African nations brace for China slowdown

Three countries could be especially hit by a "triple whammy".

One under-explored aspect of the prospect of a slow-down in Chinese growth — a so-called "hard landing", which some have inferred from the declining returns on infrastructure spending in the country — is that it will hit hard for the poorer countries which have chosen to rely on China.

China has been outsourcing its own outsourced work for some time. The BBC reports from "China Town" outside Addis Ababa, which is very different from the Chinatowns of the west:

Two production lines make 2,000 pairs of shoes every day for global brands, including Guess and Tommy Hilfiger.

There are perks - the factory has its own canteen and tennis courts, the workers receive training and are supplied with their own uniforms. However, sometimes workers receive a wage which can be lower than what a worker in an indigenous factory might receive.

China has also been gearing up to take part in resource extraction on the continent, investing heavily in oil wells in Sudan and South Sudan.

That leaves many countries suddenly exposed to a slowdown. New analysis from the Overseas Development Institute suggests that three in particular (Ethiopia, Senegal and Tanzania) would suffer from being exposed not only to a Chinese or Indian slowdown, but also from slowdown in the EU and energy price shocks.

ODI research fellow Isabella Massa said:

Generally speaking most countries we looked at are doing fairly well in quite a volatile environment but the most vulnerable African countries are especially exposed to the growth slowdown in China and India.

The evidence points to significant downside risks for the global economy in 2013, which is why it is vital that countries take a close look at how they can raise their own productivity and target sustained growth at the kind of rates we continue to see across much of Africa.

If China does pass on its growth shocks to those nations, will it follow Europe down the road from imperialism to charity? How much responsibility does the Chinese government feel to the countries it is now operating in?

South Sudan President Salva Kid shakes hands with Chinese Vice Premier Li Keqiang. Photograph: Getty Images

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

Getty
Show Hide image

You may call me a monster – but I'm glad that girl's lemonade stall got shut down

What's wrong with hard-working public servants enforcing perfectly sensible regulations?

Who could fail to be moved by the widely shared tears of a five year old whose innocent lemonade stall was brutally shut down by evil bureaucrats? What sort of monster would not have their heartstrings tugged by the plaintive “I've done a bad thing” from a girl whose father tells us she “just wanted to put a smile on people's faces”?

Well me, actually.

There are half a million cases of food poisoning each year in the UK, and one of the reasons we have stringent controls on who can sell food and drink, especially in unsealed containers, is to try to cut those figures down. And street stalls in general are regulated because we have a system of taxation, rights and responsibilities in this country which underpins our functioning society. Regulation is a social and economic good.

It’s also pretty unfair to criticise the hard-working public servants who acted in this case for doing the job they are no doubt underpaid to do. For the council to say “we expect our enforcement officers to show common sense” as they cancelled the fine is all very well, but I’m willing to bet they are given precious little leeway in their training when it comes to who gets fined and who doesn’t. If the council is handing out apologies, it likely should be issuing one to its officers as well.

“But these are decent folk being persecuted by a nanny state,” I hear you cry. And I stand impervious, I’m afraid. Because I’ve heard that line a lot recently and it’s beginning to grate.

It’s the same argument used against speed cameras and parking fines. How often have you heard those caught out proclaim themselves as “law-abiding citizens” and bemoan the infringement of their freedom? I have news for you: if you break the speed limit, or park illegally, or indeed break health and safety or trading regulations, you are not a law-abiding citizen. You’re actually the one who’s in the wrong.

And rarely is ignorance an excuse. Speed limits and parking regulations are posted clearly. In the case of the now famous lemonade stand, the father in question is even quoted as saying “I thought that they would just tell us to pack up and go home.” So he knew he was breaking the rules. He just didn’t think the consequences should apply to him.

A culture of entitlement, and a belief that rules are for other people but not us, is a disease gripping middle Britain. It is demonstrated in many different ways, from the driver telling the cyclist that she has no right to be on the road because she doesn’t pay road tax (I know), to the father holding up his daughter’s tears to get out of a fine.

I know, I’m a monster. But hooray for the enforcers, I say.

Duncan Hothersall is the editor of Labour Hame