China, Africa, and exploring the Universe for Mankind

Displaying China’s commitment and friendship to Africa, the first foreign trip of the new year by China’s Foreign Minister began in Ethiopia, and included a meeting African Union Chairman,  Moussa Faki Mahamat. Landing on the dark side of the Moon for the first time history with China’s new rover is a step forward for Mankind.  

Wang Yi Opens New Year with Visit to Africa

Jan. 4, 2019

As has become the tradition of Chinese Foreign Ministers, Wang Yi’s first foreign trip of 2019 is to Africa. It began yesterday with meetings with Ethiopia’s highest officials, followed by his meeting today with the head of the African Union, headquartered in Ethiopia. Wang will then travel to Burkina Faso, Gambia, and Senegal. China reported that Wang hopes through this trip to strengthen coordination with Africa for the implementation of the decisions taken in last September’s historic summit in Beijing of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC).

Wang met with both Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Foreign Minister Workneh Gebeyehu. The statement posted by the Prime Minister after his meeting with Wang praised China’s “immense contribution to Ethiopia,” reported that Abiy had “highlighted” that for Ethiopia, “the new frontier of a  strengthened relationship [with China] needs to capitalize on introducing new forms of technology,” and to continue the support in infrastructure development.

Neighboring Kenya’s {Daily Nation} covered Wang’s meetings in Ethiopia with a blast at the “China debt trap” lies. Citing statistics from the “conservative” American Enterprise Institute), the paper emphasized that from 2005 to 2018, China’s total on investment and construction in Sub-Saharan Africa was $298 billion. Making China “the single largest bilateral financier of infrastructure in Africa, exceeding the combined total of the African Development Bank, the European Union, International Finance Corporation, the World Bank and the Group of Eight countries.”

Wang had “initially sidestepped concerns, often made by Western nations, about whether the debt payments were sustainable,” the {Daily Nation} reported, but he then he answered: “Generally, debt in Africa has been a protracted issue left from history. It didn’t come up today, still less is it caused by  China,” Wang said. He added that China is well-aware that some African nations have encountered financing difficulties, and “we’re always ready to extend a good hand when African countries need it.”

According to Anadolu Agency, Wang discussed plans to start a dialogue on security with Africa, when he met with African Union Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat today, arguing that “peace in the African continent is very important for stability in the whole world.” Faki, for his part, praised China’s help in capacity building in Africa, being the biggest partner of Africa in building roads, ports and energy facilities.

Chang’e-4: “Exploring the Unknown Is Human Nature”

There is extensive coverage in the Chinese media, both TV and print, of the astonishing Chang’e-4 achievement, and the ongoing activities of the lander, the rover, and the relay satellite. Comments by a number of China’s top scientists involved in the project are also reported: “Exploring the unknown is human nature. The Moon is a mysterious world to us. We have a responsibility to explore and to understand it. Exploration of the Moon will also deepen our understanding of Earth and ourselves,” said Wu Weiren, chief of China’s lunar program. On CGTN’s “China 24” program this morning Wu said that although China started late in its lunar program, unlike the U.S. program it is not a race, but scientific, and started from a higher ground. He said China’s lunar program welcomes contributions, even in subsystems and system integration.

“It is a perfect display of human intelligence,” said Jia Yang, deputy chief designer of the Chang’e-4 probe, from the China Academy of Space Technology CAST). “Solving those problems might help lay the foundation for future space exploration. High-precision landing is a necessity for further exploring the Moon and asteroids. We hope to be able to reach the whole Moon and even the whole solar system,” said Sun Zezhou, chief designer of Change-4 probe, from CAST.

“Exploring the far side of the Moon is one contribution China is making to the world. Although we still don’t know what we might find, this exploration might influence several generations,” said Shen Zhenrong, a designer of the lunar rover.

A Stimulating Dinner With DC African Union Ambassador

A few days before the New Year, my wife and I had dinner at the home of Arikana Chichombori, the African Union Ambassador to Washington DC. We enjoyed a stimulating discussion passionately led by Amb Chihombori, centered on the need for the creation of a United Africa integrated with African Diaspora.

