Nation State vs Ethnicity in Africa

Mahmood Mamdani raises proactive questions on the role ethnicity in Africa and Ethiopia in particular. (See excerpts and article below).

Africa has been plagued to this day by two legacies from colonialism (British): 1) the intentional failure to build infrastructure; 2) the deliberate fostering of ethnicity. Historical literature is replete with evidence of the British creation of ethnic and/or native administrative units as a central feature of their divide and rule colonial policy. Lord Frederick Lugard, who authored the infamous “indirect rule” stratagem, implemented his scheme in Nigeria when he became the Govern General Nigeria in 1914, and ruled the North and South differently. Similarly, the British cultivated the North versus South conflict in Sudan with their separate Southern policy exemplified by their 1922 Passport and Ordinance Act. There are more examples available.

Accentuating ethnic, tribal, religious, and geographical distinctions is used as a means to thwart the creation of sovereign Nation States, particularly in Africa. A functioning Nation State is not founded on a collection of minorities, or even a majority. Instead, it is created on principles that define its responsibilities to provide for the general welfare of its citizens and their posterity, which must include nurturing the creative potential of each child. Nation States transcend differences within their populations by uniting all their people in a common mission, not only to develop their nation, but to contribute to the future of mankind as well.     

Ethiopia uniquely evaded colonization with its 1896 military victory against the Italian army in Adwa, led by Menelik II. Yet as Mamdani points out, Ethiopian Federalism accommodates ethnicity, which is divisive today, and is being used to undermine the central-federal government. By following the core economic thesis of Meles Zenawi’s “Developmental State” Ethiopia has embarked on a bold campaign to transform their country through government directed investment in infrastructure, while protecting their economy from being invaded by foreign financial predators. As a result of Ethiopia’s relative success among African nations in performing this necessary Nation State function, it has become the “enemy” to those forces-internal and external-that oppose development of African nations. Not surprisingly in the last six months there have been renewed efforts to liberalize-deregulate Ethiopia’s financial system in an attempt to weaken its commitment to the “Developmental State” model. 

Therefore, the suggestion of a new kind of non-ethnic federalism is a conception that could lead to strengthening the institution of the Nation State in Africa.   

The new Tram in Adds Ababa typifies Ethiopia’s approach to infrastructure.

“Ethiopians used to think of themselves as Africans of a special kind, who were not colonized, but the country today resembles a quintessential African system, marked by ethnic mobilization for ethnic gains.

In most of Africa, ethnicity was politicized when the British turned the ethnic group into a unit of local administration, which they termed “indirect rule.” Every bit of the colony came to be defined as an ethnic homeland, where an ethnic authority enforced an ethnically defined customary law that conferred privileges on those deemed indigenous at the expense of non-indigenous minorities.

An interesting book worth reading by Mahmood Mamdani is: “Saviors and survivors.” It about Sudan and Darfur, but also discusses the creation of ethnic groups.

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Will the Destabilization of Sudan Caused by IMF/World Bank Policies Lead to Regime Change?

December 26, 2018

Several days of protest triggered by an increase in the price of bread and petrol have created a serious political crisis for the government of Sudan. The core reason for the civil eruption is the adherence by the leadership of Sudan to the diktats by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (WB), who have ordered the removal of subsidies for food and fuel. Sudan has been told by the Western financial institutions that its people must continue to suffer economically for future consideration of partial debt forgiveness. These same organizations have insisted that so-called market forces must determine the valuation of the Sudanese Pound. Unfortunately, Sudan acquiesced resulting in a steep devaluation of their currency causing more hardship for the already suffering Sudanese people. This is no exaggeration. During the 2018 Spring Bank/Fund meetings in DC, I attended as a journalist, the discussion with officials from the IMF/WB, US State Department, European nations, et al and representatives from Sudan. When I objected to the economic conditions that Sudan was being bludgeoned to submit to, the WB/IMF officials responded that the Sudanese people will have to undergo more pain. Their justification? It was necessary for Sudan to reduce those state expenditures that provided some economic relief for its people. That dialogue confirmed what I already knew: IMF/WB policies are not good for a nation’s health.

