Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed: “Africa’s Peace and Prosperity Begin at Home”-More is Required

Th AfCFTA is intended to be a new platform for the continent’s economic growth. (courtesy twnafrica.org)

September 14, 2020

Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed make a strong case for African nations to chart a course to bring prosperity to to the continent. However, much more is needed to plan for the creation of economic growth that Africa requires today and for its future population. Poverty for hundreds of millions of Africans must be eradicated. Over 600 million Africans without access to online electricity must be brought into the “light.” This requires that African leaders, with the African Union and Africa’s true allies should come together and produce a development program. A plan of action for a 5-10-20 year growth policy that must include minimally: electrifying the continent with a thousand gigawatts of electricity; high speed modern trains connecting the major cities and ports; modern all weather highways; creating a healthy manufacturing sector; and a state of the art health infrastructure system. We must think boldly about the the basic requirements needed for all Africans to live meaningful and productive lives.

Excerpt from Prime Minister Abiy

“ADDIS ABABA – Africans must take responsibility for our continent’s affairs. We have all the ingredients we need to succeed, starting with a growing population – including a large and increasingly educated cohort of young people – and a favorable trade and investment environment. And now, determined to usher in an era of African peace and prosperity, we have a mature institutional platform through which to forge, articulate, assert, and defend our common interests under an independent, unified African foreign policy.

“For too long, Africa has been a strategic plaything of world powers. By bolstering its internal cohesion and economic integration, the continent can become a strong geopolitical force with an independent and unified voice on important global issues.

Read Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s essay:  Africa’s Peace and Prosperity Begin at Home

Africa Development News: Ivory Coast and Ghana Move Forward With Infrastructure

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IVORY COAST: The government launches the construction of a hydro-agricultural dam in Koro

The Ivorian government has just launched the construction of a dam in the council of Koro in the northwest of Ivory Coast. The water reservoir on the Yirima River is intended for the development of agriculture in this part of the country.

“The realization of this dam will improve agricultural yields and ultimately, the income distributed to farmers. Its realization is therefore in line with the second phase of actions taken to accelerate the emergence of the Bafing region,” said Minister Moussa Sanogo.

 

September 9, 2020

China-Ghana cooperation thriving despite COVID-19:

The site of the upgrading project of Ghana coastal road in Accra Photos: Courtesy of CGICOP

China and Ghana are continuing to promote bilateral trade despite the COVID-19 pandemic, as the two sides actively push several programs ahead….

“Meanwhile, a 26-kilometer-long road project linking Ghana’s capital city Accra and Ghana’s largest port city Tema, one of the Belt and Road Initiative’s landmark construction projects, recently kicked off. ”

Read the full article: http://enapp.globaltimes.cn/#/article/1199432

Trump’s Aid Cut Harmful to Ethiopia and All of Africa

Artist rendition of the completed Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

August 6, 2020

Trump’s Aid Cut Harmful to Ethiopia and All of Africa

By Lawrence Freeman

President Donald Trump has instructed Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo to pull back from a commitment to provide $100 million in security related aid to Ethiopia, a leading developing nation on the African continent. According to the New York Times, the State Department indicated this would be a “temporary pause” on some aid in response to “Ethiopia’s unilateral decision to begin to fill [its] dam before an agreement was reached…” This action by the Trump administration is more than an outrageous encroachment of Ethiopia’s sovereignty. It is an assault on the right of emerging nations to take actions to improve the living conditions of their people.

In response to the decision by the State department, Eyob Tekalign, Ethiopia’s state  finance minister said correctly, “We don’t think that the U.S. has thought this through carefully…We are hopeful that they will reconsider because Ethiopia is doing what is absolutely right and in all senses of the word legally, morally as well.”

The Ethiopian people have funded the $4.6 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) themselves. This fulfills a bold vision to develop their nation with the 6,200 megawatts (MW) of electricity that the dam will generate when completed. Ambassador Fitsum Arega aptly expressed the desire of the Ethiopian population, when he tweeted, “we will pull Ethiopia out of the darkness,” which is literally and metaphorically true.

Trump’s Bias

All indications are that President Trump acted on the insistence of Egyptian President el Sisi, who has claimed “historical rights” to the Nile River. In truth he is asserting “colonial rights” to the Nile bestowed on Egypt by the British Crown.

At the end of 2019, at the request of President el Sisi, President Trump instructed Treasury Secretary Mnuchin to act as an independent broker in discussions with Sudan, Egypt, and Ethiopia. Over four months, several meetings of the three Nile riparian nations were held in Washington DC discussing the “fill rate” of the GERD. There are legitimate concerns about how much water would be withdrawn annually in the next several years to fill the GERD’s reservoir of 74 billion cubic meters (bcm) of water. Technical issues like the rate of which water should be withdrawn from the Nile to fill the reservoir should be resolved by the three nations with the understanding that a functioning GERD will benefit all the people living in the Horn of Africa.

