Are the British Fueling Violence in Ivory Coast Presidential Election?

(courtesy of counrywatch.com)
October 10, 2020
The provocative title of the article, The Vengeance of old men- A dangerous election looms in Ivory Coast, published in the London Economist should not be viewed as simply reporting on the upcoming presidential election in the Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast). The Economist is the flagship publication of British intelligence that still believes it is their right to intervene around the world to shape events that will benefit British financial interests. This is especially true in Africa, where the British Colonial empire directly ruled over much of the continent until the liberation movements ended their imperial reign. beginning in the 1960s. Most striking in The Economist article, along with other western media, is their refusal to accept the legitimacy of the sovereignty of emerging nations, like the Ivory Coast.

Weeks before Ivory’s Coast presidential election, the 177  year old London based Economist proclaims in this threatening article that: “If by hook or by crook Mr. Ouattara wins, as seems probable, swathes of the electorate will view him as illegitimate. Even if violence is avoided, Ivory Coast will face a post-election crisis, says William Assanvo of the Institute for Security Studies. “(emphasis added)

Flouting its disregard for institutions of the Ivory Coast, The Economist writes: “President Alassane Ouattara, aged 78, made matters worse by deciding to run for a third term, seemingly in breach of the constitution, after his chosen successor died in July.” (emphasis added) The Ivory Coast’s Constitutional Council, declared on September 14, 2020, that President Ouattara was eligible to run in the October 31st presidential election. Why is this decision, ratified lawfully by a government institution, challenged because western nations, led by the British do not like it?  Should not the sovereignty of an emerging nation, only three generations old, be respected? This is typical of behavior by Western institutions and the media that dictate to African nations the “acceptable” criteria for their version of “good governance” and “democracy.”

The Economist supports the opposition’s call for civil disobedience, “to alarm foreign governments so much they feel obliged to intervene, as they have before.”  Why should governments be called to intervene before the election has even taken place? Does the colonial empire believe they are still in charge?

Commenting on the potential outcome of a victory by President Ouattara in the upcoming election, The Economist stokes the flames of a return to ethnic violence, which the nation suffered following the 2010 presidential election. “Were Mr. Ouattara to win, the opposition would surely reject the result. Violence, which many fear would take on an ethnic hue, could well erupt,” the magazine asserts.

Clearly there is a need for younger qualified leadership in many nations. The reference to the old men competing for office in the Ivory Coast is amusing to American voters. The Republican and Democratic primaries fielded four candidates running for president, who were in their 70s. The leadership of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate is dominated by septuagenarians and octogenarians of both parties.

Read: A Dangerous Election Looms in Ivory Coast

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

Nigeria and Egypt Building Railroads: Great News For Africa

Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed [PHOTO CREDIT: FMIC Website]
Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed [PHOTO CREDIT: FMIC Website]

October 7, 2020

For those of us who understand physical economy, these two developments reported below are truly great news for Africa. Africans have suffered from a paucity of infrastructure in rail construction and energy production. When African nations liberated themselves from colonialism beginning in the 1960s, following 400 years of slavery, they were intentionally left with no infrastructure.  By denying African nations rail systems that connected the continent and electricity to industrialize their economies, the African people have been forced to lived in poverty brought about by imposed underdevelopment. Ghana’s founder, Kwame Nkrumah understood this well. He discussed the necessity of infrastructure to achieve true economic independence in his opening speech to the Organizing of African Unity on May 25, 1963 and his his book, Africa Must Unite. It is a crime that 60 years after the liberation from colonialism, African nations remain grossly deficient in basic infrastructure. Therefore let us rejoice in the progress that African nations are making today, in the 21st century to provide vital infrastructure for their people. We should all celebrate all measures taken to rectify the legacy of colonialism, that denied Africans the right to economic development. To their credit, Presidents Buhari (Nigeria) and el Sesi (Egypt) have pursue the expansion of infrastructure in their respective nations.

Why we’re extending rail construction to Niger Republic – Nigerian govt

“The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, gave the explanation on Friday when he featured on Nigeria Television. Authority (NTA) live programme, “Good Morning Nigeria”

“The programme which focussed on “Nigeria at 60: Matters Arising” was monitored by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja.

“Specifically, the minister said the rail extension is intended for Nigeria to take economic advantages of import and export of Niger Republic, Chad and Burkina Faso which are landlocked countries.”

Continue Reading: Nigeria Extending Rail Construction to Niger

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Egypt to Build High Speed Rail

China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) and Egyptian companies Samcrete and the Arab Organization for Industrialisation have won a $9bn contract to build a 543-km-long high-speed railway in Egypt, reports newspaper The Egypt Independent, citing “senior sources”.

“Accommodating train speeds of 250km/h, the line would link the Mediterranean coast at El-Alamein to the Red Sea at Ain Sokhna, cutting the journey between the two cities to three hours.

