Belt and Road Infrastructure Contributes to Africa’s Development: No ‘Debt-trap’

CGTN published my article below:  Belt and Road Infrastructure Contributes to Africa’s Development: No ‘Debt-trap’ on December 26 , 2020. In this article, I expose the fraud of the anti-China “debt-trap” slander being used to impede China’s and Africa’s collaboration to build vitally needed infrastructure across the African continent.

December 30, 2020

Belt and Road Initiative is not debt-trapping Africa

Editor’s note: 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 article reflects the author’s opinions, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

Over the last three years, a new type of groupthink has emerged among many Western media and policy think tanks in their geopolitically motivated efforts to malign China. They’ve claimed that China is practicing a new type of colonialism, which is coined “debt-trap diplomacy.” China is charged with deliberately luring developing nations into borrowing-lending arrangements, primarily for infrastructure projects, with the intention of entrapping them into unpayable loans. It is alleged that once the borrowing nation defaults on “excessive debt,” China seizes the project or collateral assets of valuable mineral resources.

There is only one problem with this supposition. None of it is true. There has been no takeover of any project and no seizure of assets of any kind in Africa by China. There is no evidence of an intentional effort to trap African nations into owing debt to China.

To give an example of how manipulation of words is used to disparage the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in Africa, just look at Heather Zeiger’s article “China and Africa: Debt-Trap Diplomacy?” The article recognizes that Kenya is suffering from COVID-19 related financial stress and cannot fulfill the terms of the loan for the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR). However, she then attempts to make the case for debt-trap diplomacy by slyly using a conditional sentence: If Kenya defaults on payments, China might be able to receive revenue from the Port of Mombasa as collateral, although the Chinese government has said it does not intend to do this.”

The truth is, neither happened.

Johns Hopkins University’s China-Africa Research Initiative (CARI) has extensive data on Chinese lending in Africa. After reviewing over 1,000 loans, it reports that “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’.”

However, this has not prevented U.S. elected officials and representatives of Democratic and Republican parties from ignorantly reciting this debt-trap mantra. This propaganda is so pervasive that even some Africans have been repeating this disinformation.

Aerial photo shows trains at the Nairobi railway station in Nairobi, capital of Kenya. /Xinhua

African nations require infrastructure

China through the BRI is helping to finance and construct vitally needed infrastructure in Africa. Nothing is more critical or more urgently needed to industrialize Africa and end poverty and hunger than infrastructure. The United States, whose foreign policy is increasingly vectored at countering China’s rising political and economic power in the world, has no strategy or intention of making a similar commitment to the African continent.

W. Gyude Moore, a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development and Liberia’s former Minister of Public Works, has said that China’s investment in infrastructure in Africa is unsurpassed. And given the West’s history and operations in Africa, it is “frustrating that in its complicated, enmeshed, centuries-long history in Africa, there has never been a Western proposal for continental-scale infrastructure building … 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.”

China helped finance and construct Kenya’s SGR, the only new railroad in 100 years since the British empire occupied Kenya at the beginning of the 20th century. The first phase of this ambitious project, from the port city of Mombasa to the capital Nairobi, is already completed. It is intended to connect to Uganda, Rwanda, South Sudan and Ethiopia. This has the potential to become the eastern leg of the long overdue East-West railroad across the girth of Africa, which would transform the continent.

China has contributed to the welfare of nations through the BRI. And for this, it should be supported, not pilloried.

Read: news.cgtn.com Belt-and-Road-Initiative-is-not-debt-trapping-Africa

 

UN Speech by Ivory Coast President: “Bolder Measures” Needed To Help African Economies Hit by COVID-19

Debate
Other press by DR General debate of the 75th session of the UN General Assembly by videoconference: Statement by HE Mr. Alassane OUATTARA, Head of State of the Republic of Côte d`Ivoire, September 24, 2020
September 28, 2020
The remarks by President Quattara at the United nations echoed those of other leaders of developing nations. However, we must contemplate taking even bolder action. The present global financial-economic system needs to be restructured.  The Bretton-Woods system as envisioned by President Franklin Roosevelt has been distorted beyond recognition.  The amount of debt and derivatives on the books of the international banking system is suffocating real economic expansion. Yes, we must have a debt moratorium for the duration of the crisis, but we have to do more. We have to construct a New Bretton Woods that will deflate existing unpayable debt and establish  standards for prioritizing the issuance of new credits explicitly for development; in particular infrastructure.  The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to the fore, for all the world to see, the gross failure of the current globalized system. We, humanity, will only progress when we establish a higher platform of economy, one dedicated to the promotion of human life, not the balance sheets of debts. Read: New Economic Order Required to Combat COVID-19 in Africa

