AU Amb Chihombori-Quao: “The African Sleeping Giant is Rising”-The Significance of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area

On June 2, 2019, I interviewed African Union Ambassador to the United States, Arikana Chihombori-Quao at her home, on the significance of the new agreement on an Africa Continental Free Trade Area-AfCFTA, initiated on May 30. The AfCFTA is intended to reduce tariffs and barriers between African nations to promote trade, and spur economic development throughout the continent.

 

In the interview above, Ambassador Arikana Chihombori-Quao, provides a provocative and optimistic analysis of what the newly enacted agreement for an Africa Continental Free Trade Area-AfCFTA will mean for continent over the coming years and decades.

Amb Chihombori emphasizes huge potential for the AfCFTA to double, triple and even quadruple intra-African trade, which today is a mere 16%-18% of total continental trade. According to the UN Commission on Africa, AfCFTA could increase intra-trade by 15% to 25%, that equals $50-$70 billion in the next 20 years.  The concept of AfCFTA is to enable each African with the opportunity to potentially access the continent’s multi-trillion dollar market and 1.2 billion buyers and sellers. Landry Signe of the US based Brookings Institute estimates that by 2030 AfCFTA could boost consumer and business spending to $6.7 trillion.

Historically, Amb Chihombori views the AfCFTA as a continuation of the struggle by African nations to liberate themselves from intended under-development imposed on Africa by the infamous Berlin Conference (1884-1885). She stresses that 56 years (and five days) after the founding of the Organization of Africa Unity-OAU (May 25, 1963), Africa will now be functioning as one trading bloc of nations, which is intended to equalize the international playing field. As the implementation of AfCFTA proceeds, Amb Chihombori believes that Africa will acquire the stature of a “heavy-weight” in global trade and commerce. She is also hoping that by the end of this year Africa will ratify the “Free Movement Protocol” that would allow Africans to live, travel, and work anywhere on the continent, thus complementing the AfCFTA

Amb Chihombori accentuates in this interview, that infrastructure is a level one priority for Africa in the AfCFTA. “Investment in infrastructure is an absolutely essential step for us to take as we move into the implementation of AfCFTA,” she says. The denial of basic infrastructure, power, access to water, education and healthcare, by the colonial powers following the Berlin Conference, kept African nations from  developing; by design. “Leaders in Africa are now discussing the building highways and high-speed rail from Cape Town to Cairo and Djibouti to Dakar.”

Challenging those who advocate reducing Africa’s population and falsely claiming that Africa’s growing population is a major contributor to Africa’s economic problems, Amb Chihombori asserts that: “Our youth is the biggest advantage we have over the rest of the world…Youth is our biggest asset.”

Amb Chihombori wants to make the US the number one trading partner with Africa, telling Americans; “that the African sleeping giant is rising-it is a new game.”

***The AfCFTA had already come under attack, even before its birth, by the International Monetary Fund-IMF. According to the People’s News Africa, the IMF warned African nations they could lose revenue, if the AfCFTA is enacted.

Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame quickly responded: “It is important that Africa gives the necessary considerations to the views and opinions by external entities and ‘development partners,’ it is more important at the same time that Africa becomes aware of what we want for ourselves, pursue what is good for the continent, and defend what is necessary for our collective development.”

Belt-Road Initiative and Belt-Road Forum: A New Model of Global Development

May 9, 2019

Belt-Road Initiative is Now Second Largest Trade Bloc

{Global Times} reports today that the BRI has become the second-largest trade bloc in the world, surpassing NAFTA, now second only to the EU. The BRI countries account for 13.4% of world trade, while the EU is about 20%.

In terms of investment, {Global Times} reports, the BRI countries have become the most important destinations for foreign capital inflows in the world, accounting for 31.6 percent of the total in 2017, exceeding the 23-percent share of NAFTA and the 21.2-percent share of the EU.

Chinese President Xi Jinping talks to United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres (not pictured) during the bilateral meeting of the Second Belt and Road Forum at the Great Hall of the People on 25 April 2019 in Beijing, China. (Credit: Getty Images/Getty Images News/Andrea Verdelli / Stringer)

Vladimir Yakunin: BRI is “A Future Model of Global Development-in-Solidarity”

Vladimir Yakunin, the former president of Russian Railways and the initiator of the Dialogue of Civilizations (DOC — the Rhodes Conference), has posted an article on the DOC Research Institute website titled: “The Belt and Road Initiative as a new model for global inclusive development and solidarity.”

Yakunin writes that the Second Belt and Road Forum “should be seen to represent significant global development amidst uncertain times.” He reviews the decay of the world economy that led to the 2008 financial crisis, where investments in infrastructure were drastically curtailed, while “the world economy became `financialized;’ i.e., the financial sector increasingly dominated the real sector. This uncontrolled imbalance eventually led to the financial crisis and later to the global systemic crisis.”

