The Debate On China’s Role In Africa; A Different Point Of View

The Council of African Security and Development-CASADE has published my article regarding the debate over whether China is forcing African nations into a new ‘debt trap.’ Despite the propaganda from some Africans and Westerners, China is not the new imperialist in Africa. You can read my analysis below.

CASADE: COUNCIL ON AFRICAN SECURITY AND DEVELOPMENT

 

 

 

Big Plus for Africa: Belt & Road, BRICS, and Africa-China Summit, Converging for Development

{Heading into the 7th  Forum On China-Africa Cooperation-(FOCAC) we are already witnessing significant changes in the physical infrastructure of Africa as a result of China’s One Belt and Road Initiative, the BRICS and previous FOCAC summits. Next week’s China-Africa Summit portends greater cooperation for investment in infrastructure and manufacturing, leading to the long over due industrialization of the continent. Thus finally liberating Africa from the effects of 500 years of slavery and colonialism. In addition to China, many nations are investing in Africa in constructive ways, but unfortunately not the United States, which is retreating from Africa. President Trump can and should reverse this trend by joining China’s Belt and Road development of this great continent, which in less than two generations will be the population center of world. Please review the articles below.}

Chinese Envoy to FOCAC: `Twin-Engines’ of BRI and FOCAC Will Transform Africa

Aug. 29, 2018 –Zhou Yuxiao, Chinese Ambassador to the Forum for China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), spoke of the historic impact of the Sept. 3-4 FOCAC summit, in an interview with Xinhua yesterday. His observations come as many African heads of state are already arriving in Beijing, even before the Sept. 3-4 formal sessions of the Forum take place. Founded in 2000, FOCAC has had two previous heads-of-state meetings, one in 2006 and one in 2015.

Zhou said that the China-Africa collaboration had proceeded in small steps, but successfully over the years. All the while, China’s ability to “walk the walk,” and Africa’s success in collaborating, made things work, to the point of widespread trust and effectiveness. At the 2015 FOCAC meeting in South Africa, China pledged financing in the range of $60 billion for implementing ten cooperation plans announced at the time. Now financing is also coming from the Silk Road Fund, the BRICS New Development Bank, and private Chinese firms.

Xinhua summarized, “A key aspect to watch, Zhou said, will be how China and Africa link the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) with the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the African Union’s Agenda 2063, and African countries’ development plans.” This year, diplomatic relations were established between the African Union Commission (currently headed by Rwanda) and FOCAC. Zhou referred to the the BRI and FOCAC being “twin engines” for driving cooperation further in Africa. Many African leaders and experts are forecasting what lies ahead.

Lesotho’s Prime Minister Thomas Motsoahae Thabane, said in an Aug. 22 Xinhua interview, that the upcoming summit, “is a landmark in the world aiming to improve itself for the survival of the human race, which faces multiple challenges today … the commitment is not only to specific countries in Africa, but to Africa in general.” China is a “true friend” of Lesotho, not “by word of mouth … but through actions, actions that push us to go from the situation of being underdeveloped to a situation of being developed. What more can you wish for from a friend than to stretch a hand of friendship in order to raise you up when you were flat on your stomach?”

Thabane further pointed out that relations with China are “mutually beneficial.” In the past, for Western countries, the benefit was “always for what they call `the Mother country.’ Now, China is not like that, that is why we feel like we have a true and loyal friend in China.”

Hisham AbuBakr Metwally, an Egyptian researcher with the Ministry of Foreign Trade and Industry, wrote an Aug. 21 opinion article for CGTN, reviewing accomplishments in rail, agriculture, energy, education, and other areas in Africa, thanks to work with China to date. {“FOCAC — Unprecedented Successful Mechanism, Reshaped Africa”} But he forecast more and bigger projects and a bright future. “After the completion of all mega infrastructure projects and industrial zones, the continent will change completely.”

Note that CGTN has prepared a five-episode documentary entitled “A New Era of China-Africa Cooperation,” to show the development of African countries and to present the achievements of China-Africa cooperation.

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China-Africa Research Initiative-(CARI) at Johns Hopkins in Washington DC, provides a useful report on the progress of China-Africa collaboration. It also dispels the myth that Chinese loans are bankrupting all Africa nations. Many decades before China started investing in Africa, the continent had been suffocated by hundreds of billions of dollars of parasitic debt from Western institutions.

