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CES: Bringing Electronics Assembly and Distribution to Central Africa (Video)

Roblimo posted about 2 years ago | from the cruising-the-world-for-the-lowest-possible-labor-costs dept.

Cellphones 61

"When you think about electronics manufacturing, you probably don’t automatically think about Africa. You are about to meet somebody who would like to change your mind about that. His name is Tony Smith, and he is the CEO and Founder of Limitless Electronics." That's how Slashdot Editor Timothy Lord introduces this video. And that's what it's about: Former Microsoft employee Tony Smith at CES 2013 talking about his efforts to bring electronics assembly and distribution to his native country, Cameroon, through his company, Limitless Electronics.

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Africa (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42659921)

The purest form of an exploitable labor force.

Niggers (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42659973)

Niggers

On their website (1)

Janek Kozicki (722688) | about 2 years ago | (#42659983)

there is a definition for "intelligent design" :)

Refined curves. Elegant styling. We believe the high-performance technology you use every day should be equally stunning.

I wonder... (2)

Synerg1y (2169962) | about 2 years ago | (#42660011)

If this guy worked on Windows 8 by chance. That would make a lot of sense.

Please stop with the videos (-1, Troll)

g051051 (71145) | about 2 years ago | (#42660047)

Please stop posting these awful videos. You're not reporters. Slashdot is a news aggregator, so stop trying to ruin it with these atrocious video vanity projects. If you *must* create them, don't clutter the front page with them. The majority of users hate them, so please, just stop!

Re:Please stop with the videos (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42660873)

"the majority" being you and three or four others, while thousands of people seem to enjoy the videos.

if you don't want to watch them, don't. i don't click on every /. article because not all of them interest me.

Video? What video? (1)

ArcadeMan (2766669) | about 2 years ago | (#42661605)

All I see is a black rectangle with "You need to have the Adobe Flash Player to view this content" in it.

Re:Video? What video? (1)

jones_supa (887896) | about 2 years ago | (#42662115)

First of all (to GP), I like the videos and would like to see 'em in future too.

However a download link to a video file would also be a nice addition. Even the guys at Channel 9 [msdn.com] provide it. ;)

Re:Video? What video? (1)

g051051 (71145) | about 2 years ago | (#42664413)

Yours is the first positive comment I've seen about these things.

Re:Video? What video? (1)

_Ludwig (86077) | about 2 years ago | (#42665401)

FYI, youtube-dl [github.com] will scrape videos from youtube, vimeo, and a heap of other sites. It's a little more work than clicking a "download video" link, but it can download when no such link is readily provided by the site. It's in the standard repositories for Debian-based distros and Macports, although not Cygwin. Dunno about others.

What this probably really means (4, Insightful)

dkleinsc (563838) | about 2 years ago | (#42660079)

The poor people in east and south Asia aren't as desperate as they once were and are starting to demand better treatment and higher wages and the right to organize unions and such. The poor people in central Africa, on the other hand, are quite desperate for work, and the governments have things enough under control that it's relatively safe to set up a factory.

That's one of the effects of globalization: Manufacturing jobs move towards desperation, because that's the cheapest place to hire people and bribe the government into doing the company's bidding.

Re:What this probably really means (2)

dccase (56453) | about 2 years ago | (#42660165)

It explains why it is suddenly expedient to pacify Mali.

Re:What this probably really means (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | about 2 years ago | (#42662173)

No it doesn't: Mali is 400 miles away from Cameroon, in West Africa. The reason France got involved in Mali was because Mali was a former French colony and sort-of client state, and the Mali government asked for help after one of their major cities was threatened.

Re:What this probably really means (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42660167)

Just what I came here to say.

China is getting too expensive or starting to have enforced environmental restrictions, so time to move to a new third world country.

Re:What this probably really means (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 2 years ago | (#42660171)

So once these folks want unions where do the jobs go next?

I doubt penguins in Antarctica will be able to do this work.

Re:What this probably really means (1)

Antipater (2053064) | about 2 years ago | (#42660277)

You ever watch March of the Penguins? They already have unions down there!

Re:What this probably really means (1)

az1324 (458137) | about 2 years ago | (#42660331)

By then we'll have cheap robots. But when the robots want to unionize, watch out!

Re:What this probably really means (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | about 2 years ago | (#42660363)

So once these folks want unions where do the jobs go next?

I doubt penguins in Antarctica will be able to do this work.

Then we all start off where we left off in 1999.

