New Economic Order Required to Combat COVID-19 in Africa

COVID-19 will spread in Africa (courtesy theconversation.com)

New Economic Order Required to Combat COVID-19 in Africa

Lawrence Freeman

March 30, 2020

As of March 30, 2020, the Africa CDC reports the total number of COVID-19 cases-4,760, deaths-146, and recoveries-355. The totals for individual nations vary from higher levels:  Algeria 511 cases and 31 deaths; Egypt 609 and 40; Morocco 479 and 26, South Africa 1280 and 1; Nigeria 111 and 1 (cases and deaths respectively); to dozens of nations reporting 10 or less cases and 0 deaths. Africa CDC COVID-19

While these figures for Africa are significantly lower than nations in Europe, Asia, and North America, in some cases orders of magnitude lower, there is reason for great concern for the spread of the Coronavirus throughout the African continent. Many African nations are unable to adequately test their citizens, and one should assume the number of cases is vastly unreported. Also, there unique features of African society that present an impediment to isolation of those infected with COVID-19, and social distancing. African society are centered around crowded mass markets, and culturally Africans are prone to show their friendliness towards others by holding hands.

Factoring in a weak healthcare system, poor nutrition, inadequate housing, lack of electricity and clean water, and already prevalent existing diseases (HIV AIDS, Malaria, TB) in the population, COVID-19 could propagate very rapidly, overwhelming an insufficient number of beds, hospitals and doctors. For Africans, the consequences of the proliferation of COVID-19 could be catastrophic, resulting in higher levels of mortality and morbidity than we have presently experienced.

Debt Restructuring Necessary for Africa’s Health

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, for the first time in many years, African leaders are demanding a restructuring of the onerous debt, whose payment has diverted nations’ revenues away from investing in vital categories of infrastructure, including healthcare. Payment of debt, mere loans, cannot be, to quote from William Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, “the pound of flesh” used to kill people. Tragically, since African nations liberated themselves from European colonialism, debt has been used as a weapon to repress the development of emerging nations.

On March 24, the office of the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Dr Abiy Ahmed, released an incisive three point proposal to the G20 nations outlining necessary actions to be taken to safeguard African nations during this pandemic. He began by dramatically stating the truth, “COVID-19 poses an existential threat to the economies of African countries. Our economies, fragile and vulnerable even in the best of times will face serious shocks.” He than discussed a crucial underlying constraint imposed on African nations, “the heavy debt burden, the servicing of which alone costs many of them [nations] significantly more than their annual health budgets.”

Prime Minister Abiy requested from the G20:

  • $150 billion “Africa Global COVID-19 Emergency Financing Package”
  • “Global Africa Health Emergency Package”
  • “Debt resolution and Restructuring Package.”

Elaborating on debt restructuring, Prime Minister Abiy wrote, “Ethiopia proposes all interest payments to government loans should be written off. We suggest the remaining debt be converted into long term low interest loans with 10 years grace period before payments. All debt payments will be limited to 10% of the value of exports.”

The theme of restructuring Africa’s debt to deal with the present crisis, was also discussed in a virtual conference of African finance ministers on March 19, according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).  To battle COVID-19, the ministers said, “Africa needs an immediate emergency economic stimulus to the tune of $100 billion” The UNCEA reports that they are asking that $44 billion, almost fifty percent of the funds requested, would come from halting payments of debt service, and in the most fragile nations to the loan principal as well.  African Finance Ministers Discuss Debt

In an insightful column, published in the March 25th edition of the Financial Times, Prime Minister Abiy again raises the necessity of debt alleviation: “Building on what has been announced by international financial institutions, the G20 must launch a global fund to prevent the collapse of health systems in Africa. The institutions need to establish a facility to provide budgetary support to African countries. The issue of resolving Africa’s debt burden also needs to be put back on the table as a matter of urgency.” (emphasis added)  PM Abiy “If Covid-19 is not beaten in Africa it will return to haunt us all”

 

Crowded Nigerian Market (courtesy buzznigeria.com)

 

Emergency Actions Taken

Nigeria—March 18, with 8 confirmed cases, imposed a travel ban on 13 high-risk COVID-19 infested countries; mandated a ban open worship and other public gatherings; mandated compulsory laboratory tests on all staff and members of the national assembly; mandated that public institutions should be equipped with temperature gauge.  All airports in Nigeria are closed to international commercial flights until 23 April.