Excerpt from its conclusion highlight:

“Belt and Road. The language of the 2018 FOCAC will likely include more mentions of the Belt and Road Initiative, given that it is a priority of President Xi Jinping. Chinese contractors are keen to win Chinese finance for infrastructure projects desired by African governments, many of whom have been inspired by China’s industrialization and infrastructure capacity. Chinese-financed infrastructure projects in Africa such as the standard gauge railway transport projects in Kenya and Ethiopia, and new trade and industrial zones in Djibouti, Egypt, and Morocco, have been marketed as part of the Belt and Road Initiative.”

Read the complete report: The Path Ahead: The 7th Forum on China-Africa Cooperation

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This article discusses the “deepening relations” with Africa by the rest of world, and appropriately asks: “Where does this Leave the United States?” Read: The World is Coming to Sub-Saharan Africa. Where is the United States?

 

West Wants Only Quick Bucks From Africa, While China Invests for Win-Win Cooperation

‘West wants only quick buck from Africa, while China invests for win-win cooperation’

Below are excerpts from an interview that I did with RT on the significance of the trip by China President, Xi Jinping to Africa this week. I also commented on the dramatically different policy approach that China has towards Africa, than that of the United States. The past several US administrations have failed to construct a strategic policy to assist African nations in developing their economies.

'West wants only quick buck from Africa, while China invests for win-win cooperation'

Chinese President Xi Jinping is on a trip to Africa in a bid to establish deeper trade ties. On Monday, he arrived in South Africa for a state visit, which will be followed later this week by his participation in the 10th BRICS summit in Johannesburg. Earlier, the Chinese leader visited Rwanda and Senegal, which is the first West-African country to be involved in China’s “Belt and Road” infrastructure project.

Beijing has been expanding its presence in Africa in recent years, investing $39 billion in the continent in 2017.

Political analysts told RT that countries in Africa are turning to China because of US government policies.

RT: What do you think Xi Jinping will be hoping to get from his tour of Africa?

City view of Bahrain's capital Manama © Hamad I Mohammed

Lawrence Freeman: I think this is an indication by President Xi of how important they view their collaboration with Africa. He is going to be visiting four countries and they are going to end up at the BRICS Summit in South Africa. This is a continuation for the last several years of the ‘Belt and Road’ policy in Africa. And it has been a real boost for African development policies, especially in the areas of infrastructure, energy, roads and rail. And this indicates that they are going to continue along that policy for sure.

RT: Do you think China’s interests in Africa are purely economic or are they also about greater geopolitical influence?

LF: China, especially under this president, has a view of a win-win cooperation, that countries can work together for the common benefit of a mankind, that they will benefit from economic cooperation. The African countries certainly will. There has been no infrastructure built in Africa since the colonial period. The West refused, the US state has refused, Europe has refused. So, China building its infrastructure which you see in Kenya, in Nigeria, Ethiopia and other places, this is a real positive step for the development of Africa. And I think the Chinese want to help Africa. They will make money, of course. The Africans will improve their economies. And the people’s standard of living will improve and hopefully we’ll eliminate the poverty in Africa.

RT: Many Western countries are wary of investing in Africa due to instability and security problems. But China doesn’t seem to have been put off by these concerns. Why is that the case?

LF: China under this president has a vision for the future. They develop themselves and they develop their neighbors and they develop other countries around the world. So, the whole concept of the ‘Belt and Road’ is counter to geopolitical thinking, it is countries working together, they call it win-win. And the problem is that the West has no vision for development of Africa, has refused to develop Africa, so therefore they attack Africa, they complain about Africa’s loan, they complain about the debt. The debt under Western countries, the IMF and the World Bank far exceeds anything that the Chinese have in terms of debt with African countries. So, the West has to get over their problems, get over the geopolitical thinking, stop demonizing China and actually if the president was intelligent in this question, he would join the ‘Belt and Road’ because if China and the US joined together, we could transform the continent and eliminate the poverty and hunger. And that is what I am trying to do.

