No more cleaning paintbrushes

I've given up cleaning paintbrushes. And rollers. I'm doing it to help Africa.

Maybe on a big project, painting a room or two, I'd consider buying top quality brushes and rollers and cleaning them, because they do make the work easier and the finish better. But not that much better than the ones I can but for a couple of bucks now at our home hardware warehouse. I buy brushes in a pack of ten, and chuck them when I'm done.

When I was late teens my parents gave me the dream birthday gift; a little underpowered Black and Decker power drill. I asked for it because I knew I would never afford one. The other day I bought a rechargeable drill, torch and two batteries for thirty bucks. A rechargeable electric screwdriver was twelve bucks so I bought two, one for upstairs one for downstairs.

A couple of years ago we finally entered the DVD age. I bought a DVD player for under a hundred bucks (little New Zealand dollars, not real green ones). At the time I marvelled at how they could build a precision laser system, servo motors and all the electronics for that. Heck you can't buy the parts for the front panel controls for that price. It died after eighteen months (my fault, I handled it too roughly and knocked the heads out of alignment, which brings up another point: it is not worth fixing anything any more). I bought another one identical: seventy bucks.

Where does it end? I understand the labour costs in China are almost negligible, but surely the materials and plant for a cordless screwdriver cost more than ten US dollars? I guess they don't. The Chinese aren't doing it to run at a loss.

So when these things used to cost me the equivalent of two hundred bucks, what was I paying the other 190 for?

And don't say "to keep people in work" because none of the industrial nations have unusually high unemployment. We still have economies, we still make a living.

Extraordinary. Where does it end?

I wrote about supposed "sweatshops" previously. China will grow to new economic levels (God help us) and the cheap labour market will move elsewhere. "But we're running out" I hear you cry. Not yet. There are plenty of busted countries standing by to pick up the business, and the Russian government and the American army are busy knocking a few more back into a ready state.

So look forward to cheap goods from Indonesia, Libya, Egypt, Russia, the middle east, the old soviet states, South America... They just have to get their shit together enough that a few of their people have a decent education, infrastructure kinda works, and corruption is under some semblance of control. The Chinese have proved you don't need English, democracy or a trustworthy legal system.

When that runs out, there's Africa. No seriously. By then a few African states might have stopped killing each other long enough to realise there is a buck to be made in a trained and peaceful workforce. Another century or so and Africa's misery just might start getting mitigated at last...

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AFRICA is the continent of the future and always will be

"AFRICA is the continent of the future and always will be. That cynical quip sums up how many investors feel about the dark continent. Yes, Africa may well have vast natural resources and enormous potential, but given the political turmoil, they do not want to touch it. But this is the age of globalisation, when investors feel free to boldly go where they had not gone before. After all, places that were previously regarded as exotic, from Bulgaria to Vietnam, are integrated into the global economy. Now it may be Africa’s turn..." The Economist