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China Storms Africa


By: Richard Behar Sun Jun 1, 2008 at 1:00 PM

Since Fast Company published China Storms Africa in June of 2008, the article has itself stormed the media landscape. CNN called it "one of the most important magazine articles in years." The American Society of Magazine Editors nominated it for the prestigious National Magazine Award in the reporting category (it was also included in the three issues of FC nominated for the General Excellence award). Author Richard Behar also took the Ed Cunningham Award for Best Magazine Reporting From Abroad from the Overseas Press Club of America award; the George Polk award for Magazine Reporting;  the Best in Business News Reporting (Large Magazines) from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers, which later named it the Best of the Best for News Reporting; a finalist for the Michael Kelly Award from Atlantic Media; and a finalist for the Deadline Club for Feature Reporting; and was selected as one of 50 stories, out of 15,000 considered, for the Emerald Management Reviews Citation of Excellence. We hope you'll take this opportunity to take a look at this remarkable and unsettling piece of journalism.

China Storms Africa's six parts are intended to be read as one narrative, beginning with the introduction below.

Dan and Chip Heath PART 1
Special Report: China in Africa

The No. 2 killer in Africa by parasite, after malaria, is an organism called Entamoeba histolytica -- or "Eh" for short. It was discovered in 1873, the year it took the life of missionary-explorer David Livingstone, that great champion of British imperialism on what his countrymen called the Dark Continent. I know this because, when I returned home from reporting in the sub-Sahara, the same pathogen was drilling through the walls of my gut.

Dan and Chip Heath PART 2
Mozambique: A Chain Saw for Every Tree

In a 4x4 vehicle arranged by a local group that monitors Mozambique's forests, I travel to Maganja da Costa in the once-heavily-wooded Zambezia province, the country's poorest. Maganja is a tiny district, a five-hour drive along tortuous, dusty roads -- traveled by villagers on bicycles with huge bags of firewood on their heads -- from Quelimane, one of the country's main port cities.

Dan and Chip Heath PART 3
Zambia: China's Mine Shaft

I ask Xiao Ye, an Africa statistical researcher for the World Bank, whether a clear chart or table exists laying out the full extent of China's economic involvement in Africa. "I don't know anyone who has done such a thing," he responds. "As far as I know, China no longer releases [its] foreign direct investment to Africa country by country."

Dan and Chip Heath PART 4
Congo: A Moment of Truth

A simple stroll down the streets of Kinshasa reveals how precarious life has become in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. This city of ugly half-finished buildings radiates both the optimism and the paranoia of a gold-rush town. Government banners strung across main avenues urge the citizens to stay cool: no more violence, no more hatred, no more manipulation and change your mentality.

Dan and Chip Heath PART 5
Equatorial Guinea: A Strongman Turns East

When my plane smacks down in Equatorial Guinea -- where if the captain misses the runway, you could end up in Cameroon -- I become the first American journalist to visit this pint-sized republic (population: 550,000) in nearly three years. That was when Equatoguinean officials forced two American reporters to leave after they'd spent just a few days in Malabo, the capital, asking questions.

Dan and Chip Heath PART 6
Endgame: Hypocrisy, Blindness, and the Doomsday Scenario

That the West is losing the sub-Sahara does not come as news in Africa itself. One leader after another has been explicit on this point, from Senegal's president ("Today, it is very clear that Europe is close to losing the battle of competition in Africa") to Botswana's president ("I find that the Chinese treat us as equals; the West treats us as former subjects") to Nigeria's president at a banquet for China's President Hu ("This is the century for China to lead the world.


Dead Heat


Beijing's Leverage


China's Taste for Trees


The Lure of Copper


The Omnivore

FastCompany Issue 126