Will Africa Emulate China in Eliminating Poverty with BRI? More Electrical Power Needed

March 7, 2019

Rwanda Acknowledges Partnership With China Is Beneficial for Both Nations

President Xi Jinping left and President Paul Kegame-right (East African)

Answering a media query in Kigali on March 5, Rwandan Foreign Minister Richard Sezibera said that the Belt and Road Initiative is a partnership that is mutually beneficial for Rwanda and China, and addresses Rwanda’s development challenges, Xinhua reported. China is an important partner for Rwanda at all levels, and Rwanda welcomes the growing partnership with China, he said, adding that Rwanda and China have important relationships in infrastructure development, party-to-party and people-to-people exchanges, and at the political level.

Last August, {China Daily} reported Rwandan Ambassador to China Charles Kayonga telling the newspaper, through e-mail, that in Rwanda, “we have had financing for a number of roads, and we have seen direct investment by Chinese companies in a number of businesses rise.” 

 Africa is in need of infrastructure, among other things, to achieve sustainable economic transformation, he said, adding that cooperation with China will help finance the infrastructure projects to help spur the continent’s industrial development, which will, in turn, favor China in its vision of going global.

Prescient Xi: China is Eliminating Poverty

Speaking today with deputies from Gansu Province, President Xi Jinping underlined the importance of reaching the goal of eliminating poverty by 2020.

“There should be no retreat until a complete victory is won,” Xi said. “Decisive progress has been achieved in the country’s tough fight against poverty over the past years, marking a new chapter in the poverty reduction history of mankind.” Xi stressed, that the goal to eradicate extreme poverty must be achieved on time. He warned that the tasks ahead remain arduous and hard, as those still in poverty are the worst stricken. He also warned that, “the practices of ‘formalities for formalities’ sake and bureaucratism hamper the effective advancement of poverty reduction.” He also warned against the tendency to celebrate short-term gains when it comes to addressing the problem of poverty. He insisted that claims of success should be grounded in reality, and that the results of poverty alleviation work must be able to stand the test of time.

 Also today, a comprehensive briefing was given on the success of poverty reduction over the last few years by Liu Yongfu, Director of the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development. He held a press conference outlining the progress of the poverty-alleviation campaign. Liu noted that between 2012 and 2018, some 80 million people had been brought out of poverty at an average of 13 million people a year. Of the nine eastern provinces, eight were now free of poverty. He said there are 832 counties still enmired in poverty. In 2016, there were 28 counties that had been lifted out of poverty, and in 2017, some 125 counties, and in 2018, an estimated 280 counties. In 2013 there were 128,000 villages in poverty, while in 2018 there were 20,000. Poverty has been reduced during that period by 85%, Liu said, and the goal this year is to bring 10 million more people out of poverty. In 2019 the government will increase the funds devoted to poverty alleviation by 18.9%


African Development Bank Funding New Power Transmission Line For East Africa

In an article on its website, the African Development Bank (AfDB), pointing to regular power cuts in the East African countries from Kenya to Tanzania, from Uganda to Ethiopia, said this is about to change with the upcoming commissioning of a power transmission line to interconnect Kenya and Ethiopia. This project falls under one of the AfDB’s ‘High 5 priorities’ to ‘Light up and Power Africa.’ Working with
institutional partners, the Bank has mobilized resources to ensure the success of this project. At a cost of $1.26 billion, the project was co-funded by the African Development Bank ($338 million), the World Bank ($684 million), the Government of Kenya ($88 million), and the Government of Ethiopia ($32 million), the article noted.

The interconnection will function by means of a 1,068-km, 500-kilovolt high-voltage direct current transmission line, 437 km in Ethiopia and 631 km in Kenya with related facilities at Wolayta-Sodo (Ethiopia) and Suswa (Kenya). By December 2020, it will have a transmission capacity of 2,000 MW. This will make Ethiopia the energy giant of East Africa, while Kenya will become the epicenter of electricity trading in this part of the continent.

