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

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

China’s Belt & Road Redefining Globalization & International Relations for Belt-Road Forum

April 10, 2019

Preparations for the Second Belt and Road Forum

On March 29, Yang Jiechi, member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China and director of the Office of the Central Commission for Foreign Affairs, spoke at length with the media about preparations for the late April Second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing.

President Xi Jinping addressing 1st Belt Road Forum on May 15, 2017. (image credit: Reuters/Nicloas Asfouri)

“Since its inception, the BRI has received strong endorsement and warm support of the international community. So far, a total of 124 countries and 29 international organizations have signed BRI cooperation documents with China. Most recently, during President Xi’s visit to Italy, the two countries signed an MOU on promoting BRI cooperation, giving a new impetus to this process. Meanwhile, the BRI vision has been included in documents of major international institutions including the United Nations, the G20, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Indeed, the BRI has proved a popular and worthy cause that goes along with the trend of our times and responds to the shared aspiration of countries for development through mutually beneficial cooperation. Looking back at this pursuit over the last few years, I would draw your attention to the positive role the BRI has played in the following three ways…

“The BRI has created new impetus and opportunities for global growth.

“Since the outbreak of the international financial crisis in 2008, to create both new growth drivers and a new cycle of global growth has become a common task for the international community. The BRI aims to address the fundamental issue of promoting development by enhancing all-round connectivity. It has helped countries involved to remove development bottlenecks and implement the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This initiative has thus become an important way for boosting global growth.

“The latest studies by the World Bank and other international institutions suggest that the BRI cooperation will cut the costs of global trade by 1.1 to 2.2% and those of trade along the China-Central Asia-West Asia Economic Corridor by 10.2%. What is more, it will contribute at least 0.1% of global growth in 2019….

“As President Xi Jinping pointed out, the BRI aims to replace estrangement with exchanges between different civilizations, replace clashes with mutual learning and replace a sense of superiority with coexistence; and it aims to boost mutual understanding, mutual respect and mutual trust among different countries. So the BRI is a sure path toward peace and cooperation for win-win outcomes.

“The vision of building a new type of international relations and a community with a shared future for mankind is an important component of Xi Jinping Thought on Diplomacy. The BRI champions mutual respect, consultation on an equal footing, openness and inclusiveness, and mutual benefit. It is an approach to global governance featuring consultation and cooperation for shared benefits. And it aims to promote connectivity the world over. These are all important dimensions of the vision of a community with a shared future for mankind and a new type of international relations….

“The BRF is the highest-level platform for Belt and Road cooperation where all parties concerned meet to build consensus and adopt plans for future cooperation. We have set up a BRF Advisory Council consisting of leading international figures to provide advice on the growth of the Forum. In addition, China and other participating countries have in recent years set up platforms for multilateral cooperation on port, shipping, finance, taxation, energy, culture, think tank, the media and other areas and launched initiatives on a green Silk Road and a clean Silk Road….

“The opportunities come with the BRI’s growing international influence, moral appeal and cooperation potential. Against the backdrop of mounting protectionism and unilateralism in the world, the BRI principle of consultation and cooperation for shared benefits has gained wide recognition. Support for the BRI is the mainstream view of the international community, and the opportunities created by BRI cooperation are widely appreciated in the global community….

“The opportunities come with the accelerated industrialization of a vast number of developing countries, a process which generates new demands in infrastructure connectivity and industrial investment, and promises huge potential for international cooperation…

“We have noticed that some people have expressed different views about the BRI, claiming that the Initiative is China’s geopolitical tool and could cause some countries to fall into a debt trap. Such views are less than objective or balanced. They are simply a misunderstanding, misrepresentation and even biased view of the BRI….

“China and other 27 countries have jointly adopted the Guiding Principles on Financing the Development of the Belt and Road, which highlights the need to ensure debt sustainability in project financing. In case our cooperation partners face difficulties in servicing debts, China will properly address this issue through friendly consultation, and will never press them for debt payment. As a matter of fact, no country has got trapped in a debt crisis since its participation in the BRI. Quite on the contrary, it is through participating in BRI cooperation that many countries have got out of the trap of no development….

