The author, W Gyude Moore, a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development, and a former minister of public works in Liberia, makes some insightful observations about the difference between the US and China in their economic strategy for Africa. China’s investment in infrastructure in Africa is unsurpassed and would not be replaced by the West, if China withdrew from Africa.
“It is, thus, frustrating that in its complicated, enmeshed, centuries-long history in Africa, there has never been a Western proposal for continental-scale infrastructure building. Outside Cecil John Rhodes’s racist “civilising” project of connecting Cape to Cairo from the 1870s, there has never been any programme, backed by financial resources, to build Africa’s rail, roads, ports, water-filtration plants, or power stations. It was the Chinese who sought to build a road, rail and maritime infrastructure network to link Africa’s economies with the rest of the world.
“The Western argument of Chinese debt-trap diplomacy, inferior loan terms and an insidious, covert campaign to seize African national infrastructure assets rings hollow in the absence of a like-for-like Western alternative. Until the arrival of the Chinese, the infrastructure construction space in Africa was dominated by Europeans…
“In the past eight months, Western countries have spent more than $5- trillion to prop up their economies in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. JP Morgan projects that over 14 years (2013 to 2027), China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) will cost about $1.2-trillion to $1.3-trillion. That kind of gap (both in dollars and time) makes it clear that, if it wanted to, the West could equal or surpass China’s BRI with its own infrastructure programme. If Africa steps away from China’s infrastructure programme, which Western country is ready and willing to fill the gap?”
China, the World Bank, and African Debt: A War of Words
Deborah Brautigam, Director of the SAIS China Africa Research Initiative, discusses in her article below, the duplicity of the World Bank, in their attacks on the China Development Bank. If the US and Western Institutions would cease attacking China, stopped peddling lies about the “Africa debt–trap” and joined China’s Belt and Road Initiative, Africa’s huge infrastructure deficit could be addressed to the benefit of all Africans.
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
Below you will read about the success of the second segment of Kenya’s Standard Gauge Railroad, and President President Cyril Ramaphosa’s firm refutation of allegations that a number of countries in Africa are being led into a debt trap by China and Russia
November 2, 2019
Kenya’s SGR project, the most advanced in Sub-Saharan Africa, began in 2014, when the country began construction of a modern, standard gauge (1.435 meter) rail line from the port of Mombasa on the Indian Ocean, northwest to the nation’s capital of Nairobi, a distance of 450 km (275 mi). Opened in 2017, on Madaraka Day—Kenyan Independence Day, when the people took political control of their destiny from the British Empire on June 1, 1963— the rail line has been a huge success, cutting transport and delivery time significantly for both goods and people. Exceeding expectations, the railway transported two million passengers within its first 17 months; and in 2018, its first full year of operation, carried over 5 million tons of freight.
The Mombasa-Nairobi line was initiated in 2009 discussion between the China Road and Bridge Corporation and the Kenyan government, as reported by P.D. Lawson in the April 27, 2018 EIR. China’s Exim Bank extended credit for 90% of the project. By May 2016, initial track laying was completed in just over 1 year. Passenger service was opened May 31, 2017, eighteen months ahead of schedule. Freight services commenced in January 2018. Plans are now underway to electrify the segment from Mombasa to Nairobi, which will greatly lower operating costs.
Benefits of the new, faster technology now extend far beyond mere transport, where the railway has taken hundreds of trucks (and buses) off the notoriously congested highways, making them safer and more useable for the population.
With the increased capacity and speed of freight transport, Kenya’s exports to the East African Community (including neighboring states Uganda, Tanzania and South Sudan) have hit a three-year high in the first eight months of 2019. Not only have government earnings from domestically produced goods increased 6% compared to 2018, but Kenya’s domestic consumption of electricity—certainly not a nation known for its over consumption of this resource—has increased 3.2% in the first 8 months of 2019.
President Kenyatta has launched additional infrastructure projects, building on the Kenya Vision 2030 plan. In addition to the opening of SGR Section 2A on October 16, he has announced plans for construction of an inland container depot (ICD) at Naivasha (to store or transfer goods from rail to truck, or from SGR to the old meter gauge rail, MGR); a new 23 km expressway in Nairobi; and a water project in rural Kimuku (stemming from a natural spring accidentally discovered during construction of the rail line!). He wants to create a Special Economic Zone—to include the port of Mombasa—to further speed up freight delivery.
