New Economic Order Required to Combat COVID-19 in Africa

COVID-19 will spread in Africa (courtesy theconversation.com)

New Economic Order Required to Combat COVID-19 in Africa

Lawrence Freeman

March 30, 2020

As of March 30, 2020, the Africa CDC reports the total number of COVID-19 cases-4,760, deaths-146, and recoveries-355. The totals for individual nations vary from higher levels:  Algeria 511 cases and 31 deaths; Egypt 609 and 40; Morocco 479 and 26, South Africa 1280 and 1; Nigeria 111 and 1 (cases and deaths respectively); to dozens of nations reporting 10 or less cases and 0 deaths. Africa CDC COVID-19

While these figures for Africa are significantly lower than nations in Europe, Asia, and North America, in some cases orders of magnitude lower, there is reason for great concern for the spread of the Coronavirus throughout the African continent. Many African nations are unable to adequately test their citizens, and one should assume the number of cases is vastly unreported. Also, there unique features of African society that present an impediment to isolation of those infected with COVID-19, and social distancing. African society are centered around crowded mass markets, and culturally Africans are prone to show their friendliness towards others by holding hands.

Factoring in a weak healthcare system, poor nutrition, inadequate housing, lack of electricity and clean water, and already prevalent existing diseases (HIV AIDS, Malaria, TB) in the population, COVID-19 could propagate very rapidly, overwhelming an insufficient number of beds, hospitals and doctors. For Africans, the consequences of the proliferation of COVID-19 could be catastrophic, resulting in higher levels of mortality and morbidity than we have presently experienced.

Debt Restructuring Necessary for Africa’s Health

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, for the first time in many years, African leaders are demanding a restructuring of the onerous debt, whose payment has diverted nations’ revenues away from investing in vital categories of infrastructure, including healthcare. Payment of debt, mere loans, cannot be, to quote from William Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, “the pound of flesh” used to kill people. Tragically, since African nations liberated themselves from European colonialism, debt has been used as a weapon to repress the development of emerging nations.

On March 24, the office of the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Dr Abiy Ahmed, released an incisive three point proposal to the G20 nations outlining necessary actions to be taken to safeguard African nations during this pandemic. He began by dramatically stating the truth, “COVID-19 poses an existential threat to the economies of African countries. Our economies, fragile and vulnerable even in the best of times will face serious shocks.” He than discussed a crucial underlying constraint imposed on African nations, “the heavy debt burden, the servicing of which alone costs many of them [nations] significantly more than their annual health budgets.”

Prime Minister Abiy requested from the G20:

  • $150 billion “Africa Global COVID-19 Emergency Financing Package”
  • “Global Africa Health Emergency Package”
  • “Debt resolution and Restructuring Package.”

Elaborating on debt restructuring, Prime Minister Abiy wrote, “Ethiopia proposes all interest payments to government loans should be written off. We suggest the remaining debt be converted into long term low interest loans with 10 years grace period before payments. All debt payments will be limited to 10% of the value of exports.”

The theme of restructuring Africa’s debt to deal with the present crisis, was also discussed in a virtual conference of African finance ministers on March 19, according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).  To battle COVID-19, the ministers said, “Africa needs an immediate emergency economic stimulus to the tune of $100 billion” The UNCEA reports that they are asking that $44 billion, almost fifty percent of the funds requested, would come from halting payments of debt service, and in the most fragile nations to the loan principal as well.  African Finance Ministers Discuss Debt

In an insightful column, published in the March 25th edition of the Financial Times, Prime Minister Abiy again raises the necessity of debt alleviation: “Building on what has been announced by international financial institutions, the G20 must launch a global fund to prevent the collapse of health systems in Africa. The institutions need to establish a facility to provide budgetary support to African countries. The issue of resolving Africa’s debt burden also needs to be put back on the table as a matter of urgency.” (emphasis added)  PM Abiy “If Covid-19 is not beaten in Africa it will return to haunt us all”

 

Crowded Nigerian Market (courtesy buzznigeria.com)

 

Emergency Actions Taken

Nigeria—March 18, with 8 confirmed cases, imposed a travel ban on 13 high-risk COVID-19 infested countries; mandated a ban open worship and other public gatherings; mandated compulsory laboratory tests on all staff and members of the national assembly; mandated that public institutions should be equipped with temperature gauge.  All airports in Nigeria are closed to international commercial flights until 23 April.

