China-Africa Debt Trap Refuted Again. Belt and Road Building Infrastructure-Developing Africa

July 12, 2019

President Xi and African Heads of State (courtesy of Al Jazeera)

This excellent article, once again refutes the slander that China is imposing a ‘debt-trap’ on African nations. The author, Ehizuelen Michael Mitchell Omoruyi, executive director of the Center for Nigerian Studies at the Institute of African Studies, Zhejiang Normal University, shows how China through the Belt and Road is developing vital infrastructure for Africa. 

“Millions of articles have been written on China-Africa engagement that involve the terms “Sino-optimism,” “Sino-pragmatism” and “Sino-pessimism.” With that said, somehow, China has also been mentioned in some Western media in a negative light, including headlines with phrases such as “Can China circumvent the middle-income trap?” “China’s trapped transition,” “The Thucydides Trap” and the “debt trap.”

“As for the debt trap, the term refers to the idea that Chinese loans in the continent of Africa are a strategy by the Middle Kingdom to extract concessions and purchase allegiance. I do not concur! China’s involvement with African nations is far beyond building railways, bridges and roads…

Continue reading: Belt and Road Offers Development not Debt Trap

China Announces $1 Billion Belt and Road Africa Fund Led by South African

Announced July 3 on the sidelines of the Summer Davos Meeting World Economic Forum in Dalian, China, this $1 billion investment fund also achieves another first–in that it will be not be run by the state government–thus being China’s first “NGO.” It will also notably be led, not by a Chinese, but by a South African.

Intended to be up and running by September, this fund–to be capitalized by wealthy Chinese businessmen and their families–will be headed by Dr. Iqbal Survé, “born and educated in Cape Town” (according to his website). Survé had started his own, Sekunjalo investment fund in 1997, leaving his medical career at the call of Nelson Mandela, who was seeking local investors to lead the development of the economy. Dr. Survé had become “affectionately known as the ‘Struggle Doctor’ because of his provision of medical care towards victims of apartheid brutality,” says his “about” page.

Since then Survé came to serve as chair of the BRICS Business Council for South Africa, and most recently as a member of the Business Council Chairman for the five BRICS countries. A hedge fund operator he definitely is not. Commenting from China, Dr. Survé said, “The discussions that we’ve had with Chinese business people, state-owned enterprises and family offices, have resulted in the establishment of this fund. Africa is ready to grow and is heading towards a $5 trillion economy. The [Africans] have seen how China was able to grow from 1980, when China made up only 2% of the global GDP when compared to today, where China makes up 19% of the global GDP.

This fund is a great boost for the development of Africa.” The fund will be overseen by a Belt and Road Business Council, eventually to grow to 1,000 Chinese and African members.

China’s Belt-Road Initiative Advancing Growth in Africa and Germany. Will the US join?

June 20, 2019

Everyday, nations around the world are experiencing economic growth by participating in China’s Belt and Road Initiative-BRI. For a truly global transformation, the United States must join this new paradigm of development. The most productive way to enhance relations with China, is for President Trump, at next week’s G-20 meeting, to discuss with President Xi Jinping, the US joining the BRI. This would create an unprecedented level of economic growth throughout the world. It would also be a brilliant flank against those voices in the US, and internationally, who are demonizing China, and trying two divide our two great nations. 

{Independent}: Belt and Road Contributing to Prosperity in Africa

A feature today in the South African {Independent Online Business Report} publication reviews the benefits of the Belt and Road Initiative for Africa, saying that Liberia, Morocco, and Tunisia have benefited from African development projects, as has Ethiopia from the Addis Ababa Light Rail, which cut travel time to and from the city. Through the BRI, China has also built a light-rail system in Abuja, Nigeria, the first to be built in Western Africa. Chinese construction companies have further assisted Angola in rebuilding its Benguela Railway, which had been destroyed in the civil war. The country can now transport goods from Angola’s western coastline to the border of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Chinese-funded projects have also led to the construction of the Isimba and Karuma hydroelectric power stations, two new sources of electricity to Uganda, which will ultimately aid development. In Rwanda, road construction projects have brought young citizens into construction through their employment. This ultimately improved their welfare and provided labor skills. In the spirit of BRI’s trade ambitions, Egypt now looks to make the idea of the Cape-to-Cairo road a reality. Since taking the reins as 2019-2020 chairperson of the African Union, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt plans to construct a superhighway through multiple African nations, eventually ending in Cape Town, to open
countries to trading in the Cape’s ports and in Cairo, Egypt’s gateway to the European Union.