The heavy rains at the beginning of Ethiopia’s rainy season this summer have already filled the GERD with the required 4.5 bcm of water to test two turbines. This was accomplished without any reduction in the flow of the Nile.

As the tripartite discussions, with the US Treasury and World Bank in attendance continued into February 2020, it became clear that the US was “putting its thumb on the scale” for Egypt, in the words of retired US Ambassador David Shinn. By the end of February, Mnuchin secured an “agreement” regarding the Nile with Egypt, without the participation of Ethiopian representatives.  On February 28, 2020, an official statement from the US Treasury Department praised Egypt’s “readiness to sign the agreement,” and instructed Ethiopia that “final testing and filling should not take place without an agreement.” For more information read my earlier post: Africa Requires Ethiopia Fill Its Dam.

Eventually, the unresolved issue of the Nile shifted to the proper venue for African nations to settle disputes, the African Union. The dialogue has continued under the personal supervision of South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, Chairperson of the African Union.

The GERD is built in Ethiopia on the Blue Nile River, which supplies 85% of the Nile when it joins the White Nile north of Khartoum, Sudan

Bringing Africa Out of Darkness

What President Trump does not understand; is that his “pause” in aid is not only harmful to Ethiopia, but it is detrimental to the entire African continent. Whether he is aware of it or not, is establishing a dangerous precedent in foreign policy, and not just for Africa.

Ethiopia, with a population approaching 110 million, has made a commitment to eradicate poverty. To that end, Ethiopia has embarked on erecting significant infrastructure projects in roads, railroads, and hydro-electric dams. The GERD has the potential to generate over 6,000 MW of power, doubling Ethiopia’s present capacity, and placing Ethiopia only second to South Africa in energy production in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Ethiopia would also become an energy exporting nation potentially providing electricity to neighboring South Sudan, Sudan, Kenya, Somalia, and Tanzania.

The root cause of virtually every crisis that African nations are facing today, including ethnic conflicts, can be traced to underdevelopment. This is especially true when one examines the dearth of hard infrastructure in SSA with a population nearing 1.5 billion that is projected to reach 2.5 billion by 2050. Electricity for SSA is estimated between 100,000-130,000 MW. This level of output is criminally deficient for a population over 1 billion, with 600 million Africans having no access to online electricity. The lack of electricity is literally a death sentence for millions of Africans.  Is this not a form of genocide?

Without abundant and accessible electricity Africa will not progress at the level necessary to provide for its present, much less its expanding population. Energy is the sine qua non for economic growth, and to eradicate poverty. It is required for; agriculture, producing fertilizer, pumping water, cleaning water, transportation, lighting hospitals, vaccine production and storage, shipping food in refrigerated cars, powering industry, constructing and lighting modern homes, schools and libraries. For Africans to enjoy the same access to electricity 24×7, as we experience in modern nations, Africa needs a minimum of 1,000 gigawatts or 1 million megawatts of electricity.

Does anyone in the Trump administration, or any individual in the leadership of the Democratic Party think on this level?

President Franklin Roosevelt signed the Tennessee Valley Authority Act-TVA on May 18, 1933. (courtesy inthesetimes.com)

What Roosevelt Would Do?

Rather than being threatened with cuts in aid, Ethiopia should be supported in its bold efforts to build and operate the GERD. A thoughtful US policy would be assisting all African nations in addressing the enormous multi-trillion dollar infrastructure deficit, with long term-low interest loans to finance massive investments in life saving infrastructure. Instead of President Trump and his foolish advisors hurling geo-political condemnations against China, it would be far better for the US to join China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which is building vitally necessary infrastructure in Africa and around the world.

Both the Democratic and Republican Party, including President Trump himself, from time to time utter fond references of President Franklin Roosevelt. However, I have found that no leader in either party has any comprehension of the genius of President Roosevelt’s economic policies. FDR as he is known, understood the importance of infrastructure. This was abundantly evident in his New Deal, his creation of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), and his Good Neighbor policy. During the war he sternly reprimanded Winston Churchill for his Imperial-Colonial policies in Africa. President Roosevelt intended to end the British Empire’s political and financial control in the world. He had a vision to develop Africa, including greening the desert, with the same methods he had successfully implemented in the US: great infrastructure projects. I can assure you, that President Roosevelt would have championed and aided any developing nation that embarked on energy production.

Sadly, in the seventy-five years following the death of President Roosevelt, the only President, who had shown enthusiasm for the economic development of Africa, was John F Kennedy.

