Made in China is made in Africa?

One of the most surprising experiences I had in Ghana was strolling down the dry dusty roads in the capital, turning a corner and finding factories with Mandarin characters on the side. Chinese-owned companies do A LOT of manufacturing in Ghana. It turns out that what I saw wasn't unique to Ghana. From an editorial in

... China has poured billions into Africa in recent years, emerging as the continent’s main trading partner and a major source of investment for infrastructure.

Chinese presence throughout the African continent. Src: US Africa Journal

According to the same editorial, China profited immensely from providing engineering services to Nigeria ($6.1 billion between 2000 and 2008) and sells $50 billion more products in the continent than the U.S., France, and U.K. What does this mean for poor Angolans, Congolese, and Guineans? China has a bad reputation when it comes to working conditions (Foxconn International is based in Hong Kong). China also has a bad rep when it comes to safety and environmental protection standards. It would be up to the local governments to create the laws to protect the labor force. But what would drive them to do that? China needs a supply of cheap labor to sustain its economic growth. (See the post T-shirt manufacturers chase poverty). By the way, I don't mean to pick on China. Pick any country and you'll find the same history of human rights, environmental safety and pay scale concerns. So what do we invest in to help the poorest of the poor find a way out of poverty? Leave your comments in the section below. Featured image: China Finds Mkt in Africa 1996 by @LIQUIDBONEZ via flickr