Rwanda—March 21, with 17 confirmed cases of COVID-19, suspended all arriving and departing commercial flights for 30 days; shutdown of schools, universities, and places of worship for two weeks; the office of the Prime Minister released a list of nine preventive measures.

Ethiopia—March 23, with 11 confirmed COVID-19 cases, enforced a 14 day mandatory quarantine for all travelers entering the country; closed all schools, and banned all gatherings and sports events for 15 days. March 25, Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde ordered that more than 4,000 prisoners be pardoned.

Senegal–March 23, declared a state of emergency.

Ivory Coast–March 23, declared a state of emergency, imposed a curfew from 9:00 pm to 5:00 am, and shut the country’s borders

South Africa—March 26, with over 900 confirmed cases, began a three-week nationwide lockdown; the lockdown is considered one of the strictest, banning alcohol sales, dog-walking, and jogging in public.

In response to the COVID-19 crisis, China has sent to the African Union, 2,000 test kits to be dispersed across the continent, and is expected to send another 10,000, along with medical supplies. China has also launched a new Health Silk Road. On Sunday, March 22, African Union received 1.1 million test kits, 6 million masks, 60,000 medical protective suits and face shields, donated by Chinese billionaire Jack Ma.

Lessons We Must Learn

We can and should learn the following lessons from this contagious and lethal virus. Decisions made by nations for securing their future can now be informed from the very painful consequences of the global spread of COVID-19. If society, had learned the principles of the science of physical economy, instead of being seduced by the “smell of money,” we might very well have been able to avoid the worst of the tragic effects of COVID-19, which continue to plague our planet.  An unprepared and underfunded national economy gives society little chance to deal with any serious crisis, much less a pandemic.

*Globalization has always been a trojan horse, an Achilles heel for the security of any nation. The idea that a nation should gamble its security on the premise of buying necessary commodities from anywhere in the world at the cheapest price was always insane.  Witness today’s disruption of multi-thousand mile long supply chains as proof.

For example, properly understood, feeding one’s population is a matter of national security. African nations have undermined their security and sovereignty by failing to be food self-sufficient. Procuring food from other continents or at great distances across Africa is not only foolish, but totally unnecessary given the fecundity of African soil.  By conservative estimates, African nations spend $35 billion on imported food. A colossal and senseless waste of foreign exchange, which contributes to a nation’s poverty.  And a poor-hungry population is fertile ground for orchestrated destabilizations. Nations are ordered by institutions like the World Trade Organization to buy their food at the cheapest price regardless of domestic consequences.

The alternative to globalization is obvious; each nation has the sovereign obligation to foster productive agriculture and manufacturing sectors. The current pandemic of the coronavirus has brought to the fore the perilous effects of nations dependent upon importing lifesaving products from other nations.

Africa’s huge infrastructure deficit has always been a killer for Africa; literally!  Many of my friends and critics alike have objected to my insistence that the most critical prerequisite for Africa’s development is infrastructure. The most essential human right, is the right to live, and to live as a dignified human being. That is impossible with pathetically low, in some cases, non-existent levels of infrastructure.

Hospital in South Africa (courtesy borgenproject.com)

*Healthcare infrastructure is a necessity to sustain longevity of life—the essence of a human right. It embodies all components of infrastructure, manufacturing, and agricultural industries.

Examine what is necessary to maintain a hospital. Abundant electricity for lights and machines, access to clean water, roads and rail lines to transport patients, advanced medical equipment, a manufacturing sector to produce all the products consumed by hospital staff, food production to feed patients and staff, colleges, medical schools to train nurses and physicians, clothing for patients and staff, protective gear, and the list goes on. Now ask oneself, how many hospitals are there per 100,000 population in Africa?  How many basic hospital beds exist? How advanced intensive care units? If you look at the chart in the link below, which admittedly is several years old, you can see the huge discrepancy in hospital beds per 1,000 people in Africa compared other parts of the world. Hospital Bed per 1,000 in Africa

In the years 2012-2013, the US had 2.9 beds per 1,000 people, Italy 3.9 and Spain 3. All these nations are now experiencing a shortage of beds and all are considered hot spots in this COVID-19 pandemic. Shockingly, in that same time frame, over 25 African nations were recorded to have 1 bed or less per 1,000.

