ASIAPHOBIA: Reasons Why Africans are Poor in a Global Economy built by Asia

Post-Colonial Africans are poor in most part because of fear of all things Asian as is instilled in them by anti-Asian content in media intended to keep them ignorant to the source of economic growth.

Asia built today’s global economy, and the benefit of partnering with Asian giants was mastered by the United States and European economies in the 21st century.

There are so many opportunities to explore, but first, Africa must change its way of thinking.

Asiaphobia is a real illness, and you see it when Africans comment about India, China, Russia, Korea, Taiwan, Japan as most have no full knowledge but hate speech created by non-Asian content in media and on the internet. When you speak to Africans about the subject, it is either all about white supremacy, slavery, Europeans, and America’s global influence but not Asia and its influence, nor how Africa can tap into Asian supply chains.

Bringing things into perspective helps change mindsets. Let’s start with historical economic development for perspective. In 1990, there were 976 million East Asians living in extreme poverty, but in 2017 only 29 million, the Visual Capitalist reported. In Africa, in 1990 there were 283 million living in extreme poverty, but in 2017 the figure rose to 430 million. Asia has a lot to teach Africa, especially about reducing poverty, and industrialising without losing culture and values. Poverty is one thing but growing in poverty is another thing. It is more mindset than politics or war.

 Africa’s poor infrastructure and its inability to build, maintain and supply itself with products and services is the basis of Africa’s poverty. This derived from perception of the foreigner in general. The lack of full knowledge about Asia, supply chains, and not welcoming them into Africa are major factors of Africa’s poor infrastructure problem. Europe and the United States have done this well to the extent of borrowing from them more than Africa borrowed.

The speculation on why Africans hate Asia is born out of fear, fear for their future, fear for their jobs, fear for their culture, fear for the status quo in society. It is racism at its and Africans have been somewhat brainwashed by the anti-Asian content in media that influence in the global economy.

To perpetuate colonial bitterness and keep the African scrambling for justice of 1000 years of economic oppression, whilst advancing with cheap resources acquired from ill-informed political leaders, western societies have made it easy for Africans to hate Asians for decades. That is reality. It happens through content consumed by the African. Correcting the mindset must not create another hate for western societies as that defeats the purpose of balancing the equation. African must trade with all, but not allow lies to stop them from benefiting from any of the regions in the global economy.

The hate for Asia by Africans comes from actual ignorance embedded over generations by those who did not want them to be able to do what they do – manufacture goods in Asia, to grow their economies.

America has been the largest economy in the world for a while now, mainly because of producing key exportable products in Asia, to sell to the rest of the world with brilliant marketing. As the Internet of Things (IoTs) advance economies in more affordable ways, it is now possible for African countries and citizens to do the same, using Asian factories and logistics to enter the global market.

The United States and many of the largest European economies rely on Asian Supply Chains, to access affordable products and materials for their own manufacturing, energy, and agricultural industries, that play a major role in their exports.

A recent example of the dependency is the pharmaceuticals and medical supplies industries. The capacity to manufacture drugs and active pharmaceutical ingredients has moved from the United States and Europe to developing countries in Asia where costs are lower and environmental regulations more relaxed, Foreign Policy reported. According to some widely cited estimates, the United States now imports virtually all certain common antibiotics and over-the-counter pain medications from China, along with a high percentage of generic drugs used to treat HIV, depression, Alzheimer’s, and other ailments, and many of the active pharmaceutical ingredients used to make other medicines.

The US economy is heavily dependent on Asian economies.

According to the US Trade Department, U.S. goods and services trade with China totalled an estimated $615.2 billion in 2020. Exports were $164.9 billion; imports were $450.4 billion. The U.S. goods and services trade deficit with China was $285.5 billion in 2020. China was the United States’ largest supplier of goods imports in 2020. U.S. foreign direct investment (FDI) in China (stock) was $123.9 billion in 2020, a 9.4 percent increase from 2019. U.S. direct investment in China is led by manufacturing, wholesale trade, and finance and insurance.

The United States of America needs China, and with China as a trade partner and investment destination in diverse sections of its economy, they are guaranteed continued economic growth, even as the global economy giant. Africa and African businesses must follow suite. There is vast potential in China for Africa, not only as a source for imports, but as a destination for locally manufactured goods, not just exporting the ores.

