This recent article, The Chinese ‘debt-trap’ is a myth, written by Deborah Brautigam, Director of the China-Africa Research Institute (CARI), provides definitive proof that China is not using so called debt-trap diplomacy to Africa’s seize assets. This false narrative, which is been disproved by Brautigam and CARI, time again, was used by the Trump administration to attack China in Africa as a key feature of its geo-political doctrine.
No African nation has been forced to relinquish it natural resources to China in response to late debt payments. No African asset has been seized by China. (See my earlier posts below). Misrepresentation of the case of the Sri Lankan port of Hambantota, which this article refutes, has been used as propaganda to attack the China’s Belt and Road Initiative and malign China’s infrastructure projects in Africa,
China has been a valuable friend in assisting African nations in building vitally needed infrastructure projects. The African continent is suffering today from a massive deficit in infrastructure measured in trillions of dollars. Thus, all nations of good will can contribute to addressing the continent’s huge infrastructure deficiency, which African nations would welcome. As I have insisted for decades, there is no way to eliminate poverty and bring peace to African nations without electricity, roads, railroads, water management, and port development.
Present Biden would be wise to move beyond Trump’s anti-China policy and initiate a new era of US-Africa policies premised on physical economic development, and join me in my mission to eliminate hunger and poverty in Africa.
Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in economic development policies for Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com
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
China-Africa Research Initiative-(CARI) presented an interesting and useful webinar entitled : Debt Relief with Chinese Characteristics, using research presented from a Working Paper #39 and Policy Brief #46. View: CARI: Debt Relief With Chinese Characteristics
In response to China’s growing economic and political influence in the world, especially on the African continent, various propaganda outlets located in the West have launched a new assault on China. Their line of attack is to malign China and African leaders with the false narrative that China is intentionally luring African nations into a ‘debt-trap’ in order to seize control of their natural resources. This cynical view of China’s alliance with African nations flows from the age old doctrine of “geo-politics” that only perceives nations as either winners or losers in a fixed zero-sum view of the world. In this evil world view, stronger powers, hegemons believe they can only maintain their supremacy by having their foot on the neck of weaker nations. The “geo-political” doctrine rejects the notion that all nations share a common interest.
Misinformation or Disinformation
As Deborah Brautigam, director of CARI has stated before, there is no evidence, none, not one single case of China using debt to seize control of an African nation’s assets. “We found no “asset seizures” and despite contract clauses requiring arbitration, no evidence of the use of courts to enforce payments, or application of penalty interest rates.” Despite no substantiation of China using debt as a weapon against African nations, the ‘debt-trap’ mantra is repeated by either misinformed individuals, including Africans, or by those who are deliberately disseminating disinformation with malice.
The CARI working paper reports the following:
“The rating agency Moody’s warned that countries ‘rich in natural resources, like Angola, Zambia, and Republic of the Congo, or with strategically important infrastructure, like ports or railways such as Kenya, are most vulnerable to the risk of losing control over important assets in negotiations with Chinese creditors.’ These assumptions of a malign China were repeated in publications like The New York Times, which contended that Chinese loans “frequently use national assets as collateral” and require refinancing ‘every couple years’ (our Africa data supports neither of these statements).” (emphasis added)
If there is any honesty or integrity left in our duplicitous culture, all claptrap about China’ alleged ‘debt-trap’ as a nefarious attempt to gain control of Africa’s wealth should cease immediately! If one examines the long history of China’s relationship with Africa and the more recent twenty year period, it is clear that China desires to resolve issues with African nations through consultation. China may choose other means of responding to payment difficulties, but there is no evidence that they want to take over African holdings, contrary to prevalent popular opinion. Read: Chinese ‘debt-trap’ Propaganda Exposed-Time to End Ignorance & Prejudice Against China in Africa
As COVID-19 spreads in Africa, nations are struggling to survive economically and simultaneously defeat the deadly virus. Debt service is onerous and must be suspended indefinitely or cancelled, as leaders of many Africans nation have rightly insisted. According to Dr. Brautigam, from 2000-2018, China has made loan commitments of $152 billion, and of Africa’ total external debt, China holds 17%, while the World Bank hold 18%, and private lenders 31%. Thus, China will and has already engaged in debt relief, but will do it differently than western institutions like the Paris Club and World Bank.