In 1975 the U.S. had 1.5 million hospital beds, and today has 925,000-over half a million fewer. Today the US has an average of 2.5 beds per 1,000 people, and California, Oregon, and Washington have 2 beds or less per 1,000. By contrast, before the outbreak of COVID-19, Wuhan, China had 4.3 beds per 1000, and they have added 10,000 hospital beds since the outbreak began by building several new hospitals.

Think for a moment would kind of investment in infrastructure, production, and labor that would be required for African nations to even reach the insufficient US level of hospitals and beds. How many hundreds of thousands of megawatts of electricity would have to be generated to supply these new hospitals? How many million gallons of water would be required? Africa has never built up a minimum healthcare infrastructure and is woefully unprepared should the pandemic surge on the continent in the weeks and months ahead.

 As we are witnessing today, the West is suffering greatly from the deliberate slashing its own healthcare infrastructure over recent decades. This has been accomplished through austerity, shortsightedness, and an indecent obeisance to a desire to make fast-money by gambling on Wall Street.

*State government intervention has risen to the fore during this scourge of COVID-19, despite decades maligning the role of the state. It is now clear that contrary to the false claims that the state has no role in the world of neo-liberalism, laissez-faire, and unregulated free-trade, government supervision and government credit-debt to sustain people and the economy have proofed invaluable and lifesaving. Putting aside the multi-trillion dollar bailout to the global gambling casino known as the financial system, governments have issued emergency funds necessary to maintain society. Much more government intervention will be required to save lives in the weeks and months ahead.

Globalization (courtesy thegeopolitics.com)

 A New Just Economic Order       

Prime Minister Abiy’s column in the Financial Times beseeches the need for a coordinated global response to COVID-19:

 “There is a major flaw in the strategy to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. Advanced economies are unveiling unprecedented economic stimulus packages. African countries, by contrast, lack the wherewithal to make similarly meaningful interventions. Yet if the virus is not defeated in Africa, it will only bounce back to the rest of the world. 

That is why the current strategy of uncoordinated country-specific measures, while understandable, is myopic, unsustainable and potentially counter-productive. A virus that ignores borders cannot be tackled successfully like this.

We can defeat this invisible and vicious adversary — but only with global leadership. Without that, Africa may suffer the worst, yet it will not be the last. We are all in this together, and we must work together to the end.”

His comments implore the urgent necessity for an entirely different global approach to be taken by nations. We must absorb the horrible reality of today’s deadly crisis to motivate our passions to create a better future for civilization.

For humanity to survive, we can no longer tolerate living in a world governed a geo-political doctrine that views other countries crudely as either friend or foe, with winners on top and losers underneath.  We can no longer live in a system that values mere money above human life. Look at Sudan, whose people are suffering, while Western institutions led by the International Monetary Fund use Sudan’s $53 billion in (unpayable) debt as weapon to dictate their “reforms.”

Months before COVID-19, the United Nations asked for $135 million to fight the unprecedented Desert Locust threatening the food supply in Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia. The fund is still $100 million short of that goal. The UN has called the locust swarm in East Africa “extremely alarming.” Tthe current pandemic is affecting the ability for African nations to obtain the minimal equipment and pesticides required.

We must bring into creation a new model for governing. A new paradigm that values human life above all else. One that acknowledges the universal moral resemblance of all human beings.

The call for a New Just World Economic Order was first articulated in the 1970s and has been echoed for decades by world leaders. All foreign, domestic, economic policy should be formulated upon the recognizable principle that all people share a common aim and destiny. We, the human race, are unified by our endowed unique quality; the power of reason-creative imagination.  To resolve the multiple crises facing humanity, including a meltdown of the global financial system, it is urgent that an international conference be convened to establish a new template for economic and political relations among sovereign nations. The foremost underlying principle for such deliberations is acknowledging that the aspiration of all nations should be the elevation of human creative life. For all peoples.

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

 

Amb Arikana Chihombori-Quao Refutes African Union Allegations

Former Ambassador from the African Union to the US, Arikana Chihombori-Quao with Lawrence Freeman. December 5, 2019

December 8, 2019

You can read in the press release below the rebuttal by Ambassador Arikana Chihombori-Quao to the allegations against her by the African Union.

