The price of a T-shirt
I just got back from a recent trip to Cape Verde, a country which is supposed to be more prosperous than any other African countries due to its flourishing tourism and political stability. The country is built on ten remote islands hundred kilometers away from mainland Africa and most of the locals are descendants of the slaves that were brought up by the Portuguese a few hundred years ago (few mulattoes due to Portuguese sailors’ lecherous nature). Except for a few glamorous touristic spots deluged by Europeans (mostly British), most places in this country are still very much impoverished and would have no substantial difference to the livelihood of mainland sub-Saharan Africa.
Among all those funny things I encountered during my stay in Cape Verde, one comment about the arrival of the Chinese caught my special interest. I tried to ask a local if there is any strong presence of the Chinese in this remote archipelago, as I could hardly see any sign myself when I was touring around the local towns. To my surprise, the local told me there is indeed a strong presence of the Chinese in Cape Verde. He gave an interesting comment on the arrival of the Chinese in Sal, Cape Verde:
“Before the Chinese came we could hardly afford the T-shirt, as it was very expensive for us. The Chinese came and then lowered the price for T-shirts. Now everyone in the island could afford a T-shirt easily.”
What a singular comment. I told this to a friend of mine and he accused the Chinese of encouraging the locals to have more babies as “we” lowered their living expense. I replied by addressing that the Chinese are simply businessmen in Africa, as we do not provide food, drugs and hospitals for free like the Westerners. And ultimately by making their local livelihood bearable, we are doing a favor to the Europeans as this would decrease their desire of infiltrating in the crumbling Europe. Either way, my impression for the people in Cape Verde is that (let’s put it in a nice way of saying) they are very simple-minded. and a society made of simple-minded people could only perform in a simple way. The Chinese will be always welcomed on the island to sell cheap T-shirts, as every local “businessman” is offering unanimously the same thing: souvenirs made of sand, shells, woods, and shark bones.
They do have great weather and beach, though.