Re:What this probably really means (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 2 years ago | (#42660441)

by then the united states will be bankrupt, China will be buying all the hardware and the US population, starving, with a loaf of bread costing $10k due to our currency being nearly worthless will be happy to take on the work. Every time I've been laid off I've been told by the bosses "Business is cyclical" and oh boy are they going to get to learn that first hand.

Re:What this probably really means (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about 2 years ago | (#42660505)

By when do you predict this happening?

If it is in under 20 years I would gladly give you $100 today for a guarantee of $10k at that date. We will need some sort of legal binding contract of course.

Re:What this probably really means (1)

Master Moose (1243274) | about 2 years ago | (#42661461)

No, but it would be great to watch. .

Re:What this probably really means (2)

pipatron (966506) | about 2 years ago | (#42660209)

And this is not necessarily a bad thing, since it creates an income for the country. Even if most of it disappears into the pockets of corrupt politicians, the situation for the general populace will probably improve over time because of it.

Re:What this probably really means (2)

sharkytm (948956) | about 2 years ago | (#42661671)

And this is not necessarily a bad thing, since it creates an income for the country. Even if most of it disappears into the pockets of corrupt politicians, the situation for the general populace will probably improve over time because of it.

Please tell me that you are joking... I don't think its possible for this to be more untrue. More money into corrupt governments usually results in more draconian laws and increased military spending. Neither of those result in the "situation of the general populace" "improving"...

Re:What this probably really means (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42662997)

Sounds like the USA....

Re:What this probably really means (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42660225)

It's not just towards desparation, manufacturing jobs, especially in countries with an over abundance of poor people, breed the conditions that foster corruption and abuse. I hope Mr. Smith understands what he's getting into and can find the integrity necessary to create and maintain a business environment and workplace that would be exceptions.

Perhaps Mr. Smith can enlist the Gates Foundation in his effort to set up a corporation that can provide economic and social models for justice in his native country as well as the opportunity to create more wealth for bankers and those at the top of the corporate heap.

Re:How about create wealth and jobs (3, Insightful)

Billly Gates (198444) | about 2 years ago | (#42660299)

Africa needs to have a significant boast to their standard of living to reduce war, poverty, unwanted births, death, and disease.

China, still has bad working conditions yes, but as a whole being a chinesse citizen today is insanely better than being a citizen 30 years ago. Where before an average farmer never had a dirt floor and no more than $10 in his whole life in addition to an average food stable of just one serving a meat a week shared with rice for the whole family to tiles on their floors, meat 5 times a week, $100 if you saved for a good month, with huge metropolitan changes like cars, highways, and modern 21st century living.

Yes, working 14 hours a day in a factory really does suck. But that is the first process to move up economic wise and everyone benefits.

Africans are pirating ships in Somalia not because they want to be thugs, but because there is no money to buy food. Africa has more natural resources than China and could be even more powerful than China or India if they get their shit together with infrastructure and education.

If it were not for wars, lack of infrastructure like electricity/roads, lack of education, Africa would be rich and China still poor. China has the benefits of educated citizens and infrastructure with a large population of potential consumers. It is not just because they are willing to work for cheaper.

Africa has the resources. China has some rare earth metals and some fisheries and that is about it.

Re:How about create wealth and jobs (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 2 years ago | (#42660611)

Africa needs to have a significant boast to their standard of living to reduce war, poverty, unwanted births, death, and disease.

In order to get rid of the last three items, they also need to get rid of all the Catholic missionaries.

Re:How about create wealth and jobs (1)

alexgieg (948359) | about 2 years ago | (#42667529)

In order to get rid of the last three items, they also need to get rid of all the Catholic missionaries.

Yes, because surely Africa would be much better without the 964 hospitals, 5,000 medical clinics, 260 leprosariums, 650 rest homes, 800 orphanage and 2,000 kindergartens the evil, evil Catholic Church keeps there.

Re:How about create wealth and jobs (2)

dkleinsc (563838) | about 2 years ago | (#42663337)

Don't get me wrong: I view this tendency more as a sad fact of life, not a moral evil.

Now, what is in my view a moral evil is that while Africa has all sorts of valuable natural resources, very few of those resources are owned by Africans. The effect of that is significant: In, say, a South African gold mine, for $1000 worth of gold ore, the miners might get $1, his bosses gets $3, the government of South Africa gets $1, and investors in New York and London get $995. Now, getting that $5 into the South African economy improves the economy of South Africa, but it also sucks out $995 worth of natural resources that can't be replaced. It's one of the remnants of European colonialism that is not likely to go away anytime soon.