The DOC, founded in 2012, took on an effort to develop “a new approach to under-standing the role of infrastructure projects in global development,” which was published as: “Trans-Eurasian Belt Development: RAZVITIE project,” and presented at a specially organized conference in Milan in November 2012.

The developments at the Second Belt and Road Conference this past week, Yakunin writes, “showed an increasingly widespread unders-tanding that economic egotism and arrogance is giving way to rational collectivism and an orientation towards a new type of globalization, based on principles of equality, sovereignty, and mutual development.”

Yakunin notes that some Western officials are worried that the BRI, together with the new financial institutions like the AIIB, the BRICS’s NDB, and the Silk Road Fund, are challenging their “long-time dominant positions,” but notes that “the traditional international development institutions did not provide the necessary weight for developing countries to participate in the global financial system.”

He reviews the huge growth in the BRI, such as the 73% increase in China-Europe freight trains in 2018 over 2017, with 6,363 trips in 2018, connecting 59 Chinese cities and 49 cities in 15 European countries.”

His conclusion: “[T]he key idea of the Belt and Road initiative — equal and mutually beneficial cooperation without imposing any political conditions — clearly contradicts the currently dominant thesis in contemporary world politics. The new approaches could change the very essence of geopolitics and geo-economics by altering the outdated Cold War mentality of the past. Geopolitical theory has always been articulated through a lens of conflict, dividing the world into `us’ and `them’…. “The Belt and Road Initiative could be the source of a future model of global development-in- solidarity. The key here is the inability to return to the concept of a uni-polar or bipolar world, which can be seen today in global trends towards development of a truly multilateral world.”

Excerpts below:

“SEARCHING FOR A NEW PARADIGM OF SOCIO-ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT”

“Numerous studies conducted after the crisis demonstrated a positive correlation between investment in infrastructure and economic growth. Importantly, it was also shown that infrastructure projects play a positive role in short-term outcomes as well, due to their creation of new jobs and their development of local enterprises, which increase long-term regional development levels.[1] Another conclusion voiced by many prominent economists over the last ten years has been the necessity of developing a new economic model to replace the existing neo-liberal system because neo-liberalism no longer meets requirements. Such statements were difficult to imagine before the crisis, but now seem obvious”

“CHALLENGES ON THE PATH TO IMPLEMENTATION”

“Taking into account the scale of the Belt and Road Initiative and the amount of investment China put into it through the newly founded multilateral financial institutions like the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, the New Development Bank, and the Silk Road Fund, it is not surprising that major powers including the European Union and the US are expressing significant concerns.”

Read entire article

 

Second Belt & Road Forum: Infrastructure is the Bedrock of Development

April 30, 2019

2nd Belt & Road Forum-April 25-27, 2019 (courtesy TheNews.com)

Xi Jinping’s Keynote to Belt and Road Forum Emphasized Goals of the BRI

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s speech to the opening ceremony of the Second Belt and Road Forum on April 26, “Working Together To Deliver a Brighter Future For Belt and Road Cooperation,” broadly laid out the BRF approach and prospects for the future.

“Together, we will create an even brighter future for Beltand Road cooperation…. The joint pursuit of the BRI aims to enhance connectivity and practical cooperation. It is about jointly meeting various challenges and risks confronting mankind and delivering win-win outcomes and common development…. A large number of cooperation projects have been launched, and the decisions of the first BRF have been smoothly implemented. More than 150 countries and international organizations have signed agreements on Belt and Road cooperation with China….
“Infrastructure is the bedrock of connectivity, while the lack of infrastructure has held up the development of many countries. High-quality, sustainable, resilient, affordable, inclusive and accessible infrastructure projects can help countries fully leverage their resource endowment, better integrate into the global supply, industrial and value chains, and realize inter-connected development. To this end, China will continue to work with other parties to build a connectivity network centering on economic corridors such as the New Eurasian Land Bridge….

“Innovation boosts productivity; it makes companies competitive and countries strong…. China will continue to carry out the Belt and Road Science, Technology and Innovation Cooperation Action Plan and Technology Transfer.”

President Xi also used his speech to present a list of a half-dozen major policy steps China has undertaken as part of its Opening Up strategy:
“First, we will expand market access for foreign investment in more areas….
“Second, we will intensify efforts to enhance international cooperation in intellectual property protection….
“Third, we will increase the import of goods and services on an even larger scale. China has a vast potential for increasing
consumption….
“Fourth, we will more effectively engage in international macro-economic policy coordination. A globalized economy calls for global governance. China will strengthen macro policy coordination with other major economies and keep the RMB exchange rate basically stable….
“Fifth, we will work harder to ensure the implementation of opening-up related policies.”

President Xi Jinping Chairs Roundtable at 2nd BRI Forum– ‘Boosting Connectivity for New Sources of Growth’

The concluding day of the 2nd Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing, President Xi Jinping chaired the Roundtable discussion among the 39 guests–37 heads of state plus the leaders of the IMF and United Nations. A joint communiqué has been issued (see separate slug,) and the Chinese Foreign Ministry has also posted a summary of the “Deliverables” from the Forum.