The US influence on Africa was already dwindling well before Trump came into the play. And it will continue to dwindle because of some of his comments, his attitude towards Africans, and his position on Africa in general. He is only interested in military bases. And Africans, I am afraid, are very much interested in partnership and those who take them seriously. And like a liberalized continent, it is voting with its feet and it is changing the US in every sector, that I know of, in favor of the Chinese. And China already had a huge presence and influence and that influence has just grown to levels for which even if the Americans were to try now unlikely to ever catch the Chinese in my lifetime. – Ayo Johnson, journalist & founder of Viewpoint Africa

The US has a very small outlook towards Africa and the rest of the world. They do not want to invest in the infrastructure, which is a long-term investment but it improves the entire economy. And they haven’t. The basic attitude of the US… is to make money, to make double-digit profits overnight. They are not interested in the long-term development of a country. That is why the US and the West built no railroads, they were built with China’s help, China has built the new hydro-energy plants, China has built new ports. And there are many more things that they are working on across Africa. So, the problem is that the West is not really thinking how to develop this continent, they are thinking in terms of how to make some fast bucks…

China’s Global Times Highlights Flaws of US and Europe Policy Towards Africa

By Mark Kapchanga
June 26, 2018

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

On June 18 in Michigan, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addressed a meeting under the umbrella of the Detroit Economic Club. In a question that seemed to have made him a tad uncomfortable, the secretary of state was informed that Africa appeared to be evolving and transforming rapidly, and further, China was asserting itself in the continent.

He rightly confirmed that Africa is facing two issues. One is extremist groups threatening to tear apart the continent’s fabric of unity. But the second issue is the opportunities that lie in Africa. It is here that Pompeo seems to have stained his otherwise well researched address to the people of Michigan. With obvious jealousy that is always expected from Western countries against China’s foray into Africa, Pompeo downgraded Africa’s growth potential that is underpinned by significant Chinese investments and trade by saying that Africa will see actual growth with a Westernized model of development.

He meant that the foundation for growth in Africa is the rule of law and property rights. In his usual way of disparaging China, Pompeo further claimed that Chinese trade and investments are about exercising political influence in Africa.

African countries and their leaders have grown sick and tired of such stereotyped thoughts coming from Western nations. History has proved that America and European countries are behind Africa’s underdevelopment. They not only colonized Africa but also stripped it of resources and displaced people from their lands.

This is described by Walter Rodney in his book How Europe Underdeveloped Africa where he argues that the short period of colonialism and its negative consequences for Africa spring mainly from the fact that the continent lost power. Rodney notes that power is the ultimate determinant in human society, and implies that one should have the ability to defend one’s interests and if necessary impose one’s will by any means available.

There is no doubt that when the question of power emanates, it determines one’s bargaining power, the degree to which a people survive as a physical and cultural entity. But as Rodney vividly says, “when one society finds itself forced to relinquish power entirely to another society, that in itself is a form of underdevelopment.”

Instead of Western powers always complaining about China’s presence in Africa, they should transform and improve their strategies for the continent. The old template they applied to Africa is already stale. Africa cannot be developed through conditionalities that only massage the whims of America and Europe.

Through the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, Europe and America bullied African countries for more than three decades. Those nations seeking access to the General Account of the Fund had to commit themselves to explicit conditions regarding the conduct of their international policies.

Ultimately, African countries in need of financial support to boost their infrastructure, education and health failed to do so as the conditions were too tough. Globally, economists termed the conditions inefficient and mistargeted.

With the urge for greater development, China filled in the void. Its support to Africa has been less bureaucratic and almost without conditions.

As Pompeo and his fellow Western leaders continue complaining about China and its relations with Africa, youths in the continent are grinning having secured jobs in various projects being pursued by China. In Kenya, for instance, thousands of youths continue to earn an income from the construction of the standard gauge railway whose construction is now being extended from Nairobi to Naivasha.

The enormous investments China is pursuing in Addis Ababa have totally transformed the face of Ethiopia, a country once ranked among the poorest in the world. Today, Ethiopia is the only country in Africa that can manufacture its own leather shoes, thanks to support from China. This is the kind of friendship Africa has been yearning for.

Africa’s development can only be shaped by Africans. Europe and the US can therefore involve African leaders in designing the kind of investments and relations that fit them. If they continue condemning China on its relations with Africa, the continent’s ties with Beijing will only get stronger and thrive all the more.

The author is an economist specializing in China-Africa relations. Twitter: @kapchanga opinion@globaltimes.com.cn

 

 

Why the “Fire and Fury” on China Trade

By William Jones

The world is on tenterhooks waiting for the next moves from the Trump Administration in terms of the draconian tariffs he has threatened to place on China as well as on a number of other countries, including our close neighbors Canada and Mexico. And the question remains for most people: Is he really intent on carrying out the threat (the first tariffs are to take effect on July 6) or is this merely an “in-your-face” negotiating tactic to cut a better deal for the United States? We probably won’t know until the last moment, but a number of things seem to be clear.

Why the “Fire and Fury” on China Trade?