Sun setting on the Nile River in Khartoum

I re-emphasized to my Sudanese friends in the strongest terms what I have been telling them for years; for the welfare of your nation, Sudan must break from these policies. I warned my friends that the same political-financial forces who have been unsuccessful in trying to remove President Omar al-Bashir and weaken the National Congress Party for the last 25 years would change tactics. Now the enemies of Sudan will use the legitimate frustrations of the population against these harsh economic conditions to mobilize the Sudanese for regime change. There is no doubt in my mind that there are agents operating on the ground in Sudan to channel these protests into a movement for the over throw of President al-Bashir.

A repressive response will not succeed in quelling the people’s anger. In fact, that is what the enemies of Sudan are expecting. What is immediately required to prevent this crisis from escalating to a full-scale destabilization pf the nation is; 1) an abrupt termination of the IMF/WB prescriptions, and 2) articulating a national economic development plan that will utilize all of Sudan’s natural resources, most especially its people.

Review below interview with Lawrence Freeman on danger of protests in Sudan leading to regime change.

Africa’s East-West Railroad is 50 years Over Due

An East-West railroad, along with Trans-African highways, and  electrical power, is essential for African nations to become  sovereign independent nations. It is coherent with the African Union’s “Agenda 2063.” Sudan is geographically situated to become the nexus of the East-West and North South rail lines. Africa’s collaboration in recent years with China’s Belt and Road Initiative, Russia, and other nations to build vitally necessary infrastructure is the only way to eliminate poverty, hunger, and disease. It will also lead to finally putting African nations on the path to building robust agricultural and manufacturing sectors. This policy stands in stark contrast to President Trump’s “non-Africa Strategy,” which will do nothing to help Africa, nor improve US Security.  

Russia Wants To Help Build an African Cross-Continental Rail Line

Dec. 16, 2018

The Russia-Sudan Inter-governmental Commission announced in a report that Russia wants to participate in the construction of a cross-continental rail line, which will connect East and West Africa. TASS reported that the commission document states: “The Sudanese side expressed interest in participation of the Russian companies in constructing of the Trans-African railway from Dakar-Port Sudan-Cape Town. The Russian side confirmed readiness to work out the opportunity for participation but asked for [the] provision of all the financial and legal characteristics of this project.”

TASS explained that “the Trans-African railway line is part of the African Union’s plans to connect the port of Dakar in West Africa to the port of Djibouti in East Africa. It will run through 10 different countries (many of them landlocked) and is expected to boost trade on the continent. The route will be the expansion of the existing Trans-African Highway 5 (TAH5). The first phase of the project will be an estimated $2.2 billion upgrade to 1,228 kilometers of existing rail between Dakar, the capital of Senegal, and Bamako, the capital of neighboring Mali.

The project has already attracted Chinese investment in African infrastructure through Beijing’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).” 

 
 
 

 

Nigeria and Sub-Saharan Africa Should NOT Have the Majority of Poor People.

This  is absolutely unacceptable. There is no objective reason for Nigeria and Sub-Saharan Africa to have the highest percentage of poor people in the world, with all its natural resources and people. This is the result of failed policies that began with the so called “Washington Consensus” beginning in the 1980s. Under the International Monetary Fund’s diktats and Structural Adjustment Programs(SAPs), the economies of African nations were destroyed and many have still not recovered.  African nations are beginning to follow a different model in collaboration with China’s Belt and Road Initiative. The IMF and World Bank models which measure statistical monetary aggregates ignore the most essential ingredient necessary to create economic growth: technologically advanced infrastructure platforms, integrating rail, energy, water, and roads. Only in the last ten years is infrastructure finally being built, after it was outlawed under colonialism and neo-colonialism, (except for roads and rail for resource to port and transporting colonial soldiers).  For example, the Sudanese people are suffering terribly from a lack of economic growth, because Sudan has been threatened not to deviate from IMF dictated macro-economic parameters. The Sudanese people will rebel, if Sudan continues to adhere to the murderous policies of the so called “free market.”

It is time for African nations to over throw the old model and break free from the monetarist grip of the IMF and WB. Inclusive growth, as it is called, will only happen when there is improvement in the real-physical economy. 

