Three years from now, the largest port in all Africa is set to open its docks in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. But the hands that are building the $10 billion port are not Tanzanian; they are Chinese.
China has emerged as a powerhouse in the global market, and many expect it to surpass the United States as the world’s economic superpower in years to come. But the same growth that has improved the quality of life for millions of Chinese is arguably hampering it in Tanzania, Nigeria, Mozambique, and other African countries where China is buying land at astonishing rates. For example, in just two years (2011 to 2013), China’s investments in Tanzania grew from $700 million to $2.1 billion. “China is very keen on establishing brand-name equity or recognition among African consumers, because the African population is going to double by the middle of the century,” Howard French, author of China’s Second Continent, recently told NPR.
Critics of “land grabbing” say the widespread practice displaces local workers, provides fewer jobs, and extracts natural resources (oil, coal, gold) that skip local communities and go straight to international corporations. “Poor farmers and cattle herders across the world are being thrown off their land,” says investigative journalist Fred Pearce. “Land grabbing is having more of an impact on the lives of poor people than climate change.”
One for-profit corporation founded by Christians, however, sees growth potential in poor people themselves. Part of a relatively new investment category called “impact investing,” the company is tilling fertile ground in Tanzania, Mozambique, and Ukraine not only for economic growth ...