German Mittelstand Supports New Silk Road

China’s proposed Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) has been creating opportunities for German enterprises, said Hans von Helldorff, chairman of the board of the Federal Association of German Silk Road Initiative (BVDSI), in an interview with Xinhua on June 17.

“The future markets and the new markets, for example, are in Asia, Africa, as well as Eastern and Southern Europe. They are not so well-connected. China has been providing the connections, thus it will generate great opportunities,” said von Helldorff, stating that new markets are needed by Germany’s Mittelstand firms.

Von Helldorff said that, thanks to the inter-connectivity, businesses have already been on the rise in some German cities, such as Hamburg and Duisburg. Many small and medium-sized companies in Germany got contracts with seaborne and logistics enterprises from China and other countries for local registration, legal, accounting, and tax services, von Helldorff stated.

“The infrastructure projects along the Belt and Road countries also need a lot of know-how. Harbor-related, road-related, train-related, etc. We have to open our eyes and participate in them,” von Helldorff said, declaring that the strengths of German businesses can contribute as an “innovation and investment engine.”

Speaking about prevailing doubts and worries about the BRI, allegations that the initiative might be politically motivated and harm local industries, von Helldorff said that some of them are simply clichés and that some are unfounded.

“The BVDSI sees China as a fast-growing economy that follows a plan. We need to sit and make eye-to-eye contacts and negotiations. Only cooperation in the sense of fair competition is for the benefit of humanity,” von Helldorff said. The BVDSI, founded in March 2019, is a business association serving as a platform for the interests of small- and medium-sized German companies. The BVDSI plans to organize a forum later this year in Germany on the BRI for partners to establish project-related contacts.

 

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

May 9, 2019

Belt-Road Initiative is Now Second Largest Trade Bloc

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Excerpts below:

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

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

“CHALLENGES ON THE PATH TO IMPLEMENTATION”

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

Read entire article

 

China, Belt & Road: Eliminate Poverty, Not “Debt-Trap”

April 21, 2019

President Xi Jinping Hands-on Drive to Eliminate Poverty

As part of his government’s plan to entirely eliminate poverty from China by the end of 2020, President Xi Jinping carried out “an inspection tour to southwest China’s Chongqing Municipality” earlier this week, Xinhua reported, in which he pledged to address the issue like “a hammer driving a nail.” Xi first flew to Chongqing, China’s fourth largest city, and then spent another three hours, first by train and then by road, to reach Huaxi Village, where 302 people living in 85 households are registered as living below the poverty line.

Xinhua added: “Huaxi Village is a typical case of China’s impoverished regions. The basic needs for food and clothing have been met, but more efforts are needed for compulsory education, basic medical care and safe housing.”

It is to be noted that China’s criteria for poverty reduction are not strictly monetary, but include key physical-economic parameters such as education, health, and housing. As of 2018 there were still 16.6 million rural residents living in poverty in China. The government plans to lift about 10 million of those out of poverty during 2019. Xinhua then quoted Xi during his tour:

“The battle against poverty has entered a decisive and critical stage. We must press ahead with our full strength and strongest resolve and never stop until we secure a complete victory. After visiting the village, I feel reassured. We may have about 6 million impoverished people and 60 impoverished counties left at the beginning of 2020. If we make sure this year’s work is well-implemented and push ahead next year, we will eliminate poverty. We are confident about accomplishing the mission.

“Less than two years are left before fulfilling the objective of poverty alleviation. This year is particularly crucial,” Xi said at a symposium held Tuesday afternoon in Chongqing. “The most important thing at this stage is to prevent laxity and backsliding.” Xinhua’s account emphasized the top-down involvement of government officials in achieving this national goal. “Throughout the years, more than three million officials from governments above the county level, state-owned enterprises and public institutions have stayed in impoverished villages to offer assistance.

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FOCAC Summit 2018 (courtesy africa.cgtn.com)
I am posting the following article even though it is from last year, because the author accurately disproves the “debt-trap” propaganda being used by western institutions against China-Africa cooperation.