Re:How about create wealth and jobs (2)

Eunuchswear (210685) | about 2 years ago | (#42667137)

Africans are pirating ships in Somalia not because they want to be thugs, but because there is no money to buy food.

I think you'll find that the Somalian pirates used to be fishermen - there was lots of food untill industrial fishing fleets came from the west and asia and sucked all the fish up.

Re:What this probably really means (-1, Offtopic)

gouahufa (2821779) | about 2 years ago | (#42660641)

http://www.cloud65.com/ [cloud65.com] my buddy's ex-wife makes $84 every hour on the internet. She has been without work for nine months but last month her check was $15410 just working on the internet for a few hours. Read more here

Re:What this probably really means (1)

sjames (1099) | about 2 years ago | (#42661111)

That is the problem with the economic theories we operate with now. They inevitably seek to maximize worker desperation.

It seems to work OK when the employer's economic power is within an order of magnitude of an individual it would employ, but it falls apart FAST after that.

Re:What this probably really means (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 2 years ago | (#42661687)

Population of China: 1,344,130,000

Population of India: 1,241,491,960

Population of Africa (the continent): 1,032,532,974

India and China aren't paradise. But compared to Africa they have their shit together. Once outsourcing to China and India are done, it's more or less done.

Also no single African nation could maintain a currency peg like China has. Weather that turns out to have been a good choice for China is still to be seen.

Re:What this probably really means (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42662567)

Don't be so fast there, China already has planned ahead on this. They're quite involved in the project when it'll be their turn to outsource (after cost of living starts going up), and already put infrastructure in place in Africa. [wikipedia.org]

I suspect China wouldn't have done this unless they were planning on being more clever about their outsourcing than we were. It will be most likely that those in charge of managing the new factories and taking care of higher level shipping port operations are Chinese. So unlike us, they won't be giving away all the secret sauce.

Re:What this probably really means (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 2 years ago | (#42663103)

Ether that or China will be the next nation to build infrastructure in Africa, then be called imperialists for the effort.

I do wish the Chinese luck in Africa, they will need it.

BTW Holy shit. Angola is run by incompetents. Did you read the link you provided? A brand new Angolan city (design pop 500K), built by the Chinese, paid for with oil (3.5Billion$US). Nobody from Angola can afford to live there. 220 out of 2800 apartments offered sold. Unless these apartments house 178 people each there are _many_ more that were never offered for sale. So now the government is planning on giving the rest of the city away. That will turn out well. I see a 'ruling party' city in Angola's future.

Perhaps that wasn't the best link to prove your point. Rather the opposite. Politics as usual in Africa. China doesn't own Kilamba. There own western empty cities have to be a similar situation.

Re:What this probably really means (1)

HornWumpus (783565) | about 2 years ago | (#42663575)

Also note: There is no 'secret sauce'.

Re:What this probably really means (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42662799)

The poor people in central Africa, on the other hand, are quite desperate for work, and the governments have things enough under control that it's relatively safe to set up a factory.

Surely you are joking.

What these people need to do is stop hacking each other to death and to be provided with drinkable water and a subsistence level of food. They can't even keep decent profs at their universities.

Globalised culture (1)

John Bayko (632961) | about 2 years ago | (#42670361)

Globalisation covers a lot of things, not just corporations. It's just as responsible for getting aspirin and antibiotics to the middle of Africa as McDonalds. Probably most important is the globalisation of culture.

Africa has a pretty terrible culture in many ways, and is resistant to change because worship of tradition is part of that culture. Not knocking Africa, tradition was a vital part of most societies up to a point. Prior to the industrial revolution in Europe, there was little progress because most progress wasn't scientific - if someone made pottery slightly differently, it probably cracked or failed. If they forged metal differently it was useless. Changing how you made bread or raised cattle or whatnot almost always resulted in problems. That's because nobody actually understood why doing things the traditional way worked, they just knew it did, so any change became ingrained as something to be avoided.

There was still progress on occasion, but that was still the exception, and often rejected by most people as long as possible. This notion changed first in the New World, as there was no "tradition" (or what there was wiped out by the settlers and their plagues), and came back to the colonizing European countries. Eventually it spread through political conquest, economic forces, and sometimes voluntarily (Japan was an early adopter of some Western attitudes), but the idea of constant improvement through change is not global yet. In particular, it's still rejected by the general population in Africa and the Middle East, even as they develop economically.

