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« Wukan protest leader gets his moment in the big seat | Main | Processing the loss »
6:05AM

China as Africa's De Facto World Bank - the Wikistrat video

This is a recorded briefing that I generated from the recent Wikistrat internal training simulation entitled, "China as Africa's de facto World Bank." It summarizes the points I gleaned from the wide-ranging simulation (dozens of wiki pages filled with all manner of brainstormed ideas, strategies, options by several dozen analysts) and summed up in an 8-page report.

This was the first major video production in the set-up I have constructed - after excruciating testing and accumulation of equipment - in our new rental home, which, in various parts, doubles as my work environment. Fortunately for me, virtually everyone else in my family is in school, with youngest Abebu starting within months. So during the day I have the house completely under control, meaning I can meticulously set up the gear, test at length, and pursue recordings and subsequent processing/production in peace.

Ah, the life of the bootstrapped start-up!

Naturally, comments and suggestions are welcomed on content, presentation choices (there are many ways to skin that cat, given the tremendous volume of ideas generated by any one simulation), and video capture.

One correction already accomplished: on this taping I set up a flatscreen for video feedback (I can see screen's content and myself in foreground) just to the right of the camera.  That gives me a slight off-camera eye orientation, which I thought was fine for simulating an audience interaction. But in retrospect, we decided that a straight-into-the-camera style would be better.  That is accomplished in an improved set-up that involves a smaller feedback screen being place just below the came - as in, within a couple of inches. That way I can look directly into the feedback and be, for all practical purposes, looking directly into the camera. The feedback screen is crucial because all of these briefs will be screen-content heavy and first-and-one-time briefs on my part, meaning I can't possibly memorize every click like I do on my regular brief. In that way, it is a LOT like doing the TV weather: lots of data/info to get through and you need to position yourself in front of the screen while not blocking it.  I do fairly well on this first try, but can obviously get smoother - trick being the feedback presents itself in a mirror image.

Another fix in the works: I lost my clip for my clip-on mike and therefore had to wear below the camera line because my substitute clip ain't so elegant.  That meant I picked up the clicking sound from my remote controller a bit too much - for my taste. New one is in the mail, so next time I'll wear the mike far higher and hopefully not pick up that sound.

Overall, pretty happy with the effort. At first, I repeat the text too much, but I warm up over time and get more extemporaneous and relaxed as I got more comfortable with moving myself around. This is far different from me being tracked by a cameraman on a big stage, because I go completely unconscious on my style and let the camera-guy deal with all that.  Here, with a fixed camera, I have to adjust my style somewhat. So a bit stiff at first, improving throughout, and clearly something I will grow more easy with it as I repeat the process.

Reader Comments (7)

What I've seen done to great effect for these sort of videos is a short introduction to the video's topic with just you and the camera and then the meat of it is the screen capture of the powerpoint or keynote presentation with a voice over.

You can use software like Screenflow http://www.telestream.net/screen-flow/ or Camtasia http://www.techsmith.com/camtasia.html to do the screen capture. Both are incredibly easy to use and I think they have free trials so you can tinker.

That will make it easier for you to teach from notes or a script without worrying about where your eyeballs are pointing.

Anyway, thanks for all you do.

January 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJoey

Is it just my computer or the player really not playing?

January 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterHannah

I wonder how wise it is to speak of Africa as one entity, when it is made of up of 47 countries, all autonomous (with the exception of Western Sahara). There is no one governing body; it is not the United States of Africa. So each country needs to be considered individually, as to what kinds of choices it makes; which would, I think, make things far more complicated and create unexpected scenarios. Was this considered in your simulation?

January 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMichal Shapiro

Michal,

It isn't wise to lump all of anything into a whole, including these United States. But sometimes it's just a construct you cannot avoid in your search for breadth.

If you watch the brief or read the report, you'll see that we posit regime divisions between diversified-economies and "cursed" resource-heavy ones (which tend to go more democratic and authoritarian, respectively). Question is, whether or not China becomes too identified with latter and not enough with former. That's where the charges of neocolonialism come in. That's also where we posit the scenario of a "league of extraordinary democracies," led by India, Brazil and S. Africa, creating a continental counterweight to growth of Chinese client states.