“In summary, I took a virtually unknown Mission that had been relegated to a Protocol Office and turned it into a vibrant well-respected Mission, not only in Washington DC but around the world. I accomplished all this with limited staff…and very limited resources. I worked tirelessly, an average of sixteen-eighteen-hour days, seven days a week during my tenure. I attended as many meetings and events as I could promoting Africa and the African Union not only in the United States of America but also in other parts of the Americas. I realized that this is what it took to bring awareness to the people of an entity that was otherwise unknown.”

Read: Press Release and Rebuttal by HE Ambassador Chihombori Quao

 

History Course: “Africa The Sleeping Giant” Amb. Arikana Chihombori Lectures Students On The Berlin Conference

Former African Union Ambassador, Arikana Chihombori-Quao, speaking to Lawrence Freeman’s class at Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Montgomery County Maryland on the Berlin Conference. December 5, 2019

December 7, 2019

At the fifth week of my African history course (outlined below), 80 students heard Amb Chihombori-Quao discuss the effects of the Berlin Conference on the people of Africa today. This provocative presentation lead to many questions.   

“Africa: The Sleeping Giant” 6 week-12 hour course syllabus by Lawrence Freeman

The instructor’s intention is to provide the class with broad overview of the development of the African continent over millennia and centuries, coupled with insights to understand the present. The instructor believes that it is impossible to know current events in Africa today, beyond the misleading media headlines, without a full knowledge of Africa’s unique and at times tragic history.

Week 1–“Introduction”: In this class we discuss the great diversity of the continent. This includes its size, climates, geographical characteristics, deserts, rivers, lakes, and historical facts regarding Africa’s many nations, its economic condition.

Week 2–“Man Is Not a Monkey”: This class traces mankind’s emergence to what we call modern man-homo sapien sapien-over millions of years by examining the effects of man’s powers of reason, that did not evolve from the apes, and mankind’s exodus from the African continent.  We will then discuss a few of the early civilizations in East and West Africa, concluding with the great Bantu internal migration that transformed the continent.

Week 3–“Early African Civilizations-Slavery”: In this we class we continue examining early civilizations in Africa, iron making, and population growth. We will then leap ahead to the “discovery” of Africa by Europe and roots of slavery.

Week 4–“Slavery to Colonialism”: In this class we examine the seamless transition from slavery to colonialism, which in total encompasses 500 years, leading to destruction of the cultural and physical evolution of the African people.

Week 5–“European Empires Carve Up Africa”: This class focuses on the hideous Berlin Conference that divided up Africa in accord with Europe’s geopolitical Imperialist view of Africa and its people.

Week 6–“Africa’s Post Independence”: We leap ahead to the liberation of Africa from colonialism circa 1960. We discuss current and changing conditions in African nations, especially as the West abandons the continent and China supports Africa’s economic growth by building and funding infrastructure projects across Africa.

It Cannot Be Denied: China Helping Africa Realize Its Dream

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (L), Djiboutian President Ismail Omar Guelleh (C), and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir (R) on Dec. 9, 2018, inaugurate a Chinese-contracted major road project as the Ethiopian government aspires to connect strategic towns in western Ethiopia. (Xinhua/Michael Tewelde)

November 28, 2019

China to help Africa realize “African dream” early: Chinese state councilor

Xinhua|-November 23, 2019  

China is willing to make every effort to help Africa get out of the “underdevelopment trap” and realize the “African dream” at an early date, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said here on Saturday.

Wang made the remarks while attending the Group of 20 (G20) Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Nagoya, Japan.

According to him, lack of fund is the biggest challenge to Africa’s development, with an annual infrastructure investment gap of 100 billion U.S. dollars. China’s infrastructure projects in Africa generate more than 50 billion U.S. dollars in revenue every year, he said.

For example, the Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway has created nearly 50,000 local jobs, driving Kenya’s economic growth by about 1.5 percent, Wang said, adding that China-Africa cooperation is part of South-South cooperation and is mutual help between friends and brothers.

China attaches great importance to the debt issue, actively helps African countries improve their debt management capacity and provides necessary support when they encounter difficulties, Wang said. The two sides have made positive progress in jointly building the Belt and Road with high quality, he added.

The Belt and Road Initiative is highly compatible with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and development strategies of African countries, forming a strong synergy for promoting common development, Wang said.

