Let’s Go To China

Let’s Go To China

Lily Kuo wrote on the Africa-China relationship on QZ newsletter today. Indeed, just as the world is examining the activities of China in Africa, Africa is also possibly influencing the world including China. Of course, this relationship is asymmetric because China is getting the better of it when compared with Africa. Yet, the point the author made is worth noting because in many cities in China, Africans are making progress, running factories which are producing goods most of them are shipping to African ports.

In African countries, increasingly you find Chinese people who never meant to stay as long as they have. But now, they say they can’t go home, because being in Africa has changed them. And that leads to another point. Africa has become a platform that we often use to analyze and understand China’s expanding influence in the developing world. But what about how Africa is influencing China, or the rest of the world?

China is finding opportunity in Africa even when Africans are running out of Africa: the Chinese have better positioning than most of the locals. People migrate but the African rate in unbalanced. That takes me to a book I read as an entry level banker in Lagos: Acres of Diamonds by Russell Conwell. Today, there may not be the real diamond but the lesson from that classic stands. The man that founded Temple University is not saying that you must be in your village before you can have a breakthrough in life. He was simply explaining that opportunities can come in different ways, and you must be aware to take advantages of them. The “diamonds” may be right beneath your house, or in some cases far away. There are acres of opportunities everywhere. You do not have to sojourn unaware that you are passing them daily.

That said, China has some “diamonds”: the 21st century diamonds mined by huge consumer base that is exploding. Yes, according to Fortune, “over the past decade, China has emerged as the world’s No. 1 consumer in a slew of important product categories: autos, mobile phones, semiconductors, elevators, luxury goods, beer, soy beans, pork, online games and men’s skin care.”

But that was the old China; the new China has even bigger plans. The country wants to build a massive $2.1 billion AI research park.

China is planning to build a 13.8 billion yuan ($2.1 billion) technology park dedicated to developing artificial intelligence (AI), state-backed news agency Xinhua reported Wednesday.

The campus will be constructed within five years and situated in the suburban Mentougou district in western Beijing. It will cover 54.87 hectares, Xinhua said.

The technology park will be home to around 400 businesses and is expected to create an annual output value of about 50 billion yuan.

As the country plots the future to ensure the country competes, its companies are redesigning industries. DJI has simply won the civilian drone sector as most of its competitors are struggling. Alibaba, Tencent and JD continue to redesign ecommerce. JD is making $150 million sales daily on a new offline supermarket! That is the scale of China because except China, there is no other country where a shop will generate such an amount.

Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com on Thursday officially debuted its first offline fresh food supermarket in Beijing, following its archrival Alibaba Group Holding in entering the physical retail market.

The 4,000-square-meter supermarket in southern Beijing, named 7Fresh, has been in a trial run since Dec. 29, receiving an average of more than 10,000 daily customers and a total of more than 1 million yuan [billion] ($150 million) in daily sales, according to JD.com.

The question is this: where is the road to China, and can we go to China? I think we need to learn (factory) production systems even as we restructure our African economies for services. It is only when the citizens have jobs that most of the services would grow. I think even if we cannot compete in the most advanced manufacturing phase, there are opportunities to improve productivity gains in pockets of industries in Nigeria. If we do that, living standards would improve. Governors should take note because scaling production seems to be the only path to improve wellbeing. Let’s Go to China and learn from China because their systems are working right now.

From the Nebuchadnezzar Babylon to the Caesar’s Rome, from the Industrial Revolution Britain to the America unipolar world, no nation has achieved what China accomplished within 25 years. If Africa ignores that, it means we are racist to understand who has better ideas at this time. Let’s go to China because the best developmental ideas are not necessarily European or American anymore. Yet, we need to learn and adapt.

Note: “Let’s Go China” is not a physical movement to China but thinking the Chinese ways which have produced great results.


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