EIR magazine, Nov. 1, 2019: “Kenyan Standard Gauge Successful in Looking Beyond the Here and Now”
Russia-Africa Summit: African countries not being led into debt trap —South Africa’s Ramaphosa
President Cyril Ramaphosa on Monday refuted allegations that a number of countries in Africa are being led into a debt trap as they take up loans to fund a number of projects.
Ramaphosa said this during his weekly address from the Desk of the President in Cape Town, after returning from the Russia-Africa Summit held in Sochi last week.
“One need only look at initiatives such as the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, which was last held in Beijing in 2018, to see that the focus is now on partnership for mutual benefit, on development, trade and investment cooperation and integration,” Ramaphosa said.
He lambasted remarks which label initiatives like the recent Russia-Africa Summit as an attempt by world powers to expand their geopolitical influence. African countries had taken part in the summit to discuss ways of how to increase trade and cooperation between Russia and Africa. He said the summit was a sign of the growing economic importance of Africa on the world stage.
“What we are witnessing is a dramatic re-balancing of the relationship between the world’s advanced economies and the African continent,” he said.
African countries have consistently affirmed that Africa no longer wants to be passive recipients of foreign aid, said Ramaphosa. The president said African countries are developing and their economies are increasingly in need of foreign direct investment.
“We are ever mindful of our colonial history, where the economies of Europe were able to industrialize and develop by extracting resources from Africa, all the while leaving the colonies underdeveloped,” said Ramaphosa.
Even now, African countries are still trying to stop the extraction of its resources, this time in the form of illicit financial flows through commercial transactions, tax evasion, transfer pricing and illegal activities that cost the continent more than 50 billion dollars a year, according to Ramaphosa. The age where “development” was imposed from outside without taking into account the material conditions and respective requirements of our countries is now past, the president said.
“China, Russia, Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development countries and other large economies are eager to forge greater economic ties with African countries. “This is because they want to harness the current climate of reform, the deepening of good governance, macro-economic stability and the opening up of economies across the continent for mutual benefit,” the president said.
This excellent article, once again refutes the slander that China is imposing a ‘debt-trap’ on African nations. The author, Ehizuelen Michael Mitchell Omoruyi, executive director of the Center for Nigerian Studies at the Institute of African Studies, Zhejiang Normal University, shows how China through the Belt and Road is developing vital infrastructure for Africa.
“Millions of articles have been written on China-Africa engagement that involve the terms “Sino-optimism,” “Sino-pragmatism” and “Sino-pessimism.” With that said, somehow, China has also been mentioned in some Western media in a negative light, including headlines with phrases such as “Can China circumvent the middle-income trap?” “China’s trapped transition,” “The Thucydides Trap” and the “debt trap.”
“As for the debt trap, the term refers to the idea that Chinese loans in the continent of Africa are a strategy by the Middle Kingdom to extract concessions and purchase allegiance. I do not concur! China’s involvement with African nations is far beyond building railways, bridges and roads…
China Announces $1 Billion Belt and Road Africa Fund Led by South African
Announced July 3 on the sidelines of the Summer Davos Meeting World Economic Forum in Dalian, China, this $1 billion investment fund also achieves another first–in that it will be not be run by the state government–thus being China’s first “NGO.” It will also notably be led, not by a Chinese, but by a South African.
Intended to be up and running by September, this fund–to be capitalized by wealthy Chinese businessmen and their families–will be headed by Dr. Iqbal Survé, “born and educated in Cape Town” (according to his website). Survé had started his own, Sekunjalo investment fund in 1997, leaving his medical career at the call of Nelson Mandela, who was seeking local investors to lead the development of the economy. Dr. Survé had become “affectionately known as the ‘Struggle Doctor’ because of his provision of medical care towards victims of apartheid brutality,” says his “about” page.
Since then Survé came to serve as chair of the BRICS Business Council for South Africa, and most recently as a member of the Business Council Chairman for the five BRICS countries. A hedge fund operator he definitely is not. Commenting from China, Dr. Survé said, “The discussions that we’ve had with Chinese business people, state-owned enterprises and family offices, have resulted in the establishment of this fund. Africa is ready to grow and is heading towards a $5 trillion economy. The [Africans] have seen how China was able to grow from 1980, when China made up only 2% of the global GDP when compared to today, where China makes up 19% of the global GDP.
This fund is a great boost for the development of Africa.” The fund will be overseen by a Belt and Road Business Council, eventually to grow to 1,000 Chinese and African members.