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My wife and I with Ambassador Chihombori
Ambassador Chihombori, her husband, and guests

Presidents Kagame and Museveni Discuss; Democracy, China, Infrastructure, and Jobs

President Paul Kagame: Time for Europe To Invest in Industry and Infrastrucure

December  26, 2018)

In an exclusive interview with Austria’s {Die Presse} news daily, Rwandan President Paul Kagame stated that “Europe has invested billions upon billions of dollars in Africa. (But) something must have gone wrong…. Part of it is that these billions had a return ticket. They flowed to Africa and then back to Europe again. This money left nothing on the ground in Africa.” The European money was invested in the wrong place, he said.  Instead it should go to investments “in industry, infrastructure, and educational institutions for Africa’s youth, whose number is growing fast. That is the only way to create a  demographic dividend.” It would be a better way of preventing migration of young Africans to Europe, which the Europeans were so much worried about. Europe could cooperate with China, Kagame hints: “China is active in Rwanda, but not in an inappropriate way. The new roads in Rwanda are largely built with European money. Sometimes there are Chinese subcontractors.”

 What Africans do not need, is Europeans trying to give them lessons on democracy, Kagame said. The European model of democracy is a failure, Europe is in a profound political crisis, as shown by the recent mass protests and other aspects, this model cannot be one for Africans to follow. Europe finally has to give up its attitudes of fake generosity, and begin accepting Africa as a real partner, he said.

Presidents Museveni of Uganda and Kagame of Rwanda

China Creating Tens of Thousands of Jobs for Ugandans in Infrastructure Projects

Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni revealed in an interview with {Xinhua} with its focus on infrastructure development, the country wanted to attract more invest-ment from China: “We are likely to advance the project of the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR)… in the government-to-government (talks).” Extending the Chinese-built SGR line from the Kenyan seaport of Mombasa, which is expected to reach the border areas with Rwanda, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo, to Uganda would make sense as a catalyst of economic growth. To finance its infra-structure development agenda, Uganda looked at China because of the country’s favorable lending terms compared to some of the Western global financiers.

Other major infrastructure projects in Uganda will benefit from Chinese support as well: A few months ago, the Kampala-Entebbe Expressway, linking the capital Kampala to Entebbe Airport, the country’s gateway to the world, was completed. China financed the construction of the mega road  project, the first of its kind in the country. China is also financing the expansion of Uganda’s Entebbe International Airport. Official figures show that after completion of the first phase of expansion, the cargo center can handle up to 150,000 metric tons of goods, compared to the previous 69,000 metric tons.

In the northern part of Uganda along the River Nile, the world’s longest river, China is constructing the 600MW Karuma Hydropower Plant. While touring the facility in July, President Museveni said he was amazed by the progress noting that the plant will not only address Uganda’s inadequate power supply, but also that youths have become skilled through the construction process.

Farther upstream on the River Nile, in the central Ugandan district of Kayunga, construction of a Chinese-funded 183MW Isimba Hydro-power plant that is nearing completion according to the Chinese engineers on site, power generated by the plant is expected to come onto the national grid early next year.

The power development plan is crucial for the Uganda’s industrialization policy, which has designated over 22 industrial parks across the country where investors can set up base, taking advantage of the incentives that come with establishing their factories in the parks. In October, President Museveni launched the first phase of a $620 million Chinese industrial project in the eastern district of Tororo. The project has dubbed the Uganda-China Free Zone of International Industrial Cooperation, undertaken by the Dongsong Energy Group, will manufacture glass, steel, and organic-fertilizers, creating about 3,000 jobs at peak when completed in 2020.

President Museveni, in March of this year launched another Chinese-owned Mbale Industrial Park. The park owners, Tian Tang Group, said it will attract more than 30 investors with a total investment of about $600 million and an annual output value of $1.5 billion. The park will directly employ about 12,000 locals.

 The $220 million Kehong China-Uganda Agricultural Industrial Park, is another park that will play a critical role in transforming the economy. According to government figures, almost 80% of the country’s population derives its livelihood from agriculture.

 When fully operational, Kehong China-Uganda Agricultural Industrial Park is expected to produce about 600,000 tons of agro-products annually to meet the domestic and regional market demands.

 It will also create 25,000 jobs as well as making opportunities for training local people available, according to the managers of the park.

Pres. Trump’s Non-Africa Strategy

The so-called US African strategy articulated by National Security Adviser John Bolton, with the approval of President Trump has little, if anything to do with Africa. It is essentially a geo-political strategy aimed primarily at China and to a lesser extent Russia. The true believers of the bankrupt geo-political ideology live in a “global zero-sum game”-a world with only winners and losers among the super-powers. All other (lesser) nations are treated as movable pieces in their fantasy game. In other words, in this administration’s policy, Africa is a pawn on their geo-political chess board. Sadly, this so called African strategy does nothing to improve the conditions of life for the African people, and nothing to enhance US security. Bolton’s explicit attack on China’s successful Belt and Road policy, which for the first time since the days of imperialist/colonial domination of Africa, is providing vitally needed infrastructure across the African continent, demonstrates how little the Trump administration actually cares about the economic welfare of African people. The Trump/Bolton policy has already failed from the start. It is too late to stop China’s on-going collaboration with African nations. However, if the Trump administration was more thoughtful about Africa, they would join with China and Russia to assist in developing the continent, which is still suffering from massive deficits in vital categories of infrastructure. There is still time for the US to reverse course, but this would require jettisoning their adherence to the age old British geo-political world view.