General debate of the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly: Statement by His Excellency Mr. Alassane Ouattara, President of the Republic of Côte d’Ivoire

Excerpts below:
“Faced with the spread of COVID-19, developing countries, especially African countries, are more severely affected by the economic and social effects of the absence of global initiatives in favor of of their savings. In this context, in my capacity as Champion for the implementation of the African Union’s Agenda 2063, I welcome the initiative of the G20 to grant a moratorium on the service of the bilateral public debt for the benefit of several African countries.

“I call on all the continent’s partners to take bolder measures aimed at relieving our economies hard hit by the effects of COVID-19. Africa’s financial needs are estimated at US $ 100 billion per year over three (3) years, or a total of US $ 300 billion. In addition, countries should have budgetary leeway to allow them to pursue the necessary social investments and take into account security needs, especially in countries facing terrorism.

“Finally, the world must hear the Africans’ call for the cancellation of the public debt of their countries. My country supports the African Union’s efforts to collectively renegotiate the continent’s debt with the creditors, and to obtain an extension of the debt moratorium, mentioned above. But we must go further and act without further delay. African countries need lasting solutions, in particular liquidity and investments, in order to withstand the unprecedented shock suffered by our populations and to continue the development process of the continent.

Among these solutions, I recommend recourse to the Special Drawing Rights of the International Monetary Fund; a mechanism that has already proved effective during the global financial crisis of 2008-2009.

“The fight against COVID-19 must not overshadow other diseases such as Malaria and AIDS, which claim more victims in African countries. Above all, it must not destroy efforts to fight poverty. In this area, my country has launched vigorous reforms that have reduced poverty by 15.6 percentage points in eight years.
The regional study on poverty by the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) and the World Bank confirms that Côte d’Ivoire has gone from a poverty rate of 55.01% in 2011. at 39.4% in 2018. It is therefore about 1.6 million Ivorians who were lifted out of poverty during this period.

“Likewise, still according to recent statistics from the World Bank, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita of Côte d’Ivoire has more than doubled, from 1120 US dollars in 2011 to 2290 US dollars in 2019. , making Côte d’Ivoire the country with the highest per capita income in the West African sub-region.”

South African Pres. Ramaphosa Calls For End to Poverty and a New Global Deal

UN General Assembly celebrating 75th anniversary virtually - YouTube

South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa in his address to the United Nations calls for the necessity to end poverty in Africa and the need to establish a New Global Deal that provides affordable credit. I fully support these goals. I have advocated for the creation of a New Bretton Woods for decades. Without a new international financial architecture that provides long-term low-interest credit to developing nations for infrastructure, African nations will not be able to fulfill their ambition to end poverty.

Address by President of the Republic of South Africa and African Union Chair, President Cyril Ramaphosa at the 75th United Nations General Assembly Debate, September 22, 2020

Excerpts below:

“When the Secretary-General António Guterres delivered the 18th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture in July 2020, he called on the nations of the world to forge a New Social Contract and a New Global Deal.

“He said we must create equal opportunities for all, that we must advance a more inclusive and balanced multilateral trading system, that debt architecture must be reformed, and that there should be greater access to affordable credit for developing countries…

“As the African Union we are encouraged by the collaboration of the G20, the IMF, the World Bank and the UN towards finding solutions to debt sustainability in developing countries.

“It is a call we as South Africa wholly endorse.

“This pandemic has highlighted the urgency with which we must strive to meet all the Sustainable Development Goals, but more importantly Goal 1 – to end poverty in all its forms everywhere.

“For until we eradicate global poverty, we will always fall short of realizing the vision of the founders of the United Nations…

“Together, we must raise our level of ambition to ensure that every man, every woman and every child has an equal chance at a better future.