After a day of presentations, as well as sideline bilateral meetings, Xi and his wife Peng Liyuan hosted a welcome banquet for the national leaders. The cordial, but high-level tone of the deliberations April 25-27, was set in Xi’s keynote opening yesterday, when he happily welcomed everyone, “Good morning! As a line of a classical Chinese poem goes, ‘Spring and autumn are lovely seasons in which friends
together to climb up mountains and write poems.’ On this beautiful spring day, it gives me great pleasure to have you with us here at the Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation (BRF).”

Read President Xi’s Key Note address

Second Belt & Road Forum Joint Communiqué States Development Commitments; Lists 35 Specific Economic Corridors–Including “The New Eurasian Land-Bridge”

The 37 national leaders were listed in the very first point of the Communiqué, and the following points identified the role of the “ancient Silk Road” to “the strengthening of the connectivity and the expansion of the world economy in the spirit of promoting peace and cooperation, openness, inclusiveness, equality, mutual learning and mutual benefit” and the role for today’s “Belt and Road cooperation” to do the same thing for the future. The remaining points were grouped under these headings: “Strengthening Development Policy Synergy”; and “Boosting
Infrastructure Connectivity”; and “Promoting Sustainable Development”; and “Strengthening Practical Cooperation”; and “Advancing People-to-People Exchanges”; concluding with, “Way Forward,” which stated, “We envisage the Belt and Road Forum on regular basis with possible follow-up events…[looking forward] to the 3rd Forum.”

Here is the full list of “Economic corridors” identified in the Communiqué:

(1) Addis Ababa-Djibouti economic corridor, including the
development of industrial parks along the economic corridor
(2) Agua Negra Pass International Tunnel
(3) Baku-Tbilisi-Kars new railway line and Alyat free
economic zone in Baku
(4) Brunei-Guangxi economic corridor
(5) China-Central Asia-West Asia economic corridor
(6) China-Europe Land-Sea Express Line
(7) China-Indochina Peninsula economic corridor, including
Laos-China economic corridor
(8) China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan International Highway
(9) China-Laos-Thailand Railway Cooperation
(10) China-Malaysia Qinzhou Industrial Park
(11) China-Mongolia-Russia economic corridor
(12) China-Myanmar economic corridor
(13) China-Pakistan economic corridor
(14) Eastern Economic Corridor in Thailand
(15) Economic corridor in Greater Mekong Subregion
(16) the EU Trans-European Transport Networks
(17) Europe-Caucasus-Asia International Transport corridor
and Trans-Caspian International Transport Route
(18) the Industrial Park “Great Stone”
(19) International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC)
(20) the Lake Victoria-Mediterranean Sea Navigation
Line-Linkage Project (VICMED)
(21) the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transport corridor
(22) Malaysia-China Kuantan Industrial Park
(23) the Nepal-China Trans-Himalayan Multi-dimensional
Connectivity Network, including Nepal-China cross-border railway
(24) New Eurasian Land Bridge
(25) the New International Land-Sea Trade Corridor of the
China- Singapore (Chongqing) Demonstration Initiative on
Strategic Connectivity
(26) Northern Corridor Trade Route in Africa linking the
maritime port of Mombasa to countries of the Great Lakes region
of Africa and Trans-Africa Highway
(27) North-South Passage Cairo-Capetown Pass-way
(28) the Port of Piraeus
(29) Port Sudan-Ethiopia Railway Connectivity
(30) Regional Comprehensive economic corridors in Indonesia
(31) the Suez Canal Economic Zone
(32) Transcontinental shipment of cargo using the capacities
of the Northern Sea Route
(33) Transoceanic fiber optic cable
(34) “Two Corridors and One Belt” Framework
(35) Uzbekistan-Tajikistan-China International Highway

Read entire communique of Belt-Road Forum

Belt and Road Is Unstoppable: `Critics’ Are Strong Supporters

The extraordinary attendance of governments, heads of state and government, and thousands of businesses at the Second Belt and Road Forum, comparing with the largest international meetings in history, was already proof that the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has expanded greatly since the first BRF in 2017 and is now  an unstoppable new paradigm of economy. After the Second BRF, certain myths of “backfire” and “criticism” in Asia also fell away.

Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamed gave interviews in which he expressed full confidence in the BRI and surprise at its scope. Speaking to Bernama News Agency April 28, he said: “We feel that the [One Belt, One Road] OBOR initiative is not a domination plan by China, which would end up being controlled by China. Instead, it is a policy developed by all the countries, and not only focused on China. Previously … including the Trans-Pacific Partnership, developed countries made the proposals and asked us to accept them. This is not like that; the forum attendees are from small countries and they are sitting with China…They sit together at the same level, and talk about how to develop infrastructure projects.”

In an interview with China’s TV network CGTN, Dr. Mahathir said he had thought the Belt and Road was an infrastructure project for Asia.