Rwanda—March 21, with 17 confirmed cases of COVID-19, suspended all arriving and departing commercial flights for 30 days; shutdown of schools, universities, and places of worship for two weeks; the office of the Prime Minister released a list of nine preventive measures.

Ethiopia—March 23, with 11 confirmed COVID-19 cases, enforced a 14 day mandatory quarantine for all travelers entering the country; closed all schools, and banned all gatherings and sports events for 15 days. March 25, Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde ordered that more than 4,000 prisoners be pardoned.

Senegal–March 23, declared a state of emergency.

Ivory Coast–March 23, declared a state of emergency, imposed a curfew from 9:00 pm to 5:00 am, and shut the country’s borders

South Africa—March 26, with over 900 confirmed cases, began a three-week nationwide lockdown; the lockdown is considered one of the strictest, banning alcohol sales, dog-walking, and jogging in public.

In response to the COVID-19 crisis, China has sent to the African Union, 2,000 test kits to be dispersed across the continent, and is expected to send another 10,000, along with medical supplies. China has also launched a new Health Silk Road. On Sunday, March 22, African Union received 1.1 million test kits, 6 million masks, 60,000 medical protective suits and face shields, donated by Chinese billionaire Jack Ma.

Lessons We Must Learn

We can and should learn the following lessons from this contagious and lethal virus. Decisions made by nations for securing their future can now be informed from the very painful consequences of the global spread of COVID-19. If society, had learned the principles of the science of physical economy, instead of being seduced by the “smell of money,” we might very well have been able to avoid the worst of the tragic effects of COVID-19, which continue to plague our planet.  An unprepared and underfunded national economy gives society little chance to deal with any serious crisis, much less a pandemic.

*Globalization has always been a trojan horse, an Achilles heel for the security of any nation. The idea that a nation should gamble its security on the premise of buying necessary commodities from anywhere in the world at the cheapest price was always insane.  Witness today’s disruption of multi-thousand mile long supply chains as proof.

For example, properly understood, feeding one’s population is a matter of national security. African nations have undermined their security and sovereignty by failing to be food self-sufficient. Procuring food from other continents or at great distances across Africa is not only foolish, but totally unnecessary given the fecundity of African soil.  By conservative estimates, African nations spend $35 billion on imported food. A colossal and senseless waste of foreign exchange, which contributes to a nation’s poverty.  And a poor-hungry population is fertile ground for orchestrated destabilizations. Nations are ordered by institutions like the World Trade Organization to buy their food at the cheapest price regardless of domestic consequences.

The alternative to globalization is obvious; each nation has the sovereign obligation to foster productive agriculture and manufacturing sectors. The current pandemic of the coronavirus has brought to the fore the perilous effects of nations dependent upon importing lifesaving products from other nations.

Africa’s huge infrastructure deficit has always been a killer for Africa; literally!  Many of my friends and critics alike have objected to my insistence that the most critical prerequisite for Africa’s development is infrastructure. The most essential human right, is the right to live, and to live as a dignified human being. That is impossible with pathetically low, in some cases, non-existent levels of infrastructure.

Hospital in South Africa (courtesy borgenproject.com)

*Healthcare infrastructure is a necessity to sustain longevity of life—the essence of a human right. It embodies all components of infrastructure, manufacturing, and agricultural industries.

Examine what is necessary to maintain a hospital. Abundant electricity for lights and machines, access to clean water, roads and rail lines to transport patients, advanced medical equipment, a manufacturing sector to produce all the products consumed by hospital staff, food production to feed patients and staff, colleges, medical schools to train nurses and physicians, clothing for patients and staff, protective gear, and the list goes on. Now ask oneself, how many hospitals are there per 100,000 population in Africa?  How many basic hospital beds exist? How advanced intensive care units? If you look at the chart in the link below, which admittedly is several years old, you can see the huge discrepancy in hospital beds per 1,000 people in Africa compared other parts of the world. Hospital Bed per 1,000 in Africa

In the years 2012-2013, the US had 2.9 beds per 1,000 people, Italy 3.9 and Spain 3. All these nations are now experiencing a shortage of beds and all are considered hot spots in this COVID-19 pandemic. Shockingly, in that same time frame, over 25 African nations were recorded to have 1 bed or less per 1,000.