It is projected that by 2050 Nigeria will have 400 million people and Africa as a whole 2.4 billion. Despite the hysteria of the “zero-growthers,” Nigeria and Africa are not suffering from over population, but underdevelopment of its vast wealth. Each new human born can be a new source of wealth, if their creative potential is nurtured and developed. Thus, the Africa continent  with its projected large population, should become the center development (not poverty) of world economy, if we act now to massively expand infrastructure across the continent.

Nigeria to host 90% of extremely poor by 2030, says World Bank

New Course on African History: The Effects of 500 Years of Slavery and Colonialism on Africa

I will be teaching this course in the Fall at the Community College Baltimore County, and Frederick Community College, Maryland, USA

The Effects of 500 Years of Slavery and Colonialism on Africa

New! The Effects of 500 Years of Slavery and Colonialism on Africa
7 sessions, 14 hours

Africa is the poorest continent with hundreds of millions of people living on $2 per day. African nations have the greatest deficit in basic infrastructure like roads, rail, and energy. It’s the only continent where cholera is endemic. African nations are also spending billions of dollars importing food when they have an abundant amount of fertile land. Learn about the causes for Africa’s current condition due to it’s unique history of slavery and colonialism. With the recent China-Africa Summit-(FOCAC) in Beijing, one should be optimistic that economic conditions on the continent are changing for the better

Instructor: Lawrence Freeman has been involved in Africa for almost 25 years and has made over two dozen visits to the nations of Sudan, Nigeria, Mali, Chad, and Ethiopia. He has studied the history and political economy of several Africa nations. Lawrence has attended weekly seminars and forums on Africa in Washington DC including Congressional hearings on Africa. As a result, Lawrence has attained an in-depth knowledge of both historical and current developments of Africa. He has written dozens of articles analyzing the political economies of Africa nations including Sudan, South Sudan, Nigeria, Kenya, Mali, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He specializes in promoting policies for physical economic development, and has presented his ideas to government and non-government circles alike in both Africa and the United States. Lawrence is the Vice Chairman of the International Scientific Advisory Committee to the Lake Chad Basin Commission, and played a prominent role in the International Conference to Save Lake Chad in Abuja, Nigeria from Feb 26-28, 2018. He is promoting the Transaqua water project to recharge the shrinking Lake Chad

LR565 The Effects of 500 Years of Slavery and Colonialism on Africa
5-Digit  Number: 16290
Tue, 1 p.m. – 3 p.m., 11/6 – 12/18 Location:  Conference Center/E-106
Tuition: $50.00          Fee: $114.00     Total: $164.00
MD residents age 60+ pay fee only

China’s Belt & Road Initiative Truly is Helping Africa Develop

Below are edited excerpts from a new report by the China-Africa Research Initiative-at Johns Hopkins in Washington DC (Brief #23, 2018). It provides a useful analysis that refutes the misinformation that China is “stealing” Africa’s resources.

“Silk Road to the Sahel: African ambitions in China’s Belt and Road Initiative”

Yunnan Chen

Where Does Africa Fit?

THE BRI SIGNIFIES A SHIFT IN CHINA’S economic engagement with Africa, away from the resource trade characterized by the boom of the 2000s, towards a greater emphasis on infrastructure, industrial cooperation, and connectivity. From single bilateral infrastructure projects, there has been a new term ‘corridorization’ of infrastructure: creating economic corridors and networks at a regional scale to promote cross-border trade and integration.

East and North Africa have been the focus of the BRI in Africa, though countries in West and Southern Africa have also signed cooperation agreements under the framework of the BRI.  As part of the ‘maritime silk road’, Chinese actors have been linked to several major port and transport projects. Chinese firms have invested heavily in Egypt’s Suez Canal corridor, with plans to expand to a second canal as well as new terminals at the port of Alexandria.

China’s Maritime Silk Road connecting Asia to the East-coast of Africa

In Sub-Saharan Africa, Djibouti has emerged as a BRI hub. As well as being the location for its first overseas naval facility, China has financed multiple economic infrastructure projects totalling US$1.8 billion in the small African state, including a new multipurpose port at Doraleh (with specialized terminals for livestock and LNG), as well as a new free trade zone complex adjacent to the port, commissioned in July 2018 . In Kenya, Chinese firms have also won construction contracts for three berths for the new deep-water port in Lamu.