“The theme of this year’s BRF is: ‘Belt and Road Cooperation: Shaping a Brighter Shared Future,’ and the Forum events include the opening ceremony, a leaders’ round-table, a high-level meeting, thematic forums, a CEO conference and other side events. “Representatives from over 100 countries, including about 40 leaders of foreign governments, have confirmed their attendance. As the host country, we will, together with other Forum parties, take stock of what has been achieved and draw a blueprint for future cooperation to further enrich BRI cooperation….

“BRI cooperation is not a talk shop, but an action-oriented initiative that delivers real outcomes. The second BRF is expected to produce a full range of outcomes, including both governmental cooperation agreements and initiatives, and concrete cooperation projects involving participation of the business sector. All these will be included in a list of deliverables and be released in due course. We are confident that the second BRF will produce even greater numbers of cooperation outcomes that are of still higher quality.”

Will Africa Emulate China in Eliminating Poverty with BRI? More Electrical Power Needed

March 7, 2019

Rwanda Acknowledges Partnership With China Is Beneficial for Both Nations

President Xi Jinping left and President Paul Kegame-right (East African)

Answering a media query in Kigali on March 5, Rwandan Foreign Minister Richard Sezibera said that the Belt and Road Initiative is a partnership that is mutually beneficial for Rwanda and China, and addresses Rwanda’s development challenges, Xinhua reported. China is an important partner for Rwanda at all levels, and Rwanda welcomes the growing partnership with China, he said, adding that Rwanda and China have important relationships in infrastructure development, party-to-party and people-to-people exchanges, and at the political level.

Last August, {China Daily} reported Rwandan Ambassador to China Charles Kayonga telling the newspaper, through e-mail, that in Rwanda, “we have had financing for a number of roads, and we have seen direct investment by Chinese companies in a number of businesses rise.” 

 Africa is in need of infrastructure, among other things, to achieve sustainable economic transformation, he said, adding that cooperation with China will help finance the infrastructure projects to help spur the continent’s industrial development, which will, in turn, favor China in its vision of going global.

Prescient Xi: China is Eliminating Poverty

Speaking today with deputies from Gansu Province, President Xi Jinping underlined the importance of reaching the goal of eliminating poverty by 2020.

“There should be no retreat until a complete victory is won,” Xi said. “Decisive progress has been achieved in the country’s tough fight against poverty over the past years, marking a new chapter in the poverty reduction history of mankind.” Xi stressed, that the goal to eradicate extreme poverty must be achieved on time. He warned that the tasks ahead remain arduous and hard, as those still in poverty are the worst stricken. He also warned that, “the practices of ‘formalities for formalities’ sake and bureaucratism hamper the effective advancement of poverty reduction.” He also warned against the tendency to celebrate short-term gains when it comes to addressing the problem of poverty. He insisted that claims of success should be grounded in reality, and that the results of poverty alleviation work must be able to stand the test of time.

 Also today, a comprehensive briefing was given on the success of poverty reduction over the last few years by Liu Yongfu, Director of the State Council Leading Group Office of Poverty Alleviation and Development. He held a press conference outlining the progress of the poverty-alleviation campaign. Liu noted that between 2012 and 2018, some 80 million people had been brought out of poverty at an average of 13 million people a year. Of the nine eastern provinces, eight were now free of poverty. He said there are 832 counties still enmired in poverty. In 2016, there were 28 counties that had been lifted out of poverty, and in 2017, some 125 counties, and in 2018, an estimated 280 counties. In 2013 there were 128,000 villages in poverty, while in 2018 there were 20,000. Poverty has been reduced during that period by 85%, Liu said, and the goal this year is to bring 10 million more people out of poverty. In 2019 the government will increase the funds devoted to poverty alleviation by 18.9%


