African arts, culture + politics

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(ARISE magazine, issue 13) Still buzzing from the reactions to their award-winning  documentary about Ethiopia’s coffee industry, Black Gold, brothers Nick and Marc Francis explore equally hot waters in When China Met Africa. The film explores Chinese investment in Africa and was filmed in Zambia. It captures the difficult, often uneasy, relationship between Chinese project managers and African employees. But Nick says this is not exclusive to Africa: “You could be on a construction site in Beijing and the way workers are treated there isn’t so different. But it’s often misunderstood as being just in Africa.” Tension is caused by cultural and lingusitic differences. Says Nick: “I think in ten years that will change. There’ll be more Chinese speaking English and more African employees speaking Chinese.”

The Francis brothers chose Zambia because its ties with China stretch back to a 1964 diplomatic agreement. The Chinese constructed the Tanzal railway between Zambia and Tanzania and Zambia was the first African country to create China-Africa economic zones, in the copper-belt region and in Lusaka.The brothers hope their film will raise both debate and understanding around the China-Africa relationship. “What’s interesting is when you show the film in the US or the UK,” says Nick. “In this story the West are spectators and that throws up massive insecurity issues. They talk about China’s insatiable appetite for resources but so much of that is driven by our consumer need to have cheap goods”.


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