Don’t Listen to Propaganda & Gossip. Follow the Facts: China is not Creating a ‘debt-trap’ for Africa

A useful report, “Africa’s growing debt crisis: Who is the debt owed to?” by the British based Jubilee Debt Campaign, again belies the propaganda and gossip that China is manipulating African nations into a ‘debt-trap.’  This report excerpted below, using figures from the World Bank, and the China Africa Research Institute-(CARI) at Johns Hopkins SAIS in Washington DC, shows the percentage of debt owed to China by African nations is not the cause of a debt crisis. In fact, in many cases the debt owed to China is less than the total owed to Western nations and financial institutions.

It is clear that for strictly geo-political reasons many Western think tanks and various media have gone into overdrive demonizing China with false claims of a new ‘debt-trap.’ This has also led to increased attacks on African leaders, portraying them as weak and not acting in the interest of their citizens. They have been accused of succumbing to China, which has been dubbed, the new imperial power. Sadly, many Africans have been duped, or simply out of frustration and anger, joined this western orchestrated chorus.

Of course, the truth of the matter is quite different. From the early 1980s on Western financial intuitions such as the IMF, World Bank, and Paris Club, loaded up African nations with so much debt that they were unable to service the debt, forcing them into unpayable arrears.  The vicious irony, is that several hundred billion dollars of debt lent by the West was never meant to actual develop African economies. It was in fact, intended to create a real ‘debt-trap’ for Africa. It has only been in the last ten years that Africa’s huge deficit in infrastructure is being addressed in collaboration with China’s non-western model of development. As I have written over many years, debt is not the problem when it is used as credit to improve the productive powers of a society to increase its physical wealth. Technologically advanced infrastructure is an excellent, if not the premiere method to drive an economy forward. This is exactly what China is accomplishing through its Belt and Road Initiative, and is at the heart of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation-(FOCAC).

Unfortunately, the dominance of the “geo-political” ideology since the death of Franklin Roosevelt has thoroughly contaminated the thinking of Westerners and Africans alike. Creating a culture (with few exceptions) of people unable to think strategically, and who cynically reject the idea that a powerful nation would extend itself to actually assist other nations. China, according to all accounts, has lifted 700 million of its people out of poverty. President Xi Xinping has pledged to help eliminate poverty in Africa, the continent with highest rate of poverty in the world. Yet, many Africans reject this offer as insincere, suggesting a sinister motive lurking behind China’s offer. This attitude, is in part, the result of today’s political culture, which has failed to understand one of the most profound universal principles: all mankind shares a common interest in the development of the creative potential of each and every human being.  

Let us all agree, now, that we will all act on the this principle of the common good, and affirm as did the Treaty of Westphalia, that the interest of the other is also the interest of thy self.

 

Forum On China-Africa Cooperation, Beijing, September 3-4, 2018

“Africa’s growing debt crisis: Who is the debt owed to?”

October 2018

(excerpts follow)

Summary
• African government external debt payments have doubled in two years, from an average of
5.9% of government revenue in 2015 to 11.8% in 2017
• 20% of African government external debt is owed to China
• 17% of African government external interest payments are made to China
• In contrast, 32% of African government external debt is owed to private lenders, and 35% to
multilateral institutions such as the World Bank
• 55% of external interest payments are to private creditors

Minimum amount of African government external debt owed to China as percentage of total debt is 18%

Creditor grouping, total debt owed, percentage of external debt owed, are as follows:
China $72 billion 18%
Paris Club $40 billion 10%
Other governments $18 billion 4%
World Bank $66 billion 16%
IMF $18 billion 4%
Other multilateral institutions $61 billion 15%
Private sector $132 billion 32%
Total $407 billion 

Maximum amount of African government external debt owed to China as percentage of total debt is 24%

Creditor grouping’Total debt owed, percentage of external debt owed, are as follows:
China $100 billion 24%
Paris Club $40 billion 10%
World Bank $66 billion 16%
IMF $18 billion 4%
Other multilateral institutions $61 billion 15%
Private sector (excl. Chinese
private sector)
$132 billion 32%
Total $417 billion

Checking these figures through country cases

Another way of identifying how much African government debt is owed to China is to look bottom-up at the individual data available by each government.

