I am reading as much as possible about African development, politics, history, etc. in preparation to visit my friend's farms in Mozambique and Tanzania in February. One thing that keeps popping up in the news: China.
In 1997, Prince set up Blackwater, initially with his own money. That company received more than US$2 billion in contracts from US government agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency and the State Department.Before reaching knee-jerk conclusions about neo-colonialism, I'm going to wait for a little more hard data and ground-truthing (literally). But it's pretty hard to be open-minded when Blackwater is involved.
When asked how he turned Blackwater into a business success, Prince said Blackwater was a part of his history and Africa meant the future for him.
However, he said his experience in the SEALs and Blackwater developed his operational expertise for doing business in Africa.
"People come to Africa to help [Africans] to build up the capabilities there and to show them both know-how and capital," he said. "Our job is to put all these things together and make them good investment opportunities."
Prince has good connections in the US government and some African countries, thanks partly to his previous government-related career, which had its first beginnings as a White House intern under president George H.W. Bush in 1990.
"We are the search radar for [Asian investors] in Africa because we have the expertise and we know how to measure and control the risks," said Prince.
His new firm has made investments in countries including the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guinea and South Sudan. [More]
In a similar sense, a friend with a daughter in South Africa told him the Chinese were kind of the the "Kwik-E-Mart" entrepreneurs there, especially in small towns. In fact, they call them "china stores".