Let the Trump administration pause to rethink this wrongheaded policy that not only violates Ethiopia’s sovereignty, but undermines a strong US ally in East Africa. Let us recognize Ethiopia’s endeavors to improve the living conditions of its citizens, and pause again to ask, how would President Franklin Roosevelt respond.  His TVA harnessed the power of the mighty Tennessee River generating electricity to transform the lives of millions of poverty stricken Americans living in seven undeveloped southern States.  Is it not in the strategic interest of the US to support nations working to eliminate poverty in Africa using Rooseveltian methods?

Read: Africa Requires Ethiopia Fill Its Dam

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

Mali’s Future Depends on Development of the Sahel

The northern two-thirds of Mali is in the desert. It is completely underdeveloped, and it is in this desolate region that the violent extremists are based

August 4, 2020

The letter below was sent on September 1, 2020 to the Bureau of African Affairs, Department of State. The letter does not express my full thoughts about what precipitated the coup and the polices necessary to ensure future of Mali. However, as a long standing member of the Mali Affinity Group, and fierce defender of Mali’s sovereignty, I support much of letter’s content.

A Way Forward for Mali

Background

After several months of daily massive anti-government demonstrations in the streets of Mali’s capital city, Bamako, the Malian military intervened during the week of August 17 to remove President Keita and his government. While there appears to be broad and intense popular support for the military’s move, it violates the constitution and international law. In response, the West African community (ECOWAS), the African Union (AU), the United States, and the European Union condemned the military’s actions and it triggered the suspension of economic and military assistance from donor governments, as well as from the international financial institutions. While in the custody of the military, President Keita tendered his resignation, and has been allowed to return to his personal residence.

The ECOWAS mediator delegation, headed by former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, had been working to end Mali’s internal political crisis for several weeks before the military takeover. This delegation is continuing to speak to the leaders of the military takeover, and to the different political factions, with the objective of returning the nation to civilian rule as soon as possible, through a brief transition, and new democratic elections.

The leaders of the military takeover are talking about a three year transition, revealing their total distrust of the Malian political elites. Such a long period of military rule is clearly unacceptable for a number of reasons, including the temptation to institute permanent military rule, as in the corrupt military dictatorship of General Moussa Traore, 1968-1991.

Here is what we recommend for U.S. policy toward the Republic of Mali at this time.

Recommendations

  • Continue to recognize and support the ECOWAS mediating mission as the lead international group to assist the Malians to establish an expeditious return to
    democratic government.
  •  Engage all stakeholders to implement the terms of the Algiers Accords without delay.
  • Through the U.S. Embassy Defense Attaché, encourage the Malian military commanders to immediately bring in civilian political persons to share planning and
    implementation of the transition. (N.B. The head of the military takeover group is Colonel Assimi Goita, who trained in the United States with American Special
    Forces.)
  •  Encourage a mixed civilian and military transition of no more than one year, followed by the organization of elections. The process should include civilian political
    leaders who are domestically or international known and respected for their democratic commitment to good governance, transparency, and free and fair elections
  • Provide assistance to American democracy institutions such as IRI and NDI to immediately send personnel to Mali to assist in the preparation of free and fair elections and reforms, and engage with civil society to address grievances around the political process with a special focus on combating corruption.
  • Inform the Malian takeover military leadership that economic and military assistance will be restored as soon as it is clear that the government is under civilian  control, and that preparations for elections are well advanced.
  • Consult closely with the French Foreign Ministry, and the French military to encourage continued support in the fight against “jihadist” terrorists in the north of Mali.
  • Begin to plan significant economic development projects for the north in order to deal with the socioeconomic causes of the insurgency.

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In my brief interview below with CGTN, I discuss the effects on Mali of the the Western organized regime change against Muammar al Gaddafi in October 2011. The 2012 coup in Mali as well as the recent coup, have as their immediate cause, the destruction of Libya led by President Obama and his immediate circle of advisors. However, it is the failure over decades to develop the Sahel with basic infrastructure in rail, roads, water, and electricity that has systematically affected the Sahel, creating the conditions for the growth of violent extremism. The imposed underdevelopment of the African continent is the underlying cause for the majority of political and economic hardships that plague Africa today. 

Watch my interview below that begins at 11 minutes 40 seconds and ends at 14 minutes.   

 

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?”

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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

China Eliminated Poverty With Science and Infrastructure. It Can Be Done in Africa Too!

China's Long March Out of Poverty | African Agenda – A new ...
Deng Xiaoping, who put China firmly on the path of “reform and opening up.