“Now it is quite clear that it is, practially, a worldwide project …to improve connectivity and infrastructure development all over the world…I’m very glad I’m here, because now I understand better the character of the project. China has a lot of new technologies, and we need these new technologies.” He forecast large-scale Chinese investment and exports into Malaysia.

Indonesia’s investment minister, Harvard graduate Tom Lembong, who had been critical of China’s rail investments, told {South China Morning Post} that Indonesia has “found China’s openness to its feedback on improving the Belt and Road Initiative highly encouraging…. I believe in the next 5 to 10 years, BRI will stimulate additional investment in probably tens of billions of dollars [in Indonesia],” Lembong said.

In Europe, Italy and Austria are joining Portugal in planning issuance of “Panda Bonds” — infrastructure bonds issued by other countries in yuan, to be issued into China’s bond market. Even Germany Economics Minister Peter Altmaier found the Beijing forum “better than expected,” and is headed back with a Mittelstand delegation.

China’s Belt and Road Aids Africa’s Growth in New Globalization

(China’s CGTN published my article today, on the eve of the historic 2nd Belt and Road Forum)
Opinion-April 24, 2019

Belt and Road Initiative: Another path to globalization

by Lawrence Freeman

Editor’s note: Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in economic development policy of Africa for 30 years. The article reflects the author’s opinion, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

On the eve of the second Belt and Road Forum (BRF), it is irrefutable that the world has been transformed in the five years since Chinese President Xi Jinping announced the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).China’s archetype for global development is based on the more elevated concept of each country contributing to the “common destiny of all nations” and mankind’s “shared future.”

By focusing on “global connectivity” through massive investments in infrastructure, linking China to the rest of the world through its land and maritime new Silk Roads, China has presented the world with a new paradigm for development – in effect, redefining globalization.

According to the World Economic Forum (September 2018), “the BRI will encompass 70 percent of the world’s population (4.4 billion) and 63 percent of the world’s GDP (21 trillion U.S. dollars),” primarily from construction of rail lines, highways, ports, airports, hydro-energy plants and pipelines.

The first BRF held in May 2017 included 29 foreign heads of state, 11 heads of international organizations and over two dozen attendees on the ministerial level. Because of the expansion of the BRI over the last two years, already 40 world leaders have confirmed their attendance for this year’s conference.

Awakening the Sleeping Giant, Africa

Nowhere, outside of China itself, are the positive effects of China’s BRI more evident than on the African continent. At the 2017 BRF, the only African heads of States who attended were Ethiopia and Kenya, and ministers from Egypt and Tunisia. With Nigeria, the most populated nation in Africa, officially joining the BRI in 2019, and increased collaboration with China throughout all geographical sections of Africa, participation at this year’s BRF from Africa will undoubtedly be higher.

Engineers from the Addis Ababa Information & Communication Technology Development Agency in Ethiopia, Africa, train on Huawei’s networking equipment at the training center at Huawei headquarters in Shenzhen, China, September 15, 2011. /VCG Photo

Prior to the announcement of the BRI, China had already forged a close working relationship with Africa by convening China-Africa Summits (Forum on China-Africa Cooperation) every three years beginning in 2000, rotating the venues between China and Africa.  At the seventh summit held last year in Beijing, all but one of the 54 African nations attended.

Unfortunately, the West lost its vision of development for Africa after the death of President John F. Kennedy, instead adopting a no-infrastructure policy. What Africa has needed most since the 1960s “Winds of Change” liberation from colonialism is infrastructure, water, energy, rail and roads. China has a different view on this.

Ambassador David Shinn, a respected scholar on Africa, wrote last month: “China has been indisputably the single most important builder of infrastructure in Africa since the beginning of the 21st century.”

Take, for example, Djibouti, which is a BRI hub. China is building the Doraleh Multi-Purpose Port and international free trade zone in this northeast African nation, strategically located right off the Indian Ocean and on the Gulf of Eden. It is estimated that one-third of global shipping passes by this port.

In 2016, the first electrically driven train in sub-Saharan Africa, connecting Addis Ababa, the capital of landlocked Ethiopia, to the port city of Djibouti was inaugurated. This rail line built by Chinese companies utilizing and training African laborers and engineers is key to the develop-ment of the Horn of Africa, providing Ethiopia a port to export the products of its nascent manufacturing sector.

Aboubaker Omar Hadi, chairman of Djibouti Ports and Free Zone Authority, told Xinhua that “projects involving cooperation with China are helping Djibouti promote trade in Africa as well as distribution across the East African region… which couldn’t be achieved without developing proper infrastructure, such as seaports and railway connections.”

Chinese workers help to build a new train station in Beliatta in a southern province near Hambantota, which is Chinese managed and designed in Beliatta, Sri Lanka, November 18, 2018. /VCG Photo‍

Hadi called the “debt-trap” propaganda against the BRI, “complete nonsense, as benefits generated from infrastructure construction will far exceed the investment.”

