In Congo, Chinese are settling in with businesses and bargains that locals love. At one copper smelting plant, Chinese and locals work together but live apart.
LUBUMBASHI, CONGO — Some 6,000 miles away from his home in China, Robin Wei awakes on a cot beneath a white mosquito net. He gets dressed, opens the door of his bunker, and walks out into the rainy season toward the factory where he works.
Four years ago, Mr. Wei bade goodbye to his wife and daughter in Shanghai and boarded a flight to the heart of Congo’s mineral belt. He lives and works at a Chinese-owned smelting plant that extracts copper from the rich ore, which is then sold for wire and pipes that go into building skyscrapers and cargo ships.
Congo also holds nearly half the world’s known reserves of cobalt. It has vast reserves of high-grade copper, tantalum, and tin. Just 10 years ago, a ton of copper could fetch $1,700 on the world market. Today it goes for about $8,000.
Wei is one of hundreds of thousands of Chinese men and women – as many as 1 million by some estimates – who, at least for now, call Africa home. (Wei goes home to visit his wife and daughter once a year.) China has been investing heavily in Africa for more than a decade, and both China and its migrants are in what could be called a settling-in period as the story of a fast-growing Africa and a rising China unfolds.
What does China see in the world’s poorest nation? An opportunity for big business. Congo is known for poverty and conflict, but it is home to an enormous wealth of buried minerals such as copper, whose value is rising on the world market. Already, tens of thousands of Chinese men and women have left their families behind to live in Africa to dig and process ore.
Now, two Chinese state-owned companies are opening the biggest mine Congo has ever seen. In exchange, they’re spending billions of dollars to build new roads and modernize Congo’s infrastructure.
But will Chinese mines and roads help transform Congo in a way Western aid and business has not? Or will Chinese businessmen and Congolese officials get rich while the people continue to live in poverty?
In “China’s Congo Plan”, Jacob Kushner takes us street-side to a grand, Chinese-constructed boulevard in Congo’s capital Kinshasa, to a mountain range where Congolese men, women and children dig for minerals with picks and shovels, and to a factory where Chinese immigrants melt aqua-blue rocks into molten copper lava. Two years after China overtook the United States as Africa’s largest trading partner, Kushner brings us inside the world of China’s rise in the continent.
Kushner’s reporting was supported by the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, and his research was advised by faculty at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. “China’s Congo Plan” was awarded the Grand Prize in the Atavist Digital Storymakers Award for Graduate Longform, sponsored by the Pearson Foundation.
The Sequester’s dirty upside.
For all the hubbub last year about the sequester’s detrimental cuts to education and particularly financial aid, surprisingly little is being said as the schoolyear approaches. Perhaps that’s because what sounded like horrible news for America’s college-bound youth turns out to be good news for the majority of them, at least when it comes to getting admitted to college in the first place.
Upper-middle income parents (you know yourself as ‘middle class’) needn’t worry about the cuts: Your kid will still be admitted to, and enroll in, the college of her dreams, because you’ll likely find a way to afford it even without as much financial aid. In fact, cutting programs that help low-income students prepare for and apply to college is actually a helpful blow to your daughter’s competition.
Because in the case of sequestration, with its so-called ‘equal cuts’ across the board, some students are more equal than others.
Read the full story as it appeared at Medium.
The achievement gap between America’s rich kids and poor kids is getting worse—the latter need preschool, too.
This year at Stanford, a professor in the Graduate school of education discovered something startling: Contrary to the assumption that America’s youth, rich or poor, have increasingly egalitarian access to good education, Sean Reardon found education in America is actually becoming more unequal. The achievement gap on standardized test scores between wealthy students and poor ones increased by 40 percent over the last 30 years. This gap continues — or grows even more pronounced —when it comes to college. Reardon found that 15 percent of upper-income American high school graduates in 2004 went on to a ‘highly selective’ four-year college, whereas only 5 percent of middle-income graduates, and 2 percent of low-income graduates did.
A natural reaction by policymakers to this fact is to look for ways to get these qualified, lower-income high school graduates to apply to and enroll in college at higher rates (story on that coming next week). But it turns out this sort of approach is merely patchwork: “The academic gap is widening because rich students are increasingly entering kindergarten much better prepared to succeed in school than middle-class students,” discovered Reardon.
Read the full story as it appeared at Medium.
While we focus on diversifying America’s colleges, a New York high school student may never encounter a classmate of another race.
