It’s no mystery that Cape Verdeans, in their own country of Cape Verde, have lost, almost entirely, their commerce to foreigners – specifically to the Chinese.
In the capital city of Cape Verde, Praia, and in the capital city of São Vicente, Mindelo, it is all more evident as to how Cape Verdean business has been nearly decimated by Chinese businesses. In Praia, as in Mindelo, it’s mind boggling how strips of stores on all major circuits are all Chinese businesses. You can walk from one end to the other end of such streets and find only Chinese commerce.
Yes, the Cape Verdeans are the ones who do all of the shopping in these stores, but they don’t own a single one.
Yes, the handful of jobs that are provided by these Chinese stores are worked by Cape Verdeans. But the minimum wage is so low, roughly, $140 USD to $150 USD a month and the possibility for a pay raise so seemingly impossible, that a Cape Verdeans life is never, ever, improved.
The Chinese entered the Cape Verdean commerce market and have nearly annihilated Cape Verdean business through the process of monopolization. They simply entered the market with cheap goods, at a cheap price, eventually drove out most competitors that existed and the rest is modern Chinese history in Cape Verde.
WHERE HAS CAPE VERDEAN COMMERCE GONE TO?
The short answer is, it’s becoming more an more non existent with each passing day. Let’s look at how this came to be.
Majority of store fronts that are now Chinese were at one point, between 5-20 years ago, Cape Verdean owned. Of course you had, as you still have today, your Portuguese owned businesses as well.
The Chinese engine of totally consuming all commerce in Cape Verde has been in full affect for the last 20 years and is not showing any signs of haltering, at all! Chinese citizens are arriving in Cape Verde almost daily with aspirations to have a steady life in Cape Verde that they could never have in China and that the Cape Verdean could never have in Cape Verde, let alone China!
The Chinese fortified commerce in Cape Verde with the introduction of cheap goods at an extremely lower price than that offered by Cape Verdeans. This is the case from clothing stores, to super markets, car parts, aluminum business, to nearly all commerce you can think of in Cape Verde.
Cape Verdean commerce and business people, in general, have been left scrambling to hold on to what ever piece of real estate they had their store in before the Chinese arrived. There’s a consensus in Cape Verde that if your storefront lease expires before you renew then there’s no chance of their being a Cape Verdean business in that space again, ever!
The reason is because the lease will then be “updated” by the owner of the property to “today’s market value”, which can be an astronomical percentage increase. With such astronomical increase, only the Chinese can afford such rent, without breaking a sweat.
WITHOUT BREAKING A SWEAT? HOW?
CHINESE GOVERNMENT SUBSIDIES: This is done because the Chinese government is crystal clear in its policy to provide subsidies for their citizens with these businesses outside of China. This works perfect for them in an overpopulated country such as China.
It works perfectly for them because, 1)they are exporting their people (a method of population control) and 2) in turn, the people, their citizens, that they export will import goods from China to sell in these foreign markets.
EXEMPTIONS IN INFILTRATED COUNTRY: The Chinese government fights hard to make sure their freshly arriving expatriates find the most favorable and advantageous economic conditions for their own, as if granting them subsidies is not enough.
The Chinese government exchanges, manipulates, strong arms, whatever you want to call it, usually underdeveloped and developing countries, into consenting to political policies that grants their expatriates exemptions. These exemptions can vary from one to multiples, including, tax exemptions, customs exemptions, etc.
With loopholes in the system, most of these exemptions that are meant to be temporary, become everlasting.
THE CHINESE MODEL
This model that the Chinese have used so deftly in Cape Verde is the same model that they have used, use and continue to use in all African countries that they are economically engaged in.
It’s a model that needs to be countered with political will from the governing countries that are being victimized. This model is a soft power model to extract whatever wealth and/or resources from these countries. This model enriches the Chinese government and Chinese people at the expense of impoverishing the very country they entrenched in.
The countries that are being victimized by the Chinese need to stop selling the heart of their economies, their commerce, to the Chinese in exchange for a road, a hospital or a parliament building.
Howard W. French is the author of the book, China’s Second Continent: How a Million Migrants Are Building a New Empire in Africa. Howard W. French is a prize-winning investigative journalist and former New York Times bureau chief in Africa and China. French’s acute observations offer illuminating insight into the most pressing unknowns of modern Sino-African relations: Why China is making these cultural and economic incursions into the continent; what Africa’s role is in this equation; and what the ramifications for both parties and their people—and the watching world—will be in the foreseeable future.
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