“2018 FOCAC: Africa in the New Reality of Reduced Chinese Lending”

August 31, 2018

W. Gyude Moore is a visiting fellow at the Center for Global Development. He previously served as Liberia’s Minister of Public Works with oversight over the construction and maintenance of public infrastructure from December 2014 to January 2018.

Debt Trap or Much-Needed Investment?

The debt trap diplomacy case, however, has never been convincingly argued and its application in Africa is, at best, tenuous. The reality of Africa’s debt to China is not particularly remarkable when taken against the sources of continent’s external debt stock (see figure below). A number of African countries’ (Djibouti, Kenya, and Angola) debt obligations to China are alarming—as they would be regardless of creditor. China’s $115 billion credit to Africa between 2000 and 2016 is still less than 2 percent of the total $6.9 trillion of low and middle income countries’ debt stock. Recent studies have shown that China is not a driver of debt distress in Africa—yet. The language of debt trap diplomacy resonates more in Western countries, especially the United States, and is rooted in anxiety about China’s rise as a global power rather than in the reality of Africa.

A column chart of external government debt for Sub-Saharan Africa by official, private, and Chinese creditors

Continue reading entire article

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China’s Belt And Road Forum to Gather 37 World Leaders, and Representatives from Five Continents

There will be no less than 37 heads of state and government attending China’s Second Belt and Road forum in Beijing next week, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Friday. In addition there will be 360 attendees at ministerial level, 100 leaders of international organizations and 5,000 participants. 4,000 reporters will also be attending the Forum, whose theme is “Belt and Road Cooperation, Shaping a Brighter Shared Future.”

“The second Belt and Road Forum will be held in Beijing on April 25-27. It will become China’s largest international event this year. Thirty-seven leaders of state and government will participate in the forum,” Wang told a press conference.  This will include the leaders of Austria, Egypt, Hungary, Italy, Russia, the United Arab Emirates and others. “Senior representatives” of France, Germany, Britain, Spain, Japan, the Republic of Korea and the European Union will also participate; other diplomatic representatives of the United States and North Korea will also be there. International Monetary Fund Managing Director, Christine Lagarde, and Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary- general, are also expected to participate, according to Wang.

This is the highest level event for cooperation on the Belt and Road Initiative, Minister Wang said. He said this year’s event will be characterized by a clear direction, a solid foundation, a warm response from participants, a program of practical cooperation and clearly defined results. A Leaders’ Round-Table Summit will issue a Joint Communique to show the political consensus of the leaders in building the Belt and Road.

The long-term effects of the Initiative will be to strengthen multilateralism, to enrich the principles of cooperation, to build a network of partnership and to build a strong support system for continued development. Wang Yi also underlined the connection between the BRI and China’s new phase of “opening up.” The new phase of  China’s “reform and opening up” will “bring more opportunities for promoting the ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ and the common development of all countries,” he said. “I believe that the forum will inject stronger impetus into the world economy, open even broader horizon for the development of the countries, and contribute to the building of a community with a shared future for humanity,” Wang continued.

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

APRIL 11, 2019

Nigeria plans special economic zones to double manufacturing by 2025

(courtesy thisdaylive.com)

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

China’s 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.”

Trump Administration Wrong Not Sending High Level Officials to Belt and Road Forum

President Trump did not attend the first Belt and road Forum-(BRF) in May of 2017, only sending a sub ministerial delegation. According to the US State d\Department, no US delegation will be attending this month’s second BRF. If true, this would represent a serious error by the Trump administration in its future relations with China. Beyond China, the decision not to participate in this historic conference will undermine US commitment to collaborate with more than half the world’s population that has joined China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Thus far, the only G-7 nation that has the wisdom to join the BRI is Italy. A minimum of 40 heads of state will be attending the second BRF. For the US to abstain, from this conference on the Belt and Road, which has already transformed the planet, would be strategic blunder in US policy. A more enlightened US foreign policy would view China as a partner in development not as a competitor, as China as been described by the Trump administration.

(courtesy huffingtonpost.com)

April 4, 2019

State Department Says U.S. Will Not Attend the Belt and Road Forum

According to an unnamed spokesperson for the U.S. State Department yesterday, the United States will not send high-level officials to attend China’s second Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in Beijing later this month, Reuters reported. In 2017, when the first Belt and Road Forum took place, the U.S. was represented by Matt Pottinger, the senior White House official for Asia. There are no such plans this year, Reuters stated.