“Our [CARI] study found that between 2000 and 2019, China has cancelled at least US$ 3.4 billion of debt in Africa. There is no “China, Inc.”: for interest-bearing loans, treatment for inter-governmental debt and Chinese company loans are negotiated separately, and often loan-by-loan rather than for the entire portfolio. While rescheduling by increasing the repayment period is common, changes in interest rates, reductions in principal (“haircuts”), or refinancing are not. We found that China has restructured or refinanced approximately US$ 15 billion of debt in Africa between 2000 and 20190…Chinese lenders prefer to address restructuring quietly, on a bilateral basis, tailoring programs to each situation.”
China, up this point has only cancelled zero interest loans, which represent only 5% of loans from China, and are issued from China’s Ministry of Commerce. It is unlikely that there will be unilateral debt suspension. Thus, we can expect that China will negotiate debt relief bilaterally with each nation, and each loan reviewed separately.
Even if debt cancellation is continued into 2021, which has not yet been agreed to, it will be insufficient. The level of investment required to meet Africa’s’ minimal infrastructure needs is in the trillions of dollars, which belies the “geo-political” nonsense of zero-sum assumptions. Debt relief must be accompanied by issuance of credit for infrastructure and related sectors of production, otherwise Africa and the world will suffer from the spread of COVID-19 and future zoonotic diseases. Poverty is a co-factor for all diseases. Lack of electricity is a co-factor for the spread of disease and hunger, as is the lack of clean water, and inadequate transportation.
China’s Belt and Road Initiative over recent years has begun to address Africa’s infrastructure deficit, but much, much more is required. Collaboration between the U.S. and China on the development of Africa would be consequential for the continent.
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
AFRICA: THE FIRST U.S. CASUALTY OF THE NEW INFORMATION WARFARE AGAINST CHINA
February 5, 2020
The article below by Caleb Slayton, director for the U.S. Air Force Special Operations School, Africa course, unmasks the self feeding loop of US anti-China propaganda. “The U.S. narrative misjudges the full scope of China’s influence in Africa,” according to the author. The narrative attacking China’s relationship with African nations is blinding our elected officials, so called academics, and the general citizenry from understanding the contributions China is making to Africa. This false narrative, intense, widespread, and bi-partisan, has created a dangerous defect in US strategic policy toward China and Africa. As a result, President Trump only sees Africa as a pawn in a global game to stop China’s influence on the continent. To the dismay of many Africans, the US, unlike China, lacks any serious policy that would assist African nations in pursuit of developing their nations.
“According to the U.S. strategic narrative on China in Africa, Beijing intends to steal Africa’s resources, secure corrupt business transactions, and pursue low-quality infrastructure projects. American officials argue that China’s political and diplomatic maneuvers yield little good for Africa and ultimately intend to indebt the continent to China’s bidding. This narrative is misleading. It has served to develop a crippling ignorance of the changing nature of information warfare, China’s weapon of choice. The narrative has also masked the successful means by which China has become a partner of almost every country on the continent and garnered their support at the international level. Perhaps worst of all, the focus on China is inattentive to the needs and ambitions of African partners, the key stakeholders in U.S.-Africa partnerships…
As the director from 2012 to 2016 of the Africa Theater Course for Special Forces out of Hurlburt Field, Florida, I engaged with hundreds of military members, government employees, analysts, operators, and practitioners directly engaged on the African continent. Every sidebar conversation or most student interjections on the topic of China maintained a similar skewed perception of China in relation to Africa. China’s development projects were all “broken,” the projects hired mostly Chinese laborers, its merchandise was low-grade, China’s aim was to deplete Africa of its resources, the communications infrastructure was a tool of Chinese control, and all of China’s aid was a debt liability. Any mention of potentially beneficial partnership with China was laced with a political, social, or economic spoiler. This consistent negative narrative aligns to many Department of Defense and Department of State talking points….
“African countries draw inspiration from China’s rise. Beijing’s success is more profound than any criticism the United States levels against China’s internal social, religious, and political oppression…
“Africa Isn’t Buying Washington’s Message on China
In Africa, Beijing has demonstrated that it has a lot to offer. Washington, by contrast, appears to offer only criticism. The U.S. narrative against China-Africa activities misrepresents China’s strategy, underestimates its influence, and downplays what a majority of Africa’s population really thinks about China partnerships and great-power competition. The current facts on the ground already give China impressive influence and access to political, economic, and communication sectors across Africa.”
