Review of The Next Factory of the World

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  • Eye Opening
  • Bestseller
  • Concrete Examples
  • For Experts


Africa is suddenly a hot economic development story. McKinsey consultant Irene Yuan Sun serves as tour guide in this revealing look at Africa’s burgeoning manufacturing sector. Born in China and raised in the United States, she offers multicultural insight into Africa’s growing grid of steel plants and textile mills – along with plenty of detailed first-person accounts from Africa’s factory floors and loading docks. While she’s optimistic about Africa’s future, she’s also willing to explore the downsides and risks of doing business in a region that, over the decades, has broken many an entrepreneur’s heart. getAbstract recommends this intriguing study to investors and entrepreneurs seeking an overview of Africa’s rising manufacturing sector.

About the Author

Irene Yuan Sun is lead author of McKinsey & Company’s research report on China’s economic engagement in Africa and co-leads the firm’s work on Chinese economic engagement. Born in China and raised in the US, she previously taught secondary school in rural Namibia. She is a graduate of Harvard College, Harvard’s Kennedy School and Harvard Business School.


Sun is both an involved, eager social observer and a dry, distanced analyst. She swings between these two poles with occasional success. Her financial analysis seems sound, if not very juicy. Her appreciation for the daily travails of Chinese investors in Africa seems sincere, but she has difficulty bringing the emotions of their daily life to the reader. Her overview works best as a collection of insightful human tidbits and quotable statistics.

Sun makes a compelling case that manufacturing can pull Africa out of poverty. The consulting firm McKinsey & Company, her employer, found that more than 1,500 Chinese companies have invested in factories in Africa. Makers of cars, construction materials and consumer goods flock to Nigeria. In Lesotho, factories churn out Levi Strauss jeans, Reebok gear and yoga pants for Kohl’s; load them onto containers; and ship them to the United States. In Ethiopia – a nation recovering from devastating famines and a bloody Marxist dictatorship – Chinese investors are establishing special economic zones.

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