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The US Lacks A Development Strategy for Africa

Read Bolton’s Non-Africa Strategy

Nigeria Continues Demand for Transaqua Project to Save the Shrinking Lake Chad

Shrinking Lake Chad can only be saved by bringing water from the Congo River with Transaqua inter-basin water transfer project

December . 24, 2018–

Nigeria’s daily {The Vanguard} reported hat the Nigerian government “on Sunday pledged to strengthen trans-boundary partnerships with Lake Chad Basin member countries to save the lake from extinction. Minister of Water Resources Mr. Suleiman Adamu made the pledge in Abuja. Adamu said that it was a matter for regret that the lake had depleted from its original size, saying its benefit for livelihood could not be over-emphasized.”

With some imprecision, the report identifies the Transaqua plan adopted at the Abuja International Conference on Lake Chad last February though not calling it by name. Adamu “said that Federal Government was partnering with the Chinese and Italian governments to carry out a feasibility study for inter-basin water transfer from the Ubangi River in Congo. “He said that the proposed water transfer would be one of the biggest water transfer in Africa, stretching over 2,400 km with the sole aim of recharging the lake for maximum benefits,” the newspaper wrote.

Adamu is quoted saying: “What it means is that if we don’t do something, one day we wake up and find out that the lake does not exist. It has happened in other parts of the world where lakes just dried up. We don’t want that to happen, so there was a consensus that the lake must be saved from extinction, because it provides livelihood for as many as 40 million people currently.

And that area has the highest population growth rate in the world, so in the next 30, 40 years, only God knows what the population would be; but we expect it to be high if the trend continues. Unless the lake dries up, in which case, people will now migrate, and you know what those migration[s] would be –there have [been] only two or three options: some would migrate up into the North into Europe, some would go eastwards, into the Central Africa region where it is already a conflict zone.

Saving that lake and sustaining the livelihood of the people in that region is key, and it is a security issue for us in so many ways, including part of efforts to stem the scourge of Boko Haram. The best way to save the lake is to do the inter-basin water transfer, so we achieve that, and that is the premise in which we are working.”

Read article with remarks by Minister Adamu

 

 

Will the Destabilization of Sudan Caused by IMF/World Bank Policies Lead to Regime Change?

December 26, 2018

Several days of protest triggered by an increase in the price of bread and petrol have created a serious political crisis for the government of Sudan. The core reason for the civil eruption is the adherence by the leadership of Sudan to the diktats by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (WB), who have ordered the removal of subsidies for food and fuel. Sudan has been told by the Western financial institutions that its people must continue to suffer economically for future consideration of partial debt forgiveness. These same organizations have insisted that so-called market forces must determine the valuation of the Sudanese Pound. Unfortunately, Sudan acquiesced resulting in a steep devaluation of their currency causing more hardship for the already suffering Sudanese people. This is no exaggeration. During the 2018 Spring Bank/Fund meetings in DC, I attended as a journalist, the discussion with officials from the IMF/WB, US State Department, European nations, et al and representatives from Sudan. When I objected to the economic conditions that Sudan was being bludgeoned to submit to, the WB/IMF officials responded that the Sudanese people will have to undergo more pain. Their justification? It was necessary for Sudan to reduce those state expenditures that provided some economic relief for its people. That dialogue confirmed what I already knew: IMF/WB policies are not good for a nation’s health.

Sun setting on the Nile River in Khartoum

I re-emphasized to my Sudanese friends in the strongest terms what I have been telling them for years; for the welfare of your nation, Sudan must break from these policies. I warned my friends that the same political-financial forces who have been unsuccessful in trying to remove President Omar al-Bashir and weaken the National Congress Party for the last 25 years would change tactics. Now the enemies of Sudan will use the legitimate frustrations of the population against these harsh economic conditions to mobilize the Sudanese for regime change. There is no doubt in my mind that there are agents operating on the ground in Sudan to channel these protests into a movement for the over throw of President al-Bashir.