Politically, the BRI’s presence in Africa has been expanding. The most recent Johannesburg Forum of China Africa Cooperation-(FOCAC)  declared as one of its goals: “[to] actively explore the linkages between China’s initiatives of building the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road and Africa’s economic integration and sustainable development agenda”. Countries linked to the BRI; Morocco, Egypt, and Ethiopia, have also been singled out in FOCAC among ‘industrial cooperation demonstration and pioneering countries’ and ‘priority partners for production capacity cooperation countries’; these countries have seen a rapid expansion of Chinese-built industrial zones, presaging not only greater trade but also industrial investment from China. However, it may also suggest further stratification in China’s political engagement with Africa as a region, increasing the geopolitical importance of select countries.

Continue reading Silk Road to the Sahel

Floating Energy Plants Will Help Light-Up Africa

Turkish floating power plant will supply 150 megawatts of power to Sudan’s national energy grid

Turkish floating plant starts power supply to Sudan

By Huseyin Erdogan

ANKARA

Turkey’s floating power plant, the Karadeniz powership Rauf Bey, started electricity production in Sudan, a member of the Istanbul-based Karadeniz Energy Group, Karpowership, announced Tuesday.

The powership, which has 180 megawatts (MW) of installed capacity, will supply 150 MW of power to Sudan’s national energy grid.

The plant is important for the stability of the country’s national grid as it caters for the country’s increased energy demand.

The company announced on April 27 that it signed an electricity production and sales agreement with Sudan’s electricity company, STPGC.

Karpowership is the sole owner, operator and builder of the first powership fleet in the world. Since 2010, 15 powerships have been completed with total installed capacity exceeding 2,800 MW.

An additional 5,000 MW of powerships are either under construction or in the pipeline.

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African nations desperately need energy to develop their economies, build industries, and to expand their agriculture and manufacturing sectors. With hundreds of additional gigawatts of power, the continent can be transformed; hunger and poverty can be eradicated . Energy is an essential category of infrastructure that every nations needs to achieve higher levels of economic growth. Africa should have nuclear energy, and floating nuclear power plants can contribute to supplying power to the continent. I have been advocating this idea for decades, and now its time has come!

New Era of Floating Nuclear Plants Begins

May 22, 2018—With great ceremony, the Russian city of Murmansk welcomed the floating nuclear plant Akademik Lomonosov on May 19. The plant had traveled from St. Petersburg where it was built. It will receive its supply of nuclear fuel in Murmansk, and then proceed to the Arctic circle town of Pevek, where it will begin to supply power to the population of approximately 50,000 people in the area next year.

New Era of Floating Nuclear Plants Begins

Russia’s floating nuclear plant, the Akademik Lomonosov

Constructed by the state nuclear power firm, Rosatom, the 144×30 meter, 21,000-ton barge holds two 35-MW nuclear reactors similar to those used to power Russian icebreaker ships. The barge can produce enough electricity to power a town of 200,000 residents, far more than the 5,000 who live in Pevek, Russia’s northernmost town.

Small, portable nuclear reactors have long been employed by the U.S. Navy, and presumably other militaries as well, but previous attempts to produce them for civilian purposes have met with sabotage. The United States actually did have such a plant in operation in Panama in the late 1960s, but it is being dismantled, and plans for production for use off the Eastern Seaboard of the United States were ditched in the 1970s. This, despite the nuclear Navy’s sterling safety record, and the obvious advantages of such plants for isolated areas suffering from a lack of electric power.

Among the obvious places crying out for such a deployment is Puerto Rico, which has now suffered the second-longest electricity blackout in history. (The longest was in the Philippines in 2013.) At least 20,000 homes in Puerto Rico still lack electricity as a result of Hurricane Maria (which hit last September), and a new hurricane season is about to begin. Indeed, the “repaired” system is so fragile that most of the Island was plunged into darkness about a month ago, as a result of a contractor accident.

U.S. Energy Secretary Rick Perry actually mooted the possibility of using small modular nuclear reactors to reach remote places in Puerto Rico last fall. But despite a verbal commitment to nuclear energy, the Trump Administration’s embrace of deregulation has so far been unable to halt the whittling away of the mainland nuclear fleet, much less been able to initiate the nuclear renaissance which is needed to move the U.S. economy into the next level of productivity.