August 14, 2020

If one examines the long path from the end of China’s disastrous “cultural revolution” in the 1970s to China’s 2020 modern miracle of eliminating poverty for 800 million Chinese, many lessons can be learned. China’s commitment to science and building infrastructure were two essential ingredients for this accomplishment.  William Jones discusses this interesting history in his article below,”China’s Long March Out of Poverty”.

China Employs Hamilton’s Principles of Credit  for Railroads

(EIRNS) —China’s exciting announcement of its plan to increase the pace of development of maglev and its high-speed rail network, is based on its assurance that it knows how to implement that, and to finance it on top-down principles of the type proposed by Alexander Hamilton.

China announced its plans to build a system of 600 kph (373 mph) maglev vehicles, after it successfully conducted its maiden test run of a maglev vehicle at a test track at Tonji University in Shanghai on June 21. Though the train-set did not run at top speed of 600 kph, but at a lower speed, various important features were tested. Prototype vehicles are approved for construction in 2021, and up to nine new maglev lines, totalling over 1,000 km (600 miles), are planned for the future.

Equally impressive, China’s plan to double its existing 35,000 km of high-speed rail already in operation, to 70,000 km by 2035, shows how a Confucian/Hamiltonian economy actually works. Based on estimates by the Lange Steel Information Research Center in Beijing, reported by the Wall Street Journal, China would have spent $180 billion for 35 approved railway projects in 2019, most of them high-speed rail, launching the next phase of HSR development.

In the first half of 2020, according to the Aug. 13 *China Daily), China invested $207 billion in combined railway, highway, waterway and civil aviation infrastructure, of which $46.9 billion was in railways. China’s transportation infrastructure investment alone, is 5-10 times that of every country on Earth. Featured in China’s railway investment is a new, 1700 km high-speed rail system between Chengdu, Sichuan and Lhasa, Tibet; high-speed rail in landlocked Shaanxi Province, etc.

China finances the rail and other critical infrastructure, through two methods of directed credit: China’s four largest state-owned commercial banks—the Industrial & Commercial Bank of China, the Bank of China, the Agricultural Bank of China, and the China Construction Bank—make ample loans directly to the China Railway company, the China Railway Rolling Stock Corporation (CRRC), which builds the rail equipment, etc. This is overseen by China’s three “policy banks.”

Second, the national government and local governments purchase bonds issued by China Railway Corporation, CRRC, and so forth.

China has announced its new rail construction program. The government plans to build 200,000 km of rail by 2035, about 70,000 of which will be high-speed rail. All cities with a population of 200,000 or more will be connected by rail, and all cities with 500,000 people or more will be connected by high-speed rail. China is also working on the next generation maglev train that could travel at speeds of 600 kph.

Pause for a moment from your daily activity. Let your imagination look into the future, and ponder what the nations of Africa would look like if, all cities with 200,000 people or more were connected by railroads. The topology of the continent would be different. China has proved it can be done. It is not a matter of Africa following the China model. Rather, it is comprehending the scientific principles of Alexander Hamilton’s economic system. Read my earlier posts: Alexander Hamilton’s Credit System Is Necessary for Africa’s Development and Nations Must Study Alexander Hamilton’s Principles of Political Economy

 

Click to access 45-54_4726.pdf

In his article below, William Jones provide an insightful analysis of the forces behind the anti-China mantra, rampant in the Trump administration.

As the ‘Five Eyes’ gear up to confront China, can anyone say that the British Empire is a thing of the past?

“A recent article published in the China Economic Diplomacy Watch pointed to the “Five Eyes” – the U.S., UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand – as the key rallying group for Pompeo’s call for a containment policy toward China. The article has indicated a crucial element in the danger the world is facing. The unifying factor in this grouping is, firstly, that the “Five Eyes” are all English-speaking countries, and secondly, that they all at one time or the other belonged to the British Empire.”

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

Adviser to Ethiopian PM Abiy, Kenyan Pres Kenyatta, and US Cong Davis, All Understand: Infrastructure Essential for Economic Growth

Dr Arkebe Oqubay speaking during virtual TIPS 2020 Forum meeting
August 4, 2020

All three articles in this post highlight the essential role of infrastructure in building real economic growth in African nations as well as the United States. We are living in a perilous period of economic breakdown and loss of hundreds of thousands of lives due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Millions of impoverished people around the world are threatened with hunger, and tens of millions more are being forced into poverty and extreme poverty as a result of this dual crisis. Massive development of infrastructure, including nuclear energy, should be financed through public sector credit and a National Infrastructure Bank as part of a  “New Economic Architecture,” which is urgently required. The economic principles to finance infrastructure and an expanding agro-manufacturing sector was brilliantly put forth by President George Washington’s Treasury Secretary, Alexander Hamilton*. The levels of infrastructure required cannot be done by relying on the so called free-market, but must be accomplished by government intervention. When people are dying and suffering, you do not depend on the “markets.” Nations have the obligation to provide for the general welfare of their citizens.

