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
I am republishing my article from March 2017, to celebrate Ethiopia’s defeat of the invading Italian imperialist army, on the battlefield of Adwa. Ethiopia’s leadership and vision flow from never allowing their country to be colonized. That same min-set is evident today in Ethiopia’s construction of its Grand Renaissance Dam (GERD). All of Africa, and all true friends of Africa are proud of Ethiopia’s victory
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.
Grand Renaissance Dam Essential for Africa’s Economic Growth
Lawrence K Freeman
October 14, 2019
Completion and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam-(GERD) will profoundly affect not only the future of Ethiopia, but all of the Horn of Africa, and the entire African continent. It reflects the bold visionary thinking that characterizes Ethiopia’s unwavering determination to eradicate poverty in the second largest nation on the continent with 103 million people. Ethiopia has been a leader in economic growth for the last decade due to its unparalleled commitment to constructing new infrastructure projects. Although an emerging nation, Ethiopia with assistance from China, completed the Addis-Ababa to Djibouti railroad in October 2016. This is the first and only electrified rail line in sub-Saharan Africa- (SSA), reducing travel time from several days by truck to hours by rail, effectively freeing Ethiopia from the limitations of a landlocked nation via Djibouti’s port.
Ethiopia’s former Prime Minster, Meles Zenawi, who conceptualized the developmental state, proposed building a dam on the Blue Nile, laying the first foundation stone on April 2, 2011. Thus, initiating the construction of a massive hydroelectric dam on the Blue Nile that will be the largest in Africa. The GERD will be 175 meters tall, 1,800 meters wide, with a reservoir of 79 billion cubic meters-(BCM), more than twice the size of the Hoover Dam in the US. It will have the potential to generate upwards of 6,200 megawatts (MW) of electricity. Upon completion, Ethiopia will be the largest net exporter of electricity in Africa with transmission lines to its neighbors that include Sudan, South Sudan, and Kenya. Ethiopia will also become second only to South Africa in power generation in SSA, as it strives to achieve its interim goal of producing 15,000 MW. The GERD, self-financed by bonds sold to the Ethiopian people, is not only a source of tremendous pride, but an indispensable component of Ethiopia’s resolve to expand its manufacturing sector and become a “middle income” nation by 2025. A nation must have abundant and accessible electricity in order to power an industrialized economy. With more than 60% of its population deprived of access to electricity, and energy demands growing every year, Ethiopia wisely realized that utilizing the potential hydro-power of the Blue Nile to drive its economic growth was not an option; but a necessity.
Sovereignty Superior to Colonialism
Egypt is accusing Ethiopia of violating the 1959 agreement for utilization of water from the Nile River, which stipulated that 55.5 BCM of waters be allocated to Egypt, 18.5 BCM to Sudan and that no other nation could interfere with the flow of water in the Nile. There is no basis in law or physical topography for Ethiopia to adhere to this agreement for the following reasons:
The 1959 water agreement is a rewrite of the British imperialist 1929 water treaty, when Egypt was a British colony that governed Sudan under the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium (1899-1956).
The Blue Nile flowing from Lake Tana in the Ethiopian highlands that joins the White Nile in Khartoum, provides 85% of the Nile water as it travels north through Egypt to the Mediterranean Sea.
Ethiopia, as an independent nation that was never colonialized, was not a signatory to either water agreement.
Ethiopia has the sovereign right and obligation to utilize its natural resources, in this case water, to improve the living conditions of its people.
The Nile River, although the longest in the world at 6,650 kilometers, is not the most voluminous. Historically, the Nile was the only water way to cross the Sahara Desert from SSA. Today ten nations in Eastern and Central Africa are part of the Nile Basin with their total population approaching 500 million, whose present and future needs exceed the 84 BCM of Nile water. For development of the Nile Basin, it is urgently required that:
a new approach to water management for the region, which supersedes the archaic colonial agreement.
a new system for generating additional water. A crash program to create billions of cubic meters of fresh water through desalination is an obvious solution.
In essence, a “second Nile” must be created. Nuclear energy, utilizing its higher heat source, would be ideal for removing salt through evaporation, and, equally as important, supplying thousands of megawatts of power to energy-starved nations.
Shared Common Interest
The Declaration of Principles, signed in Khartoum on March 23, 2015 by the heads of state of Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia calls for cooperation among the three nations to resolve disputes concerning the GERD among themselves. The report states: “The Three Countries shall cooperate on the basis of sovereign equality, territorial integrity, mutual benefit and good faith in order to attain optimal utilization and adequate protection of the River.”
The shared vision of the Nile Basin should be to promote prosperity for all the nations involved. The common shared interest of the upstream and downstream nations is one and the same: to uplift millions of Africans out of poverty and present the expanding youth population with economic opportunities to obtain a meaningful and productive life that secures a future for their families.