Today in America, two-fifths of whites but only one-fifth of blacks and about one-tenth of Hispanics hold a college degree. Eight percent of blacks and 15 percent of Hispanics don’t even graduate from high school, compared with 5 percent of whites. Three-quarters of those students admitted to America’s most selective colleges come from the richest quarter of the population; only 3 percent come from the bottom quarter. Meanwhile, Americans with a college degree earn 1.5 times the median income, more than those with just a high school diploma, and more than twice as much as those who dropped out of high school altogether.
Even more startling: These disparities are getting worse. After all the progress made toward racial equality since the time of slavery, through the civil rights era and Brown v. the Board of Education, through today, is America resigning itself to let its poorest, who are disproportionally black and Hispanic, live an existence that is no longer separate, but still unequal?
The oft-cited notion of America being an educational meritocracy, in which any student, rich or poor, black or white, has an equal opportunity to advance herself, is of course a myth. But now, the tools that have been created over the past half-century to slowly create a more egalitarian reality are failing.
Read the story at Medium.
Legal experts are stunned by the ruling that colleges must exhaust all other options for diversity before using race. They shouldn’t be.
By Jacob Kushner
If you followed news coverage leading up the Fisher v. Texas case decided Monday by the US Supreme Court, you may well have concluded that the Court was on the verge of ending affirmative action in higher education, forever.
MSNBC’s “The Cycle” co-host Touré said in November that if the court ruled against affirmative action, “the entire leadership of America would become entirely white.”
Even the man who led the 2003 Supreme Court case that upheld race-conscious admissions at the University of Michigan wanted you to believe that, if the present Court had overturned that precedent, it would have meant the end of racial diversity in higher education.
“It is too easy to think that striving for racial and ethnic diversity is such a powerful part of our culture that surely it will continue. But if the Supreme Court were to declare it unconstitutional, then it will not, and should not, continue,” Lee Bollinger, now President of Columbia University, told Columbia Magazine last year.
So it must have surprised Bollinger when the Court threw a curveball this week announcing it would send the case back to a lower court to determine if the University of Texas had considered race only after exhausting all its other options for diversifying the college.
Those familiar with the rich case history on affirmative action in America shouldn’t be surprised: there was no logical reason to believe that the affirmative action debate was anywhere near over.
Read the full story as it appeared at Medium.
Video produced by Emily Judem for GlobalPost.
‘Artisanal’ mining is now the country’s leading profession — attracting adults and children alike. Chinese investment is driving its growth.
KOLWEZI, Congo — Patrick Bwana strains his body as he thrusts a full-sized shovel into a patch of rocky ground. He is 12 years old. He looks 9. He speaks with his eyes fixed on the ground. “I used to go to school, but my father died, and no one paid for my studies anymore,” he says.
Bwana works from around 6 in the morning to about 3 in the afternoon, lugging around bags of rock that seem to weigh as much as he does. He says he can earn $5,000 francs a day doing this. That’s about $5. He hopes he can save enough to pay his own school fees, and return to school.
Bwana is one of tens of thousands of child laborers estimated to work in Congo’s mineral sector. Most take to the work out of necessity, to help their parents earn enough to feed their family. Child labor is illegal in the Congo, as is much of the artisanal mining that takes place in and around Kolwezi on mineral reserves owned or leased by foreign or Congolese companies.
The forces that shape Congo’s artisanal mining sector are many: A worldwide demand for copper and other base minerals for manufacturing; the inability of many Congolese to find any other sort of lucrative work; the absence of government regulation. But ask any Kolwezi miner who’s responsible, and you’re likely to hear just one answer: “The Chinese.”
In Africa’s fastest-growing city, a new haven for Congo’s wealthy burdens some of its poor.
KINSHASA, Congo — On one side of the water, hand-carved wooden canoes navigate the marshy canals of a crowded fishing village. Unpainted cement houses line muddy dirt streets where women sit at stands, selling the day’s catch.
On the other side, where the fishermen used to cast their nets, a posh private city is being raised from the bottom of the Congo River. Pumping millions of cubic meters of sand, the British hedge fund Hawkwood Properties is developing 1600 acres of water to become a tranquil residential haven complete with swimming pools, schools, grocery stores and a sports complex.
A more striking portrayal of income disparity in Congo than Kinshasa’s Cite du Pecheur (Fisherman’s City) and the upcoming La Cite du Fleuve, (City of the River), would be difficult to come by. But Hawkwood’s private development is a logical progression of life in Africa’s fastest-growing city.