The American System of Economics rests firmly on a commitment to constant increases in scientific progress and productivity, of which nuclear fission and fusion are prime examples

Pres. Trump: Don’t Lose Sudan

Sahalian-Sahara Railroad From Port Sudan Will Transform Sudan & Africa

On October 12, 2017 the Trump administration announced the partial lifting of sanctions against the nation of Sudan to allow the government and people of Sudan to participate in the international banking system to promote trade and economic growth. Over the last twenty years since these financial, trade, and banking sanctions were imposed, Sudan has economically suffered. President’s Trump’s executive order easing restrictions on Sudan created a new mood of optimism, with the State Department indicating that this would be the beginning of new relations with Sudan. The State Department publicly mooted that this could be the first step to removing Sudan from the list of states sponsoring terrorism in the future. However, after almost four months, the U.S. government has not facilitated the transfer of money for Sudan, which is contributing to the nation’s economic strife today.

Sudan Opens a Second Front

The failure by the U.S. to implement fully the easing sanction is the result of a conflict between President Trump’s agenda and dissident factions in the State Department, supported by many in the Congress, who are incapable of relinquishing their fanatical desire to have Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir removed from office.  These contradictions became obvious when Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan visited Khartoum on November 16, 2017, and conspicuously avoided meeting with President Bashir, using the excuse that the president of Sudan has been indicted by the International Criminal Court (ICC). Even though the U.S. is not a member of the ICC, it is well known that previous administrations supported efforts to have President Bashir removed from office. The zealots of this international alliance for regime change, who have been behind this nefarious campaign for decades, reject even tentative overtures by President Trump to chart a new course for U.S.-Sudan relations. There are unconfirmed reports that the U.S. State Department, not the executive branch, is demanding the removal of President Bashir as a precondition for further progress in U.S.-Sudan relations including removing Sudan from the list of states sponsoring terrorism.

One week following the diplomatic snub by Sullivan, the most senior State Department official to visit Khartoum, President Bashir shocked everyone in Washington, and many in Khartoum, when he visited Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on November 23.  This surprise move was not expected by Washington. Reflecting the sentiments of most Sudanese, especially in the ruling National Congress Party, that the U.S. once again was not acting in good faith, President Bashir made his very first visit to Russia. Fearing that the goalposts have been moved again, as they have been repeatedly, and that the regime-change faction is still desirous of his removal, President Bashir asked Russia for protection from aggressive acts by the U.S. Sudan’s Rapprochement With Russia

The two presidents discussed increased economic and military cooperation, including the possibility of Russia securing a military base on the Red Sea that forms the eastern border of Sudan. According to knowledgeable sources, President Bashir will continue to look forward to improved cooperation with the U.S. and the West, but simultaneously pursue a closer alliance with Russia.  President Bashir believes Russia’s veto on the United Nations Security Council, along with its military capability as demonstrated in Syria, will provide a bulwark against any future reckless policy against Sudan by the West.

U.S. Needs Sudan

For Sudan, there is no turning back from their “dual-front” policy with the world’s two superpowers, but it didn’t have to come to this. The failure to fully implement the easing of trade/financial sanctions after years of refusal by the U.S. to talk face-to-face with President Bashir, accompanied by the severe economic hardships suffered by the Sudanese people from U.S.-led sanctions, contributed to President Bashir’s first overture to Russia.

Sudan is strategically situated in East Africa in the Nile River system that connects sub-Saharan Africa to North Arica. Moreover, Sudan has for years been a valuable ally in the war against ISIS, providing useful intelligence to U.S. security forces. Also, it must be unequivocally stated, that there will be no solution to the crisis in South Sudan that the U.S. and Britain have contributed to, without the direct participation of the President of Sudan. Susan Rice, in charge of African policy in the second term of Bill Clinton’s Presidency is personally culpable for the horrific conditions in South Sudan today.  She and other so-called liberals hated Sudan’s leadership, and were fierce advocates for the creation of South Sudan. Their intention was to use South Sudan as part of their arsenal for regime change, without the slightest concern for the welfare of the people of South Sudan.