African Development Bank Funding New Power Transmission Line For East Africa

In an article on its website, the African Development Bank (AfDB), pointing to regular power cuts in the East African countries from Kenya to Tanzania, from Uganda to Ethiopia, said this is about to change with the upcoming commissioning of a power transmission line to interconnect Kenya and Ethiopia. This project falls under one of the AfDB’s ‘High 5 priorities’ to ‘Light up and Power Africa.’ Working with
institutional partners, the Bank has mobilized resources to ensure the success of this project. At a cost of $1.26 billion, the project was co-funded by the African Development Bank ($338 million), the World Bank ($684 million), the Government of Kenya ($88 million), and the Government of Ethiopia ($32 million), the article noted.

The interconnection will function by means of a 1,068-km, 500-kilovolt high-voltage direct current transmission line, 437 km in Ethiopia and 631 km in Kenya with related facilities at Wolayta-Sodo (Ethiopia) and Suswa (Kenya). By December 2020, it will have a transmission capacity of 2,000 MW. This will make Ethiopia the energy giant of East Africa, while Kenya will become the epicenter of electricity trading in this part of the continent.

“The project will initially be able to transfer 400 MW from Ethiopia to Kenya, but negotiations are under way to better match the capacity of the line to Kenyan demand,” said Joseph Njogore, first secretary at the Kenyan Ministry of Energy, at an energy forum held in Nairobi in August 2018, the website noted.

 

China Friend or Foe? Published in AU’s “Invest in Africa” magazine

Below is my article on China: Friend or Foe?-January 2019, that was published (abridged) in the African Union magazine: “Invest in Africa“-2019 vol 1. You can find it on page 65 (85 on the link to the magazine). There are many worth while articles to read in this volume of the AU magazine  

By Lawrence Freeman

January 1, 2019

          The short answer is a China is friend and contributor to Africa’s progress. Ignore all the propaganda, ignorance and outright lies claiming that China is the new colonizer of Africa. There is absolutely no truth in the contorted comparison between China’s involvement in Africa today, and 500 years of slavery and colonialism by Western nations.

          Following the successful September 3-4, Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) summit in Beijing, we have witnessed an escalated disinformation campaign alleging that China is attempting to snare African nations in a new “debt-trap.” New vicious rumors have emerged that China is taking over ownership of key infrastructure projects in Africa. Every African Head of State who has spoken out, has refuted these allegations and praised their cooperative relationship with China.  

According to a report by the British based Jubilee Debt Campaign, “Africa’s growing debt crisis: Who is the debt owed to?” China is owed a minority of external debt. Their figures compiled from the World Bank and the China Africa Research Institute show that 20% of African government external debt is owed to China in contrast 32% to private lenders, and 35% to multilateral institutions such as the World Bank.

Of these 14 countries that have they examined: 11 owe less than 18% of their debt to China (Burundi, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Gambia, Ghana, Mauritania, Mozambique, Sao Tome and Principe, South Sudan, Sudan and Zimbabwe); and three owe more than 24% -Djibouti (68%), Zambia (30%) and Cameroon (29%).

The proponents of the “debt-trap” accusation conspicuously, egregiously omit from their chronicle the history of the financial imprisonment of the then newly independent African nations by the IMF, World Bank, Paris Club, and their kith and kin in the City of London and Wall Street. Through manipulation of terms of trade, controlling prices, and forcing currency deviations, African nations found themselves shackled in several hundred billion dollars of new debt to the West shortly after African nations achieved liberation from imperialist colonial masters. Western debt replaced slavery and colonialism as the new method of looting Africa of its wealth, reinforced by the ill-fated Structural Adjustment Programs-SAPs, otherwise known as the “Washington Consensus.”

So, who is kidding whom about a “debt-trap?”