A repressive response will not succeed in quelling the people’s anger. In fact, that is what the enemies of Sudan are expecting. What is immediately required to prevent this crisis from escalating to a full-scale destabilization pf the nation is; 1) an abrupt termination of the IMF/WB prescriptions, and 2) articulating a national economic development plan that will utilize all of Sudan’s natural resources, most especially its people.

Review below interview with Lawrence Freeman on danger of protests in Sudan leading to regime change.

Africa’s East-West Railroad is 50 years Over Due

An East-West railroad, along with Trans-African highways, and  electrical power, is essential for African nations to become  sovereign independent nations. It is coherent with the African Union’s “Agenda 2063.” Sudan is geographically situated to become the nexus of the East-West and North South rail lines. Africa’s collaboration in recent years with China’s Belt and Road Initiative, Russia, and other nations to build vitally necessary infrastructure is the only way to eliminate poverty, hunger, and disease. It will also lead to finally putting African nations on the path to building robust agricultural and manufacturing sectors. This policy stands in stark contrast to President Trump’s “non-Africa Strategy,” which will do nothing to help Africa, nor improve US Security.  

Russia Wants To Help Build an African Cross-Continental Rail Line

Dec. 16, 2018

The Russia-Sudan Inter-governmental Commission announced in a report that Russia wants to participate in the construction of a cross-continental rail line, which will connect East and West Africa. TASS reported that the commission document states: “The Sudanese side expressed interest in participation of the Russian companies in constructing of the Trans-African railway from Dakar-Port Sudan-Cape Town. The Russian side confirmed readiness to work out the opportunity for participation but asked for [the] provision of all the financial and legal characteristics of this project.”

TASS explained that “the Trans-African railway line is part of the African Union’s plans to connect the port of Dakar in West Africa to the port of Djibouti in East Africa. It will run through 10 different countries (many of them landlocked) and is expected to boost trade on the continent. The route will be the expansion of the existing Trans-African Highway 5 (TAH5). The first phase of the project will be an estimated $2.2 billion upgrade to 1,228 kilometers of existing rail between Dakar, the capital of Senegal, and Bamako, the capital of neighboring Mali.

The project has already attracted Chinese investment in African infrastructure through Beijing’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).” 

 
 
 

 

Despite Claims From the West: Report Reveals That China’s Africa Infrastructure Projects are Reducing Economic Inequalities

 

China’s New Silk Road/Belt Road Initiative is developing many parts of the world with infrastructure that are yielding positive economic results .

Chinese Investments in Developing Sector Decrease Inequality

December 12, 2018

A study done by the AidData institute at William and Mary College in Virginia showed that China’s investments in the developing sector between 2000 and 2014, unlike many western investments, reduce economic inequality in the targeted countries.

Financed by the UN, the Singapore Ministry of Education, the German Research Foundation, USAID, and several other foundations, the study collected data on Chinese projects in 138 countries, concluding: “We find that Chinese development projects in general, and Chinese transportation projects in particular, reduce economic inequality within and between sub-national localities,” and “produce positive economic spillover that leads to a more equal distribution of economic activity.”

“Beijing has demonstrated that it is  both willing and able to address the unmet infrastructure financing needs of developing countries. These development projects—in particular, investments in highways, railways, roads, bridges, tunnels, and ports—could strengthen economic ties between rural and urban areas and thereby help to spread the benefits of economic growth to more remote and traditionally disadvantaged areas.”

“The findings from the study are encouraging: Chinese development projects—in particular, “connective infrastructure” projects like roads and bridges—are found to create a more equal distribution of economic activity within the provinces and districts where they were located.”

Read the article with a link to the report

 

 

How Young Are African Nations? Yet Africa is the Birthplace of Mankind.

This picture is from a presentation I gave at the Christmas Party of the Mountain Club of Maryland. The audience had little knowledge of Africa, but were totally engaged, and excited to learn about this unique continent. Here I am showing them how young modern-day Africa is with a map of the dates of independence from European colonialism/imperialism. The notable exception of course is Ethiopia that was never colonized, having defeated the Italian army on the battle field at Adwa on March 1, 1896. It is more than ironic that the continent from which Homo Sapiens-Sapiens migrated to the rest of the planet approximately 100,000 years ago, has the youngest nations. My courses on African history investigate this paradox.

Lawrence Freeman Speaking in Columbia Maryland, December 9, 2018

Africa Creates Appalachian Mountains in the US

When the super continent Pangaea was formed 300 million years ago the African (Nubian) tectonic plate crashed into what is now the east coast of the US. This created the Appalachian Mountains that I and thousands of others hike regularly along the Appalachian Trail. Thank you Africa (I included this in a presentation I gave to my Mountain Club of Maryland’s Christmas Party on Africa)