From Cape Canaveral to Cape Town

The Africa Report - - FRONTLINE -

What if you could ac­tu­ally get rid of the whole no­tion of na­tional di­as­po­ras as we know it? If Elon Musk suc­ceeds in his goal of send­ing a mil­lion hu­mans to Mars, he will cre­ate the first in­ter­plan­e­tary di­as­pora. Quite a turn­around for a kid who re­mem­bers be­ing bul­lied in schools in Pre­to­ria, South Africa, and who moved to Canada when he was 17. The rest of his story is bet­ter known: earn­ing bil­lions af­ter start­ing the com­pany that even­tu­ally be­came Paypal, launch­ing the Tesla elec­tric car com­pany, and, of course, Spacex, which has a $5.7bn con­tract with NASA to re­sup­ply the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion, and which is devel­op­ing the Mars mis­sion. By the end of Au­gust, Spacex hopes to launch its Fal­con Heavy rocket, which its says will fly two pay­ing pas­sen­gers around the moon in 2018. Through­out his­tory, di­as­po­rans have brought cru­cial cap­i­tal and skills back to their home economies. The Chi­nese econ­omy owes its stel­lar take-off in the 1990s to the le­gions of Hong Kong in­vestors who mar­ried their sense of home to their new­lyminted mil­lions. They started pour­ing money over the bor­der into the tiny back­wa­ter fish­ing vil­lage of Shen­zen, seed­ing what was to be­come the huge fac­tory cities on which China forged its rep­u­ta­tion as work­bench of the world. Musk ap­pears happy in Los An­ge­les for now, but his busi­ness may make an ap­pear­ance on the con­ti­nent. Tesla au­tos al­ready has an of­fice in South Africa. Musk is be­lieved to be pon­der­ing a ‘gi­gafac­tory’ in Cape Town to build the Tesla Pow­er­wall, a home-sized bat­tery unit. Cur­rently, the Ital­ian elec­tric­ity util­ity Enel, which has al­ready built re­new­able power plants in South Africa, is test­ing the Pow­er­wall with cus­tomers in Cape Town. The kit costs about $10,000, and at­taches to so­lar pan­els, with the whole thing man­aged through your tele­vi­sion. These early mod­els are meant to pay for them­selves in eight years, and ex­pected to last for two decades.

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