the United States (http://www.telegeography.com/telecom-resources/telegeography-infographics/submarine-cable-map/).

But this is changing: a glance at recent developments with the launching of the Seacom, EASSy, MainOne and other cables shows a continent getting better connected by the year (http://manypossibilities.net/african-undersea-cables/).

With seven out of the 10 fastest-growing economies in the world between 2011 and 2015 projected to be in sub-Saharan Africa, the conditions are ripe to grow African Internet businesses. For example, Ghana, with its booming information technology sector, boasted 13 percent economic growth last year, among the fastest in the world.

In eight of the past 10 years, sub-Saharan Africa has grown faster than Asia (The Globe and Mail).

While Africa has come late to the Internet party, the continent can benefit from two decades of experience elsewhere to avoid making the mistakes others have. Africa can upload tried and tested Internet platforms and can also create new, Africa-specific platforms that tackle the continent’s own needs and challenges.

One of the ways to make the most of the opportunities presented by the Internet is to have an Africa-specific Internet domain name. A domain name (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domain_name) is the suffix placed after the period in Internet URL (uniform resource locator) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uniform_resource_locator) addresses. Common ones familiar to most people who use the Internet include .com (for commercial websites), .org (for non-profit websites and organizations), .co.uk (for British businesses) or .ca (for Canadian organizations).

The dot Africa (.africa) domain name will be available in the next 15 months according to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) (http://www.icann.org/). It is currently reviewing 500 African organizations that have expressed interest in managing the domain name registrations, and will choose one at the beginning of 2013.

Countries such as Kenya and South Africa – two places in Africa with booming information technology sectors – are hoping to make the most of the new dot Africa domain name.

The idea is to use the dot Africa domain name to build a stronger brand for the continent’s Internet that will be bigger than the individual country domain names. Sophia Bekele, executive director of DotConnectAfrica, told CNN the suffixes for individual African countries had proven unpopular during the decade since their introduction.

Her organization found that 80 per cent of African domain name registrants had opted for “.com” or “.org” suffixes, which were price competitive, reliable to register and had wide recognition.

The country-level domain names suffered from being “usually owned by governments, and governments are typically not very good at marketing,” she told CNN.

Bekele’s research found young developers involved in creating local content felt a stronger affinity with the “.africa” suffix than to the “.com” domains. And the new suffix will let companies unify their presence across the continent under a single online brand.

A major benefit of the “.africa” domain will be that proceeds from African domain registrations remain on the continent, rather than flowing offshore. DotConnectAfrica says it plans to reinvest surpluses into developing the African Internet sector.

The African Union Commission (http://www.au.int/en/commission) is also looking to register the .afrique (French language websites) and .afriqia (Arabic language websites).

The AUC’s head of information society, Moctar Yedaly, told CNN the commission’s vision for the .africa domain is not just commercial.

“It may well be a very good business in terms of money generating. If it may generate some revenue we can use for the development of ICT in Africa, then that is all very good, but that’s not my primary goal,” he told CNN. “My primary goal is to ensure the identity of Africa, the image, the culture are well-maintained.”

Published: October 2012

Resources

1) The Wikipedia page on the .africa initiative. Website: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/.africa

2) ICANN: To reach another person on the Internet you have to type an address into your computer — a name or a number. That address must be unique so computers know where to find each other. ICANN coordinates these unique identifiers across the world.  Website: http://www.icann.org/

3) DotConnectAfrica, a non-profit organization registered in Mauritius, is one of the is trying win the right to manage the dot africa name space for businesses and individuals across the continent. Website: http://www.dotconnectafrica.org/

4) Dot.Africa: Dot.Africa is specialised in realising internet access for international organisations with sites in Africa. Website: http://www.dotafrica.com/about/index.html 

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator. 

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

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Indian ID Project is Foundation for Future Economic Progress

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY 

India is in the midst of the biggest national identification project in the country’s history. The aim is for every Indian to receive a voluntary electronic identification card containing his or her details and a unique number. Called an Aadhaar, it is a 12-digit unique number registered with the Unique Identification Authority of India (http://uidai.gov.in) (UIDAI). The project joins a growing trend across the global South to map populations in order to better achieve development goals.

About one-third of the world’s urban dwellers live in slums, and the United Nations estimates that number will double by 2030 as a result of rapid urbanization in developing countries. How to improve slum-dwellers’ living conditions and raise their standard of living is the big challenge of the 21st century.