In 1975 the U.S. had 1.5 million hospital beds, and today has 925,000-over half a million fewer. Today the US has an average of 2.5 beds per 1,000 people, and California, Oregon, and Washington have 2 beds or less per 1,000. By contrast, before the outbreak of COVID-19, Wuhan, China had 4.3 beds per 1000, and they have added 10,000 hospital beds since the outbreak began by building several new hospitals.

Think for a moment would kind of investment in infrastructure, production, and labor that would be required for African nations to even reach the insufficient US level of hospitals and beds. How many hundreds of thousands of megawatts of electricity would have to be generated to supply these new hospitals? How many million gallons of water would be required? Africa has never built up a minimum healthcare infrastructure and is woefully unprepared should the pandemic surge on the continent in the weeks and months ahead.

 As we are witnessing today, the West is suffering greatly from the deliberate slashing its own healthcare infrastructure over recent decades. This has been accomplished through austerity, shortsightedness, and an indecent obeisance to a desire to make fast-money by gambling on Wall Street.

*State government intervention has risen to the fore during this scourge of COVID-19, despite decades maligning the role of the state. It is now clear that contrary to the false claims that the state has no role in the world of neo-liberalism, laissez-faire, and unregulated free-trade, government supervision and government credit-debt to sustain people and the economy have proofed invaluable and lifesaving. Putting aside the multi-trillion dollar bailout to the global gambling casino known as the financial system, governments have issued emergency funds necessary to maintain society. Much more government intervention will be required to save lives in the weeks and months ahead.

Globalization (courtesy thegeopolitics.com)

 A New Just Economic Order       

Prime Minister Abiy’s column in the Financial Times beseeches the need for a coordinated global response to COVID-19:

 “There is a major flaw in the strategy to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. Advanced economies are unveiling unprecedented economic stimulus packages. African countries, by contrast, lack the wherewithal to make similarly meaningful interventions. Yet if the virus is not defeated in Africa, it will only bounce back to the rest of the world. 

That is why the current strategy of uncoordinated country-specific measures, while understandable, is myopic, unsustainable and potentially counter-productive. A virus that ignores borders cannot be tackled successfully like this.

We can defeat this invisible and vicious adversary — but only with global leadership. Without that, Africa may suffer the worst, yet it will not be the last. We are all in this together, and we must work together to the end.”

His comments implore the urgent necessity for an entirely different global approach to be taken by nations. We must absorb the horrible reality of today’s deadly crisis to motivate our passions to create a better future for civilization.

For humanity to survive, we can no longer tolerate living in a world governed a geo-political doctrine that views other countries crudely as either friend or foe, with winners on top and losers underneath.  We can no longer live in a system that values mere money above human life. Look at Sudan, whose people are suffering, while Western institutions led by the International Monetary Fund use Sudan’s $53 billion in (unpayable) debt as weapon to dictate their “reforms.”

Months before COVID-19, the United Nations asked for $135 million to fight the unprecedented Desert Locust threatening the food supply in Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia. The fund is still $100 million short of that goal. The UN has called the locust swarm in East Africa “extremely alarming.” Tthe current pandemic is affecting the ability for African nations to obtain the minimal equipment and pesticides required.

We must bring into creation a new model for governing. A new paradigm that values human life above all else. One that acknowledges the universal moral resemblance of all human beings.

The call for a New Just World Economic Order was first articulated in the 1970s and has been echoed for decades by world leaders. All foreign, domestic, economic policy should be formulated upon the recognizable principle that all people share a common aim and destiny. We, the human race, are unified by our endowed unique quality; the power of reason-creative imagination.  To resolve the multiple crises facing humanity, including a meltdown of the global financial system, it is urgent that an international conference be convened to establish a new template for economic and political relations among sovereign nations. The foremost underlying principle for such deliberations is acknowledging that the aspiration of all nations should be the elevation of human creative life. For all peoples.