 

Call for EU Summit with Chinese and African Governments to Undertake Crash Pan-African Infrastructure Program

Helga Zepp-LaRouche: ‘History Is Now Written in Asia: Europe Must Follow the Singapore Example’

June 15, 2018—Schiller Institute Founder and Chair Helga Zepp-LaRouche has put forward a bold new agenda for the June 28-29 European Union summit, necessary to further transform the world, in the wake of the Singapore summit of U.S. President Trump and North Korea’s Chairman Kim Jong-un. Her proposal concludes:

“If the Merkel government is still in place when this article appears, there is a very good way by which the present crises can be overcome—from the migrant crisis to the government crisis and the EU crisis. Taking the example set by the Singapore Summit—that real change is possible, and that the past does not determine the future—the German government should ensure that the agenda of the European Union summit on June 28-29 be quickly changed. EU cooperation with China’s New Silk Road initiative for the development of Africa should be made the sole subject on the agenda, and [President] Xi Jinping or [Foreign Minister] Wang Yi should be invited to attend, as well as some African heads of state who are already cooperating with China.

“If the EU summit, the Chinese government representative, and the African representatives then pronounce in a joint declaration the commitment to undertake a joint crash program for a pan-African infrastructure and development program, and promise all the young people of Africa that the continent will overcome poverty in a short time, such a declaration, due to the participation of China, would have all the credibility in the world in Africa, and would change the dynamic in all the countries towards definite hope for the future, and thus would immediately effect a change in the migrant crisis. It would also free the EU from its current crisis of legitimacy, and give the European nations a mission which would place the unity of Europe on a great new level.

“Will the heads of state and government of Europe manage to follow the example of Trump and Kim Jong-un? The prospective of developing Africa together with China, would also give President Trump the urgently needed opportunity to overcome the otherwise looming spiral of trade war, and to balance the [U.S.] trade deficit by increasing trade, primarily through investment in joint ventures in third countries.

“The crisis in Europe, the migrant crisis, the crisis of the German government—they have all assumed such dimensions, that the opportunity for a change of course in policy can absolutely be seized. Needed now, are the people to make it happen.”

Africa Updates: Ethiopia Attacked by US; Zimbabwe; Uganda; China; the Great Green Wall

US Congress Disgraces Itself in Vote Against The Nation of Ethiopia

–The US Congress displayed short-sightedness, and a lack of understanding about Africa in general and Ethiopia in particular when it foolishly voted up HR 128, condemning Ethiopia. Though it is only a resolution with no lawful consequences, it demonstrates how easily the US Congress can be manipulated, and how little they know about the progress Ethiopia has made in achieving significant levels of economic growth that benefit all its citizens. The irony is the that one week before the Congress embarrassed itself, the ruling EPRDF conducted a voluntary peaceful transition of government by selecting Abiy Ahmed from the Oromo community as their new young Prime Minister. There is no doubt that Ethiopia will remain a strong ally of the US, and will continue to pursue policies that have made Ethiopia a leader in economic growth on the Africa continent as they struggle to balance human rights with economic and social rights. (I will be writing more on this subject in the near future.)

Read about Ethiopia’s progress in providing jobs and growth for its people: Ethiopia Stands Poised to Lead an African Industrial Revolution

Ties between Zimbabwe and China Hit a New High, ‘Comprehensive’ Partnership Stressed

— An editorial in the Zimbabwe {Herald}, a daily that speaks for the government, hailed the “new high” in China-Zimbabwe relations following the official visit of Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa to China last week, where he met with President Xi Jinping as well as other Chinese officials.

The same vision was expressed to CGTN, April 8, by Ms. He Wenpeng, Africa Studies Director at the China Academy of Social Sciences, who said it marks a new era for Zimbabwe and Africa.

Last November, at a Schiller Institute international conference in Germany, He outlined what is ahead for Africa in linking up with the Belt and Road Initiative.

The {Herald} stressed that two major milestones were reached by the visit of the Mnangagwa delegation, which included 10 cabinet members as well as 80 businessmen. The first is that bilateral relations were elevated to Comprehensive Strategic Partnership Status, meaning that “China is demonstrating its willingness to boost trade with Zimbabwe and stimulate the country’s economic growth.” Zimbabwe will now profit by more Chinese investment, especially in infrastructure in which the Chinese have become experts.

The second milestone was the “incorporation of Zimbabwe into the Belt and Road Initiative. Not many people have cared to examine the benefits of this initiative, which is part of President Xi’s thought on the new economic trajectory China is taking. We reckon that Zimbabwe stands to reap huge benefits by being part of a select group of countries that China is dealing with under the Belt and Road Initiative.”

