Huajian's shoe factory in Ethiopia ©Jenny Vaughan/AFP/GettyImages
Huajian's shoe factory in Ethiopia ©Jenny Vaughan/AFP/GettyImages

Africa, the next factory of the world

China is Africa’s biggest investor by far, and it is reshaping the continent, particularly in manufacturing, Irene Yuan Sun tells SM

When Irene Yuan Sun was growing up in China, a soft drink was considered a luxury. “A generation ago, it was a society that lacked all these basic comforts,” she recalls. “As a kid, getting a Sprite was a real treat. That’s how poor China was.”

Now it’s a very different story, with China rated the world’s largest economy when judged on Purchasing Power Parity (a measure that adjusts countries’ GDPs for differences in prices). By 2029, China is predicted to surpass the US as the world’s largest economy based on other measures too.

Sun co-leads McKinsey & Company’s work on Chinese economic engagement in Africa and is the author of a new book, The Next Factory of the World: How Chinese Investment is Reshaping Africa. She spoke to SM about how African industrialisation is helping the continent to follow in China’s footsteps, and how to make sure the rise of manufacturing is a force for good.

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