Debt for Infrastructure is Necessary

Railroads from the colonial period versus railroads of the future. The East-West and North-South railroads are long overdue

Credits issued for hard infrastructure; energy, railroads, ports, roads, bridges, and soft infrastructure in well equipped; schools, libraries, universities, and hospitals will always result in an increase in productivity i.e. the economic power of the society. By employing advanced technologies embedded in new capital equipment, including infrastructure, farmers and workers can produce more efficiently. Simply providing abundant energy, high-speed railroads, and water inputs to an African nation would lead to a jump in economic output.

All nations that have experienced real economic growth and raised the living standard of their citizens have created credit i.e. public-sector debt or borrowed debt at non-usurious interest rates for targeted physical economic growth.

China is the single largest nation contributing to financing and constructing of infrastructure projects in Africa according, to Deloitte’s 2017 edition of Africa Constructive Trends. The report examines 303 infrastructure projects begun in the first half of 2017 that costs over $50 million. Appropriately, energy& power, and transport comprise 167 of these projects-over 55% of the total. While African governments fund 27.1 % of the funding, China accounts for 15.5% of the funding and 28.1% of the construction for these projects. The US accounts for 3% and 3.3% respectively. Both Italy and France are larger than  the US percentage in building infrastructure in Africa. 

African Development Bank President, Akinwumi Adesina, speaking on November 28, 2016 accurately linked the deadly migrant crisis to deficiencies in Africa’s economic development and infrastructure.

“I believe that Africa development deserves significant support, even in the midst of these challenges. We must not forget that the reason several thousands of Africans have been (illegally) migrating to Europe, is because of the lack of jobs and shrinking economic opportunities at home. Our result must not be to reduce support, but to increase support to help build greater resilience, boost its economies, address its structural challenge, such as closing its huge infrastructure gap, strengthening intra-related trade, and creating jobs for its teeming youths.”

A study done by the AidData Research Lab at William and Mary College in Virginia that analyzed China’s investments in the developing sector between 2000 and 2014, concluded:

“We find that Chinese development projects in general, and Chinese transportation projects in particular, reduce economic inequality within and between sub-national localities,” and “produce positive economic spillover that leads to a more equal distribution of economic activity.”

China has come to know, what the US has forgotten, that infrastructure is the sine qua non to drive economic growth. 

Africa’s huge infrastructure deficit is the causal factor for widespread poverty, and insecurity across the continent, precisely that which China has begun to address over the last decade. The Western financial system that dominated Africa from 1960-2000 contributed almost nothing to help African nations industrialize and failed to help create vibrant agro-manufacturing sectors. China with its Belt and Road Initiative has presented the world with a new paradigm to guide political-economic relations among nations; Africa is the beneficiary.

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, and Vice Chairman of the International Scientific Advisory Committee to the Lake Chad Basin Commission

China is NOT Exploiting Africa, But Investing in its Future: The Case of Nigeria

The article below, “Nigeria’s balanced and diverse relationship with China is key to sustainability,” provides a useful examination of the healthy bilateral relationship that China has developed with Nigeria, especially during the administration of President Buhari.  It is also important to note that Nigeria has officially joined China’s Belt and Road Initiative in January of this year. (excerpts below followed by a link to complete article)

1)    Infrastructure

Nigeria has one of the largest infrastructure deficits in the world; two thirds of the population still does not have access to safe water and over half of the population has no access to reliable electricity. Logistics costs are also extremely high; it costs more to transport a good from Lagos in Nigeria’s South to Kano in the North (1000km), than it does to ship a good from Shanghai to Lagos (over 12,000 km).

Nigeria’s government is investing in infrastructure, but external funding is needed. As cited in the National Integrated Infrastructure Master-plan (NIIMP) developed by Nigeria’s Ministry for Planning in 2015, it is estimated that the country requires $3 trillion over the next 30 years, with $500 billion required in the first 10 years. This estimate, which has wide sectoral scope, is reached by comparing Nigeria’s core infrastructure stock of around 20-25% GDP to international benchmarks of around 70%. Yet, even as the government increased its budget allocation for capital expenditure to 30% in 2017, this remains at least 80% short of the annual amount prescribed by NIIMP.