This is why those in power, or seeking power, are only interested in the power itself (or prestige), only benefitting those closest to them first, and their country and society last - and brutallly suppressing all opposition. And people don't really mind because they just expect this to be the normal thing - it's their culture, how it's traditionally been done.

This is where globalisation of culture helps - by showing that there are alternatives, and what the benefits are. Even if it doesn't convince the adults, the next generation grows up knowing there are alternatives, and they're willing to change. Little known fact, Iranian people in general are among the most pro-American in the Middle East, because they've experienced an entire generation of an anti-American government oppressing them, yet have been able to learn that it doesn't have to be that way (that's simplified, but essentially correct - the Iranian government is terrified of their own people being fed up, and a war with America is probably the best thing that could happen to them to keep them in power).

A big difference between Africa and the Americas is that natives in the Americas were wiped out by plagues shortly before European settlers moved in - huge pandemics that made Europe's Black Death look like allergies. If this hadn't happened, settling the Americas would have been like colonising Africa, at least in the populated coastal areas. Cultural traditions were lost. In Africa, this didn't happen, and male-dominated, tribe-oriented, and superstitious traditions remain the norm to this day.

Globalisation will inevitably change this, and for the better. That's what will eventually allow Africa to develop, organize, and improve the lives of its people.

Re:What this probably really means (1)

alexgieg (948359) | about 2 years ago | (#42667587)

That's one of the effects of globalization: Manufacturing jobs move towards desperation, because that's the cheapest place to hire people and bribe the government into doing the company's bidding.

Everything can be rendered in a positive or negative light, and this is a prime example. Where one sees greedy capitalists going after the desperate, another will see capitalism doing what it does best: improving everything it touches. In this case, first one place, then another, then another, until everywhere has been improved. After all, what's better? For those desperate people to not get the much better jobs, wages, working conditions etc. those companies bring with them?

Furthermore, once the last desperate people has been "capitalized up" from desperation, there's nothing else to but to continue improving them further, moving then to places previously improved, so that as the bottom rises, so does everyone else, in a kind of FILO queue economic sequence.

No thanks. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42660097)

I like my electronics assembled by asians. Not niggers.

Just another of cheap semi-slave labor (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42660211)

Asian countries are getting uppity. Demanding living wages, work conditions that don't kill them, hours that let them have a life outside of work, and pollution controls that don't poison the land. How dare they!

Time to move on to the next dirt poor country with a labor force to exploit.

(To be fair, industrialization from foreign investment does tend to lead to the eventual rise of a middle class. The transition is always nasty though. Nasty and bloody.)

Re:Just another of cheap semi-slave labor (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 2 years ago | (#42660663)

Is taking all those historical inequities and smearing them out into a broad global layer of what a Pakistani bricklayer would consider to be prosperity indeed such a bad thing?

stupid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42660227)

Shoving technology down Africa's throat isn't going to make them act any less like barbaric savages. They're stuck in the stone age for a very specific reason; missing neanderthal DNA, plain and simple.

Re:stupid (1)

alen (225700) | about 2 years ago | (#42660349)

they were fairly civilized until the europeans showed up and colonized them creating a market for slaves as well

Re:stupid (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 2 years ago | (#42660991)

There had been a market for slaves even before Europeans showed up. Arabic slave trade had been alive and kicking in Africa for almost a millennium before that.

Re:stupid (0)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 2 years ago | (#42660935)

Early 20th century racism: Niggers are primitive savages because they are closer to Neanderthals than we are!

Early 21th century racism: Niggers are primitive savages because we are closer to Neanderthals than they are!

:-D

Re:stupid (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 2 years ago | (#42669493)

I'm asking myself whether whoever modded this down did so because he disagreed, or simply because I used (the horror!) the N-word.

Re:stupid (1)

Hartree (191324) | about 2 years ago | (#42663263)

"They're stuck in the stone age"

One thing I like about racists. They confirm their ignorance regularly.

Go learn something about Africa. And then learn something about what stone age means.

Yes, there are a tiny tiny minority that could be considered stone age (like there are in areas of South America and some other isolated areas), but thankfully they'd still be far better dinner company than you. :)

enjoy the pollution (1)

alen (225700) | about 2 years ago | (#42660319)

look at Europe in the 1800's
USA in the pre 1970's
china now

you get your jobs but you also get to poison you body through the pollution it creates. everyone wants these jobs in the USA, but no one wants them close to where they live.