“It is a future free of hunger, disease, insecurity and war.” (emphassis added)

Read full speech: South Africa Pres Ramaphosa Address to the UN

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

The West Continues to Attack China to the Detriment of Africa

A new Cold War is coming. Africa should not pick sides

August 28, 2020

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. 

Excerpts below:

“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.

Read: https://thediplomat.com/2020/08/china-the-world-bank-and-african-debt-a-war-of-words/

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

VIDEO: Africa’s Healthcare Infrastructure Requires a New Bretton Woods

July 10, 2020

I was a featured speaker on a webinar sponsored by Watch Democracy Grow on June 16. The assigned topic of my presentation was: Prioritizing social infrastructure development on the continent. Watch my 18 minute presentation on the impact of COVID-19 in Africa and the need for a New Bretton Woods to build healthcare infrastructure. In my conclusion, I emphasized that human creativity, emanating from the brow of millions of African youth, is the source of wealth for Africa’s future.

I am happy to announce that my website is now entering its fourth year. I began publishing on lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com on July 1, 2017. In three years my website has had over 50,000 views. To increase the influence of my ideas, which are outside the box, I am asking my friends and supporters to subscribe to my website, and circulate my posts. I am also available to provide research, writing, and consultation on all topics related to Africa, including Africa-US, and Africa-China relations.

I hope all of you remain healthy during these challenging times.

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

UN Chief: Virus Could Push Millions of Africans Into Poverty

A woman wearing face masks to protect against coronavirus, has her temperature checked by a security personnel before entering a grocery shop at Tembisa township in Johannesburg, South Africa, Tuesday, May 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
A woman wearing face masks to protect against coronavirus, has her temperature checked by a security personnel before entering a grocery shop at Tembisa township in Johannesburg, South Africa, Tuesday, May 19, 2020. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

May 20, 2020

United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, warns about the danger of the COVID-19 in Africa, both from the disease itself and causing increased levels of poverty.

“It will aggravate long-standing inequalities and heighten hunger, malnutrition and vulnerability to disease.  Already, demand for Africa’s commodities, tourism and remittances are declining…. millions could be pushed into extreme poverty

“The U.N. said the low numbers could be linked to minimal testing and reporting, pointing to a World Health Organization warning that the pandemic “could kill between 83,000 and 190,000 people in 47 African countries in the first year, mostly depending on governments’ responses.”

“To help address the devastating economic and social consequences of the pandemic, Guterres said Africa needs more than $200 billion and “an across-the-board debt standstill for African countries” unable to service their debt, “followed by targeted debt relief and a comprehensive approach to structural issues in the international debt architecture to prevent defaults.”

“These are still early days for the pandemic in Africa, and disruption could escalate quickly.  Global solidarity with Africa is an imperative – now and for recovering better. Ending the pandemic in Africa is essential for ending it across the world.

“I have been calling for a global response package amounting to at least 10 per cent of the world’s Gross Domestic Product.  For Africa, that means more than $200 billion as additional support from the international community.

“I also continue to advocate a comprehensive debt framework — starting with an across-the-board debt standstill for countries unable to service their debt, followed by targeted debt relief and a comprehensive approach to structural issues in the international debt architecture to prevent defaults.” 

 

Secretary-General António Guterres records a video message on the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on children. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
Secretary-General António Guterres records a video message on the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on children. (UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe)

ReadUN: Impact of COVID-19 in Africa

Read my earlier articles on COVID-19 in Africa:

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

 

 

Gambari COS for Buhari: Right Man at Right Time for Nigeria

President Muhammadu Buhari-left and his new Chief of Staff, Prof Ibrahim Gambari-right. (Politics Nigeria)

Gambari COS for Buhari: Right Man at Right Time for Nigeria

Lawrence Freeman

May 15, 2020

President Muhammadu Buhari has unexpectedly chosen an exceptional new Chief of Staff (COS), Professor Ibrahim Gambari, (his friends call him “Prof”), to replace the recently deceased Malam Abba Kyari. Over these many years, through meetings formal and informal at the United Nations, Washington DC, Abuja, and Darfur, I have come to respect Prof. Gambari as an honorable and thoughtful Nigerian leader. During our many discussions, his depth and breadth of strategic thinking was evident and contributed to my knowledge of Nigeria, Africa, and the United States.

