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
As China’s economy was meant to drive global economic growth this year, its dramatic slowdown is sounding alarm bells across the world, with economists and experts criticizing Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) for his unwillingness or inability to respond to the nation’s myriad mounting crises. The Wall Street Journal reported that investors have been calling on Beijing to take bolder steps to boost output — especially by promoting consumer spending — but Xi has deep-rooted philosophical objections to Western-style consumption-driven growth, seeing it as wasteful and at odds with his goal of making China a world-leading industrial and technological powerhouse, and
For Xi Jinping (習近平) and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), the military conquest of Taiwan is an absolute requirement for the CCP’s much more fantastic ambition: control over our solar system. Controlling Taiwan will allow the CCP to dominate the First Island Chain and to better neutralize the Philippines, decreasing the threat to the most important People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Strategic Support Force (SSF) space base, the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on Hainan Island. Satellite and manned space launches from the Jiuquan and Xichang Satellite Launch Centers regularly pass close to Taiwan, which is also a very serious threat to the PLA,
During a news conference in Vietnam on Sept. 10, a reporter asked US President Joe Biden about the possibility of China invading Taiwan. Biden replied that Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) is too busy handling major domestic economic problems to launch an invasion of Taiwan. On Wednesday last week, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office published a document outlining 21 measures to make the Chinese-controlled Fujian Province into a demonstration zone for relations with Taiwan. The planned measures would expand favorable treatment for Taiwanese people and companies, and seek to attract people from Taiwan to buy property and seek employment in Fujian.
More than 100 Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) vessels and aircraft were detected making incursions into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) on Sunday and Monday, the Ministry of National Defense reported on Monday. The ministry responded to the incursions by calling on China to “immediately stop such destructive unilateral actions,” saying that Beijing’s actions could “easily lead to a sharp escalation in tensions and worsen regional security.” Su Tzu-yun (蘇紫雲), a research fellow at the Institute for National Defense and Security Research, said that the unusually high number of incursions over such a short time was likely Beijing’s response to efforts