Online Services (-1, Offtopic)

Alberto Ramirez (2821761) | about 2 years ago | (#42660403)

Trabajos Informaticos [trabajosinformaticos.com] Here you can find many types of online services like creating websites and blogs, maintenance of websites and blogs, and photo editing.

Ubuntu and Android (3, Insightful)

mrArg (1630445) | about 2 years ago | (#42660691)

If you would actually listen to what the man says, he highlight that ther flagship tablet is one of the few in the industry that gives the user a choice in what OS they want loaded on their device. Of which one is Ubuntu (!).

Moreover, their products aim is to be high quality and affordable as apposed to just being as cheap as possible.

And please, this is exactly the kind of thing that needs to happen to bring "the last" continent out of it's poverty. It should be applauded. And what the hell is up with all the racism and calling names (trolling, but nevertheless, wtf).

Re:Ubuntu and Android (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 2 years ago | (#42661543)

Of which one is Ubuntu (!).

Of course they ship hardware with Ubuntu! This is Africa we're talking about, right? If it were China, it would be named You Qing. Or perhaps Ren Ci. Or something like that, my Chinese is full of eels.

I am interested bying one (2)

gay358 (770596) | about 2 years ago | (#42661949)

It will be interesting to see what the price will be for the tablet. I am quite interested having Linux on my devices instead of Android or Windows, which both have privacy issues and lack of total user control of the device.

Devices like this. is something that other continents need as well. It hope this starts new trend which helps to grow market share of (pure) Linux devices.

Wait a second.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42661619)

How can people in africa be expected to produce electronics? I mean all they do now is kill each other with guns, produce nigerian scams galore, and the african women spread their legs so much its no wonder hiv/aids is rampant in africa and killing them all off. And the majority of threm live in poverty above all else with the real only accomplishment being the city of Johannesburg.

Re:Wait a second.... (0)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about 2 years ago | (#42662285)

and the african women spread their legs so much its no wonder hiv/aids is rampant in africa and killing them all off.

That would be the r-selected reproductive strategy. That one is going to switch to K-selected as soon as the standards of living go up.

Re:Wait a second.... (1)

Eunuchswear (210685) | about 2 years ago | (#42667165)

with the real only accomplishment being the city of Johannesburg.

The most boring city on the continent?

Mine slavery already a problem. (1)

Kalis84 (1423405) | about 2 years ago | (#42662323)

The sheer amount of racism in the 38 comments (when I posted this) is disheartening.
Africa needs jobs, there is no question about that. And the rare earth metals needed to build electronics exist on the continent in abundance, so it makes sense to move the manufacturing center next closer to the source.
But Africa already has a problem with slave labor at precious metal mines, and it will get worse with the rise of these factories.
http://www.laborrights.org/stop-child-labor/news/11648
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/15/south-africa-mine-strikes_n_1886507.html

With robots and 3d printers... (1)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | about 2 years ago | (#42662481)

won't this happen on its own anyway?

How odd that it isn't the other way round... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#42662755)

... you know - those "We're all the same" Africans bringing science and technology to those braindead and 'evil' whites.

As for the cretins bleating about 'racism' - I take it you mean 'telling the truth'.

Care to debate anybody here with FACTS, instead of trying to censor opposing points of view? You arrogant cretins.

Move to Detroit or Haiti and tell us how evil 'racism' is - you morons.

Makes perfect sense (2)

viperidaenz (2515578) | about 2 years ago | (#42663121)

Chinese labour costs are rising. It's time to move to a new country.

The only problem is the lack of existing infrastructure. You need mines, factories, transport and power.

Difference in Unemployment Rate =/ Skill (1)

retroworks (652802) | about 2 years ago | (#42668561)

One hundred years ago it was newsworthy if an African wanted to open a factory to produce beer bottles, or forty years ago light bulbs (or at ScreenVision in South Africa, CRTs). It's nothing new, and the reason is simple. It's hard to open a company in a country where there is 8% unemployment and 15% of people are benchwarmers (or alcoholics, drug abusers, thieves, or don't get along with people). It is easier to avoid those 15% of less-productive people in a nation with 50% unemployment than it is in a country with 8% unemployment. If that's "exploitation" then I guess it's exploitation in the good way. 85% of Americans or Europeans may better educated than the top 50% of Cameroonians, but it doesn't matter if you need employees and can't outpay existing companies (like textile mills which have all left).
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