Without infrastructure and manufacturing, AfCFTA will fall short – senior African policymaker

“An Ethiopian senior minister and special adviser to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has cautioned that, without major infrastructure investment and the development of manufacturing capacity, African countries will not be in a position to take full advantage of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA), which is poised to liberalize trading conditions across 55 countries.”
Dr Arkebe Oqubay has been at the center of Ethiopian industrial policy making for over 25 years. He is the founding Chancellor of the Addis Ababa Science and Technology University (AASTU), and in 2015 he authored Made in Africa: Industrial Policy in Ethiopia

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Kenya on Course for $5 Billion Nuclear Plant to Power Industry

  • Plans to expand nuclear-power capacity fourfold by 2035
  • Kenya expects peak demand to top 22,000 megawatts by 2031

The government looks to expand its nuclear-power capacity fourfold from a planned initial 1,000 megawatts by 2035, the Nuclear Power and Energy Agency said in a report on the National Environment Management Authority’s website. The document is set for public scrutiny before the environmental watchdog can approve it, and pave the way for the project to continue.

President Uhuru Kenyatta wants to ramp up installed generation capacity from 2,712 megawatts as of April to boost manufacturing in East Africa’s largest economy. Kenya expects peak demand to top 22,000 megawatts by 2031, partly due to industrial expansion, a component in Kenyatta’s Big Four Agenda. The other three are improving farming, health care and housing.

The nuclear agency is assessing technologies “to identify the ideal reactor for the country,” it said in the report.

A site in Tana River County, near the Kenyan coast was preferred after studies across three regions, according to the report. The plant will be developed with a concessionaire under a build, operate and transfer model.

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US Congress introduces  H.R. 6422, the bill for a $4 trillion dollar National Infrastructure Bank (NIB) based on Hamiltonian principles

New Videos Show the Way Out of Crisis

*Alexander Hamilton’s Credit System Is Necessary for Africa’s Development

*Nations Must Study Alexander Hamilton’s Principles of Political Economy

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

Creativity Is The True Source of Economic Wealth

Libro — The Creative Wealth of Nations - Andres Valenciano - Medium
Cambridge University Press, 2018.  Hardback, Softback 330 pages, and Kindle

June 26, 2020

Creativity Is the True Source of Economic Wealth

Lawrence Freeman

(I promised Patrick Kabanda over a year ago I would write a review of his book, “The Creative Wealth of Nations: Can the Arts Advance Development?” and I always keep my word.) 

With his book, Patrick Kabanda makes a significant contribution to examining the subject of economics with a new and refreshing approach. Rather than being stuck in a maze measuring monetary values, he looks beyond the financial structure of prices and export-import figures, to the relationship of the human mind to economics. While I do not agree with everything in this book, its principal value to me is that it elevates the discussion of the importance of creativity in economics. The title of Mr. Kabanda’s book caught my eye, because it provocatively alters the title of Adam Smith’s well known, wicked book, “The Wealth of Nations.” Contrary to what is commonly accepted by the majority of my fellow citizens, and what is taught in our institutions of learning, the United States was not founded on the tenets of Adam Smith. In fact, no economy ever was, or ever could be successful by following Smith’s canons.  President George Washington and his brilliant Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, rejected Smith’s doctrines, as did every follower of the American System of Political Economy, including many American Presidents and foreign leaders. (Read Alexander Hamilton’s Credit System Is Necessary for Africa’s Development)

 While it is useful that Kabanda calls attention to the function of culture (art, music, drama) in contributing to economic progress, he errs in properly pinpointing the relationship. It is not culture per se that contributes to economic progress, but rather only a culture that fosters and nourishes human creativity. More precisely, it is those compositions of art, music, and drama, which stimulate creative thinking, an aptitude uniquely bequeathed to the human species, that we should revere. It is this potential for creative thought that makes us truly human, which society’s culture should cherish and nourish.

 Creativity in Economics

Machinists set up and operate a variety of computer-controlled and mechanically-controlled machine tools to produce precision metal parts, instruments, and tools.

Before proceeding with my review, it is necessary to discuss the genuine role of creativity in the science of economics. Improving the conditions of life for an expanding population is not based on money. To understand real economic growth, it is important to comprehend that it is physical (not monetary) inputs injected into an economy that yield improvements in the productive powers of society, which causes an increase in aggregate of wealth.  It should be evident that the augmented capacity of a nation to ensure a prosperous future for those living and their posterity is not the result of the silly creeds of Adam Smith’s “invisible hand.”