“The scheme’s importance to Egypt was compared to the Suez Canal by the chief executive of Samcrete, Sherif Nazmy, who told Arab-language newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm that it would be the first new electric railway in Egypt since 1854.”

Continuing Reading: (Egypt to Build High Speed Rail

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for over 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

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

Celebrate Ethiopia’s March 1, 1896 Victory at Adwa- A Victory For Africa and All Nations

I am republishing my article from March 2017, to celebrate Ethiopia’s defeat of the invading Italian imperialist army, on the battlefield of Adwa. Ethiopia’s leadership and vision flow from never allowing their country to be colonized. That same min-set is evident today in Ethiopia’s construction of its Grand Renaissance Dam (GERD). All of Africa, and all true friends of Africa are proud of Ethiopia’s victory

March 1: Celebrate Ethiopia’s Defeat of Italy At Adwa; A Victory Against European Imperialism

History Course: “Africa The Sleeping Giant” Amb. Arikana Chihombori Lectures Students On The Berlin Conference

Former African Union Ambassador, Arikana Chihombori-Quao, speaking to Lawrence Freeman’s class at Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Montgomery County Maryland on the Berlin Conference. December 5, 2019

December 7, 2019

At the fifth week of my African history course (outlined below), 80 students heard Amb Chihombori-Quao discuss the effects of the Berlin Conference on the people of Africa today. This provocative presentation lead to many questions.   

“Africa: The Sleeping Giant” 6 week-12 hour course syllabus by Lawrence Freeman

The instructor’s intention is to provide the class with broad overview of the development of the African continent over millennia and centuries, coupled with insights to understand the present. The instructor believes that it is impossible to know current events in Africa today, beyond the misleading media headlines, without a full knowledge of Africa’s unique and at times tragic history.

Week 1–“Introduction”: In this class we discuss the great diversity of the continent. This includes its size, climates, geographical characteristics, deserts, rivers, lakes, and historical facts regarding Africa’s many nations, its economic condition.

Week 2–“Man Is Not a Monkey”: This class traces mankind’s emergence to what we call modern man-homo sapien sapien-over millions of years by examining the effects of man’s powers of reason, that did not evolve from the apes, and mankind’s exodus from the African continent.  We will then discuss a few of the early civilizations in East and West Africa, concluding with the great Bantu internal migration that transformed the continent.

Week 3–“Early African Civilizations-Slavery”: In this we class we continue examining early civilizations in Africa, iron making, and population growth. We will then leap ahead to the “discovery” of Africa by Europe and roots of slavery.

Week 4–“Slavery to Colonialism”: In this class we examine the seamless transition from slavery to colonialism, which in total encompasses 500 years, leading to destruction of the cultural and physical evolution of the African people.

Week 5–“European Empires Carve Up Africa”: This class focuses on the hideous Berlin Conference that divided up Africa in accord with Europe’s geopolitical Imperialist view of Africa and its people.

Week 6–“Africa’s Post Independence”: We leap ahead to the liberation of Africa from colonialism circa 1960. We discuss current and changing conditions in African nations, especially as the West abandons the continent and China supports Africa’s economic growth by building and funding infrastructure projects across Africa.

Grand Renaissance Dam Essential for Africa’s Economic Growth

Artist rendition of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam-GERD

Grand Renaissance Dam Essential for Africa’s Economic Growth

Lawrence K Freeman

October 14, 2019

Completion and operation of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam-(GERD) will profoundly affect not only the future of Ethiopia, but all of the Horn of Africa, and the entire African continent. It reflects the bold visionary thinking that characterizes Ethiopia’s unwavering determination to eradicate poverty in the second largest nation on the continent with 103 million people. Ethiopia has been a leader in economic growth for the last decade due to its unparalleled commitment to constructing new infrastructure projects. Although an emerging nation, Ethiopia with assistance from China, completed the Addis-Ababa to Djibouti railroad in October 2016. This is the first and only electrified rail line in sub-Saharan Africa- (SSA), reducing travel time from several days by truck to hours by rail, effectively freeing Ethiopia from the limitations of a landlocked nation via Djibouti’s port.

Ethiopia’s former Prime Minster, Meles Zenawi, who conceptualized the developmental state, proposed building a dam on the Blue Nile, laying the first foundation stone on April 2, 2011. Thus, initiating the construction of a massive hydroelectric dam on the Blue Nile that will be the largest in Africa. The GERD will be 175 meters tall, 1,800 meters wide, with a reservoir of 79 billion cubic meters-(BCM), more than twice the size of the Hoover Dam in the US. It will have the potential to generate upwards of 6,200 megawatts (MW) of electricity. Upon completion, Ethiopia will be the largest net exporter of electricity in Africa with transmission lines to its neighbors that include Sudan, South Sudan, and Kenya. Ethiopia will also become second only to South Africa in power generation in SSA, as it strives to achieve its interim goal of producing 15,000 MW. The GERD, self-financed by bonds sold to the Ethiopian people, is not only a source of tremendous pride, but an indispensable component of Ethiopia’s resolve to expand its manufacturing sector and become a “middle income” nation by 2025. A nation must have abundant and accessible electricity in order to power an industrialized economy. With more than 60% of its population deprived of access to electricity, and energy demands growing every year, Ethiopia wisely realized that utilizing the potential hydro-power of the Blue Nile to drive its economic growth was not an option; but a necessity.