“The project will initially be able to transfer 400 MW from Ethiopia to Kenya, but negotiations are under way to better match the capacity of the line to Kenyan demand,” said Joseph Njogore, first secretary at the Kenyan Ministry of Energy, at an energy forum held in Nairobi in August 2018, the website noted.

 

Italy Wisely Becomes First G-7 Nation to Join China’s Belt and Road: Financial Predators Upset

March 7, 2019

City of London’s {Financial Times} Beside Itself over Italy’s Joining Belt and Road

The City of London mouthpiece {Financial Times} criticizes Italy for becoming, as they write, “the first G-7 country to formally endorse China’s controversial Belt and Road global investment drive, in a move that has drawn a sharp response from the White House and is likely to cause alarm in Brussels.”

{FT} has suddenly discovered that Italy is going to sign a memorandum of understanding during President Xi Jinping’s Rome visit scheduled for March 22-23. The daily quotes Undersecretary for Economic Development Michele Geraci, who says that “the negotiation is not over yet, but it is possible that it will be concluded in time for [Xi’s] visit. We want to make sure that ‘Made in Italy’ products can have more success in terms of export volume to China, which is the fastest-growing market in the world.”

{FT} then quotes U.S. National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis, who makes a not-so-veiled threat: “We view BRI [Belt & Road Initiative] as a ‘made by China, for China. We are skeptical that the Italian government’s endorsement will bring any sustained economic benefits to the Italian people, and it may end up harming Italy’s global reputation in the long run.”

Marquis further said that U.S. officials had raised concerns about what he called the negative effects of “China’s infrastructure diplomacy,” and urged “all allies and partners, including Italy, to press China to bring its global investment efforts into line with accepted international standards and best practices.” Marquis was brought into the National Security Council by John Bolton, for whom he had earlier worked as a spokesman at the Foundation for American Security and Freedom.

The {FT} goes on to allege that “Italy’s support for China’s BRI initiative would undercut U.S. pressure on China over trade and would under-mine Brussels’ efforts to overcome divisions within the EU over the best approach to deal with Chinese investments. Italy is a founding member of the EU.”

President Xi will visit Italy on March 22 and meet Sergio Mattarella, the Italian president, as well as Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, and attend a military ceremony before traveling to Sicily.

The article concludes quoting National People’s Congress spokesman Zhang Yesui as saying this week that 67 countries had signed up to the BRI in the past year or so, bringing the total number of countries or international organizations that have formal endorsements to 152.  China takes the issue of debt very seriously and within a project the Chinese side never imposes things, nor, least of all, creates debt traps,” {FT} quotes Zhang. “Of course, like any international co-operation, some problems and challenges may crop up. With experience it will improve.”

Italy’s Geraci Rejects {Financial Times} Criticism of Italy Joining the Belt and Road Initiative

In an interview with the Italian financial daily {Il Sole 24 Ore}, Italian Undersecretary to the Economic Development Ministry rejects criticism raised by the City of London’s {Financial Times} and defends Italy’s sovereign choice to join the Belt and Road. “Sincerely, I am a bit surprised. I do not understand what it is, that is controversial,” Geraci said.

“I confirm what I said in an interview with this newspaper last Feb. 21st. I said the same thing to the {Financial Times}: We work every day down to the last detail. “It will be a framework agreement: Just the indication of some strategic sectors in which joint investments are promoted and orders by Italian firms are accelerated. We work on infrastructure, transport and highways, trade, industry, green economy. It will be up to private companies to choose whether to participate or not. If they do it, they will have guarantees in terms of protection from disputes and questions about rules.”

As for the U.S. position, Geraci stated:  “I wonder where such a big concern comes from. We will protect our know-how thanks to a ‘golden power’ rule we have in Italy, which is among the strictest in Europe. And we just fulfill demands from our companies to create for them more room in the most promising markets, such as China. Anyway, we have supplied the United States, as per normal exchanges we have with our main diplomatic partners, all insurances on the issue.”