The story is the same with Japan. U.S. goods and services trade with Japan totalled an estimated $252.2 billion in 2020. Exports were $102.1 billion; imports were $150.1 billion. The U.S. goods and services trade deficit with Japan was $48.0 billion in 2020. U.S. foreign direct investment (FDI) in Japan (stock) was $131.8 billion in 2019, a 16.4 percent increase from 2018. U.S. direct investment in Japan is led by finance and insurance, manufacturing, and wholesale trade.

Even so, the story is the same with another import Asian economy, Taiwan. U.S. goods and services trade with Taiwan totalled an estimated $105.9 billion in 2020. Exports were $39.1 billion; imports were $66.7 billion. U.S. foreign direct investment (FDI) in Taiwan (stock) was $31.5 billion in 2020, a 8.8 percent increase from 2019. Reported U.S. direct investment in Taiwan is led by manufacturing, finance and insurance, and wholesale trade.

African economies need to follow the path of the United States, not only with China but with many other Asian economies. A common denominator of trade between US and China, or Japan, or Taiwan is that there is always a trade deficit, in that the US is pumping more money into those economies than it is getting from them directly.

Today, an African will insult a Chinese or Korean restaurant in Johannesburg, Lusaka, or Nairobi, but the same will go and buy from KFC, forgetting KFC has more outlets in Asia than its home country. KFC has 7,900+ outlets in China alone, whilst having 4,000 in the United States.

Then there is the case of iPhone and Apple products that many do not speak of.

Apple is moving some production out of China to overcome operational, geopolitical, and regulatory hurdles, Verdict reported. However, China remains the central production hub for its devices. Apple employs an extensive list of outsourcing partners to supply and manufacture components used in iPhones, iPads, Macs, and wearable devices.

To remove the vail of ignorance and prejudice, many Africans now need to ignore the geopolitics and published dangers of doing business with Asians, and forge relationships, to tap into the same supply chains that can benefit even the smallest of businesses in Africa.

Africa is over-sold as an investment destination, but not much is spoken about it being an investor in the Asian supply chains, because that can change the dynamics of the affordability of resources in Africa. However, this conversation must begin because Asia is also a very good investment destination from small African businesses, that can partner with other Asian small businesses to exchange goods and services.

For example, a small business that repairs, sells, and distributes brand new light vehicle tyres in Northwest province of South Africa, can source synergies in Asian countries, preferably those countries that produce a lot of rubber and tyre manufacturing.

Another example is, a pharmaceutical maker in the Southern Province of Zambia, can partner with an India large scale pharmaceutical manufacturing company, and through intellectual property sharing, can deliver good products in Zambia, as US does to its local market with Asian made medicines and equipment.

Success stories of entrepreneurs that explored relations with Asia, to benefit their local markets as well as making them rich, are owners of mobile brands in Zimbabwe like Astro and GTel. These are smart-phone brands that are made in Asia, using OEM manufacturers of telecommunication products.

In a press release on the launch of their MX6 edition in East Africa, GTel wrote “G-Telecoms, the maker of GTel phone brands, is based in the Southern African country (Zimbabwe) but its phones are manufactured in China”. GTel Zimbabwe was founded in October 2009 as a franchise of G-Tide Mobile International, re-branded to GTel in July 2011. As of 2015, GTel had one million mobile phone users in Zimbabwe. The company released three new phone models in 2018, including the X7 that has wireless charging. In 2015, the company expanded its operations to Kenya, and is having a field day of sales volumes.

The key factor of the GTel success story is a full embrace of Asian supply chains, forging relationships with OEM manufacturers that have transformed this business, allowing it to grow locally, and expand regionally in Africa.

GTel mobile-phone maker in Zimbabwe, Buthu footwear maker in South Africa, are some of success stories that African businesses must learn from to tap into the Asian supply chain to prosper locally, instead of holding on to the poverty illness of Asiaphobia.

Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) traditionally is defined as a company whose goods are used as components in the products of another company, which then sells the finished item to users. China, and most Asian economies have OEM manufacturers that are now even advertising on Facebook to attract small brand owners in Africa.

An example is the Zhongshan Donlim Weili Electrical Appliances Co., Ltd, an OEM company for microwave oven, air fryer oven, ice maker, ice cream maker, cooler box, beer dispenser, top loading washing machine, front loading washing machine, dryer, and related electricals.

Asiaphobia is a choice.

Sources: US Trade Dept, Verdict UK, Foreign Policy, GTel Kenya

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