The editorial continues, describing the BRI as “the largest infrastructure development project, which will see more than a trillion dollars being invested across the globe…. Under this initiative, China will build massive infrastructure that will connect it to many countries around world, including Zimbabwe.

This will help facilitate trade and the transfer of capital, technology and expertise.

“The project is meant to create an economic cooperation framework with the countries involved that will bring real benefits to the people, making it ‘a belt of new opportunities.'”

The editorial urges Zimbabwe to take steps to “come up with laws, rules and regulations that govern foreign investment.” This new legislation should be clear and without “shifting of goalposts.”

Zimbabwe President Mnangagwa: China Helps African Nations To Develop Faster

–In an interview, Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa, with China’s CGTN Africa senior correspondent Tian Wei, in which he praised China’s effort to develop Africa and responded to some Western critics of China’s Africa policy. By building infrastructure, China increases connectivity among African economies, and thus it helps such economies to develop faster than their individual national efforts would allow, he said. To the specious criticism, raised by the West, that China is driving African nations into debt, President Mnangagwa laughed. “We got so many grants from China,” he first said. Then he explained that China is giving credit for capital investments which are accounted for in a capital budget and therefore do not increase national debt.

Asked what his political goal is, Mnangagwa replied that it is to lead his country to become a middle-income nation by 2040 and even an advanced country. At his next meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, during the China Africa Summit later this year, some of the projects they discussed will already be underway, so that they can talk about them, he said.

“For me as Zimbabwe’s President, national interest comes first: There is nothing China has done that threatens the independence or national interest of Zimbabwe. But Western countries have done a lot of things to threaten our unity and political economic sovereignty,”  Mnangagwa told her. Excerpts of the video interview:
https://eblnews.com/video/interview-emmerson-mnangagwa-371574

Uganda Plans To Develop Its Uranium Reserves, and Go Nuclear

–A six-man delegation from the International Atomic Energy Agency has been in Uganda at that country’s request, to conduct a Site and External Events Design, or SEED mission. This inspection and consultation is designed to assist member states at different stages of nuclear development. The focus of the IAEA experts’ trip, is four uranium-rich districts in the country, which the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development has identified for possible exploitation. Uganda’s Atomic Energy Council has developed a Nuclear Power Roadmap, which the government approved in 2015. Further down the line, an MOU has been signed with Russia for the peaceful application of atomic energy, and the country’s plan is for its first nuclear power plant in 2026.

The Uganda daily {Observer} reports that President Yoweri Museveni met with IAEA Director General Yuiya Amano in January to discuss Uganda’s nuclear ambitions, including in health, energy, and agriculture. Museveni, the article reports, has had to defend Uganda’s nuclear plans against critics, including at the UN Security Council, assuring them that countries like his will utilize their uranium reserves only for peaceful purposes. IAEA head Amano has been on a multi-nation tour of Africa, offering the IAEA’s assistance in their new nuclear programs.    Uganda is one of the 45 countries, including others in East Africa, including Kenya and Tanzania, that are planning to develop their uranium resources for nuclear power generation.

China Will Help Africa Green Its Deserts

–China has approved a project to offer technological support for the construction of Africa’s Great Green Wall, the Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography (XIEG) under the Chinese Academy of Sciences said on Tuesday. Proposed by the African Union in 2007, Africa’s Great Green Wall initiative aims to reverse desertification spreading drought, famine, and poverty through the Sahel region.

According to Lei Jiaqiang, director of the XIEG, China will cooperate with Mauritania, Nigeria, and Ethiopia, among other African countries, to systematically diagnose desertification and the technical needs in the region.

The project will bring China’s desertification-prevention and -control technologies, materials, and products to Africa, and conduct environmental adaptability assessments. It will also include personnel training and capacity building on anti-desertification measures in African countries. Some Chinese enterprises dealing with prevention and control of desertification will also participate in the project.

“We hope to bring China’s wisdom in anti-desertification to Africa and help enhance the capability of desertification prevention in African countries along the Great Green Wall,” Lei said.

Donald Trump’s “Win-Lose” Model Versus Xi Jinping’s “Win-Win”

This is an interesting and insightful article contrasting the different policy orientation between US President Trump , and China President XI. The excerpts below highlight the possibilities for economic progress, if  the US would collaborate with China’s  on new “Silk Road.”