African nations are attempting to industrialize their economies with growth in their manufacturing sectors. China is assisting by creating special economic zones, industrial parks, and industrial zones in Nigeria, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Egypt, Morocco, and Rwanda. Industry and infrastructure generate jobs, raise skill levels and transfer technology.

Will the West Join the BRI?

Africa’s requirement for infrastructure is enormous, allowing Western nations the opportunity to join with China to industrialize this vast undeveloped continent, which is projected to have 2.5 billion people by 2050. President Xi, at the first BRF, said: “We should foster a new type of international relations featuring win-win cooperation” and “development holds the master key to solving all problems.” Regrettably, western nations have been hostile to joining the BRI. However, last month’s ground-breaking signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) by Italy – the first G-7 nation to join China’s BRI – portends a potential change towards a new constructive dynamic.

Read: China’s New Approach to Globalization

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’s Belt & Road New Paradigm for Development: United States Should Join

April 18, 2019

Belt and Road Creates New Asian Paradigm for Global Economic Integration and Inclusiveness

That is the headline on an April 15 {Global Times} op-ed by Toumert Al, the director of Education, International Bachelor Program at the International School under the China Foreign Affairs University. The article provides a tour d’horizon of BRI achievements to date in infrastructure projects on various continents.

“In South Asia, the Belt and Road Initiative is seen as a main driver for infrastructure construction in a region that must bridge the ever-growing gap between its economic potential and the realities of its insufficient infrastructure. According to the World Bank, South Asia requires about 2 trillion dollars of investment in infrastructure construction from 2011 to 2020 if the region wants to be part of the new economic order shaping the future.” The article then discusses a couple of key projects, such as the Padma bridge in Bangladesh and Gwadar port in Pakistan.

Nigeria’s Mambilla Hydro-Electric Dam-3,000 megawatts (courtesy nigerianmuse.com)

“True to its global status and inclusive nature, the BRI is not merely a regional initiative. Africa can be considered a major beneficiary of  China’s economic drive to support the continent’s development and to help its infrastructure and economy achieve targeted growth plans. The year 2018 could be considered the turning point for the BRI in Africa as the signing of the MOU of cooperation between China and 37 African countries and the African Union raised the initiative to a new level. Infrastructure financing provided by China to Africa averaged $11.5 billion between 2012 and 2016.” Examples cited include the $5.8 billion Mambila Hydropower Plant in Nigeria, the Addis Ababa-Djibouti railway, the $11 billion port in Bagamoyo, Tanzania now under construction, and the Nairobi-Mombasa railway project. “Another project that is moving forward and may have the same implications as CPEC (China Pakistan Economic Corridor) has in South Asia is the Suez Canal corridor in Egypt,” the Toumert wrote. In short, the BRI “is a truly new paradigm in international cooperation.”

The Belt and Road Initiative Keeps Growing

China is now engaged in heavy organizing in the countdown to the April 26-27 Second Belt and Road Forum in Beijing, which will bring together representatives of over 100 countries and 29 international organizations. Just how powerful a draw the BRI is to nations across the planet, was shown earlier this week when the tiny Caribbean nation of Jamaica announced that they had signed an MOU with China on the BRI –notwithstanding the withering pressure that Washington and London have brought to bear. A similar, if strategically weightier example of this process was Italy’s signing an MOU with visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping last month.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang yesterday discussed China’s approach to the upcoming Forum: “While the BRI was proposed by China, it has grown into an international public good. The success of the first BRF together with the bumper practical outcomes speaks volumes. The fact that more countries and international organizations are taking an active part in the second forum is further proof to its success.”

Asked about media accounts that India would not be sending a delegation–as they hadn’t to the First Belt and Road Forum–because they view the BRI’s China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) as infringing on Indian sovereignty, Lu responded:

“I would like to reiterate that the BRI is an open and inclusive initiative for economic cooperation. It never concerns territorial disputes. In pursuing BRI cooperation, China and partner countries are committed to equality, openness and transparency, to business operations centered around enterprises and to market rules and international norms. For those with inaccurate judgment on the BRI based on misunderstandings due to lack of knowledge of the real situation, I would like to reassure them that China is sincerely and resolutely committed to the principle of consultation and cooperation for shared benefit, equality and mutual benefit. Since its initiation, the Belt and Road cooperation has been inclusive and open to all countries that are interested in joining and working for win-win cooperation. It excludes no one. If the relevant country would like to take some time to see, we can wait.”

Meanwhile, Xinhua interviewed Cambodia’s Information Minister Khieu Kanharith who said that “the BRI forum will also further promote cooperation between China and ASEAN and between China and Cambodia…. For Cambodia, with Chinese assistance, we can build mega-infrastructure projects, and those projects are crucial to boosting economic growth and making communication easier and faster…. Our first priority is to boost economic growth and to make everybody have a fair share of the economic growth, The BRI can help us through sup-porting infrastructure projects and human resources development.”