Putting aside cult like beliefs in monetarism, let us focus on crucial aspect of physical economy. In the broadest yet most accurate terms, economics is humankind’s relationship to the physical universe. Humans act creatively to transform nature lawfully for the perpetuation of our noble species.  Natural resources are not the ultimate source of value. It is true that human labor adds value to resources in the production process.  Thoughtful economists recognize that the productivity of farmers and workers depends on the quality and quantity of infrastructure available to society. However, the crucial concept for our purpose here is the following. Discovery and utilization of resources, productivity of human labor power, and the level of infrastructure for any given economy, are all delimited by the level of existing scientific and technological culture accessible by the population. Improved productivity emanates from the invention of new designs for machines that enable work to be performed more efficiently.  The application of advanced technologies is derived from discoveries of new scientific principles by the noetic process of the human mind.

Let us examine energy from a higher conceptual standpoint. On the simplest level, oil has existed for millions of years. However, it only became a valuable resource to humans when a technology was invented to utilize oil for energy, which became the dominant fuel to power the twentieth century. The attainment of electricity was made possible by a human scientific discovery of electromagnetism. It was the scientist, William Gilbert, whose publication of the “de Magnete” in 1600 that began the process of understanding the correlation of electromagnetism and earth’s magnetic field.

All energy is not equal. Energy is measured by energy-flux density, that is the ability of that energy source to achieve higher concentrations of heat available to perform work.  With that criteria in mind, we can assert with scientific certainty that nuclear fission is the most powerful form of energy we have today. Africa would be well served, if there were hundreds of 1,000 megawatt or modulars of two to four 200 megawatt nuclear power plants dotting its landscape. To achieve nuclear fusion, whose energy flux-density would far exceed fission, requires additional scientific breakthroughs to fuse hydrogen isotopes at temperatures hotter than the Sun. In tragic comparison, large parts of Africa still rely on burning wood and biomass. Not only is this practice primitive, environmentally unsound, but it utilizes energy at the lowest flux density.

Nuclear fission, which has the greatest energy flux density, making it the most powerful energy source, until nuclear fusion energy is developed.

All machines and integrated infrastructure platforms incorporate in their design, principles of scientific   knowledge of the universe relative to that historical period. The greater the density of machine-infrastructure capital in an economy engenders a more productive and educated labor force. The effects of manufacturing, and railroads on the productivity, and level of knowledge in society are brilliantly discussed by Alexander Hamilton in his “Report on Manufacturers” (1791), and Friedrich List in his “The National System of Political Economy” (1841).  Both authors, who identify humankind’s mental powers as a source of economic wealth, should be studied by every competent economists and statesman.

Without going beyond the scope of this article, the history of civilization’s progress can be measured by the increase of total energy throughput and energy flux-density, which is made possible by technologies that encompass new scientific principles. It is the profound ability of the human mind to continuously discover higher principles embedded in the physical universe, which lifts humankind from one plateau of economic activity to the next superior one. Civilizational progress emanates from the human mind, not nature per se.  Even from the few paragraphs above, it is discernible that the source of economic wealth is the metaphysical, non-material creative imagination, not some corporeal “thing” that you can see, smell or touch.  These apparently intangible ideas that spring from the brow of our “mind-soul” have greater force than bodily-physical objects. This conception has profound epistemological implications in economic theory. More can be said about physical economics and how societies develop, but that will have to wait for another time.

Culture and Imagination

Returning to our review, Mr. Kabanda’s book highlights the role of the contribution of culture and creativity to economic development, and contains many useful insights. In his opening chapter entitled, “Overture,” he discusses “the arts ability to emancipate and foster human imagination.” (p. 3) In chapter two, “Arts in Education,” he writes: “…since the arts embody creativity and innovation, they have a major role to play in fostering knowledge for development.” (p. 44) Quoting Theodore Schultz, “advances in knowledge are a decisive factor in economic progress. The increases in the quality of both physical and human capital originate primarily out of the advances in knowledge.” (p. 48) Kabanda quotes cellist Yo-Yo Ma, who advocates changing the curriculum of science, technology engineering and math-STEM to STEAM by adding the arts. (p. 53) Renaissance-man, Leonardo De Vinci is also mentioned for his search “to know what we don’t know” originally espoused by Socrates 2,000 years earlier. (p. 26)

Cellist Yo-Yo Ma said he’s often asked how he keeps his repertoire fresh, even after playing a piece hundreds of times. “I play as if it were the last time I will play that piece,” he said. Photo by Eric Bronson, Michigan Photography.