Answering a question from Reuters, the unnamed State Department spokesperson said: “We will not send high-level officials from the United States…. We will continue to raise concerns about opaque financing practices, poor governance and disregard for internationally accepted norms and standards, which undermine many of the standards and principles that we rely upon to promote sustainable, inclusive development and to maintain stability and a rules-based order. We have repeatedly called on China to address these concerns.”

On March 29, speaking to the ruling Communist Party’s official mouthpiece, {People’s Daily}, Political Bureau member Yang Jiechi, who runs the party’s foreign affairs committee, said he found that critics of the Belt and Road Initiative “obviously show a lack of objectivity and fair understanding of the Belt and Road initiative. It is a misunderstanding, misjudgment and is even prejudiced,” stated Yang. Yang also confirmed that “about 40” foreign leaders would take part in the second summit.

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

March 28, 2019

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

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

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

China Prevails Where Europe Has Failed Miserably

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.

 

Italy Wisely Becomes First G-7 Nation to Join China’s Belt and Road: Financial Predators Upset

March 7, 2019

City of London’s {Financial Times} Beside Itself over Italy’s Joining Belt and Road

The City of London mouthpiece {Financial Times} criticizes Italy for becoming, as they write, “the first G-7 country to formally endorse China’s controversial Belt and Road global investment drive, in a move that has drawn a sharp response from the White House and is likely to cause alarm in Brussels.”

{FT} has suddenly discovered that Italy is going to sign a memorandum of understanding during President Xi Jinping’s Rome visit scheduled for March 22-23. The daily quotes Undersecretary for Economic Development Michele Geraci, who says that “the negotiation is not over yet, but it is possible that it will be concluded in time for [Xi’s] visit. We want to make sure that ‘Made in Italy’ products can have more success in terms of export volume to China, which is the fastest-growing market in the world.”

{FT} then quotes U.S. National Security Council spokesman Garrett Marquis, who makes a not-so-veiled threat: “We view BRI [Belt & Road Initiative] as a ‘made by China, for China. We are skeptical that the Italian government’s endorsement will bring any sustained economic benefits to the Italian people, and it may end up harming Italy’s global reputation in the long run.”

Marquis further said that U.S. officials had raised concerns about what he called the negative effects of “China’s infrastructure diplomacy,” and urged “all allies and partners, including Italy, to press China to bring its global investment efforts into line with accepted international standards and best practices.” Marquis was brought into the National Security Council by John Bolton, for whom he had earlier worked as a spokesman at the Foundation for American Security and Freedom.

The {FT} goes on to allege that “Italy’s support for China’s BRI initiative would undercut U.S. pressure on China over trade and would under-mine Brussels’ efforts to overcome divisions within the EU over the best approach to deal with Chinese investments. Italy is a founding member of the EU.”

President Xi will visit Italy on March 22 and meet Sergio Mattarella, the Italian president, as well as Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, and attend a military ceremony before traveling to Sicily.

The article concludes quoting National People’s Congress spokesman Zhang Yesui as saying this week that 67 countries had signed up to the BRI in the past year or so, bringing the total number of countries or international organizations that have formal endorsements to 152.  China takes the issue of debt very seriously and within a project the Chinese side never imposes things, nor, least of all, creates debt traps,” {FT} quotes Zhang. “Of course, like any international co-operation, some problems and challenges may crop up. With experience it will improve.”

Italy’s Geraci Rejects {Financial Times} Criticism of Italy Joining the Belt and Road Initiative

In an interview with the Italian financial daily {Il Sole 24 Ore}, Italian Undersecretary to the Economic Development Ministry rejects criticism raised by the City of London’s {Financial Times} and defends Italy’s sovereign choice to join the Belt and Road. “Sincerely, I am a bit surprised. I do not understand what it is, that is controversial,” Geraci said.

“I confirm what I said in an interview with this newspaper last Feb. 21st. I said the same thing to the {Financial Times}: We work every day down to the last detail. “It will be a framework agreement: Just the indication of some strategic sectors in which joint investments are promoted and orders by Italian firms are accelerated. We work on infrastructure, transport and highways, trade, industry, green economy. It will be up to private companies to choose whether to participate or not. If they do it, they will have guarantees in terms of protection from disputes and questions about rules.”