He continued: “China has assisted us on equal footing, meaning that although China is a big country and Cambodia is a small country, China always treats us equally. With Chinese support, Cambodia has gained confidence in ourselves and our people are proud and confident in rebuilding the country.”

Chinese Insist the U.S. Should Join the Belt and Road

Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank President Jin Liqun told last weekend’s Harvard China Forum that the “infrastructure bottlenecks are the sewage problems of development. I would say that that’s also a problem for the United States”–a statement Americans can agree with. He presented the Belt and Road Initiative as “a platform for all participating countries to work together, including on connectivity,” which he called a matter not only of regional development, but also of “world peace and prosperity.”

When a discussion arose on how China had gone from being a debtor nation dependent on foreign development assistance, to one of the largest contributors to the World Bank’s International Development Assistance facility today, Jin pointedly commented that how much money a country has is not the issue.

“Accumulated wealth cannot buy you respect unless you help do good things for the rest of the world. So China has been trying to invest and help other countries through its own experience,” Jin stated.

At a Center for China and Globalization conference in Beijing over the same weekend, Jin Xin, director of the China Center for Contemporary World Studies of the Communist Party’s International Liaison Department, took on the arguments of former U.S. Ambassador Terry Miller (from the G.W. Bush days), who asserted the U.S. had no interest in participating in the Belt and Road Initiative, which is viewed as “a Chinese show” that “doesn’t have much to do with us.” Jin Xin countered that the U.S. should work with China in third-country markets under the BRI. If it decides not to do so, the U.S. will again find itself “excluded,” just as it excluded itself from the AIIB, in which more than 90 countries are now members, Jin said.

Nigeria to Expand Manufacturing; UN Praises China’s Belt and Road

APRIL 11, 2019

Nigeria plans special economic zones to double manufacturing by 2025

(courtesy thisdaylive.com)

Nigeria is Africa’s biggest economy but it lacks a strong manufacturing base, which contributes less than 10 percent to its total gross domestic product (GDP). The country has maintained a strong currency to ensure it can keep imports pouring in, with a growing proportion coming from China.

 

“Project MINE’s (Made in Nigeria for Export) strategic objectives are to increase (the) manufacturing sector’s contribution to GDP to 20 percent … and generate over $30 billion annually by 2025,” the ministry of industry, trade and investment said in a statement.

The government has set up Nigeria SEZ Investment Company, which will finance industrial parks in special economic zones in the commercial capital of Lagos, southeastern state of Abia and northern state of Katsina.

The government is currently raising capital of $250 million for Nigeria SEZ Investment Company. It plans to double its equity to $500 million over four years, the ministry said.

The West African country’s manufacturing and agricultural sectors have been neglected since the 1970s oil boom, when Nigeria began making easy money from crude oil sales.

Nigeria, where the vast majority of the population lives on less than $2 a day, recently emerged from a recession but growth is fragile and the government is trying to diversify its revenue away from its reliance on oil.

President Muhammadu Buhari, who is due to start a second four-year term next month, has pledged to revive the economy and is focused on building roads and expanding the railway network to lower production costs…

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UN Africa Official Vera Songwe Calls BRI ‘Probably One of the Biggest Growth and Development Initiatives in the World’

In an interview with the Xinhua that appeared on April 10, Vera Songwe, executive secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), hailed the role that the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) would play in addressing Africa’s problems in infrastructure and job creation. She told Xinhua that the BRI will positively affect hundreds of millions of people in different countries, while it helps Africa develop infrastructure connectivity of varied types and creates job opportunities that are pressing issues on the continent.

“This (BRI) is probably one of the biggest growth and development initiatives that we have in the world,” the UN official said, adding that the BRI is essential to the continent. She believes that the initiative, in which many African countries “infrastructure today is one of the necessary requirements for Africa’s growth,” Xinhua reported.

China’s BRI Expanding Trade in Africa With Infrastructure Where the West Has Failed: Djibouti

March 28, 2019

Djibouti Port Director: The BRI Has Vastly Expanded All African Trade and Development

Aboubaker Omar Hadi, chairman of Djibouti Ports and Free Zone Authority, told Xinhua on the sidelines of the Africa CEO Forum that “projects involving cooperation with China (such as the Ethiopia-Djibouti railway and the Doraleh Multi-Purpose Port and international free trade zone) are helping Djibouti promote trade in Africa as well as distribution across the East African region.” Hadi said that more than $40 billion in exports and imports has been recorded through Djibouti ports, “which couldn’t be achieved without developing proper infrastructure, such as sea ports and railway connections.” He went on: “I am expecting more movements of goods, infrastructure develop-ment from the second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation slated for April in Beijing, as well as stronger interconnection between Africa and the rest of the world,” speaking with Xinhua News.

Hadi also said that the accusations against China made by Western countries about letting some African countries fall into a debt trap due to cooperation on the BRI, are “complete nonsense, as benefits generated from infrastructure construction will far exceed the investment.”