Sudan is a nation rich in mineral resources, and has large tracts of arable land, not yet under cultivation.  It has been known for decades, long before the creation of South Sudan in 2011, that Sudan had the potential to feed a billion people, about the size of sub-Saharan Africa’s population today. It should be recognized (if not admitted) that successive U.S. administrations have strategically failed in their policy towards Sudan, lacking a vision of how to participate with African nations to develop their huge wealth in land and in its people.

Africa needs huge investments in infrastructure to realize its potential in agriculture, industry, and manufacturing. Instead of the West fixating on extractive industries, i.e., gas, oil, and minerals, which have a minimal role in job creation, their focus should have been on railroads and energy. When the South-North and East-West railroads are finally built, their nexus will be in central Sudan. Trains carrying freight and people will be able to travel from Port Sudan on the Red Sea into West and Southern Africa, thus ensuring that Sudan will become a mega manufacturing-agricultural-transportation hub for the continent.

The Way Forward

There is a relatively easy path for President Trump to follow, to engage Sudan fruitfully. Port Sudan is already included on China’s Maritime Silk Road. China’s involvement in building infrastructure throughout the African continent is unparalleled. Were President Trump to join with China’s New Silk Road for Africa in vital infrastructure to Sudan, the U.S. would form new partnerships with Sudan and other African nations.

President Bashir demonstrated his ability to negotiate and compromise when he signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in 2005 with President George W. Bush to allow an independence referendum in South Sudan. This resulted in the peaceful separation of Sudan seven years ago, with Khartoum voluntarily giving up 75% of its oil production.  With this historical perspective in mind, President Trump can put U.S.-Sudan relations on a positive course by arranging for direct, if informal, talks with President Bashir, and carrying through on the easing of sanctions pertaining to trade, finance, and banking.  These actions will be well received in Khartoum and reciprocated.

Lawrence Freeman has been visiting and writing about Sudan for over 20 years, discussing economic development and US-Sudan relations with members of parliament, the NCP, and leaders of opposition parties.

 

 

 

 

 

Learning About Africa: How History Effects the Present

Here is the announcement for my newest college course on Africa. Also listed is the course outline a class I am currently teaching; “Africa:The Sleeping Giant.”  I will be preparing a third course on “The Effects of British Colonialism on Africa” in the near future.  These courses are 15 hours long, taught over 7-10 weeks in Maryland. 

“Eight Nations Vital to the Development of Sub-Sahara Africa”

By Lawrence Freeman

The African continent encompasses 54 nations and is more than three times the size of the United States. The northern portion of the continent is dominated by the Sahara Desert, equal in area to that of United States. It is the driest, hottest place on earth, relatively barren, and thinly populated. The African nations below this vast desert are designated as “Sub-Saharan Africa” where approximately one billion live, and is expected to double in population by 2050.

All but two of the 48 nations of Sub-Sahara Africa suffered the brutalities of colonialism following centuries of slavery. As a result, Sub-Sahara Africa is the poorest and most underdeveloped region in the world. Unfortunately, following their liberation from colonialism beginning in 1956, these nations did not achieve economic sovereignty. However, now, for the first time since colonial powers occupied Africa, there are signs of progress with the building of new railroads, expanded ports, roads, and new hydro-electric power projects. This has created the potential to transform the continent.

This course will focus on eight Sub-Saharan nations; each unique in their history, development, and their contribution to the growth of Africa. Their combined population of 550 million comprise almost 30% of the land area of Africa.

Join us in examining the following nations from their birth to the present day: Ghana, Nigeria, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. Over three decades, I have studied the history and developed an in-depth knowledge of Africa as a researcher, analyst, writer, and consultant. Sadly, most Americans know little about Africa, due to a limited number educational courses, and a reliance on the media. I hope to increase your understanding by sharing my accumulated knowledge with you.