In order to better help Africa achieve sustainable development, it is necessary to focus on solving the three major development bottlenecks, namely lagging infrastructure, lack of talent and capital shortage, while solving the three livelihood issues of employment, food and clothing and health, he added.

In this regard, China will adhere to the principle of upholding justice while pursuing shared interests and the principle of sincerity, practical results, affinity and good faith, and work tirelessly to help Africa develop, Wang said.

China has helped Africa build more than 10,000 km of roads, over 6,000 km of railways and a large number of libraries, schools, hospitals and other livelihood facilities throughout the continent, greatly promoting local development, Wang said.

Meanwhile, more than half of the eight action plans and supporting financing announced at the Beijing Summit of Forum on China-Africa Cooperation last year have been implemented or seen concrete arrangements.

He called on developed countries to honor their commitments to Africa and provide tangible assistance in capital and technology among others. China is ready to work with all parties to give full play to respective advantages, jointly promote peace, stability and development in Africa and help African countries realize the “African dream” at an early date, he said.

Read: China Helps Africa To Realize African Dream

 

Yes, Chinese engagement is helping Africa’s industrialization

A worker at the Chinese-built Bole Lemi Industrial Park in Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia, April 6, 2017. (Xinhua/Michael Tewelde)

November 22, 2019

Chinese engagement helps Africa’s industrialization: ITC executive director

Speaking to Xinhua on Wednesday, November 20, Arancha Gonzalez, Executive Director of the International Trade Center-(ITC), empathized China’s growing engagement and interest in Africa’s existing and emerging potential was driving the continent’s industrialization.

“China has focused a lot of attention to the industrialization of the African continent,” the ITC Executive Director told Xinhua on the sidelines of the Africa Industrialization Day commemoration event, which was marked on Wednesday at the headquarters of the African Union (AU) Commission in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

“It (China) has focused a lot in manufacturing,” Gonzalez said, as she emphasized other emerging potential areas in the industry sector that are benefiting from and attracting Chinese engagement across Africa.

“First, I think now there is interesting opportunity that is coming in two other sectors, one is agro-processing, so helping Africa transform a lot of the raw materials, agricultural commodities that this continent produces into processed products.

The continental industrialization day was commemorated as part of the AU Commission’s flagship Africa Industrialization Week (AIW-2019), which is underway from November 18 to 22. The AIW-2019 also emphasized the crucial role of industrial parks and Special Economic Zones (SEZs)to drive Africa’s industrialization.
Continue Reading: Chinese engagement helps Africa’s industrialization

Are The French Losing Their Colonial Grip On Francophone African Nations?

 

CFA franc is used by 14 countries of the African continent: eight belonging to the UEMOA area (Burkina Faso, Togo, Benin, Senegal, Mali, Ivory Coast, Niger, Guinea Bissau); and five in the CEMAC zone (Central African Republic, Gabon, Chad, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea), The CFA has about 155 million users. Although operational in these countries since independence, this currency until today is manufactured in France. It has been pegged to the euro for 20 years through the French Treasury, and its value is defined by the European currency (1 euro = 655.96 CFA francs). In other words, it is convertible only in Euros, hence its dependence on the financial policy of Europe. (courtesy of afric.online)

Nov. 12, 2019

Despite liberation from France over half a century ago, France has maintained its colonial hold on Francophone nations through its control of the CFA franc currency. It appears France’s grip is loosening with actions led by the President of Benin, Patrice Talon. Without control of one’s own currency no African nation can be truly sovereign. Ambassador Arikana Chihombori-Quao has been relentlessly campaigning for the French to end their modern day colonialism, which requires Francophone nations to use the CFA franc and deposit their reserves in Paris banks. Amb Chihombori, who was the African Union’s ambassador to the United States, was dismissed without cause last month. Many of her supporters believe that it was pressure from France that forced her to be discharged from her post in Washington.

Francophone nations in West Africa, former French colonies, want more control over the management of their currencies and plan to move some reserves from France, said Benin President Patrice Talon.

The eight member-nations of the West African Economic and Monetary Union “unanimously agree” on ending a decade-old model whereby their foreign-exchange accumulation is kept at the French Treasury, Talon said in an interview with Radio France Internationale (RFI). Their currency, the CFA franc, is pegged to the euro, and its convertibility is guaranteed by the former colonial ruler.

