Why you should care
Because we know you want to know where your flowers, iPods and Toms come from — but do you know about the complicated channels that bring them to you?
Cuba’s new business leaders are as different from the 1950s’ legendary bearded guerrillas as an all-electronic Tesla is from the vintage gas-guzzling Chevys that still cruise the streets of Havana. In post-Soviet Russia, ambitious bureaucrats connived to purchase state-owned oil and gas companies. In Cuba today — emerging from five decades of socialist central planning — the state is not selling off public assets, at least not yet. Instead, the government is allowing enterprising Cubans to open their own small-scale firms. As a result, ambitious Cubans are busily abandoning public employment to seek their fortunes in newly promising businesses.
The market for your beloved flat-screen devices, so far dominated by companies in the United States and South Korea, is about to go global. New developing-country manufacturers are taking over the market – from Haiti, to India, even Congo. Since 2012, tablet manufacturers have sprung up in these developing nations. What’s more, the developing-country manufacturers could give the Samsungs, Apples and Acers of the world a run for their touchscreens. After less than a year and a half in business, India’s Aakash has already sold more than a million units. Congo’s VMK announced plans to sell 100,000 Way-C tablets this year. Haiti’s Sûrtab opened several months ahead of schedule. It’s currently selling wholesale only — its first shipment of 600 tablets went to Kenya.
India looks to have nosed past China as the biggest investor in African land, period, in recent years. India has invested in more than 30 major land deals, compared with China’s 22. Certainly, China is still clearly the big dog in Africa — with more than $150 billion in bilateral trade in 2012 and billions more invested. The United States was second in terms of two-way trade with Africa at just over $100 billion. But Indian companies’ land grabs are just one more piece of evidence that after spotting Beijing a big lead at the start of the 21st century, the rest of Asia is now keen to catch up on a continent dripping with natural resources and, if population and economic growth projections are to be believed, home to an increasingly rapacious consumer class.
In recent years, investors from Angola, former colony of Portugal, have bought significant chunks of Portuguese companies. Spanish officials are urging their counterparts in South and Latin America to come invest — never mind the conquest. And an exodus of bright young Portuguese is seeking opportunity abroad — often in erstwhile Portuguese colonies like Brazil, Angola and even East Timor. It’s a significant reversal from decades past, when former colonies went begging their former masters for investment, aid and trade preferences, while stomaching the brain drain of their best-educated graduates. Now the roles have reversed, at least in some quarters. Some former colonies have become emerging markets, logging fast rates of growth, while the erstwhile imperialists are scrambling to stay afloat in the global recession.