Misguided aid efforts are a favorite gripe of African entrepreneurs, and the ever virulent Magatte Wade never misses an opportunity to hit on self important aid advocates. She declares that “Africans are tired of the charity brand” and she leads by example.
Today, she noticed a recent Wall Street Journal reporting that Edun, the company started by Bono and his wife, is now producing most of its products in China. Edun’s mission is to “encourage trade with Africa” and “celebrate the possibilities and the people of the continent”. I’ll let you appreciate her take on this monumental feat of hypocrisy.
The contrast with a recent New York Times article about IBM betting on growth in 16 sub-Saharan Africa by entering a ten years agreement to supply hardware, software and services to Bharti Airtel. For IBM, Africa is a growth market, not an aid destination.
Now it remains to be seen whether IBM invests in Africa or merely enjoys the open market to sell goods and services produced elsewhere. My experience of European telecommunications consultancies in Africa is that this sort of deal does not involve actual local development beyond token liaison personnel. But countries such as Morocco now feature maturing markets that nurture local suppliers – so it could happen in sub-Saharan Africa too. There is a long way from call center sweat shops to a fully developed information technology industry, but anchor investors such as IBM may trigger the start down that path. We shall see…