China Has Embraced Africa’s Development; The US Has Not.
By Lawrence Freeman
It is as clear as day and night, the difference between China’s approach to Africa and that of the United States. There is no equivalence. Historically, China has viewed African nations as part of the developing sector from which China emerged. This has contributed to China’s distinct attitude to partnering with African nations in promoting economic growth. Over the last two decades especially, the ties between China and Africa have grown stronger, with Africa’s East Coast materializing as an integral part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
The US has not always dismissed the importance of contributing to Africa’s growth. President John Kennedy, following in the footsteps of President Franklin Roosevelt, was a strong opponent of colonial subjugation of Africa. President Kennedy, as US Senator advocated Africa’s liberation movement, and as US President supported President Kwame Nkrumah’s plans to construct the hydro-electric dam and bauxite smelting complex on Ghana’s Volta River. By the end of the 1960s the US had lost its optimism and vision for the world, adopting in its place, a British inspired cynical “geo-political” doctrine.
Geo-politics divides the world into two categories; winners and losers in a zero sum game. Today’s unfounded attacks against China’s involvement in Africa, alleging that China is deliberately entrapping nations into debt and stealing their natural resources flows from this perverted world view. Chinese President, Xi Jinping promotes a different philosophy; it’s called “win-win.”
Building, Not Extracting
Unlike British Imperialist Cecil Rhodes, and degenerates like King Leopold II, China is not raping Africa for its resources. Since Royal Dutch Shell discovered oil in southern Nigeria in 1956, the West has focused its investment chiefly in oil and gas-i.e. hydrocarbon extractive industries. China in recent decades has become the leading nation in financing and building infrastructure in Africa. It is well known that investment in extractive industries do not expand the economy nor provide a large amount of jobs. However, it does yield large streams of revenue. China has chosen a different business mode; one more beneficial to the African people.
According to McKinsey consulting company’s publication, Dance of the lions and the dragons, released in June 2017, China in 2015 financed $21 billion worth of infrastructure projects in Africa. That is three times the combined total of France, Japan, Germany, and India. US financing of infrastructure in Africa was too minimal to even mention. Detailed in the same document, China’s export and import trade with Africa is quantified as $188 billion in 2015, compared to the US at $53 billion. Deloitte’s 2017 Africa Construction Trends, further documents China’s role in expanding Africa’s infrastructure. As of June 2017, China was only second to African governments in funding large infrastructure projects, 15.5% and 27.1% respectively. The US was listed at 3%, the UK and France at 2%. When it comes to who actually builds these projects the figures are more shocking; China constructed over one quarter or 28.1% of these projects, the US 3.3%, and the UK 2.3%.
Infrastructure Is Essential
Infrastructure is critical for every economy to expand, grow and develop. Africa’s deplorable lack of infrastructure is literally killing its people. There is no more crucial single element of economy that must be addressed for African nations to develop. Infrastructure adds value to the entire economy by augmenting the productive capability of every farmer and worker. More capital intense economies will be affected by technologically advanced infrastructure platforms.
The history of humankind demonstrates that progress of civilizations emanates from the realization of scientific discoveries transmitted through more efficacious technologies. Infrastructure reflecting more advanced machinery is a primary means of transferring technology (science) to the economic production process.
There is nothing wrong with African nations using their resources for collateral or payment of loans for infrastructure. Wealth is not the monetary value of natural resources extracted from the earth. Economic wealth is understood to be that which contributes to the increase of the power of society to provide the material wellbeing of its citizens and their posterity. Infrastructure performs that function.
China’s contribution to building new railroads in Africa, replacing century old British and French antiquated rail lines, and constructing new hydro-electric dams, and ports, is precisely what African nations need to develop. China is providing indispensable assistance; the US and Europe are not. An experienced former US ambassador to Africa told me bluntly; the US stopped investing in infrastructure in Africa in the early 1970s. Sadly, today, the US continues to repeatedly proclaim, “we don’t build infrastructure.”
Debt-Trap or Claptrap?
In her latest paper, A critical look at Chinese ‘debt-trap’ diplomacy: the rise of a meme, Deborah Brautigam, China-Africa scholar and Director of the China-Africa Research Initiative-(CARI) at SAIS*, puts a nail in the coffin regarding false accusations of China deliberately entrapping African nations through debt.