China Prevails Where Europe Has Failed Miserably

“The New Silk Road is the biggest economic venture in mankind’s history,” former chief economist of Bremen Landesbank Folker Hellmeyer told Sputnik, saying it would be quite absurd if Europe did not take a part in it.  “The West could have built infrastructure in these countries in the past 50 years. We have not done this. China is now filling this gap–and we are criticizing that. That is also power play to a certain extent. That is also why it meets resistance. But we are developing human capital and a sustainable growth potential which is enormous. We could have done it, but we haven’t done it. And that is why we should not accuse others.”

Hellmeyer also said that “what I hear here in Europe in terms of criticism, I rather see as a kind of front line politics serving the interests of the U.S.A.”

Newly Elected President of D.R. Congo Addresses Issue of Lake Chad Water Transfer

Newly elected President of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) Félix Tshisekedi addressed the issue of water transfer to save Lake Chad at the just- concluded Africa CEO Forum in Kigali, Rwanda. Speaking at the concluding panel together with host, Rwanda President Paul Kagame, Tshisekedi said that someone is proposing to pump water from the Congo River to save Lake Chad, but there are better options than that.

“On the water issue, which is a battle expecting us in the future, we can think about solutions at the mouth [of the Congo River], before the meeting with the ocean waters. There is a way to catch that water from the river and send it through pipes to countries that need it, rather than doing what has been proposed at some point in Chad — i.e. diverting the course of the Ubangi River. This can have consequences, including on energy, because of the peat bog system that helps the CO2-absorbing natural lungs. We believe that there are other solutions and the D.R.C. is ready to offer them to its partners to build this integration which is so important for us.”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1pKAsR0qhtQ

President Tshisekedi is right when he rejects foolish ideas such as pumping water from the Congo River or diverting the course of the Ubangi. However, he should know that “other solutions,” namely the Transaqua project, have already been approved by the countries of the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC) at the February 2018 International Conference on Lake Chad in Abuja, Nigeria, which was attended by a representative of the D.R.C.. He also should drop the narrative of the peat bog system, created by the British to block the development of the Congo basin.

LCBC observers see the glass as half-full and emphasize the good news of the D.R.C. government addressing publicly the issue and expressing its readiness to help. Notably, this was the first time that a President of D.R. Congo and of Rwanda have appeared together in public. Rwanda President Kagame stressed this in his speech, explaining that Africa will move forward only if personal animosities are put aside. Kagame has recently strongly supported China’s Belt and Road Initiative and blasted the West for having failed in its Africa policies

 

Nations Must Study Alexander Hamilton’s Principles of Political Economy

Hamilton Versus Wall Street: The Core Principles of the American System of Economics
Nancy Bradeen Spannaus iUniverse, Bloomington, Indiana, 2019, 222 pp. $13.99 soft cover, $5.99 e-book.

Hamilton Versus Wall Street: The Core Principles Of the American System of Economics      By Nancy Bradeen Spannaus

A Review by Lawrence Freeman-March 28 2019

For those followers of our beloved Alexander Hamilton and for those new to his writings, this book is for you. Nancy Spannaus, in her just-released book Hamilton Versus Wall Street, makes a unique contribution to the existing volumes written on Hamilton’s political and economic thoughts.  In her relatively short easy-to-read book, she weaves together Hamilton’s revolutionary ideas on political economy that served as the pillars for the creation of the United States, their legacy in the next two centuries of America, and their influence internationally. Throughout her treatise, Spannaus also provides constructive historical analysis of the battle inside the United States to adopt Hamilton’s concepts. This book is a valuable complement to Hamilton’s economic reports and will aid those unfamiliar with his seminal texts. *

Spannaus polemically begins by countering the popular myth that Hamilton was an agent for the banks (Wall Street) against the interests of the “little man,” agrarian society and the states, as espoused by Thomas Jefferson and others.  She later devotes entire chapters to Hamilton’s opposition to the British central banking system and Adam Smith, exposing another slander which alleged Hamilton was a supporter of the British aristocracy.

Principles of Political Economy

            Unlike like other publications on Hamilton that gloss over or give insufficient attention to Hamilton’s ground-breaking concepts of banking, credit, and manufactures, Spannaus makes a great effort to elaborate Hamilton’s contributions to: “The Core Principles of the American System of Economics.”  **

All nations would benefit greatly, if their leaders and citizens studied Hamilton writings. American culture would not be at the low level it is today, if my fellow citizens had been taught Hamilton’s economic theories, which in fact were crucial to the creation of our nation from thirteen indebted, agriculturally-based colonies. Advanced sector countries that are dominated by financial systems dictated by Wall Street and the City of London, and underdeveloped nations that rely on resource extraction and farming, because they lack a manufacturing sector, could learn a great deal from Hamilton.