He includes the creative hypotheses by the towering scientist-astronomer, Johannes Kepler, who unknown to the majority of our society, hypothesized that the ordering of the solar system was derived from musical harmonies. (p. 53) Kepler’s great astronomical discovery of gravity and the spacing of the orbits of the planets is presented in his book, “The Harmony of the World” (1619).

In the book’s final chapter “Imagination and Choice,” Kabanda underscores an essential conception to understanding economic progress.

“Now when the people began to search for the wisdom behind progress, in the end it was not whether development came first and then the arts followed. Or some sort of miraculous statistical formula. Much of it was imagination in thought and deed. Imagination was the future, and the future was imagination. It was [and is] the cradle of civilization…this finale is a call to imagine the future we need.” (p. 221 emphasis added)

 Kabanda points to the personality of Albert Einstein to demonstrate the unity of science and imagination. Einstein was known to resort to taking up his violin to kindle his imagination to explore scientific hypothesis. He quotes Einstein: “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” (p. 223).

All great art and scientific discoveries first emerge in the creative imagination. A true leader, a statesman, also relies on his or her creative-imagination. When he or she implements policies in the present they ought to be derived from a vision of what the future should look like seen through the mind’s eye.

Axiomatic Flaws

Despite many useful and challenging ideas presented in “The Creative Wealth of Nations” there are flaws in sections of Kabanda’s thesis. However, to be fair, these shortcomings are unfortunately endemic to our corroded culture.

Not all cultures i.e. music and art are good for society. Applying the criteria, which we developed above, we should rightly ask; does a particular culture nurture the creative powers of the mind? For example, the rock-drug counterculture ushered into the West in the 1960s was destructive, and its damaging effects still linger in today’s baby-boomer generation. Music is not good because it is music, or art because it is art. Todays’ music is in large part debasing and degrading to the human mind. Profits made from the music industry do not add value to the economy if their music assaults our soul-mind and undermines our creative capacity.

On a deeper level, Kabanda errs in Chapter 3, “The Arts and Environmental Stewardship,” when he writes: “The arts have long had a sense of stewardship towards protecting the environment and mitigating climatic change.” (p. 72) Contrary to present day popular culture, mankind’s relationship to the physical universe is much more than being a steward or custodian. Human beings lawfully transform the physical environment. Consider the injunction given to mankind in Genesis 27: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.”

Humankind is not meant to be a just a caretaker, but has dominion and the power to subdue. The universe is organized to respond to willful human cognition, transforming the biosphere into the nooespshere, according to Russian scientist, Vladimir Vernadsky. Humankind with the unique power of creative mentation, was not put on this planet to act as a glorified groundskeeper. When we exercise our creative potential, we humans are the most powerful living force in the universe.

Scientist Albert Einstein with his violin

Accepting the axioms of Adams Smith’s notions about economy and society leads us down the wrong path. Kabanda alludes to Smith’s “Theory of Moral Sentiments favorably as he does with his Wealth of Nations” (p. 49) It is in the “Theory of Moral Sentiments” that Smith presents his most hedonistic description of human nature, reducing humankind to being governed by animalistic instincts, rather than human creativity. Quoting Smith:

“The administration of the great system of the universe … the care of the universal happiness of rational and sensible beings, is the business of God and not of man. To man is allotted a much humbler department, but one much more suitable to the weakness of his powers, and to the narrowness of his comprehension, they are of his own happiness, of that of his family, his friends, his country…. Nature has directed us to the greater part of these by original and immediate instincts. Hunger, thirst, the passion which unites the sexes, the love of pleasure, and the dread of pain, prompt us to apply those means for their own sakes, and without any considerations of their tendency to those beneficent ends which the great Director of nature intended to produce by them.”

Smith’s economic assumptions flow from his degraded, amoral conception of human beings as mere creatures of pleasure and pain. For that reason alone, we know his dogma could never be a successful prescription for how an economy develops. At its core, Smith’s doctrine is antithetical to the lawful relationship between humankind and the physical universe.

Let the Discussion Begin

Kabanda deserves a great deal of praise and credit for focusing our attention on the relationship of culture, and creativity to economics. His endeavor is far more relevant to our economic well-being than the trillions of dollars gambled on the gyrations of the stock market. For civilizations to continue to exist, society’s culture must unceasingly produce creative individuals. If we want a more prosperous and stable world for our children and their children, then we need citizens from all nations to engage in a robust debate of the role of culture in our society. If this book helps spark such a discussion, then Kabanda’s contribution has served an invaluable function.