In general, scope and "height" of sim didn't allow for too much depth in dives on individual countries. We'd need a "lower" (region and below) sim to explore that, which would present its own fascinations.

But in general, I find it more fruitful to speak of regional groupings, due to interlocking economic realities, than individual countries. Africa has too many countries - more per square km than any other continent. No good reason, really - just a colonial legacy. Long term, it's better, I think, to look at Africa more like a pie: what matters is how the interior gets connected to the littoral, because a commodities-heavy export pattern means sea lines matter most.

January 21, 2012 | Registered CommenterThomas P.M. Barnett

Thank you, Dr. Barnett, I had watched the brief and loved it, and forwarded it, too. I did get the divisions you mention, just wondering if the pacing of your projections would be affected by how long each country might take to gravitate into the four pathways. But thanks for the explanation; it totally answers my question. Guess I still tend to look at the trees before the forest.

January 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMichal Shapiro

Are you suggesting that a more democratic Africa will be more pro-US, India, Brazil, South Africa and more anti-China? The events of the past year in North Africa suggest otherwise, the Sahel region closely mirrors the behaviour of North Africa.

There is nothing to suggest, for example, that India's behaviour in Africa would be significantly different from the behaviour of the Chinese in Africa. The Indians are a known quantity and they are not particularly liked (read the history of anti-Indian riots in East Africa). Indians are not known for promoting human rights or democracy either (in Africa or Burma). Like the Chinese, they just want to get on with business.

Brazil and South Africa, though more open and democratic, don't pack the kind of punch either the Chinese or Indians have. Brazil will spend most of its time in Lusophone Africa and we don't really know what kind of South Africa we'll be dealing with in future.

South Africa is led by ANC cadres who either trained in the Eastern Bloc or were influenced by Marxist rhetoric. Consequently, South Africa has gone very easy on the Chinese (refused to let the Dalai Lama in) and hasn't handled regional problems like Mugabe well (because he is an old comrade!). Consequently, you have a business community in J'burg that just wants to get on with it.

Does China stand the risk of being too identified with authoritarian regimes? Every one has his favourite authoritarian - the Chinese have Bashir of Sudan to themselves, the Chinese and Americans share Obiang in Equatorial Guinea, Zenawi in Ethiopia, Kagame in Rwanda, Museveni in Uganda and Dos Santos in Angola and the Chinese and South Africans share Mugabe. (You get my drift).

However, the Chinese also have a record of dealing successfully with the more democratic regimes like Ghana, Zambia and South Africa. Zambia is a very interesting case because even though the current president ran on an anti-Chinese platform, the Chinese have modified their behaviour and are still in business there - they tend to learn fast.

China is the only major power fully open for business in Africa (you've touched on this before). While the French are closing shop and the US is trying to determine what services to offer the African people, the Chinese have been given an open field and a head start of at least one decade. (The South Sudanese don't particularly like the Chinese, but nobody else, US included, can take the place of the Chinese - a very sobering situation).

Do you think there is any African nation at risk of being "a Chinese client state". The evidence seems to be pretty thin. A good number of dictators are in cahoots with the Chinese, but there is little evidence to suggest that they take their marching orders from Beijing (neither Bashir nor Mugabe do).

PS: I apologise if my previous comment was inappropriate.

January 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMaduka

Just needed to add this - "league of extraordinary democracies: India, Brazil, South Africa plus the US". The good news is that those three nations are democracies, the bad news is that India, Brazil and South Africa have huge egos (a bit like dealing with France - three times!).

On a more serious note, non of these nations are Western democracies and on many issues they may have more in common with China than with the US. There is a world of difference between dealing with a non-Western democracy than with dealing with a Western democracy.

Secondly, Nigeria (for all its imperfections) is a democracy (sort of). Most importantly, if Nigeria holds together, by 2020 it is on track to have a larger economy than South Africa.

January 22, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMaduka

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