Established after World War II, the discussion of the use of the CFA franc frequently triggers debate about the region’s continued economic dependence on France and the view that the currency is artificially strong and curbs the region’s competitiveness. Its supporters cite the region’s low inflation and the currency’s stability relative to other African nations as reasons for its continued use.

“I can’t give you the date, but the willingness of everyone is already there,” Talon said in response to to French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire’s openness to a reform of the currency. “Psychologically, with regards to the vision of sovereignty and managing your own money, it’s not good that this model continues.”

The regional central bank will manage the reserves and distribute them to partners around the world, including Japan, Europe, China, and North America, said Talon. Ivory Coast, with an economy of about $40 billion, is the biggest among the users of the CFA franc in West Africa. In addition to the eight West African nations, six other nations in the Central African Economic and Monetary Union also use the same model.

African Union Ambassador Addresses Confucius Institute

September 15, 2019

African Union Ambassador, Arikana Chihombori Quao and her husband, Dr Nii Saban Quao with Lawrence Freeman and his wife Donielle DeToy at celebration of Confucius Institute in Washington DC

 

On Saturday evening-September 14, at the National Press Club in Washington DC, African Union ambassador, Arikana Chihombori-Quao gave the key note address to the Confucius Institute National Honors Gala.  During her dynamic and at time amusing talk, she discussed how she over came her initial fears about China when she visited the nation four years ago. The Ambassador emphasized the importance of people to people relations between the US and China, and discussed the process of learning the Mandarin language.

 

UN Sec-Gen Guterres: “The Winds of Hope Are Growing in Africa”

August 30, 2019

The UN Secretary-General António Guterres addresses the 7th Tokyo International Conference on African Development in Yokohama, Japan, on 28 August 2019

Let us remember what Pope Paul VI wrote in his 1967 encyclical; “On the Development of Peoples”: the new name for peace is development.  UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ support for development of Africa at the Tokyo International Conference on African Development-  (TICAD) conference is salient. Japan’s motivation to invest in Africa’s infrastructure is not to counter China. And China is not attempting to build a new colonial empire in Africa. These false characterizations are expressions from the old geo-political financial system that is losing its control over global policy. Witness the the utter failure of the G-7 Summit of so the called advanced sector nations. The Western banking system is about to collapse again as a result of the central banks pumping in into the financial system $17 trillion of “quantitative easing” over the last ten years.  The US should stop attacking China’s new paradigm of development typified by its Belt and Road Initiative-(BRI), and President Trump should end his stupid, counter productive tariffs. The world needs leadership to lift the planet onto a new scientifically driven economic platform that will not only end poverty and hunger in the developing sector, but also raise the standard of living of all nations. 

In this spirit, one concrete initiative that should be taken up at the upcoming United Nations General Assembly-(UNGA )is; funding for recharging the shrinking Lake Chad. The Transaqua inter-basin water transfer project has the support of the nations of the Lake Chad Basin and UN Sec Gen Guterres. This project, which has been called, “A Kwame Nkrumah Pan- African Infrastructure Project,” would transform the Lake Chad Basin. With the head of the Nigerian Mission to UN, Ambassador Tijjan Muhamed-Bande, presiding over this year’s UNGA, and Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari  an ardent supporter of recharging the lake, we are at a propitious moment for the UN take bold action for the Lake Chad Basin.   

Excerpts: 

“African nations have made ‘significant progress’ in developmental efforts in the last few years, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Wednesday, kicking off the Seventh Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD), taking place in Yokohama.

“I see Africa as a dynamic continent of opportunity where winds of hope are blowing ever stronger,” Mr. Guterres expressed

“Africa needs peace for its development” the Secretary-General said in closing.

“I look forward to productive discussions over the next days that will culminate in a common understanding of the priorities for common and coherent action to promote peace and sustainable development across Africa.

ReadFor Africa the Winds of Hope are Growint Stronger

ReadUnited Nations Conference: The Lake Chad Basin Should not be ‘Managed’; it Should be ‘Transformed.’