She writes: “…for over a decade Western politicians and pundits have warned that China is a rogue donor with regard to its finance, is a new colonialist, and a predatory and pernicious lender that snares vulnerable states in a debt trap leveraging its loans in order to have its way with weak victims.”
Brautigam responds to these allegations by asking: “However, does evidence exist for this kind of debt leverage?” Then she answers: “It [SAIS database] has information on about more than 1000 loans and, so far, in Africa, we have not seen any examples where we would say the Chinese deliberatively entangled another country in debt, and then used that debt to extract unfair or strategic advantages of some kind in Africa, including ‘asset seizures’.” (emphasis added)
With the population of 55 African nations projected to reach 2.4 billion in the next three decades, the continent needs trillions of dollars in new infrastructure. Presently, the US is more concerned in countering China in Africa, than developing Africa. Many African leaders are hopeful the US will establish a more robust economic relationship with their nations. As has been the case with previous administrations, the lack of vision, and adherence to “geo-politics” is preventing the US from engaging with Africa in a win-win relationship. This can and should change.
*Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies
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
Deborah Brautigam, an expert on China-Africa relations, exposes the fraud of China’s debt-trap diplomacy in her report: A Critical look at Chinese ‘debt-trap diplomacy’ Brautigam, who is director of the Johns Hopkins Center for China-Africa Research Initiative, writes unequivocally that there is no evidence of an intentional effort to trap African nations into owing debt to China. China is not manipulating African nations in an attempt to control their resources. Ironically this is what the Western institutions did to African nations following their independence from colonialism. Whether out of ignorance and/or prejudice, Africans and Westerners have been repeating unfounded propaganda that China is the new colonizer of Africa. It is time to finally end this malicious mantra.
“The Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies curates a database on Chinese lending to Africa (Brautigam & Hwang, 2016). It has information on about more than 1000 loans and, so far, in Africa, we have not seen any examples where we would say the Chinese deliberately entangled another country in debt, and then used that debt to extract unfair or strategic advantages of some kind in Africa, including ‘asset seizures’. Angola, for example, has borrowed a huge amount from China. Of course, many of these loans are backed by Angola’s oil exports, but this is a commercial transaction. China is not getting huge strategic advantage in that relationship. Similarly, others have examined Chinese lending elsewhere in the world – some 3000 cases – and while some projects have been cancelled or renegotiated, none, aside from the single port in Sri Lanka, has been used to support the idea that the Chinese are seizing strategic assets when countries run into trouble with loan repayment (Kratz, Feng, & Wright, 2019).
The evidence so far, including the Sri Lankan case, shows that the drumbeat of alarm about Chinese banks’ funding of infrastructure across the BRI and beyond is overblown. In a study we conducted using our data on Chinese lending and African debt distress through 2017, China was a major player in only three low-income African countries that were considered by the IMF to be debt distressed or on the verge of debt distress (Eom, Brautigam, & Benabdallah, 2018). A similar country-by-country analysis that included use of our data shows that the Chinese are, by and large, not the major player in African debt distress (Jubilee Debt Campaign, 2018). Therefore, the role of China in African debt distress was limited when one remembers that there are 54 countries in Africa.”
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.
President Xi Jinping Hands-on Drive to Eliminate Poverty
As part of his government’s plan to entirely eliminate poverty from China by the end of 2020, President Xi Jinping carried out “an inspection tour to southwest China’s Chongqing Municipality” earlier this week, Xinhua reported, in which he pledged to address the issue like “a hammer driving a nail.” Xi first flew to Chongqing, China’s fourth largest city, and then spent another three hours, first by train and then by road, to reach Huaxi Village, where 302 people living in 85 households are registered as living below the poverty line.
Xinhua added: “Huaxi Village is a typical case of China’s impoverished regions. The basic needs for food and clothing have been met, but more efforts are needed for compulsory education, basic medical care and safe housing.”
It is to be noted that China’s criteria for poverty reduction are not strictly monetary, but include key physical-economic parameters such as education, health, and housing. As of 2018 there were still 16.6 million rural residents living in poverty in China. The government plans to lift about 10 million of those out of poverty during 2019. Xinhua then quoted Xi during his tour:
“The battle against poverty has entered a decisive and critical stage. We must press ahead with our full strength and strongest resolve and never stop until we secure a complete victory. After visiting the village, I feel reassured. We may have about 6 million impoverished people and 60 impoverished counties left at the beginning of 2020. If we make sure this year’s work is well-implemented and push ahead next year, we will eliminate poverty. We are confident about accomplishing the mission.
