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Background

Throughout Africa, Chinese interests are trying to get control of its resources, often by offering other projects, such as roads and airports, at very favorable prices. For many of these projects, the Chinese bring in their own labor force, preventing locals from getting jobs. In addition, the Chinese keep to themselves and do not try to integrate in any way into the local community.

On a trip through Namibia and Botswana a few years ago, Stanley witnessed two things that made him think that the Chinese presence in Africa would be a great backstory for a Kubu mystery.

The first incident was in a very small town in northern Namibia, probably Oshakati or somewhere similar. Associated with the gas station was a fairly large supermarket. Not far away was a Chinese store - remarkable, actually, seeing that the town was so small. As Stanley paid for his purchases, he noticed one of the Chinese men from the Chinese shop also buying provisions. The locals, who were Black, were teasing him. He was obviously not amused.

This didn't really stand out in Stanley's mind until, a couple of days later, he was driving from the Savuti area of the great Chobe National Park to the town of Kasane, a route he'd taken several times before. However, this time the road was paved from Kachikau to Ngoma Bridge, which carries the road from Botswana into the Caprivi Strip section of Namibia.

There was no obvious reason for this road to be paved since the traffic is very light, Kachikau being a small village. Halfway along this newly paved road, Stanley saw a village alongside it, surrounded by barbed wire, displaying Chinese signs and posters.

The puzzle fell into place.

The Chinese had built this road, probably greasing the skids to win more lucrative contracts. The village was where the Chinese laborers lived, isolated from the locals.

In addition, like the small Chinese store in Oshakati, similar stores are springing up all over Botswana (and Africa), often putting locally run businesses out of business - naturally causing anger and resentment. It was probably a combination of this anger and the self-imposed isolation of the Chinese from the locals that had sparked the teasing at Oahakati.

Further research revealed that the Chinese had in fact won several big contracts for major construction, including a new airport for the capital, Gaborone. Before the airport was completed, the Chinese went back to the Botswana government asking for more money. The government refused, saying that a contract was a contract. So the Chinese company walked away. Today, several years later, the terminal building is still unfinished, with the roof leaking and barriers all over the place.

This is not an isolated incident either in Botswana or in other parts of Africa.

This irritation was given a voice by Botswana's president, Ian Khama, in a 2013 interview with Johannesburg-based Business Day newspaper, when he said, 'We have had some bad experiences with Chinese companies in this country. We are going to be looking very carefully at any company that originates from China in providing construction services of any nature.'

Michael and Stanley agreed. This would be the backstory for the fifth Kubu mystery, titled A Death in the Family.