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Africa Policy Journal

Topic / International Relations and Security

Book Review: “Winner Take All” By Dambisa Moyo

I recently read Dambisa Moyo’s Winner Take All: China’s Race for Resources and What it Means for the World. The book is a thorough review of the resource landscape – from water to land to energy, and what China’s drive to acquire these means for the West and the developing world including Africa. Moyo conducts due diligence on the contentious issue of land grabs of African farmland by states that are seeking to grow crops for food and energy as alternatives to oil.

“This puts food and energy in direct competition, given that the grain required to fill a 25 gallon (95 liter) fuel tank with ethanol could instead feed one person for an entire year.”

Given the finite extent of arable land, Moyo, argues that the above means one thing for food prices – they can only go up! The food security picture is even more dire when we consider that of the 1 billion people that go hungry each day, a third live in Africa, yet the latter is home to much of the remaining untilled arable land. I believe Moyo provides a compelling call for action by African leaders when negotiating long term resource deals with other countries.

Moyo dispels as unfounded fears that China’s involvement in the developing world, particularly Africa, is akin colonialism. Indeed, when one looks at the way China relates to Africa, it in no way resembles the way the British colonized African countries. Moreover she finds scant evidence that when China sets up shop in an African country it always brings its own labor force. She argues that there could be a negative correlation between available skills and the share of Chinese workers in a Chinese company in Africa. The onus is on Africa to ready its people by investing in skills acquisition! By debunking these myths, I believe the book invites one to look at China in a new, fairer light as a realist country looking out for its own in world of rapidly depleting resources.

Watch Moyo talk about Sino-Africa relations on CNN