FORGET THE MASSACHUSETTS institute of Technology. Hello, Tsing Hua University. For Clothilde Tingiri, a hot young programmer at Rwanda's top software company, dreams of Beijing, not Cambridge, to realize her ambitions. Desperate for more education, this fall she plans to attend graduate school in computer science -- in China, not the US.
The Chinese are no strangers to Rwanda. Near Tingiri's office, Rwanda's largest telecom company, Rwandatel, is installing new wireless telephony equipment made by Huawei of Shenzen. Africa boasts the world's fastest-growing market for wireless telephony, and Huawei -- with offices in 14 African countries -- is running away with the business, sending scores of engineers into the bush to bring a new generation of low-cost technology to some of the planet's poorest people.
Motivated by profit and market share rather than philanthropy, Huawei is outpacing US and European rivals through lower prices, faster action and a greater willingness to work in difficult environments.
According to Chris Lundh, the American chief of Rwandatel, "That's the way things work in Africa now. The Chinese do it all."
Well, not quite. Across sub-Saharan Africa, engineers from India -- armed with appropriate technologies honed in their home market -- are also making their mark. India supplies Africa with computer-education courses, the most reliable water pumps, low-cost rice-milling equipment and dozens of other technologies.
The sudden influx of Chinese and Indian technologies represents the "browning" of African technology, which has long been the domain of "white" Americans and Europeans who want to apply their saving hand to African problems.
"It is a tectonic shift to the East with shattering implications," says Calestous Juma, a Kenyan professor at Harvard University who advises the African Union on technology policy.
One big change is in education. There are roughly 2,000 African students in China, most of whom are pursuing engineering and science courses.
According to Juma, that number is expected to double over the next two years, making China "Africa's leading destination for science and engineering education."
The "browning" of technology in Africa is only in its infancy, but the shift is likely to accelerate. Chinese and Indian engineers hail from places that have much more in common with nitty-gritty Africa than comfortable Silicon Valley or Cambridge. Africa also offers a testing ground for Asian-designed technologies that are not yet ready for US or European markets.
A good example is a solar-powered cooking stove from India, which has experimented with such stoves for decades. Wood-burning stoves are responsible for much of Africa's deforestation and, in many African cities where wood accounts for the majority of cooking fuel, its price is soaring.
The Indian stove is clearly a work-in-progress; it is too bulky and not durable enough to survive the rigors of an African village. But with India's vast internal market, many designers have an incentive to improve it. How many designers in the US or Europe can say the same?
Of course, technology transfer from China and India could be a mere smokescreen for a new "brown imperialism" aimed at exploiting African oil, food, and minerals. In recent years, China's government alone has invested billions of dollars in African infrastructure and resource extraction, raising suspicions that a new scramble for Africa is underway.
But Africans genuinely need foreign technology, and the Chinese, in particular, are pushing hard -- even flamboyantly -- to fill the gap. This year, Nigeria's government bought a Chinese-made satellite and even paid the Chinese to launch it into space in May. China was so eager to provide space technology to Africa's most populous country that it beat out 21 other bidders for a contract worth US$300 million.
China's technology inroads are usually less dramatic, but no less telling. In African medicine, Chinese herbs and pharmaceuticals are quietly gaining share. For example, the Chinese-made anti-malarial drug artesunate has become part of the standard treatment within just a few years.
Likewise, Chinese mastery over ultra-small, cheap "micro-hydro" dams, which can generate tiny amounts of electricity from mere trickles of water, appeals to power-short, river-rich Africans. Tens of thousands of micro-hydro systems operate in China, and nearly none in Africa.
American do-gooders like Nicholas Negroponte, with his US$100 laptop, have identified the right problem: Africa is way behind technologically and rapid leap-frogging is possible. But Chinese and Indian scientists argue that Africa can benefit from a changing of the technological guard.
They may be right.
G. Pascal Zachary is the author of The Diversity Advantage: Multicultural Identity in the New World Economy and a fellow of the German Marshall Fund.
Copyright: Project Syndicate
Russian President Vladimir Putin is an expert at bluffing and keeping the West on its toes, pushing relations to the edge before pivoting without warning. However, hemmed in and fuming, he is deadly serious about being heard on Ukraine. Those close to the Kremlin said that the Russian president does not want to start another war in Ukraine. Still, he must show he is ready to fight if necessary in order to stop what he sees as an existential security threat: the creeping expansion of the NATO in a country that for centuries had been part of Russia. After years of disillusionment
The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) sixth plenary session has ended and from all appearances, Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) has set the stage to rule for the rest of his life. Some might be tempted to declare that this calls for Xi to do a victory lap, but all is not well on the other side of the Taiwan Strait. To parody a line from Ya Got Trouble, a song from Broadway musical The Music Man: “There’s trouble in River City, (aka, Beijing). Trouble with a capital T, which rhymes with C for CCP.” Why? Taking control of a nation is always much
When analyzing Taiwan-China tensions, most people assume that the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) consists of rational actors. Embedded within this belief are three further suppositions: First, Beijing would only launch an attack on Taiwan if it were in China’s national interest; second, it would only attack if the odds were overwhelmingly in its favor; and third, Chinese decisionmakers interpret information objectively and through the same lens as other actors. These assumptions have underpinned recent analyses — including by Minister of National Defense Chiu Kuo-cheng (邱國正) — concluding that there is no
Frequent incidents of violence in society, such as a near-fatal assault with baseball bats in Taichung and a deadly shooting in New Taipei City, are making people anxious. Media commentators blame police chiefs and mayors, calling for their resignations. President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said she would review the situation and take firmer action, such as the Cabinet calling a conference on law and order, and proposing countermeasures, while former New Power Party legislator Huang Kuo-chang (黃國昌) has urged the government to declare “war” on gangsters, and not just as a slogan. When thugs get into brawls and beat up or even kill