However, Hamilton’s thinking about economic growth was not limited to the mere production of goods. He understood for society to continually increase the productive powers of the economy, the development of the human mind was essential. Spannaus quotes Hamilton: “To cherish and stimulate the activity of the human mind, by multiplying objects of enterprise, is not among the least considerable of the expedients, by which the wealth of the nations may be promoted.” (p. 28).

Friederich List, a student of Hamilton’s philosophy in the nineteenth century, wrote that “capital of mind, capital of nature, and capital of productive matter” are all essential components to achieve economic progress. (p. 29)

Hamilton’s First National Bank (courtesy ushistory.org)

The Constitution and Public Debt-Credit

Hamilton knew that for a nation to be truly sovereign, it must possess the means to produce the physical wealth necessary to maintain the existence of its citizens and their posterity. It is no coincidence that the Founding Fathers embedded this concept in the profound Preamble to the US Constitution. As Spannaus emphasizes, for Hamilton, the importance of establishing federal credit through the creation of the National Bank, stabilizing the currency, developing the manufacturing capability of the young United Sates, and increasing the wealth of the nation through internal improvements, was coherent with the intent of the Preamble “to form a more perfect Union.”

Hamilton used the “general welfare” clause of the Preamble to justify his revolutionary idea to create a public-private National Bank to consolidate the separate states and establish a unified currency to promote national economic growth. Generations later, in the footsteps of Hamilton, Franklin Roosevelt, who studied Hamilton’s writings, would also rely on the “general welfare” clause to garner support for his New Deal and other programs he initiated to revive the U.S. economy wracked by the Great Depression.  

Public Credit, anathema today to virtually all Democratic and Republican leaders, was another key concept Hamilton fought for, knowing that private sector funds and privately-owned banks would never adequately fund a nation’s economic growth, especially for large-scale internal improvements, i.e. infrastructure.

To emphasize the unique role of public credit, Spannaus lists four exceptional periods in U.S. history when the efficacious application of government-issued credit led to a pronounced expansion of the American economy. These are administrations of Presidents George Washington, John Quincy Adams, Abraham Lincoln, and Franklin Roosevelt. (p. 55-56)

In chapter 7, the author concisely summarizes Hamilton’s outlook: “…it is the deliberate increasing of the productive powers of labor through technology, improvements in infrastructure, and the use of government power to create credit that will produce value in the economy.” (p.128) This is more than good advice that all public officials. government leaders, and informed citizens should follow to secure a joyful future for their nation.

In Africa and other underdeveloped regions of the world where nations have suffered from hundreds of years of exploitation of their natural resources, Alexander Hamilton’s wise words should be fully grasped: “The intrinsic wealth of a nation is be measured, not by the abundance of the precious metals contained in it, but by the quantity of the productions of its labor and industry.” (emphasis added p. 1)

*Hamilton wrote four major economic reports for Congress and President George Washington between January 1790 and December 1791: Report on Public Credit; Report on a National Bank; Report on Manufactures; and Opinion as to the Constitutionality of the National Bank.

**This is the subtitle of Hamilton Versus Wall Street.

The Urgent Need for a New Paradigm in Africa

Re-posted from africanagenda.net

Below are excerpts from a useful presentation that provides an overview on crucial areas of development in Africa. It echoes many  of the ideas I have written about over the years, and has helpful maps on energy, water, and rail transportation. The presentation concludes with a discussion on the Transaqua water project, which I have advocated for over 20 years with a modest level of success.

 

“In contrast, is the really exciting development of relations between China and the nations of Africa. Every three years, the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation meets, alternating between China and the capital of an African nation. At the last meeting, which was held in 2018, the meeting was in Beijing, and in 2021 it will be held in Senegal. What China has been doing with its cooperation with Africa, has been making available large amounts of credit for the kinds of projects that just make sense: rail lines, power systems, water systems, transportation, road networks, industrial parks—these kinds of significant investments.

“This is not charity; this is not a case of somebody saying “We’re going to step up to the plate and donate to those poor Africans who can’t help themselves.” That’s not the case. The United States is a bigger donor to Africa than is China. But I think if you speak to many African nations in terms of which nation is doing more at present to provide a long-term future, it’s not aid that lasts for a year; it’s taking the lid off and saying, “We’re going to develop a full economy here, not perpetually slightly alleviate poverty; that’s not a future…

“Compare that with National Security Study Memorandum 200, authored under Henry Kissinger in 1974, which stated, for about two dozen countries in the world, that the growth of their populations represented a threat to U.S. strategic interests. Because it would be more difficult, essentially, to get materials from countries that were developing and prosperous than countries that are disarrayed and poor.

“Compare this to when the British ran their official empire. Consider India, for example. Some people say that at least Britain helped develop India, building railroads, and so forth. No, Britain ruined India. India was one of the world’s leading manufacturers of cloth, for example, and had a major ship-building industry, which was destroyed by the British. Empire destroys the economic potential of its colonies, and that is the reason that development has been deliberately held back in the world

Read: The Urgent Need for a New Paradigm in Africa