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

 

US Anti-China Narrative on Africa Unmasked

AFRICA: THE FIRST U.S. CASUALTY OF THE NEW INFORMATION WARFARE AGAINST CHINA

Chinese President, Xi Jinping addressing conference in Industrializing Africa

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.  

Excerpts:

“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.”

Read the entire article

Africa: The First U.S. Casualty of the New Information Warfare Against China

China Has Embraced Africa’s Development; The US Has Not

Courtesy of Global Research

January 16, 2020

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

 

China, Belt & Road: Eliminate Poverty, Not “Debt-Trap”

April 21, 2019

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.

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FOCAC Summit 2018 (courtesy africa.cgtn.com)
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.

A column chart of external government debt for Sub-Saharan Africa by official, private, and Chinese creditors

Continue reading entire article

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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.

China Friend or Foe? Published in AU’s “Invest in Africa” magazine

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

Railroads from the colonial period versus railroads of the future. The East-West and North-South railroads are long overdue

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

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?

A Brief Response: Marshall Plan for Africa or “Debt Trap?”

Lawrence Freeman

September 20, 2018

The world is witnessing an increase in attacks on Africa’s relationships with China in various articles, as well as low-level, unthoughtful, messages on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. Not only does that content intend to demonize China as the new colonial empire of Africa, but it also includes vulgar demeaning caricatures of African Heads of State.

Could the reason for the uptick of these kinds of diatribes be related to the successful September 3-4, Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) summit in Beijing, attended by leaders from almost every African nation? China has reached out to Arica and formed a special relationship which is being embraced by African Heads of State. It should be clear to any intelligent historian, that China is not acting as an Imperialist manner towards Africa.

However, what has been conspicuously, egregiously omitted from this unsubstantiated vilification of China, is the history of Western nations and institutions, which have acted as an Imperialist power towards Africa. The latest accusation is that China is deliberately entrapping African nations into unpayable debt. However, this is precisely what the IMF, World Bank, Paris Club, along with their allies in the City of London and Wall Street did to Africa immediately following the “Winds of Change.”

The motivation for this propaganda barrage is that China via FOCAC and the Belt & Road Initiative is offering African nations a pathway toward growth uncontrolled by the financial predators in the City of London and Wall Street. Contrary to the myth that China is stealing African resources; which the Western powers did first under slavery, then under colonialism, and have continued under neo-colonialism, China is actually providing credit for physical infrastructure; the sin qua non to spur economic growth.

Debt and Credit for What?  

A pervasive and quite serious problem affecting well-intentioned individuals from all corners of the globe is the lack of understanding of what actually creates economic growth. Neither money, nor financial transactions, nor derivatives, nor speculation, nor rising stock markets, nor the market place are the cause of growth or synonymous with real economic growth.

Credits issued for infrastructure; water, energy, rail, roads, healthcare, and education, identifying the most vital categories, if properly organized, leads to an increase in the productivity i.e. the economic power of the society. This is measured by the ability of society to increase its physical output from one production cycle to the next. By utilizing 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.  Shortly after the death of President Kennedy, the US ceased its commitment to assist Africa nations in expanding their infrastructure.

China is committed to lending, issuing credit-yes creating a debt to fund long-term investment in infrastructure. Credit directed in this way is good debt. With non-usurious interest rates over 15-20 years, the loan can be retired from the profit it generates to society. This form of debt is not equivalent to the hundreds of billions of dollars African nations were forced to pay to the financial capitals of the world for loans to cover rigged terms of trade, and currency devaluations.

If you study the American System of Political Economy with its cornerstone; Alexander Hamilton’s national credit policy, you will realize that China is emulating the best of America’s past. For example, President Franklin Roosevelt, who successfully applied Hamilton’s principle  to rebuild the Depression riddled US with state issued credits, would have little trouble understanding the principles of President Xi Jinping’s Belt & Road.