Africa Update: African Union Discusses DRC’s Grand Inga. African Bankers Reject ‘Noise’ On Chinese Debt

August 3, 2019

African Union Meeting Revives Grand Inga Dam Project in Congo

The six-phase Grand Inga Dam Project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (D.R.C.) has shown signs of coming back to life when the project was discussed at the African Union Extraordinary Summit meeting held Niamey, Niger July 4-7,

{Construction Review Online} reported July 31. On Congo River, two other dams, Inga-I and Inga-II had long been completed, generating about 1800 MW peak power. Inga-III, whose construction had fallen through for a number of reasons, is projected to create nearly 5,000 MW of power. Grand Inga is a considerably ambitious project. With 52 turbines, it would dam the entire river and flood 22,000 hectares of the Bundi valley, which is home to as many as 30,000 people. Five additional hydropower stations would considerably increase the generating potential of the falls. Once these additional hydropower stations were brought online at the dam site, the  whole project would dwarf any other hydropower facility worldwide. The Inga project is estimated to produce 40,000 MW. This is enough to provide power to nearly half of the continent, reported {Construction Review Online}.

D.R. Congo, in Central Africa, where the total electrical power installation is close to 15,000 MW.  Central Africa constitutes of ten countries: Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of the Congo (Congo Brazzaville), D.R. Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and Rwanda. Most of Central Africa’s power is generated from hydro.

African Bankers Reject “Noise” on Chinese Debt–We Have To Borrow for Development!

John Rawangombwa, chairman of the African Association of Central Banks, whose annual meeting in Kigali, Rwanda ended Aug. 1, told Xinhua that “the noise around the Chinese debt to African countries”–this was the subject of a presentation at the gathering–was “unfounded.” Chinese debt, as a percentage of total African debt, is not a problem, he said.

Rawangombwa pointed out that borrowing is good, and borrowing outside the country is acceptable, although internal borrowing would be preferable to reduce foreign exchange risk.

The reality, however, he stated, is that Africa faces a financing gap; so, nations must improve their debt management capacity, and borrow for the right purposes, an build up their capital markets.

He emphasized that countries must ensure that they invest in the right projects, that generate foreign exchange in order to be able to repay their debt. He also said that the fact that Africa’s debt has increased is not unique to Africa. Rather, it is a global phenomenon, that requires global management, Xinhua reported

Trump’s Policy for Africa Exists Only to Stop China

July 20, 2019

The analysis in the article below published by WPR is useful. However, I can be more blunt: President Trump’s policy for Africa has nothing to do with helping Africa, but it only to counter China’s influence! President Obama did very little for Africa, but make speeches about so called good governance and promoted his fraudulent “power-less Africa” program. Sadly, President Trump is following in Obama’s footsteps, premising his strategy for Africa on the old British geo-political doctrine of winners and losers in a zero-sum game. Read my article:  President Trump’s Fundamentally Flawed Africa Policy  Stopping China is not a policy to help Africa, a continent still suffering today from enormous infrastructure deficits, a legacy of 500 years of slavery, colonialism, and neo-colonialism. Despite all the propaganda against China, China’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative has done more to assist African nations in developing their economies in recent decades, that all the combined initiatives of Europe and the United States. President Trump’s “Prosper Africa” will not advance Africa’s interests. The best way to actually promote development in Africa, build robust manufacturing sectors, and industrialize the underdeveloped continent, would be for President Trump to join China in building infrastructure across the continent in the spirit of the Belt and Road Imitative. 

World Politics Review

Donald Trump’s daughter and adviser, Ivanka Trump, and Kwesi Quartey, Deputy Chairperson of the African Commission.
Ivanka Trump, and H,E, Kwesi Quartey, Deputy Chairperson, African Union

Trump’s ‘Prosper Africa’ Strategy Is Fixated on a Cold War-Like View of China

Kimberly Ann ElliottTuesday, July 16, 2019

During the Cold War, American policymakers frequently pushed nonaligned countries to take sides. The Central Intelligence Agency fomented coups against governments that flirted with communism and the Soviet Union, or that just drifted too far to the left for comfort. The State Department threatened to cut aid flows to countries that voted too often against U.S. priorities at the United Nations. Could sub-Saharan Africa find itself caught in the middle again if a cold war with China breaks out?

In a speech at the Heritage Foundation last December, President Donald Trump’s hawkish national security adviser, John Bolton, launched a new initiative called “Prosper Africa” that he said was aimed at promoting trade and commercial ties “to the benefit of both the United States and Africa.” But there are a number of reasons for African governments to be concerned about what the administration really has in mind.