Alongside self-funding new infrastructure, Nigeria has also looked to the World Bank, European Commission and African Development Bank as sources of infrastructure capital. Yet while they might have the risk tolerance and investment horizons, their capital remains diluted over a number of countries. In its 60 years of operation in Nigeria, the World Bank has invested on average $100 million on infrastructure a year – significant but still a drop in the ocean versus Nigeria’s needs…

3)    Manufacturing    

While Nigeria is the richest economy in Africa, with the largest population and one of the better educated work forces, 4 in every 10 people still remain unemployed. Nigeria needs more inclusive industrialization that creates jobs for all, as opposed to focusing solely on sectors such as oil. Opportunities lie in the manufacturing sector, which creates more jobs through stronger forward and backwards economic linkages than any other sector.

Nigeria is again leveraging its relationship with China here. Some Chinese manufacturers have started relocating production to Nigeria, partly in response to rising wages in China and to take full advantage of the size of Nigeria’s domestic market. Sun Ceramics is one such example; they produce ceramics the size of 10 football fields every day, employ over 1,000 locals and also source all their raw materials from Nigeria. If it weren’t for Nigeria’s difficult business environment, Chinese firms claim they would commit greater amounts of investment.

Stronger ties to stand the test of time.

Nigeria, however, has managed to…build a balanced and more diverse relationship with China. Nigeria’s relationship with China extends beyond resources and infrastructure to security, financial planning and sharing of best-practice in manufacturing, to name a few areas of cooperation. Particularly in the realms of security cooperation; the Chinese have found an area that helps win them local support on the ground in Nigeria given a near-universal desire to eliminate insurgent forces. Nigeria also recognizes that the size of its domestic market offers the largest opportunity in Africa for Chinese companies; and that has helped to improve the balance in the relationship.

It is this combination of balance and diversification that is key to a sustainable relationship with China.

 

Read: Nigeria’s Balanced and Diverse Relationship with China

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.

Don’t Listen to Propaganda & Gossip. Follow the Facts: China is not Creating a ‘debt-trap’ for Africa

A useful report, “Africa’s growing debt crisis: Who is the debt owed to?” by the British based Jubilee Debt Campaign, again belies the propaganda and gossip that China is manipulating African nations into a ‘debt-trap.’  This report excerpted below, using figures from the World Bank, and the China Africa Research Institute-(CARI) at Johns Hopkins SAIS in Washington DC, shows the percentage of debt owed to China by African nations is not the cause of a debt crisis. In fact, in many cases the debt owed to China is less than the total owed to Western nations and financial institutions.

It is clear that for strictly geo-political reasons many Western think tanks and various media have gone into overdrive demonizing China with false claims of a new ‘debt-trap.’ This has also led to increased attacks on African leaders, portraying them as weak and not acting in the interest of their citizens. They have been accused of succumbing to China, which has been dubbed, the new imperial power. Sadly, many Africans have been duped, or simply out of frustration and anger, joined this western orchestrated chorus.

Of course, the truth of the matter is quite different. From the early 1980s on Western financial intuitions such as the IMF, World Bank, and Paris Club, loaded up African nations with so much debt that they were unable to service the debt, forcing them into unpayable arrears.  The vicious irony, is that several hundred billion dollars of debt lent by the West was never meant to actual develop African economies. It was in fact, intended to create a real ‘debt-trap’ for Africa. It has only been in the last ten years that Africa’s huge deficit in infrastructure is being addressed in collaboration with China’s non-western model of development. As I have written over many years, debt is not the problem when it is used as credit to improve the productive powers of a society to increase its physical wealth. Technologically advanced infrastructure is an excellent, if not the premiere method to drive an economy forward. This is exactly what China is accomplishing through its Belt and Road Initiative, and is at the heart of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation-(FOCAC).