Adam GARRIE, September, 2017, OrientalReview.org

A joint venture of US and Chinese investment could have been used to create new land highways and corresponding maritime routes across the Americas–on either side of the Panama canal. In turn these belts and roads could be strategically linked to China’s Pacific belts and roads with the US ports in Los Angeles being a natural hub. Furthermore, joint US-Chinese investment schemes could have poured investment into US ports such as those in Los Angeles to bring them in-line with some of the modern ports in China which are far more technically advanced.

2017 should have been the year that the US decided to embrace the win-win model. This is not to say that the US would have or should have become China. The Chinese model is highly flexible in this sense. Donald Trump could have created a kind of Trans-American Belt and Road with US Characteristics for a New Era. Instead, Trump has opted to Make America Lose Again.

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He Wenping-The Belt & Road: China Shares Its Development with Africa & the World

Below are excerpts from a speech by Prof. He Wenping discussing “President Xi’s Perspective for the Year 2050 and the Perspective of African Development.”

Germany, November 25, 2017

The Industrialization of Africa 

      “Let’s quickly go to the One Belt, One Road: This is just what I call—this is not official, it’s what I call it—I think this is a 1.0 version of One Belt, One Road, because all those things you see, the Maritime one and the Silk Road continental one, go through 64 countries. In this 1.0 version, only Egypt is from Africa, among these 64 countries. But now, I think One Belt, One Road is entering 2.0 version—that is, now facing all the countries in the world. As President Xi Jinping mentioned to  the Latin American countries, “you are all welcome to join the Belt and Road.” In the Chinese “40 Minutes,” Xi said, all the African continent is  now on the map of the One Belt, One Road, the whole African continent, especially after the May Belt and Road Summit in Beijing had taken place. 

      “So now, its face is open to all the countries in the world, now it’s inclusive. Any country that would like to join, I would like to say. You see, these are two leaders in the world: People are saying “America First” is the idea. You see from abroad, Trump in the White House saying, “America First.” If anything is not too good for America, it’s not good at all. But, for President Xi Jinping, the One Belt, One Road is to make the world better. It’s not, “make China better,” because with all this Belt and Road, the Chinese foreign exchange reserves, we’re now enjoying the number-one highest foreign exchange reserves in the world.

      “So, we’re going to use those foreign exchange reserves to build all those roads—connectivity! Connect China and other countries to join together, to build trade. And there are three connectivities we are talking about: First is the policy connectivity, China’s One Belt, One Road initiative is relevant to countries, their own development strategy. For example, Ethiopia.   Ethiopia has now been named as the “next China” on the African continent. It’s not my invention, these words—many scholars have been published talking
about which country in Africa is going to be the China in Africa, which means, developing faster! Faster and leading other countries forward. Most of them refer to Ethiopia.

    ” Ethiopia has now reached an GDP growth rate, last year, as high as 8%, but the whole rest of the continent, especially the oil rich countries, are suffering from lower oil prices. So they have developed an industrialization strategy; their strategy and the China strategy should be connected. One is called the policy connectivity

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Interview with Lawrence Freeman: U.S. Deployment of Armed Drones in Niger is not the Solution; Long Term Strategy Missing

Below are excerpts from an interview with RT TV on the recent agreement between the U.S. and Niger to allow armed drone missions in the Sahel.   

  Africa affairs analyst Lawrence K Freeman says that drone strikes alone will be unlikely to change the region’s jihadist landscape, which is being driven by more than just a handful of key operatives.

   “So, this is a big problem for the Niger government, for West Africa, and for all of Africa – [that Niger] is now allowing the US to carry out these kind of military attacks,” Freeman told RT. “What is missing from this, is a strategy.
   “There has not been a strategy now for many, many years through several presidential administrations, including the current one.”
   “The thinking in Washington is that by taking out key figures in the terrorist chain of command, this will help bring down the whole network. This approach has worked against some militant groups in the past but is unlikely to work here, Freeman said.
   “The Sahara Desert itself, which goes all the way up to the Mediterranean, this is larger than the US. The Sahel desert stretches from the east end to the end of Africa. It is impossible to patrol all these areas. Therefore, you might pick off a few people here and there, which is useful, but you’re not going to stop the problem of terrorism.”
  “If you take northern Mali, Niger, Chad – I have been in Chad, I have been in northern Nigeria – these places are totally undeveloped. Therefore, they are perfect further bases for Boko Haram, for al-Qaeda, for ISIS (Islamic State) and others to operate, recruit and establish bases.