 

 

“Africa The Sleeping Giant” Course Outline:

1-Discovering the Africa Continent

2-Africa: Home to Mankind

3-Man Is Not a Monkey

4-The Great Bantu Migration

5-Early Civilizations

6-Europe Discovers Africa

7-Slavery Rips the Soul of the Continent

8-Colonialism, Exploitation, and Genocide

9-Economic Sovereignty and the Nation State

10-Africa’s Future is Development

 

 

 

President Trump’s Fundamentally Flawed Africa Policy

By Lawrence Freeman,

January 4, 2018

After nearly a year in office, the outline of President Donald Trump’s policy for Africa has emerged as fundamentally and seriously flawed. In a similar manner to his predecessors, Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama, Trump’s African strategy suffers from a conceptual deficiency in its failure to recognize that the most fundamental human right is the right to life. Every human being is morally entitled to live a healthy, productive, meaningful life with the hope that the future will be an improvement over the present.  If one examines the outlines of policy by President Trump and the State Department, such a guiding and indispensable principle is conspicuously absent. For Africa, where the largest number of people endure the greatest hardships of life of any continent, the absence of a full-throttled U.S. commitment to eliminate poverty and hunger as an essential feature of a strategic policy, is damning, and must be remedied.

To ensure a prosperous future for what will be the most populated continent on the planet in 2050, by which time the population is expected to double, from 1.2 billion to 2.4 billion people, President Trump should emulate China’s infrastructure-led development program.

The Trump administration is expected to reduce State Department and USAID-funded programs, among others, beneficial to Africa. Not to overlook the potential harmful effects of these cuts, there is a more fundamental shortcoming to Trump’s policy. Like his recent predecessors, he is ignorant of, or ideologically blind, to understanding what is required to accelerate economic growth across the African continent. Africa needs, infrastructure, infrastructure, and more infrastructure, particularly in the vital categories of energy, rail, roads, and water management. Trump has been especially eager to support increased military deployments and kinetic warfare against violent extremists in Somalia, the Sahel, and northeast Nigeria. However, any competent and honest military leader knows an effective counter-terrorism effort must include economic development. If the Sahel, were not a barren, underdeveloped desert, the various terrorist militia would not be able so easily to occupy this region for their base of operations.

Security and Free Trade: Inadequate for Africa

The African continent has the greatest deficit in all categories of infrastructure on the planet. Thus, not surprisingly, Africa has the largest number of people living in poverty; living without the basic necessities of life.  According to a 2016 World Bank report on poverty, Sub-Saharan Africa has the largest percentage of people, 41%, living in extreme poverty. That translates into the largest number of poor at 389 million, just over 50% of 767 million worldwide living below the poverty line of $1.90 per person per day. Yet despite all the hype about Africa’s “rising lions,” referring to African nations with high growth rates of GDP, the number of people living in poverty is Sub-Saharan Africa is increasing.

Look at one critical area: access to energy which is the lifeblood of an economy. Abundant grid energy, accessible to all sectors of society, can transform an entire nation and lift its population out of poverty. Conversely, the lack of energy kills. According to “Energy Access Outlook 2017,” of the 674 million people, globally, expected to be without access electricity in 2030, over 600 million, or 90%, will live in Sub-Saharan Africa. For the developing sector nations in Asia and Latin America, the percentage of the population expected to have access to electricity by 2030 is 99% and 95% respectively, while for Sub-Saharan Africa, it expected to be 50% or less.  In Sub-Saharan Africa, the number of those without electricity is increasing, unlike like all other populations in the world. Africa requires a minimum of 1,600 gigawatts of electrical power to have same the standard of living as advanced nations.

In a related classification, cooking energy, the picture is also abysmal. Almost 80% of the people living in Sub-Saharan Africa do not have gas or electric stoves; instead they cook with solid biomass, i.e., solid waste, animal dung, wood, saw dust, wood chips, etc. This is not only destructive to the environment, but to human labor as well. I have witnessed, on numerous occasions in my travels throughout Nigeria, young girls collecting firewood and then carrying it on their heads for sale in the market. In Mali, young men are destroying trees to be used in the primitive method of charcoaling, aiding the expansion of the desert.

President Trump’s Africa policy of security/counter-terrorism first, followed by trade and investment, fails to address Africa’s underlying depressed conditions of life which allow violent groups to easily recruit. People who can’t feed their families or provide the minimal necessities of life, and see no hope in the future, are led to violence out of manipulation and despair. Trade and investment, as proposed by the Trump administration, are not the solution.