Of these 16 countries, 14 have figures on how much debt is owed to China (for the full analysis see Appendix 1.). Of these 14:

• 11 owe less than 18% of their debt to China (Burundi, Cabo Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Gambia, Ghana, Mauritania, Mozambique, Sao Tome and Principe, South Sudan, Sudan and Zimbabwe).
• Three owe more than 24% -Djibouti (68%), Zambia (30%) and Cameroon (29%).
• The mean average amount owed to China is 15% of a government’s external debt, and the median average is 8%

Read Complete Report: Who Is Africa Debt’s Owed To?

The Debate On China’s Role In Africa; A Different Point Of View

The Council of African Security and Development-CASADE has published my article regarding the debate over whether China is forcing African nations into a new ‘debt trap.’ Despite the propaganda from some Africans and Westerners, China is not the new imperialist in Africa. You can read my analysis below.

CASADE: COUNCIL ON AFRICAN SECURITY AND DEVELOPMENT

 

 

 

Final Call: IMF and World Bank real culprits in Africa’s debt crisis

This article debunks the myth of China colonizing Africa through a “debt trap” policy. It also has quotes from me on this subject. You can read more comments from me with this link to my post: A Brief Response: Marshall Plan for Africa or “Debt Trap?”

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FINAL CALL: IMF-and-World-Bank-real-culprits-in-Africa-debt-crisis.

BY JEHRON MUHAMMAD |  SEP 12, 2018 

Many Western press outlets, including CNN, have repeated a recent claim presented to the U.S. State Department that the “Chinese government is leveraging billions of dollars in debt to gain political leverage with developing countries.”

The phrase they use to accuse China is “debt book diplomacy,” a play on the past usage of the term “gunboat diplomacy” about U.S. policy. They accuse China of miring Africa in debt and “undercutting their sovereignty.”

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Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) meets with African Union Chair Paul Kagame who is President of Rwanda at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, Sept. 4, 2018. (Xinhua/Ju Peng)

Not to be outdone, ABC News chimed in: “China’s commercial presence in Africa has prompted complaints in some countries that the continent gets too little from the relationship. Africa is a major target of Beijing’s ‘Belt and Road’ initiative to build ports, highways and other trade-related infrastructure, but some critics in Tanzania, Kenya and other countries say they leave hosts with too much debt.”Pushing back, China claims to be helping African development, not piling up debt, one top China government official said.

“If we take a closer look at these African countries that are heavily in debt, China is not their main creditor,” its special envoy for Africa Xu Jinghy said, during a news conference. “It’s senseless and baseless to shift the blame onto China for debt problems.”

Claims that China is an “economic predator” in Africa, pillaging natural resources and dragging it into debt crisis are “as false as they are sensational,” the Xinhua official Chinese news agency said in a commentary.

According to African economic and political analyst Lawrence Freeman, “It is more than ironic that the West is complaining about Africa’s debt to China. Since the 1960s, Western nations, the IMF, World Bank, Paris Club, etc., have ‘looted’ Africa of hundreds of billions of dollars in bloated debt payments and through the manipulation of currencies, and terms of trade.

Of note is the fact that the anti- China accusation is fairly recent. An April 18 Financial Times article, headlined “African nations slipping into new debt crises,” did not mention China one time as the source of the continent’s debt crisis.

In fact the FT’s piece is critical of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. “The increase in debt should have raised all sorts of flags and triggered triage, but it didn’t. Neither the International Monetary Fund nor the World Bank sounded the alarm,” the London-based financial paper reported.

In addition, the FT claimed some African countries were hit because “they borrowed in foreign currencies and were finding debt hard to finance after a significant depreciation.”