Egypt’s foreign minister, Sameh Shourky warned Ethiopia: “Ethiopia’s moving forward with the operation and filling of the Renaissance Dam is unacceptable and a clear violation of the Declaration of Principles and will have negative consequences for stability in the region.” Within Egypt threats of military action have recently resurfaced, but such unwarranted aggression is highly unlikely, and would be roundly condemned by the international community.
According to Xinhua News, Egypt is looking for the United States to play an “international instrumental role,” a position presently not supported by the US State Department. Egypt’s attempt to bring in an outside party to mediate disputes concerning the Nile waters is in direct violation of the Declaration of Principles.
Exercising its sovereign rights, Ethiopia has already completed 60% of the construction of the GERD, and although there have been delays, it is expected to begin producing electricity by the end of 2020. Egypt has no choice but to accept this reality and continue to engage discussions regarding the management of the Nile. There are substantive legitimate issues respecting the effects of the GERD on Egypt, a downstream nation that is almost totally dependent on Nile water. However, Ethiopia’s sovereignty over the Blue Nile is inviolate. In 2018 the National Independent Scientific Research Group-(NISRG) was established to discuss the filling of the dam’s reservoir. The NISRG consisting of scientists from Sudan, Egypt, and Ethiopia, has met several times, and has reported to the Minister of Water Affairs of each nation.
How many years will it take to fill the GERD’s reservoir, and what will be the flow rate of the Nile at the Aswan Dam, are yet to be resolved. These are technical matters that scientists and engineers must continue to examine in an atmosphere of good will and good faith. Such cooperation is essential to promote the common interests of all nations for a prosperous Nile Basin.
Below is an insightful article on the death of Robert Mugabe. One cannot honestly and competently analyze African nations today, unless one thoroughly studies the affects of colonialism, and before that slavery. When I look at the current state of affairs in Africa. I see the consequences of the long waves of hundreds of years of slavery, colonialism, and neo-colonialism. For example, can one truly understand Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, and South Africa, without examining the evil role of British Imperialism and colonialism? Is Kenya not suffering today from the removal of the Kikuyu from the the Highlands, which were turned into the “Whitelands” by the British in the early 20th century? Similarly, it is impossible to truthfully discuss Zimbabwe, and its now deceased leader, Robert Mugabe without revealing the failure of the 1980 Lancaster agreement to rectify the stealing of 70% of the nation’s most fertile land from millions of “black” Zimbabweans that was given to 4,500 “white” farmers. Why are African nations, with abundant fertile soil, still using primitive methods of farming and have weak agricultural sectors? Why does Africa suffer from the greatest deficit of infrastructure in the world per land area, which is only beginning to be reversed by China with its Belt and Road Initiative? Why is Africa the least industrialized continent on the planet? Are we going to blind ourselves to the ugly history of what was done to Africans over hundreds of years, and naively and simplistic blame conditions today on a lack of good governance? This error, this lack of understanding Africa’s history, perverts the the thinking of Western institutions and Africa specialists, yielding flawed analysis.
The article in the link below is a detailed and useful expose of how the CFA franc, controlled by France, contributes to the suppression of economic development in Africa. We have now past a half century since many nations in Africa liberated themselves from colonialism. Yet the French banking system still exercises colonial domination over the finances of African nations that should be economically independent. African nations will never be truly independent until they are economically sovereign. This means having sovereign control over their own currencies and the issuing of credit for internal improvements of their economies. African nations should have National Banks and Development Banks for the issuing of credit, as first conceptualized by Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton’s concept of government-national credit was essential for the creation of an industrialized USA from thirteen agrarian based colonies.
The article below, “More than Just Investment: Why America Was Once So Popular in Africa” by Nick Danby, published in World News, is a useful contribution to analyzing President Trump’s flawed African policy. He accurately reports that the Trump’s administration’s “Prosper Africa” will not contribute to the development of Africa. He also highlights, as I have done, the leadership provided by President John Kennedy to support the rights of Africans to achieve economic sovereignty.
“On June 19 of this year, the Trump administration unveiled a new plan, known as “Prosper Africa,” to engage and invigorate the oft-forgotten continent. At the 2019 U.S.-Africa Business Summit in Mozambique, American leaders and allies heralded the $60 billion investment plan as a “once-in-a-generational opportunity” for Africa. But the U.S. government is not strengthening greater commercial and trade connections between U.S. companies and Africa’s ICT sector out of the kindness of its own heart. Both publicly and privately the deal has been construed as a way to “provide financially sound alternatives to state-led initiatives from countries like China” and to prevent countries from falling into “opaque and unsustainable debt traps being laid by Beijing throughout the developing world.” At face value, the White House is working to promote a prosperous Africa by focusing on multilateral investment and trade. Yet the altruism of such an approach is undermined when administration officials, like national security advisor John Bolton, suggest that the new strategy predominantly serves as a counterweight to Chinese and Russian “predatory practices.”