Africa suffered greatly from 500 years of slavery and colonialism, 1450-1960. Following the initial success of the independence movements, the financial predators moved in to loot the continent’s vast wealth in natural resources. Extractive industries provide revenue, but they do not add/create wealth or generate a significant number of jobs. Africa doesn’t need more investors intent on making profits under the guise of applying the distorted “laws” of free trade and the marketplace. African nations require real economic growth that creates added value, increases the total wealth of society, and provides productive jobs to the restless masses of unemployed youth.

In 2014, Africa’s share of value added in global manufacturing is reported to be a pitiful 1.6%.  This sorrowful state of economy can and must be reversed. The manufacturing process is vital for every healthy economy. It adds wealth by transforming natural resources into finished and semi-finished products to be either consumed domestically or exported. This requires technologically advanced capital equipment, and skilled labor, all embedded within an integrated platform of infrastructure. State-directed credit and long-term, low-interest loans invested into critical areas of the economy, such as infrastructure, are indispensable for the growth of a manufacturing sector. Witness previous successful periods of economic growth in the U.S. (and in China today); these were accomplished through public credit, not hedge fund speculators and Wall Street day traders.

The most valuable natural resource of Africa, is not its mineral wealth, which is the target of the financial and mining/commodity predators. Rather, its greatest natural resource is its immense quantities of arable, yet to be cultivated land, along with the abundant water sources in its numerous lakes and river systems.  Africa is capable of feeding its people and eliminating hunger. It can also potentially help feed Asia, if properly developed with a manufacturing sector, and food-processing industries, coupled with a massive expansion of infrastructure.

What Does China Know About Africa That the U.S. Doesn’t

Over the last thirty-five years, China has lifted over one-half billion of its citizens out of poverty. This has been accomplished by massive state-directed investment into essential categories of infrastructure, along with its deep commitment to advance its economy through attaining new levels of science and technology. Both Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang have publicly stated their desire to help African nations eliminate poverty. This universal mission by the leadership of China, expressed concretely in the “Spirit of the New Silk Road,” has led to a revolution in joint infrastructure projects in Africa. New railroads are being built across the continent, replacing colonial locomotives and tracks built over one hundred years ago. On the East Coast, an entry zone for the Maritime Silk Road, new and expanded ports, with connecting rail lines vectored westward into the interior of the continent, are creating the potential for a fundamental transformation of the economies of several African nations including; Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, and Djibouti.

The “ChinaPower Project” reports that between 2000 and 2014, China funded 2,390 projects across Africa totaling $121.6 billion, just over one-third of China’s total global financing. In Africa, 32% of the financing went for transportation projects and 28.5% for energy.

“Dance of the lions and dragons” a study completed by McKinsey & Company in 2017, analyzed privately owned Chinese companies operating in Africa. They estimated that there are 10,000 such private Chinese businesses that have committed $21 billion to infrastructure, which is more than combined total of the African Development Bank, European Commission, World Bank, International Finance Corporation, and the G-8 nations. And 31% of these companies are involved in manufacturing which accounts for 12% of Africa’s industrial production—valued at $500 billion.

Conclusion

The U.S., along with the other Western powers, virtually abandoned the nations of Africa as soon as they had overthrown their colonial masters. President John F. Kennedy stands out among U.S. presidents, following the death of Franklin Roosevelt, as a champion for the newborn African nations. His collaboration with Ghanaian President Kwame Nkrumah in the early 1960s to construct the Volta Dam Hydro-electric Aluminum Smelting Complex is a singular moment in U.S.-Africa relations over the last six decades.  America lost its vision for development, resulting in its refusal to build the power plants, dams, railroads, and ports that Arica needs. China has made a commitment to Africa and now is contributing to the most expansive building of new infrastructure the continent has ever seen.

President Trump’s recently released National Security Strategy (NSS) is totally hypocritical: it attacks China for becoming Africa’s largest partner, and accuses China of undermining “Africa’s long-term development.” Trump’s NSS expresses the same old British geopolitical mentality of winners and losers competing in a zero-sum war for global hegemony.

Throughout my travels in Africa, I have found expressions of affection for America and its ideals; even among those nations that the U.S. has abused. That positive attitude is beginning to wane. However, it is not too late for the U.S. to chart a new course, one of cooperation with China and Africa to transform the continent.  Saving Lake Chad from extinction and transforming the Lake Chad Basin, is an urgent task for such a tripartite cooperation.