In 2017 Quartz Africa reported, again not mentioning China, that “African eurobond debt is growing to risky levels.” A eurobond, also referred to as sovereign bond, is a debt security issued by a national government and is denominated in a foreign currency, usually dollars, rather than the euro that its name implies.

This debt crises have been cyclical. Africa’s debt of the 1980s mushroomed to $270 billion and had many factors, according to Quartz, “depending on which side of the fence you’re on.”

Those events came full circle. Even though Quartz recognized the repeating “hallmarks” of unchecked corruption, poor governance, and political mileage investment, the “single catalytic factor to trigger debt unsustainability in Africa has always been the crash of commodity prices on the global market.”

The news service Reuters reported in May of 2017 that “most sub-Saharan African countries still rely on U.S. dollar-denominated debt to finance their economies. Some investors say this is sowing the seeds of future debt crises if local currencies devalue and make dollar debt repayments more expensive.”

The United Nations trade body UNCTAD estimates that Africa’s external debt rapidly grew to $443 billion by 2013 through bilateral borrowing, syndicated loans and bonds. But since then sharp currency devaluations across the continent have pushed up the cost of servicing this debt pile, which continues to grow, the agency said.

It’s no wonder over 50 African heads of state attended the Sept. 3-4 Forum on China-African Cooperation (FOCAC) in Beijing. During the forum China president Xi Jinping announced a hefty $60 billion package to compliment another $60 billion pledged at the 2015 summit.

This breaks down, according to press reports, to $15 billion in grants and interest free loans, $20 billion in credit lines, a $10 billion fund for development financing, $5 billion to finance imports from Africa and waving the debt of the poorest African nations diplomatically linked to China.

On top of President Jinping letting the numbers speak for themselves he had words for China’s detractors: “Only the people of China and Africa have the right to comment on whether China-Africa cooperation is doing well … . No one should deny the significant achievement of China-Africa cooperation based on their assumptions and speculations.”

The African Union chairman, Rwandan President Paul Kagame, has been heard to call Chinese aid and investment strategy in Africa “deeply transformational” and respectful of the continent’s global position.

He said FOCAC had grown into a powerful engine “of cooperation fully aligned with Africa’s Agenda 2063 and sustainable development goals.”

“Our growing ties with China do not come at anyone’s expense. The gains are enjoyed by all who do business with us. Building the capacity of African institutions to transact and monitor more effectively is what will make the biggest difference,” he said.

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West Uses “Debt Trap” to Thwart Alliance of China & Africa for Economic Development

September 8, 2018

“The term “debtbook diplomacy”—with the meaning that China builds influence over other nations by deliberately causing them to take on more debt than they can handle—was coined in a report commissioned by (and custom designed for) the U.S. State Department and written in May 2018 by Sam Parker of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. This report was then used by the U.S. State Department to ring alarm bells all over the world about the potential impact of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. But the report’s author, Sam Parker, is not known to have any expertise in economics or to have written anything about the economies of China or other developing countries.

“Historically, the British Empire was, and still is, the master of debt traps. Its methods have been copied in the post-1971, post-Bretton Woods era by such United States- and British-controlled institutions as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank to shackle nations with unpayable debt, in order to loot them, destroy their physical economic productive capabilities and finally force them to give up their national sovereignty. Under the 19th century, British-dominated, imperialist world order, as in the case of the post Bretton Woods system, money is treated as a “global” commodity controlled by private interests, rather than a political tool controlled by sovereign governments which issuance is intended to promote the productivity of society and the general welfare of its citizens.”` (Schiller Institute’s “Why China’s Debtbook Diplomacy is a Hoax”)

African Development Bank President, Adesina, Denies Debt Crisis in Africa

Speaking to the reporters on the sidelines of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Beijing Summit on Sept 5, and addressing the western propaganda that China is drowning Africa with debt, President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, said: “Let me be very clear that Africa has absolutely no debt crisis; African countries are desperate for infrastructure.” “The population is rising, urbanization is there, and fiscal space is very small,” the AfDB president added. “They are taking on a lot more debt, but in the right way,” Adesina said, Xinhua reported on Sept 5.