On the concern about Italy being the first G-7 country to sign a New Silk Road protocol, Geraci replied to the criticisms: “So what? Poland, Hungary, Portugal, Greece have done it and I do not consider them second-class countries in Europe. Those who think differently do not have a real European view. And the G-7 club may be a somewhat outdated concept: It no longer represents the real world economic powers, since it does not include either China or India.”

Italy is not “selling out” its ports, as some have claimed, he countered: “We do not sell, at most we give concessions to create greenfield investments, which means starting from zero. You cannot sell out things that were not there in the first place.”

China Responds to U.S. Attack on Italy Joining the Belt and Road

The Chinese Foreign Ministry today responded to the attack on Italy’s plan to join the Belt and Road by Garrett Marquis, a long-time ally of National Security Adviser John Bolton (who brought him onto the National Security Council).

An unsigned editorial in {Global Times,} titled: “White House’s Criticism of Italy’s Plan To Join BRI Ridiculous,” reports that Lu Kang, spokes-person of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at a routine press conference today, said: “Italy, as a major country and economy in the world, is clear about its interests. It could make its own policies and decisions.” {Global Times} added: “The BRI is an important inter-national public good that China contributes to global cooperation for common development. China and more than 150 countries and international organizations have signed BRI cooperation agreements, which witnessed more than $6 trillion in cumulative trade between China and participating countries, Yang Jiechi, a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, said at the 55th Munich Security Conference in February, the Xinhua News Agency reported.”

Greek Foreign Minister in Beijing To Discuss Intensifying Belt and Road Cooperation

Greek Foreign Minister Giorgos Katrougalos began a five-day official visit to Beijing on March 5, in which he co-chaired the 13 Joint Inter-ministerial Committee with China’s Foreign Minister and State Councillor Wang Yi and with Commerce Minister Zhong Shan.  On the margins of the meeting,

Katrougalos met Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Commerce Minister Zhong Shan, Vice Chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission Ning Jizh, and chief of the Development Commission He Lifeng, according to a statement by the Greek Foreign Ministry.The Greek delegation included Christos Lambridis, Secretary General of Ports, Port Policy, and Maritime Investment, and officials from the Hellenic Ministry of Agricultural Development.

“From all these contacts, both with my counterpart, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, as well as with the head of Foreign Relations of the Communist Party of China, and the economy ministers, the Minister of Commerce, the head of the crucially important Planning Commission of China, the conclusion drawn is dual in nature: First of all that Greece and China are seriously investing in their bilateral strategic partnership. This is not occasional, it has as its guide the ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative which the Chinese government is promoting at the moment, but there is a significant alignment of interests, precisely because we too endeavor that our country becomes a bridge between Europe, Asia, and Africa. The second thing that was affirmed is the observation that Greece has exited the economic crisis and offers significant opportunities for investment to the Chinese side.

Katrougalos also participated in the formal commencement of proceedings of the annual plenary of the National People’s Congress, ahead of which he said, “As you know, China has achieved a lot. It is on its way to becoming the world’s largest economy. It helped 700 million of its citizens out of complete poverty.”

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi congratulated Katrougalos on assuming his new post as foreign minister, and expressed satisfaction that “Mr. Foreign Minister chose China as the first country to visit after taking office, which demonstrated with concrete actions his friendship with China and the importance he attached to China-Greece relations and that both countries are good friends and good partners.” He further stated that “as the birthplace of Mediterranean civilizations, Greece possesses profound cultural heritage and enormous development potential.

The Chinese side feels happy that Greece has overcome the influence brought by financial crisis and regained economic and social vitality, and is willing to, together with the Greek side, strengthen high-level exchanges, increase understanding and mutual trust, expand bilateral cooperation fields under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative….”