As for the U.S. position, Geraci stated:  “I wonder where such a big concern comes from. We will protect our know-how thanks to a ‘golden power’ rule we have in Italy, which is among the strictest in Europe. And we just fulfill demands from our companies to create for them more room in the most promising markets, such as China. Anyway, we have supplied the United States, as per normal exchanges we have with our main diplomatic partners, all insurances on the issue.”

On the concern about Italy being the first G-7 country to sign a New Silk Road protocol, Geraci replied to the criticisms: “So what? Poland, Hungary, Portugal, Greece have done it and I do not consider them second-class countries in Europe. Those who think differently do not have a real European view. And the G-7 club may be a somewhat outdated concept: It no longer represents the real world economic powers, since it does not include either China or India.”

Italy is not “selling out” its ports, as some have claimed, he countered: “We do not sell, at most we give concessions to create greenfield investments, which means starting from zero. You cannot sell out things that were not there in the first place.”

China Responds to U.S. Attack on Italy Joining the Belt and Road

The Chinese Foreign Ministry today responded to the attack on Italy’s plan to join the Belt and Road by Garrett Marquis, a long-time ally of National Security Adviser John Bolton (who brought him onto the National Security Council).

An unsigned editorial in {Global Times,} titled: “White House’s Criticism of Italy’s Plan To Join BRI Ridiculous,” reports that Lu Kang, spokes-person of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at a routine press conference today, said: “Italy, as a major country and economy in the world, is clear about its interests. It could make its own policies and decisions.” {Global Times} added: “The BRI is an important inter-national public good that China contributes to global cooperation for common development. China and more than 150 countries and international organizations have signed BRI cooperation agreements, which witnessed more than $6 trillion in cumulative trade between China and participating countries, Yang Jiechi, a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, said at the 55th Munich Security Conference in February, the Xinhua News Agency reported.”

Greek Foreign Minister in Beijing To Discuss Intensifying Belt and Road Cooperation

Greek Foreign Minister Giorgos Katrougalos began a five-day official visit to Beijing on March 5, in which he co-chaired the 13 Joint Inter-ministerial Committee with China’s Foreign Minister and State Councillor Wang Yi and with Commerce Minister Zhong Shan.  On the margins of the meeting,

Katrougalos met Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Commerce Minister Zhong Shan, Vice Chairman of the National Development and Reform Commission Ning Jizh, and chief of the Development Commission He Lifeng, according to a statement by the Greek Foreign Ministry.The Greek delegation included Christos Lambridis, Secretary General of Ports, Port Policy, and Maritime Investment, and officials from the Hellenic Ministry of Agricultural Development.

“From all these contacts, both with my counterpart, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, as well as with the head of Foreign Relations of the Communist Party of China, and the economy ministers, the Minister of Commerce, the head of the crucially important Planning Commission of China, the conclusion drawn is dual in nature: First of all that Greece and China are seriously investing in their bilateral strategic partnership. This is not occasional, it has as its guide the ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative which the Chinese government is promoting at the moment, but there is a significant alignment of interests, precisely because we too endeavor that our country becomes a bridge between Europe, Asia, and Africa. The second thing that was affirmed is the observation that Greece has exited the economic crisis and offers significant opportunities for investment to the Chinese side.

Katrougalos also participated in the formal commencement of proceedings of the annual plenary of the National People’s Congress, ahead of which he said, “As you know, China has achieved a lot. It is on its way to becoming the world’s largest economy. It helped 700 million of its citizens out of complete poverty.”

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi congratulated Katrougalos on assuming his new post as foreign minister, and expressed satisfaction that “Mr. Foreign Minister chose China as the first country to visit after taking office, which demonstrated with concrete actions his friendship with China and the importance he attached to China-Greece relations and that both countries are good friends and good partners.” He further stated that “as the birthplace of Mediterranean civilizations, Greece possesses profound cultural heritage and enormous development potential.

The Chinese side feels happy that Greece has overcome the influence brought by financial crisis and regained economic and social vitality, and is willing to, together with the Greek side, strengthen high-level exchanges, increase understanding and mutual trust, expand bilateral cooperation fields under the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative….”