“Countering Chinese and Russian influence in Africa remains a top priority for the U.S., but the most prudent way to win over African leaders and citizens is by demonstrating that American officials truly care about Africa’s well-being. China has built useful connections and alliances on the continent because it acts as though its efforts directly benefit Africa more than themselves. China’s powerful hold on the continent through its dominant commercial presence and debt diplomacy schemes were further developed when Xi Jinping invited dozens of African foreign dignitaries to Beijing and then pledged $60 billion in financial aid for the continent. Xi has also visited Africa on numerous occasions, hob-knobbing with leaders, boosting China’s public relations, and enlisting nations to join the “Belt and Road Initiative.” Even Russian President Vladimir Putin will host 50 African leaders in Sochi for the first Russian-African Summit in October.
“If the Trump administration wishes to engage African leaders and dissuade them from partnerships with the Chinese and the Russians by teaming up with U.S. companies, it must develop a strategy that goes far beyond an anachronistic amalgam of trade and investment. The U.S. must first build off of the goodwill and trust it fostered with PEPFAR by not only continuing to fund PEPFAR (which has been nominated for the chopping block since the Obama days) but also other programs that can improve Africa’s standard of living, whether that be through strategic health diplomacy or the vast array of other issues their civilians must endure on a daily basis.
“President Kennedy always had a special interest in Africa that predated his own time in the White House. In the 1960 campaign, he lambasted Eisenhower for not exerting enough effort or attention on the continent as it underwent decolonization. During one campaign speech, Kennedy told his audience, “We have neglected and ignored the needs and aspirations of the African people. The word is out – and spreading like wildfire…that it is no longer necessary to remain poor or forever in bondage.” The U.S. should heed Kennedy’s words and work toward improving Africa with the Africans. By caring about the continent’s welfare, Chinese and Russian influence will soon dwindle.”
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.
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
China Global Television Network, or CGTN published my article on the African Union’s creation of the Africa Continental Freed Trade Area-AfCFTA
Six decades after African nations began liberating their people from the yoke of European colonialists, the African Union has launched the “operational phase” of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), taking a giant step toward uniting the 54 African nations and fostering economic progress.
The landmark move was made at the 12th Extraordinary African Union Summit in Niamey, the capital of Niger, on July 7. Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairperson of the African Union Commission, referred to it as a “historic moment.”
Many prominent African leaders view this new free trade agreement as a “game changer” with the potential to catapult the continent into a foremost position in global trade and development, especially with Africa’s population projected to double in the next 30 years to 2.4 billion.
Below are excerpts from a useful presentation that provides an overview on crucial areas of development in Africa. It echoes many of the ideas I have written about over the years, and has helpful maps on energy, water, and rail transportation. The presentation concludes with a discussion on the Transaqua water project, which I have advocated for over 20 years with a modest level of success.
“In contrast, is the really exciting development of relations between China and the nations of Africa. Every three years, the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation meets, alternating between China and the capital of an African nation. At the last meeting, which was held in 2018, the meeting was in Beijing, and in 2021 it will be held in Senegal. What China has been doing with its cooperation with Africa, has been making available large amounts of credit for the kinds of projects that just make sense: rail lines, power systems, water systems, transportation, road networks, industrial parks—these kinds of significant investments.
“This is not charity; this is not a case of somebody saying “We’re going to step up to the plate and donate to those poor Africans who can’t help themselves.” That’s not the case. The United States is a bigger donor to Africa than is China. But I think if you speak to many African nations in terms of which nation is doing more at present to provide a long-term future, it’s not aid that lasts for a year; it’s taking the lid off and saying, “We’re going to develop a full economy here, not perpetually slightly alleviate poverty; that’s not a future…
“Compare that with National Security Study Memorandum 200, authored under Henry Kissinger in 1974, which stated, for about two dozen countries in the world, that the growth of their populations represented a threat to U.S. strategic interests. Because it would be more difficult, essentially, to get materials from countries that were developing and prosperous than countries that are disarrayed and poor.
“Compare this to when the British ran their official empire. Consider India, for example. Some people say that at least Britain helped develop India, building railroads, and so forth. No, Britain ruined India. India was one of the world’s leading manufacturers of cloth, for example, and had a major ship-building industry, which was destroyed by the British. Empire destroys the economic potential of its colonies, and that is the reason that development has been deliberately held back in the world