“Less than two years are left before fulfilling the objective of poverty alleviation. This year is particularly crucial,” Xi said at a symposium held Tuesday afternoon in Chongqing. “The most important thing at this stage is to prevent laxity and backsliding.” Xinhua’s account emphasized the top-down involvement of government officials in achieving this national goal. “Throughout the years, more than three million officials from governments above the county level, state-owned enterprises and public institutions have stayed in impoverished villages to offer assistance.
I am posting the following article even though it is from last year, because the author accurately disproves the “debt-trap” propaganda being used by western institutions against China-Africa cooperation.
“2018 FOCAC: Africa in the New Reality of Reduced Chinese Lending”
August 31, 2018
W. Gyude Moore is a visiting fellow at the Center for Global Development. He previously served as Liberia’s Minister of Public Works with oversight over the construction and maintenance of public infrastructure from December 2014 to January 2018.
Debt Trap or Much-Needed Investment?
The debt trap diplomacy case, however, has never been convincingly argued and its application in Africa is, at best, tenuous. The reality of Africa’s debt to China is not particularly remarkable when taken against the sources of continent’s external debt stock (see figure below). A number of African countries’ (Djibouti, Kenya, and Angola) debt obligations to China are alarming—as they would be regardless of creditor. China’s $115 billion credit to Africa between 2000 and 2016 is still less than 2 percent of the total $6.9 trillion of low and middle income countries’ debt stock. Recent studies have shown that China is not a driver of debt distress in Africa—yet. The language of debt trap diplomacy resonates more in Western countries, especially the United States, and is rooted in anxiety about China’s rise as a global power rather than in the reality of Africa.
China’s Belt And Road Forum to Gather 37 World Leaders, and Representatives from Five Continents
There will be no less than 37 heads of state and government attending China’s Second Belt and Road forum in Beijing next week, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Friday. In addition there will be 360 attendees at ministerial level, 100 leaders of international organizations and 5,000 participants. 4,000 reporters will also be attending the Forum, whose theme is “Belt and Road Cooperation, Shaping a Brighter Shared Future.”
“The second Belt and Road Forum will be held in Beijing on April 25-27. It will become China’s largest international event this year. Thirty-seven leaders of state and government will participate in the forum,” Wang told a press conference. This will include the leaders of Austria, Egypt, Hungary, Italy, Russia, the United Arab Emirates and others. “Senior representatives” of France, Germany, Britain, Spain, Japan, the Republic of Korea and the European Union will also participate; other diplomatic representatives of the United States and North Korea will also be there. International Monetary Fund Managing Director, Christine Lagarde, and Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary- general, are also expected to participate, according to Wang.
This is the highest level event for cooperation on the Belt and Road Initiative, Minister Wang said. He said this year’s event will be characterized by a clear direction, a solid foundation, a warm response from participants, a program of practical cooperation and clearly defined results. A Leaders’ Round-Table Summit will issue a Joint Communique to show the political consensus of the leaders in building the Belt and Road.
The long-term effects of the Initiative will be to strengthen multilateralism, to enrich the principles of cooperation, to build a network of partnership and to build a strong support system for continued development. Wang Yi also underlined the connection between the BRI and China’s new phase of “opening up.” The new phase of China’s “reform and opening up” will “bring more opportunities for promoting the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ and the common development of all countries,” he said. “I believe that the forum will inject stronger impetus into the world economy, open even broader horizon for the development of the countries, and contribute to the building of a community with a shared future for humanity,” Wang continued.
Below is my article on China: Friend or Foe?-January 2019, that was published (abridged) in the African Union magazine: “Invest in Africa“-2019 vol 1. You can find it on page 65 (85 on the link to the magazine). There are many worth while articles to read in this volume of the AU magazine
By Lawrence Freeman
January 1, 2019
The short answer is a China is friend and contributor to Africa’s progress. Ignore all the propaganda, ignorance and outright lies claiming that China is the new colonizer of Africa. There is absolutely no truth in the contorted comparison between China’s involvement in Africa today, and 500 years of slavery and colonialism by Western nations.