Scoffing at the international campaign that the China imposed debt has begun to cripple Africa, Adesina pointed out that Africa’s overall debt-to-GDP went up from 22 percent in 2010 to 37 per cent last year. He stressed that the ratio is markedly lower than the 100 per cent or 150 per cent of many higher-income countries, and over 50 per cent among emerging economies.

Meanwhile, in an interview with the Nikkei of Japan, the foreign minister of Djibouti, Mahmoud Ali Youssouf, said his country intends to help promote China’s Belt and Road Initiative, but is also cautious about over reliance on China in light of Djibouti’s growing debts linked to Chinese investment. “If [the initiative] brings wealth, progress, development, we welcome it,” he said in that interview, Nikkei reported today

Nigerian President Buhari Debunks the “Debt Trap” Hoax

Muhammadu Buhari, the President of Afria’s most populous nation, Nigeria, has emerged from the hugely successful Forum on China-African Cooperation (FOCAC) with a refutation of what he called “insinuations about a so-called Chinese debt trap.”

“Let me use this opportunity to address and dispel insinuations about a so-called Chinese debt trap,” he told the press today. “These vital infrastructure projects being funded are perfectly in line with Nigeria’s Economic Recovery & Growth Plan. Some of the debts, it must be  noted, are self-liquidating. Nigeria is fully able to repay all the loans as and when due, in keeping with our policy of fiscal prudence and sound housekeeping.”

He said: “I am happy to note that Nigeria’s partnership with China through FOCAC has resulted in the execution of critical infrastructure projects valued at more than $5 billion, over the last three years. We have completed West Africa’s first urban rail system, valued at $500 million, in Abuja. Before then was the 180km rail line that connects Abuja and Kaduna, completed and commissioned in 2016, and running efficiently since then,” the President declared.

He said that Nigeria is currently leveraging Chinese funding to execute $3.4 billion worth of projects at various stages of completion. Among these are: upgrading of airport terminals, the Lagos-Kano rail line, the Zungeru hydroelectric power project, and fibre cables for our internet infrastructure. Nigeria signed an agreement for an additional $1 billion loan from China. The money is for additional rolling stock for the newly constructed rail lines, as well as road rehabilitation and water supply projects.

“Debt Trap” Hoax Exposed by Chinese Spokesperson

At a September 4 press conference on the morning of the second day of the FOCAC Summit, Xu Jinghu, the Special Representative of the Chinese Government on African Affairs, was asked by Reuters about whether the $60 billion financing that President Xi Jinping promised in aid for Africa in his keynote address, would create debt problems for Africa.

Xu Jinghu went through the importance of the eight areas outlined by President Xi in order to raise the level of production and productivity of the African economy.  She also made clear that all of the projects are done in close consultation with the African countries in order to meet what they see as their real needs for further industrialization.

She added that Africa is in “the ascending phase” of its development and “faces a gap in the funding for all of their endeavors…”They need capital development and the African and Chinese economy, which is more developed, are therefore complementary.”

Xu commented, “You have to take into consideration the international situation. The  costs of financing for development on the international market has become very expensive and most of the African countries are still dependent on exporting their raw materials. And the price of these have fallen,which has increased the debt of African countries a great deal.  And if you look at the African countries, you will see that China is not the creditor of those African countries with the biggest debt burden.

China Africa Research Initiative Refutes “Death Trap” Propaganda

The China Africa Research Initiative-(CARI) at the Johns Hopkins School of International Studies, Washington DC refuted the “death-trap” narrative that China is subverting African nations by forcing them into debt.  Their The Path Ahead: The 7th Forum on China Africa Cooperation-(Briefing Paper #1, 2018), reports: “Finally, in just three African countries, Chinese loans are currently the most significant contributor to high risk of/actual debt distress” They are;  Djibouti, Republic of Congo, and Zambia.  

Read complete CARI  briefing paper

 

Read:

Who Owns Africa’s Debt: China or Western Nations & Institutions?