With just four years to go until the 2015 deadline to meet the Millennium Development Goals (http://www.undp.org/mdg), and the current economic downturn reversing some gains, any tool that can make development decisions more precise has to be a benefit.

Innovators are turning to the opportunities afforded by digital technologies to reach slums and poor areas. The approaches vary, from India’s national identification system to new ways of using mobile phones and Internet mapping technologies. With mobile phones now available across much of the global South, and plans underway to expand access to broadband internet even in poorly served Africa, it is becoming possible to develop a digital picture of a slum and poor areas and map population needs.

Put to the right use, this powerful development tool can fast-track the delivery of aid and better connect people to markets and government services. In a country of severe regional disparities and caste (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caste) divisions, the national identification number has the advantage of not documenting people in a way that would bring prejudice.

India’s Aadhaar is intended to serve a number of goals, from increasing national security to managing citizen identities, facilitating e-governance initiatives and tackling illegal immigration. While critics of ID schemes complain about the civil liberties implications of national identity card projects (www.bigbrotherwatch.org.uk), it is a fact that countries that want to increase the social benefits available to their citizens need to understand who those citizens are, where they live and what their social needs are. India’s problem to date has been a lack of knowledge of its citizens: many millions exist in a limbo world of not being known to local authorities.

The unique number is stored in a database and contains details on the person’s demographics (name, age, etc.) and biometrics (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biometrics) – a photograph, 10 fingerprints and an iris scan. Residents in an area find out about the Aadhaar through various sources, from local media to local government agencies. An ‘Enrolment Camp’ is established in the area where people go to register, bringing anything they have that can prove their identity. The biometric scanning takes place here. ID cards are issued between 20 and 30 days later.

On January 13, 2011 the project declared it had registered its millionth person, a 15-year-old named Sukrity from North Tripura. The goal is to register 600 million people in the next four years.

One of the immediate advantages to many poor people is gaining access to banking services for the first time, because an Aadhaar number is accepted as sufficient ID to open a bank account. The identification authority says the scheme will be “pivotal in bringing financial services to the millions of unbanked people in the country, who have been excluded so far because of their lack of identification.”

The Times of India reported in 2010 that Khaiver Hussain, a homeless man in an addiction treatment programme, was able to get a bank account after receiving the identification number. He was able to open an account with the Corporation Bank along with 27 other homeless people. Having a bank account has removed the fear he had of being robbed of his meagre savings while he slept.

Another homeless day labourer, Tufail Ahmed from Uttar Pradesh, said “This passbook and the UID card have given people like me a new identity. It has empowered us.” He has been able to use the saved money to rent a room with four other day labourers.

In countries where no national ID card schemes exist, people are turning to other methods to register and map populations in order to improve their living conditions.

In Kenya and Brazil, digital mapping projects are underway using mobile phones to paint a picture of the population living in slum areas and shanty towns. An NGO called Map Kibera (www.mapkibera.org) began work on an ambitious project to digitally map Africa’s largest slum, Kibera in Nairobi, Kenya. The Map Kibera project uses an open-source software programme, OpenStreetMap (www.openstreetmap.org), to allow users to edit and add information as it is gathered.

An NGO called Rede Jovem (www.redejovem.org.br) is deploying youths armed with GPS (global positioning system)-equipped (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_Positioning_System)mobile phones to map the favelas of Rio de Janerio.

Powerful tools now exist to aid digital mapping. Google Maps (www.maps.google.com) is one example.

While the project is impressively ambitious – and it remains to be seen if it is completed as planned – the economic and development implications of this vast data collection and national identification are enormous. It will enable very accurate identification of markets and needs and also of development challenges and needs. This should lead to many business innovations in the country in coming years and also draw in more business from outside the country.

Resources

1) Ushahidi is a website that was developed to map reports of violence in Kenya after the post-election fallout at the beginning of 2008. The new Ushahidi Engine has been created to use the lessons learned from Kenya to create a platform that allows anyone around the world to set up their own way to gather reports by mobile phone, email and the web – and map them. It is being built so that it can grow with the changing environment of the web, and to work with other websites and online tools. Website:http://blog.ushahidi.com/

2) Google Android: Get inventing! This software enables anyone to start making applications for mobile phones. And it offers a platform for developers to then sell their applications (apps). Website: www.android.com

“Unique Identity for All”: Biometric identity is being rolled out across the planet. HSB is one of the many players in this fast-growing data collection sector.
Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

By 2014, Southern Innovator had published five issues and become a recognised global innovation brand.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2021