Following the successful September 3-4, Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) summit in Beijing, we have witnessed an escalated disinformation campaign alleging that China is attempting to snare African nations in a new “debt-trap.” New vicious rumors have emerged that China is taking over ownership of key infrastructure projects in Africa. Every African Head of State who has spoken out, has refuted these allegations and praised their cooperative relationship with China.
According to a report by the British based Jubilee Debt Campaign, “Africa’s growing debt crisis: Who is the debt owed to?” China is owed a minority of external debt. Their figures compiled from the World Bank and the China Africa Research Institute show that 20% of African government external debt is owed to China in contrast 32% to private lenders, and 35% to multilateral institutions such as the World Bank.
Of these 14 countries that have they examined: 11 owe less than 18% of their debt to China (Burundi, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Gambia, Ghana, Mauritania, Mozambique, Sao Tome and Principe, South Sudan, Sudan and Zimbabwe); and three owe more than 24% -Djibouti (68%), Zambia (30%) and Cameroon (29%).
The proponents of the “debt-trap” accusation conspicuously, egregiously omit from their chronicle the history of the financial imprisonment of the then newly independent African nations by the IMF, World Bank, Paris Club, and their kith and kin in the City of London and Wall Street. Through manipulation of terms of trade, controlling prices, and forcing currency deviations, African nations found themselves shackled in several hundred billion dollars of new debt to the West shortly after African nations achieved liberation from imperialist colonial masters. Western debt replaced slavery and colonialism as the new method of looting Africa of its wealth, reinforced by the ill-fated Structural Adjustment Programs-SAPs, otherwise known as the “Washington Consensus.”
So, who is kidding whom about a “debt-trap?”
Debt for Infrastructure is Necessary
Credits issued for hard infrastructure; energy, railroads, ports, roads, bridges, and soft infrastructure in well equipped; schools, libraries, universities, and hospitals will always result in an increase in productivity i.e. the economic power of the society. By employing advanced technologies embedded in new capital equipment, including infrastructure, farmers and workers can produce more efficiently. Simply providing abundant energy, high-speed railroads, and water inputs to an African nation would lead to a jump in economic output.
All nations that have experienced real economic growth and raised the living standard of their citizens have created credit i.e. public-sector debt or borrowed debt at non-usurious interest rates for targeted physical economic growth.
China is the single largest nation contributing to financing and constructing of infrastructure projects in Africa according, to Deloitte’s 2017 edition of Africa Constructive Trends. The report examines 303 infrastructure projects begun in the first half of 2017 that costs over $50 million. Appropriately, energy& power, and transport comprise 167 of these projects-over 55% of the total. While African governments fund 27.1 % of the funding, China accounts for 15.5% of the funding and 28.1% of the construction for these projects. The US accounts for 3% and 3.3% respectively. Both Italy and France are larger than the US percentage in building infrastructure in Africa.
African Development Bank President, Akinwumi Adesina, speaking on November 28, 2016 accurately linked the deadly migrant crisis to deficiencies in Africa’s economic development and infrastructure.
“I believe that Africa development deserves significant support, even in the midst of these challenges. We must not forget that the reason several thousands of Africans have been (illegally) migrating to Europe, is because of the lack of jobs and shrinking economic opportunities at home. Our result must not be to reduce support, but to increase support to help build greater resilience, boost its economies, address its structural challenge, such as closing its huge infrastructure gap, strengthening intra-related trade, and creating jobs for its teeming youths.”
A study done by the AidData Research Lab at William and Mary College in Virginia that analyzed China’s investments in the developing sector between 2000 and 2014, concluded:
“We find that Chinese development projects in general, and Chinese transportation projects in particular, reduce economic inequality within and between sub-national localities,” and “produce positive economic spillover that leads to a more equal distribution of economic activity.”
China has come to know, what the US has forgotten, that infrastructure is the sine qua non to drive economic growth.
Africa’s huge infrastructure deficit is the causal factor for widespread poverty, and insecurity across the continent, precisely that which China has begun to address over the last decade. The Western financial system that dominated Africa from 1960-2000 contributed almost nothing to help African nations industrialize and failed to help create vibrant agro-manufacturing sectors. China with its Belt and Road Initiative has presented the world with a new paradigm to guide political-economic relations among nations; Africa is the beneficiary.
Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, and Vice Chairman of the International Scientific Advisory Committee to the Lake Chad Basin Commission