First of all, Bolton cast the goal of increased economic engagement as something necessary for “safeguarding the economic independence of African states and protecting U.S. national security interests,” not as something helpful for African economic development. He pointed to the growing influence of “great power competitors,” China and Russia, which he suggested were investing in Africa mainly “to gain a competitive advantage over the United States.” While there are certainly valid concerns about some of China’s foreign aid and lending practices in Africa and other developing countries, African governments have generally welcomed Chinese aid and investment. It’s not at all clear they would agree that this is a competition where they must choose one side or the other.

A second reason to be skeptical of how seriously this administration takes the goal of helping Africa develop is the low level of U.S. engagement to date. President Donald Trump has not visited the continent; his wife and daughter have in trips heavy on photo ops but light on policy substance. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross—hardly the most dynamic member of the Cabinet—was supposed to represent the administration last month at the U.S.-Africa Business Summit in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, where details of the Prosper Africa initiative were announced. But he cancelled at the last minute because of a “scheduling conflict,” according to his office, sending Deputy Secretary of Commerce Karen Dunn Kelley instead.

By contrast, Chinese President Xi Jinping has visited Africa multiple times and has welcomed a stream of African officials to Beijing. Russian President Vladimir Putin will host 50 African leaders at a summit in Sochi later this year. Gyude Moore, a former minister of public works in Liberia (he’s now my colleague at the Center for Global Development), called the lack of Cabinet-level U.S. participation at the Maputo meeting insulting.

There are a number of reasons for African governments to be concerned about what the Trump administration really has in mind.

Finally, another reason to question the White House’s intentions with respect to trade with Africa is Trump’s view that trade policy is a zero-sum game: If another country wins, the United States must lose, and vice versa. Indeed, before getting to the mutual benefit part of his speech last December, Bolton asserted that the administration’s new Africa strategy would remain true to Trump’s “central campaign promise to put the interests of the American people first, both at home and abroad.”

So it should be no surprise that when he discussed trade, Bolton emphasized American jobs and exports to Africa. He said that the administration wants to pursue “modern, comprehensive trade agreements… that ensure fair and reciprocal exchange.” In recent congressional testimony, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer also reiterated the administration’s goal of negotiating a bilateral trade agreement with an African country that could become a model for others. Negotiators for a little country, negotiating with a big country like the United States, might wonder just what reciprocity means in that context.

If more than two decades of history is any guide, negotiating a trade deal with the United States will mean more or less accepting whatever text American negotiators put in front of their counterparts, including onerous demands for strict intellectual property protections that could increase prices for drugs and agricultural inputs. Negotiating with one country at a time is also problematic because most African countries are party to one or more regional communities, which they are stitching together in a single, continent-wide free trade agreement that just formally entered into force. The continent—home to a large number of small economies, many of them landlocked—desperately needs more regional integration to increase its competitiveness by lowering transportation and other costs of trade and achieving economies of scale.

Beyond these problematic trade plans, what else is in the administration’s Prosper Africa initiative? Its second stated aim is to engage the private sector and double U.S. trade with and investment in Africa. According to Kelley’s remarks in Maputo, two of the three strands of the program are aimed at helping American companies find and close deals across Africa by streamlining and better coordinating U.S. government activities that provide information, financing and risk insurance to the private sector. She also suggested that these efforts on behalf of American businesses could include “U.S. government advocacy” to “expedite” transactions, which sounds like it might involve a little arm-twisting if African officials question the terms of a deal.

Helping African countries improve the investment climate, which is Prosper Africa’s third strand, and connecting American investors to opportunities on the continent, are worthy—and indeed longstanding—goals. Overall, however, the initiative appears to be a mix of existing programs in shiny new packaging, and with little new money. The $50 million proposed budget for Prosper Africa is a drop in the bucket compared to the administration’s proposed 9 percent cut in overall aid to Africa. And efforts to negotiate bilateral trade agreements country by country would undermine the regional integration that is needed for the continent’s development.

Trade and aid to support development in Africa can and should be to the mutual interest of all involved. But putting Prosper Africa in the context of the geopolitical rivalry with China, alongside Trump’s belligerent America First rhetoric, undermines that positive message.

Kimberly Ann Elliott is a visiting scholar at the George Washington University Institute for International Economic Policy, and a visiting fellow with the Center for Global Development. Her WPR column appears every Tuesday