China Has Embraced Africa’s Development; The US Has Not

Courtesy of Global Research

January 16, 2020

China Has Embraced Africa’s Development; The US Has Not.

By Lawrence Freeman

It is as clear as day and night, the difference between China’s approach to Africa and that of the United States. There is no equivalence. Historically, China has viewed African nations as part of the developing sector from which China emerged.  This has contributed to China’s distinct attitude to partnering with African nations in promoting economic growth. Over the last two decades especially, the ties between China and Africa have grown stronger, with Africa’s East Coast materializing as an integral part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

The US has not always dismissed the importance of contributing to Africa’s growth. President John Kennedy, following in the footsteps of President Franklin Roosevelt, was a strong opponent of colonial subjugation of Africa. President Kennedy, as US Senator advocated Africa’s liberation movement, and as US President supported President Kwame Nkrumah’s plans to construct the hydro-electric dam and bauxite smelting complex on Ghana’s Volta River. By the end of the 1960s the US had lost its optimism and vision for the world, adopting in its place, a British inspired cynical “geo-political” doctrine.

Geo-politics divides the world into two categories; winners and losers in a zero sum game. Today’s unfounded attacks against China’s involvement in Africa, alleging that China is deliberately entrapping nations into debt and stealing their natural resources flows from this perverted world view. Chinese President, Xi Jinping promotes a different philosophy; it’s called “win-win.”

Building, Not Extracting

Unlike British Imperialist Cecil Rhodes, and degenerates like King Leopold II, China is not raping Africa for its resources. Since Royal Dutch Shell discovered oil in southern Nigeria in 1956, the West has focused its investment chiefly in oil and gas-i.e. hydrocarbon extractive industries. China in recent decades has become the leading nation in financing and building infrastructure in Africa.  It is well known that investment in extractive industries do not expand the economy nor provide a large amount of jobs. However, it does yield large streams of revenue.  China has chosen a different business mode; one more beneficial to the African people.

According to McKinsey consulting company’s publication, Dance of the lions and the dragons, released in June 2017, China in 2015 financed $21 billion worth of infrastructure projects in Africa. That is three times the combined total of France, Japan, Germany, and India. US financing of infrastructure in Africa was too minimal to even mention. Detailed in the same document, China’s export and import trade with Africa is quantified as $188 billion in 2015, compared to the US at $53 billion. Deloitte’s 2017 Africa Construction Trends, further documents China’s role in expanding Africa’s infrastructure. As of June 2017, China was only second to African governments in funding large infrastructure projects, 15.5% and 27.1% respectively. The US was listed at 3%, the UK and France at 2%. When it comes to who actually builds these projects the figures are more shocking; China constructed over one quarter or 28.1% of these projects, the US 3.3%, and the UK 2.3%.

Infrastructure Is Essential

Infrastructure is critical for every economy to expand, grow and develop. Africa’s deplorable lack of infrastructure is literally killing its people. There is no more crucial single element of economy that must be addressed for African nations to develop. Infrastructure adds value to the entire economy by augmenting the productive capability of every farmer and worker. More capital intense economies will be affected by technologically advanced infrastructure platforms.

The history of humankind demonstrates that progress of civilizations emanates from the realization of scientific discoveries transmitted through more efficacious technologies. Infrastructure reflecting more advanced machinery is a primary means of transferring technology (science) to the economic production process.

There is nothing wrong with African nations using their resources for collateral or payment of loans for infrastructure. Wealth is not the monetary value of natural resources extracted from the earth. Economic wealth is understood to be that which contributes to the increase of the power of society to provide the material wellbeing of its citizens and their posterity. Infrastructure performs that function.

China’s contribution to building new railroads in Africa, replacing century old British and French antiquated rail lines, and constructing new hydro-electric dams, and ports, is precisely what African nations need to develop.  China is providing indispensable assistance; the US and Europe are not. An experienced former US ambassador to Africa told me bluntly; the US stopped investing in infrastructure in Africa in the early 1970s. Sadly, today, the US continues to repeatedly proclaim, “we don’t build infrastructure.”

 

Debt-Trap or Claptrap?

In her latest paper, A critical look at Chinese ‘debt-trap’ diplomacy: the rise of a meme, Deborah Brautigam, China-Africa scholar and Director of the China-Africa Research Initiative-(CARI) at SAIS*, puts a nail in the coffin regarding false accusations of China deliberately entrapping African nations through debt.

She writes: “…for over a decade Western politicians and pundits have warned that China is a rogue donor with regard to its finance, is a new colonialist, and a predatory and pernicious lender that snares vulnerable states in a debt trap leveraging its loans in order to have its way with weak victims.”

Brautigam responds to these allegations by asking: “However, does evidence exist for this kind of debt leverage?” Then she answers: “It [SAIS database] has information on about more than 1000 loans and, so far, in Africa, we have not seen any examples where we would say the Chinese deliberatively entangled another country in debt, and then used that debt to extract unfair or strategic advantages of some kind in Africa, including ‘asset seizures’.” (emphasis added)

With the population of 55 African nations projected to reach 2.4 billion in the next three decades, the continent needs trillions of dollars in new infrastructure. Presently, the US is more concerned in countering China in Africa, than developing Africa. Many African leaders are hopeful the US will establish a more robust economic relationship with their nations. As has been the case with previous administrations, the lack of vision, and adherence to “geo-politics” is preventing the US from engaging with Africa in a win-win relationship. This can and should change.   

*Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies

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

 

West Uses “Debt Trap” to Thwart Alliance of China & Africa for Economic Development

September 8, 2018

“The term “debtbook diplomacy”—with the meaning that China builds influence over other nations by deliberately causing them to take on more debt than they can handle—was coined in a report commissioned by (and custom designed for) the U.S. State Department and written in May 2018 by Sam Parker of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. This report was then used by the U.S. State Department to ring alarm bells all over the world about the potential impact of China’s Belt and Road Initiative. But the report’s author, Sam Parker, is not known to have any expertise in economics or to have written anything about the economies of China or other developing countries.

“Historically, the British Empire was, and still is, the master of debt traps. Its methods have been copied in the post-1971, post-Bretton Woods era by such United States- and British-controlled institutions as the International Monetary Fund and World Bank to shackle nations with unpayable debt, in order to loot them, destroy their physical economic productive capabilities and finally force them to give up their national sovereignty. Under the 19th century, British-dominated, imperialist world order, as in the case of the post Bretton Woods system, money is treated as a “global” commodity controlled by private interests, rather than a political tool controlled by sovereign governments which issuance is intended to promote the productivity of society and the general welfare of its citizens.”` (Schiller Institute’s “Why China’s Debtbook Diplomacy is a Hoax”)

African Development Bank President, Adesina, Denies Debt Crisis in Africa

Speaking to the reporters on the sidelines of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Beijing Summit on Sept 5, and addressing the western propaganda that China is drowning Africa with debt, President of the African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, said: “Let me be very clear that Africa has absolutely no debt crisis; African countries are desperate for infrastructure.” “The population is rising, urbanization is there, and fiscal space is very small,” the AfDB president added. “They are taking on a lot more debt, but in the right way,” Adesina said, Xinhua reported on Sept 5.

Scoffing at the international campaign that the China imposed debt has begun to cripple Africa, Adesina pointed out that Africa’s overall debt-to-GDP went up from 22 percent in 2010 to 37 per cent last year. He stressed that the ratio is markedly lower than the 100 per cent or 150 per cent of many higher-income countries, and over 50 per cent among emerging economies.

Meanwhile, in an interview with the Nikkei of Japan, the foreign minister of Djibouti, Mahmoud Ali Youssouf, said his country intends to help promote China’s Belt and Road Initiative, but is also cautious about over reliance on China in light of Djibouti’s growing debts linked to Chinese investment. “If [the initiative] brings wealth, progress, development, we welcome it,” he said in that interview, Nikkei reported today

Nigerian President Buhari Debunks the “Debt Trap” Hoax

Muhammadu Buhari, the President of Afria’s most populous nation, Nigeria, has emerged from the hugely successful Forum on China-African Cooperation (FOCAC) with a refutation of what he called “insinuations about a so-called Chinese debt trap.”

“Let me use this opportunity to address and dispel insinuations about a so-called Chinese debt trap,” he told the press today. “These vital infrastructure projects being funded are perfectly in line with Nigeria’s Economic Recovery & Growth Plan. Some of the debts, it must be  noted, are self-liquidating. Nigeria is fully able to repay all the loans as and when due, in keeping with our policy of fiscal prudence and sound housekeeping.”

He said: “I am happy to note that Nigeria’s partnership with China through FOCAC has resulted in the execution of critical infrastructure projects valued at more than $5 billion, over the last three years. We have completed West Africa’s first urban rail system, valued at $500 million, in Abuja. Before then was the 180km rail line that connects Abuja and Kaduna, completed and commissioned in 2016, and running efficiently since then,” the President declared.

He said that Nigeria is currently leveraging Chinese funding to execute $3.4 billion worth of projects at various stages of completion. Among these are: upgrading of airport terminals, the Lagos-Kano rail line, the Zungeru hydroelectric power project, and fibre cables for our internet infrastructure. Nigeria signed an agreement for an additional $1 billion loan from China. The money is for additional rolling stock for the newly constructed rail lines, as well as road rehabilitation and water supply projects.

“Debt Trap” Hoax Exposed by Chinese Spokesperson

At a September 4 press conference on the morning of the second day of the FOCAC Summit, Xu Jinghu, the Special Representative of the Chinese Government on African Affairs, was asked by Reuters about whether the $60 billion financing that President Xi Jinping promised in aid for Africa in his keynote address, would create debt problems for Africa.

Xu Jinghu went through the importance of the eight areas outlined by President Xi in order to raise the level of production and productivity of the African economy.  She also made clear that all of the projects are done in close consultation with the African countries in order to meet what they see as their real needs for further industrialization.

She added that Africa is in “the ascending phase” of its development and “faces a gap in the funding for all of their endeavors…”They need capital development and the African and Chinese economy, which is more developed, are therefore complementary.”

Xu commented, “You have to take into consideration the international situation. The  costs of financing for development on the international market has become very expensive and most of the African countries are still dependent on exporting their raw materials. And the price of these have fallen,which has increased the debt of African countries a great deal.  And if you look at the African countries, you will see that China is not the creditor of those African countries with the biggest debt burden.

China Africa Research Initiative Refutes “Death Trap” Propaganda

The China Africa Research Initiative-(CARI) at the Johns Hopkins School of International Studies, Washington DC refuted the “death-trap” narrative that China is subverting African nations by forcing them into debt.  Their The Path Ahead: The 7th Forum on China Africa Cooperation-(Briefing Paper #1, 2018), reports: “Finally, in just three African countries, Chinese loans are currently the most significant contributor to high risk of/actual debt distress” They are;  Djibouti, Republic of Congo, and Zambia.  

Read complete CARI  briefing paper

 

Read:

Who Owns Africa’s Debt: China or Western Nations & Institutions?