Unfortunately, the dominance of the “geo-political” ideology since the death of Franklin Roosevelt has thoroughly contaminated the thinking of Westerners and Africans alike. Creating a culture (with few exceptions) of people unable to think strategically, and who cynically reject the idea that a powerful nation would extend itself to actually assist other nations. China, according to all accounts, has lifted 700 million of its people out of poverty. President Xi Xinping has pledged to help eliminate poverty in Africa, the continent with highest rate of poverty in the world. Yet, many Africans reject this offer as insincere, suggesting a sinister motive lurking behind China’s offer. This attitude, is in part, the result of today’s political culture, which has failed to understand one of the most profound universal principles: all mankind shares a common interest in the development of the creative potential of each and every human being.  

Let us all agree, now, that we will all act on the this principle of the common good, and affirm as did the Treaty of Westphalia, that the interest of the other is also the interest of thy self.

 

Forum On China-Africa Cooperation, Beijing, September 3-4, 2018

“Africa’s growing debt crisis: Who is the debt owed to?”

October 2018

(excerpts follow)

Summary
• African government external debt payments have doubled in two years, from an average of
5.9% of government revenue in 2015 to 11.8% in 2017
• 20% of African government external debt is owed to China
• 17% of African government external interest payments are made to China
• In contrast, 32% of African government external debt is owed to private lenders, and 35% to
multilateral institutions such as the World Bank
• 55% of external interest payments are to private creditors

Minimum amount of African government external debt owed to China as percentage of total debt is 18%

Creditor grouping, total debt owed, percentage of external debt owed, are as follows:
China $72 billion 18%
Paris Club $40 billion 10%
Other governments $18 billion 4%
World Bank $66 billion 16%
IMF $18 billion 4%
Other multilateral institutions $61 billion 15%
Private sector $132 billion 32%
Total $407 billion 

Maximum amount of African government external debt owed to China as percentage of total debt is 24%

Creditor grouping’Total debt owed, percentage of external debt owed, are as follows:
China $100 billion 24%
Paris Club $40 billion 10%
World Bank $66 billion 16%
IMF $18 billion 4%
Other multilateral institutions $61 billion 15%
Private sector (excl. Chinese
private sector)
$132 billion 32%
Total $417 billion

Checking these figures through country cases

Another way of identifying how much African government debt is owed to China is to look bottom-up at the individual data available by each government.

Of these 16 countries, 14 have figures on how much debt is owed to China (for the full analysis see Appendix 1.). Of these 14:

• 11 owe less than 18% of their debt to China (Burundi, Cabo Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Gambia, Ghana, Mauritania, Mozambique, Sao Tome and Principe, South Sudan, Sudan and Zimbabwe).
• Three owe more than 24% -Djibouti (68%), Zambia (30%) and Cameroon (29%).
• The mean average amount owed to China is 15% of a government’s external debt, and the median average is 8%

Read Complete Report: Who Is Africa Debt’s Owed To?

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

Final Call: IMF and World Bank real culprits in Africa’s debt crisis

This article debunks the myth of China colonizing Africa through a “debt trap” policy. It also has quotes from me on this subject. You can read more comments from me with this link to my post: A Brief Response: Marshall Plan for Africa or “Debt Trap?”

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FINAL CALL: IMF-and-World-Bank-real-culprits-in-Africa-debt-crisis.

BY JEHRON MUHAMMAD |  SEP 12, 2018 

Many Western press outlets, including CNN, have repeated a recent claim presented to the U.S. State Department that the “Chinese government is leveraging billions of dollars in debt to gain political leverage with developing countries.”

The phrase they use to accuse China is “debt book diplomacy,” a play on the past usage of the term “gunboat diplomacy” about U.S. policy. They accuse China of miring Africa in debt and “undercutting their sovereignty.”

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Chinese President Xi Jinping (R) meets with African Union Chair Paul Kagame who is President of Rwanda at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, capital of China, Sept. 4, 2018. (Xinhua/Ju Peng)

Not to be outdone, ABC News chimed in: “China’s commercial presence in Africa has prompted complaints in some countries that the continent gets too little from the relationship. Africa is a major target of Beijing’s ‘Belt and Road’ initiative to build ports, highways and other trade-related infrastructure, but some critics in Tanzania, Kenya and other countries say they leave hosts with too much debt.”Pushing back, China claims to be helping African development, not piling up debt, one top China government official said.