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

 

No More Lies, No More Anti-China Propaganda: There is No China-Africa ‘Debt-trap’

June 20, 2020

China-Africa Research Initiative-(CARI) presented an interesting and useful webinar entitled : Debt Relief with Chinese Characteristics, using research presented from a Working Paper #39 and Policy Brief #46. View: CARI: Debt Relief With Chinese Characteristics

In response to China’s growing economic and political influence in the world, especially on the African continent, various propaganda outlets located in the West have launched a new assault on China. Their line of attack is to malign China and African leaders with the false narrative that China is intentionally luring African nations into a ‘debt-trap’ in order to seize control of their natural resources. This cynical view of China’s alliance with African nations flows from the age old doctrine of “geo-politics” that only perceives nations as either winners or losers in a fixed zero-sum view of the world.  In this evil world view, stronger powers, hegemons believe they can only maintain their supremacy by having their foot on the neck of weaker nations. The “geo-political” doctrine rejects the notion that all nations share a common interest.

Misinformation or Disinformation

As Deborah Brautigam, director of CARI has stated before, there is no evidence, none, not one single case of China using debt to seize control of an African nation’s assets. “We found no “asset seizures” and despite contract clauses requiring arbitration, no evidence of the use of courts to enforce payments, or application of penalty interest rates.” Despite no substantiation of China using debt as a weapon against African nations, the ‘debt-trap’ mantra is repeated by either misinformed individuals, including Africans, or by those who are deliberately disseminating disinformation with malice.

The CARI working paper reports the following:

“The rating agency Moody’s warned that countries ‘rich in natural resources, like Angola, Zambia, and Republic of the Congo, or with strategically important infrastructure, like ports or railways such as Kenya, are most vulnerable to the risk of losing control over important assets in negotiations with Chinese creditors.’ These assumptions of a malign China were repeated in publications like The New York Times, which contended that Chinese loans “frequently use national assets as collateral” and require refinancing ‘every couple years’ (our Africa data supports neither of these statements).” (emphasis added)

If there is any honesty or integrity left in our duplicitous culture, all claptrap about China’ alleged ‘debt-trap’ as a nefarious attempt to gain control of Africa’s wealth should cease immediately! If one examines the long history of China’s relationship with Africa and the more recent twenty year period, it is clear that China desires to resolve issues with African nations through consultation. China may choose other means of responding to payment difficulties, but there is no evidence that they want to take over African holdings, contrary to prevalent popular opinion. Read: Chinese ‘debt-trap’ Propaganda Exposed-Time to End Ignorance & Prejudice Against China in Africa

Debt Cancellation

As COVID-19 spreads in Africa, nations are struggling to survive economically and simultaneously defeat the deadly virus.  Debt service is onerous and must be suspended indefinitely or cancelled, as leaders of many Africans nation have rightly insisted. According to Dr. Brautigam, from 2000-2018, China has made loan commitments of $152 billion, and of Africa’ total external debt, China holds 17%, while the World Bank hold 18%, and private lenders 31%.  Thus, China will and has already engaged in debt relief, but will do it differently than western institutions like the Paris Club and World Bank.

“Our [CARI] study found that between 2000 and 2019, China has cancelled at least US$ 3.4 billion of debt in Africa. There is no “China, Inc.”: for interest-bearing loans, treatment for inter-governmental debt and Chinese company loans are negotiated separately, and often loan-by-loan rather than for the entire portfolio. While rescheduling by increasing the repayment period is common, changes in interest rates, reductions in principal (“haircuts”), or refinancing are not. We found that China has restructured or refinanced approximately US$ 15 billion of debt in Africa between 2000 and 20190…Chinese lenders prefer to address restructuring quietly, on a bilateral basis, tailoring programs to each situation.”   

China, up this point has only cancelled zero interest loans, which represent only 5% of loans from China, and are issued from China’s Ministry of Commerce. It is unlikely that there will be unilateral debt suspension.  Thus, we can expect that China will negotiate debt relief bilaterally with each nation, and each loan reviewed separately.

Even if debt cancellation is continued into 2021, which has not yet been agreed to, it will be insufficient. The level of investment required to meet Africa’s’ minimal infrastructure needs is in the trillions of dollars, which belies the “geo-political” nonsense of zero-sum assumptions.  Debt relief must be accompanied by issuance of credit for infrastructure and related sectors of production, otherwise Africa and the world will suffer from the spread of COVID-19 and future zoonotic diseases. Poverty is a co-factor for all diseases. Lack of electricity is a co-factor for the spread of disease and hunger, as is the lack of clean water, and inadequate transportation.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative over recent years has begun to address Africa’s infrastructure deficit, but much, much more is required. Collaboration between the U.S. and China on the development of Africa would be consequential for the continent.

I have addressed this issue in earlier posts: World Needs New Economic Platform to Fight COVID-19, New Economic Order Required to Combat COVID-19 in Africa

ViewCARI: Debt Relief With Chinese Characteristics

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