Economics and the Common Good

There is a deeper level to comprehending economic growth. Every human being is united by a universal principle often expressed as the “common good of mankind.” Yes, all human beings regardless of religion, color, ethnicity, or place of birth, share a “common interest.” We are all created with the power of creativity. Not logic, not deduction, not induction, but the power to hypothesis new ideas. The power of discovery, to discern new principles of the universe that we previously did not know but were there waiting to be revealed to the human mind. These scientific discoveries spawn new technologies which are the primary source of economic growth. Thus, it is the responsibility, nay the obligation of every society to nurture and develop that creative potential innate in all its citizens from birth to death.

For all citizens to realize their potential, live productive lives, and raise their families without fear of hunger and security, a nation must have the economic means to expand the total physical wealth of society over succeeding generations.  An advanced industrialized nation requires a healthy manufacturing sector, which is also an essential component of a productive agriculture sector.  The absence of robust agro-manufacturing economies in Africa is crime along with its huge deficit in infrastructure.

Sadly, the West does not have the vision to assist African nations in overcoming these deficiencies. China in all, but name has launched the equivalent of a Marshall Plan for Africa.

Among the eight major initiatives that President Xi laid out at the Africa-China Summit, China will:

1.Promote industrialization; 2. Support agricultural assistance programs; 3. Work with the African Union (Agenda 2063) to formulate a China-Africa infrastructure cooperation program; 4. Increase its imports from Africa, in particular non-resources products; 5. Train 1,000 high-caliber Africans for training in innovation sectors; provide Africa with 50,000 government scholarships; and sponsor seminar and workshop opportunities for 50,000 Africans and invite 2,000 African students to visit China for exchanges.

China has come to understand that it is the common interest of its own country, and in the fact all nations, is to help Africa develop productive industrialized societies not dependent on revenue from one resource or one crop. Under these improved conditions, hunger and poverty, the underlying causes for conflict, can be eliminated. Great progress can be accomplished in Africa and the world, if the US and Europe acquire the wisdom to join China’s Spirit of the Belt & Road

Below are three articles with excerpts that provide useful background to understanding Africa’s productive relationship with China.

“The recently concluded China-Africa Summit offers a new deal for Africa’s recovery. The Forum for China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) has the making of a 21st century equivalent of the Marshall Plan, America’s massive economic rescue programe that President Harry Truman unveiled for Europe on April 3, 1948.

AFRICA’S INDUSTRIALISATION

On its part, China is taking a Pan-African approach targeting projects with regional impact such as Kenya’s standard gauge railway.   Like the Marshall Plan that prioritized the reindustrialization of Europe after the war, China is laudably giving a pride of place to Africa’s industrialisation.

Industrialization was top on the list of President Xi Jinping’s eight-point plan to guide Chinese aid to Africa in the next three years. Recipients of Marshall Plan had to invest 60 percent of these funds in industry. The funds also involved Technical Assistance Programes to create a skilled labor force to drive industrialization.”       Read: China’s Marshall Plan for Africa-Debt or New Deal ?

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“Speaking as the Chairman of the African Union, President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, expressed the will of Africa very clearly: “Africa wishes to be a full and integral part of the Belt and Road Initiative.” And in spite of the myriad attacks in the Western media regarding the Belt and Road’s alleged “debt trap”—and its description of China’s extensive involvement in Africa as a “new colonialism”—this “fake news” has not blurred the vision of Africa’s leaders, who have stayed focused on the future of the continent.

Ramaphosa also praised the work of China’s Belt and Road Initiative: “Why do we support the Belt and Road Initiative?” “Because we are confident that this initiative, which effectively complements the work of FOCAC, will reduce the costs and increase the volume of trade between Africa and China.  It will encourage the development of Africa’s infrastructure, a critical requirement for meaningful regional and continental integration.” Read: FOCAC Summit: Turning Point in History

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“It can be said that this sentiment is near universal among the African nations now participating in the BRI. Indeed the president of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, told Xinhua on the sidelines of the summit, “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.” Read: Changes Underway as FOCAC Convenes