“If we take a closer look at these African countries that are heavily in debt, China is not their main creditor,” its special envoy for Africa Xu Jinghy said, during a news conference. “It’s senseless and baseless to shift the blame onto China for debt problems.”

Claims that China is an “economic predator” in Africa, pillaging natural resources and dragging it into debt crisis are “as false as they are sensational,” the Xinhua official Chinese news agency said in a commentary.

According to African economic and political analyst Lawrence Freeman, “It is more than ironic that the West is complaining about Africa’s debt to China. Since the 1960s, Western nations, the IMF, World Bank, Paris Club, etc., have ‘looted’ Africa of hundreds of billions of dollars in bloated debt payments and through the manipulation of currencies, and terms of trade.

Of note is the fact that the anti- China accusation is fairly recent. An April 18 Financial Times article, headlined “African nations slipping into new debt crises,” did not mention China one time as the source of the continent’s debt crisis.

In fact the FT’s piece is critical of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. “The increase in debt should have raised all sorts of flags and triggered triage, but it didn’t. Neither the International Monetary Fund nor the World Bank sounded the alarm,” the London-based financial paper reported.

In addition, the FT claimed some African countries were hit because “they borrowed in foreign currencies and were finding debt hard to finance after a significant depreciation.”

In 2017 Quartz Africa reported, again not mentioning China, that “African eurobond debt is growing to risky levels.” A eurobond, also referred to as sovereign bond, is a debt security issued by a national government and is denominated in a foreign currency, usually dollars, rather than the euro that its name implies.

This debt crises have been cyclical. Africa’s debt of the 1980s mushroomed to $270 billion and had many factors, according to Quartz, “depending on which side of the fence you’re on.”

Those events came full circle. Even though Quartz recognized the repeating “hallmarks” of unchecked corruption, poor governance, and political mileage investment, the “single catalytic factor to trigger debt unsustainability in Africa has always been the crash of commodity prices on the global market.”

The news service Reuters reported in May of 2017 that “most sub-Saharan African countries still rely on U.S. dollar-denominated debt to finance their economies. Some investors say this is sowing the seeds of future debt crises if local currencies devalue and make dollar debt repayments more expensive.”

The United Nations trade body UNCTAD estimates that Africa’s external debt rapidly grew to $443 billion by 2013 through bilateral borrowing, syndicated loans and bonds. But since then sharp currency devaluations across the continent have pushed up the cost of servicing this debt pile, which continues to grow, the agency said.

It’s no wonder over 50 African heads of state attended the Sept. 3-4 Forum on China-African Cooperation (FOCAC) in Beijing. During the forum China president Xi Jinping announced a hefty $60 billion package to compliment another $60 billion pledged at the 2015 summit.

This breaks down, according to press reports, to $15 billion in grants and interest free loans, $20 billion in credit lines, a $10 billion fund for development financing, $5 billion to finance imports from Africa and waving the debt of the poorest African nations diplomatically linked to China.

On top of President Jinping letting the numbers speak for themselves he had words for China’s detractors: “Only the people of China and Africa have the right to comment on whether China-Africa cooperation is doing well … . No one should deny the significant achievement of China-Africa cooperation based on their assumptions and speculations.”

The African Union chairman, Rwandan President Paul Kagame, has been heard to call Chinese aid and investment strategy in Africa “deeply transformational” and respectful of the continent’s global position.

He said FOCAC had grown into a powerful engine “of cooperation fully aligned with Africa’s Agenda 2063 and sustainable development goals.”

“Our growing ties with China do not come at anyone’s expense. The gains are enjoyed by all who do business with us. Building the capacity of African institutions to transact and monitor more effectively is what will make the biggest difference,” he said.

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