President Buhari and Prof Gambari know each other well. Prof Gambari served as the Minister for External (Foreign) Affairs between 1984 and 1985 under General Buhari’s military regime before it was overthrown in a coup. It should be remembered that during that time period, when the government of Gen. Buhari resisted the “Washington Consensus” and the Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs), the Naira was worth $1.34 dollars. Following the regime change of the Buhari-Gambari partnership, the Naira was immediately devalued to 25 to $1. As it is said, the rest is history.

Not a career politician or member of the foreign service, Prof Gambari as ambassador headed the Nigerian Mission to the United Nations from 1990-1999 and had the distinction of serving under five heads of state during his tenure. Recognizing his experience and diplomatic skills, Prof Gambari upon leaving the Nigerian Mission was appointed Special Adviser on Africa to the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan from 1999 to 2005. He was the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations for Political Affairs from 2005 to 2007 under Secretary-General’s Kofi Annan and Ban Ki-Moon. Prof Gambari was later appointed head of the Joint African Union-United Nations mission in Darfur (UNAMID) from 2010-2012. As head of the 26,000 man UNAMID force, Prof Gambari navigated a difficult peace keeping operation between the government of Sudan and those international forces who were intent on a Khartoum regime change.

Nigeria in Difficult Times

Nigeria is experiencing multiple tribulations. Its economy is suffering with 40% of its 200 million population living in extreme poverty and the majority of Nigeria’s tens of millions youth are unemployed. Infrastructure is inadequate, especially the lack of daily accessibility to electrical power for consumers and commercial enterprises. Furthermore, the murderous Boko Haram is still operating in the northeastern section of the country. Worsening the condition in Nigeria is the COVID-19 pandemic, which could potentially explode given the insufficient healthcare needed to contain and combat the effects of the coronavirus. The collapse of the price of oil now fluctuating below $30 per barrel has caused significant shortfalls in Nigeria’s revenue and its ability to accumulate foreign exchange. Nigeria’s national budget has been thrown into turmoil because it was predicated on a minimum price of $50 per barrel.

Essential priorities for Nigeria, which I have discussed with government leaders:

  • A national economic growth  plan that benefits all geographical sections of the nation
  • Massive building of physical infrastructure including an urgent mobilization to upgrade and expand healthcare
  • Reverse the shrinking Lake Chad and transform the Lake Chad Basin by implementing Transaqua, an inter-basin water project supported by President Buhari.

Stark weaknesses of globalization have vividly surfaced due to the spread of COVID-19, which has caused devastation, and will likely continue throughout 2020. As a result, the world is crying out for a New International Economic Order to replace the currently defective international financial system. A new paradigm for development that values human life above debt service, prioritizes economic growth, and the elimination of poverty. Nigeria and its people, whose potential has been recognized since the liberation of the continent from colonialism, should play a leading role in this economic transformation of Africa.

To begin the process of accomplishing these goals, President Buhari, in the remaining years of his second term, will need the support of a trusted group of counsellors.  It is my hope that my friend, Prof Gambari, a first-class strategic thinker, and a patriot who cares deeply for Nigeria, will galvanize this effort.

Below I provide excerpts from an article I wrote about Prof Gambari in March 2002, because of their relevancy today.

Professor Gambari discussed the effects of “debt over-hang” on Africa’s development. “The heavy debt burden of many countries is robbing them of their sovereignty, and impeding their pursuit of economic and social policies. The sad part is that debt overhang is hitting generations that had little or nothing [to do] with its contraction. As the UNDP poverty report observes, the ‘truth of the matter is that demands debt servicing are no longer a matter of money, but a source of the excruciating impoverishment of people’s lives.’ ”
While not attacking globalization directly, Gambari diplomatically discussed the consequences for African economies–the unequal benefits from the globalization process.” Globalization, “driven by market and capital expansion, often pays little attention to governance of these markets and their repercussions on people,” and does not guarantee “equity and human development.” The results of globalization are that “Africa’s share of world trade has declined from 40% (1980s) to less than 2% at present.”

Read my outline for the development of Nigeria: Guardian of Nigeria Publishes “Proposal for Nigeria’s Future” by Lawrence Freeman

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

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