Sovereignty Superior to Colonialism

 Egypt is accusing Ethiopia of violating the 1959 agreement for utilization of water from the Nile River, which stipulated that 55.5 BCM of waters be allocated to Egypt, 18.5 BCM to Sudan and that no other nation could interfere with the flow of water in the Nile.  There is no basis in law or physical topography for Ethiopia to adhere to this agreement for the following reasons:

  • The 1959 water agreement is a rewrite of the British imperialist 1929 water treaty, when Egypt was a British colony that governed Sudan under the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium (1899-1956).
  • The Blue Nile flowing from Lake Tana in the Ethiopian highlands that joins the White Nile in Khartoum, provides 85% of the Nile water as it travels north through Egypt to the Mediterranean Sea.
  • Ethiopia, as an independent nation that was never colonialized, was not a signatory to either water agreement.
  • Ethiopia has the sovereign right and obligation to utilize its natural resources, in this case water, to improve the living conditions of its people.

The Nile River, although the longest in the world at 6,650 kilometers, is not the most voluminous. Historically, the Nile was the only water way to cross the Sahara Desert from SSA. Today ten nations in Eastern and Central Africa are part of the Nile Basin with their total population approaching 500 million, whose present and future needs exceed the 84 BCM of Nile water. For development of the Nile Basin, it is urgently required that:

  • a new approach to water management for the region, which supersedes the archaic colonial agreement.
  • a new system for generating additional water. A crash program to create billions of cubic meters of fresh water through desalination is an obvious solution.

In essence, a “second Nile” must be created. Nuclear energy, utilizing its higher heat source, would be ideal for removing salt through evaporation, and, equally as important, supplying thousands of megawatts of power to energy-starved nations.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Awarded Nobel Peace Prize 2020 (Courtesy of MGN.TV)

Shared Common Interest

The Declaration of Principles, signed in Khartoum on March 23, 2015 by the heads of state of Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia calls for cooperation among the three nations to resolve disputes concerning the GERD among themselves. The report states: “The Three Countries shall cooperate on the basis of sovereign equality, territorial integrity, mutual benefit and good faith in order to attain optimal utilization and adequate protection of the River.”

The shared vision of the Nile Basin should be to promote prosperity for all the nations involved. The common shared interest of the upstream and downstream nations is one and the same: to uplift millions of Africans out of poverty and present the expanding youth population with economic opportunities to obtain a meaningful and productive life that secures a future for their families.

 Egypt’s foreign minister, Sameh Shourky warned Ethiopia: “Ethiopia’s moving forward with the operation and filling of the Renaissance Dam is unacceptable and a clear violation of the Declaration of Principles and will have negative consequences for stability in the region.” Within Egypt threats of military action have recently resurfaced, but such unwarranted aggression is highly unlikely, and would be roundly condemned by the international community.

According to Xinhua News, Egypt is looking for the United States to play an “international instrumental role,” a position presently not supported by the US State Department. Egypt’s attempt to bring in an outside party to mediate disputes concerning the Nile waters is in direct violation of the Declaration of Principles.

Exercising its sovereign rights, Ethiopia has already completed 60% of the construction of the GERD, and although there have been delays, it is expected to begin producing electricity by the end of 2020. Egypt has no choice but to accept this reality and continue to engage discussions regarding the management of the Nile.  There are substantive legitimate issues respecting the effects of the GERD on Egypt, a downstream nation that is almost totally dependent on Nile water. However, Ethiopia’s sovereignty over the Blue Nile is inviolate. In 2018 the National Independent Scientific Research Group-(NISRG) was established to discuss the filling of the dam’s reservoir. The NISRG consisting of scientists from Sudan, Egypt, and Ethiopia, has met several times, and has reported to the Minister of Water Affairs of each nation.

How many years will it take to fill the GERD’s reservoir, and what will be the flow rate of the Nile at the Aswan Dam, are yet to be resolved. These are technical matters that scientists and engineers must continue to examine in an atmosphere of good will and good faith. Such cooperation is essential to promote the common interests of all nations for a prosperous Nile Basin.

Read:  Modernghana.com Grand Renaissance Dam Essential for Africa’s Economic Growth.

Lawrence Freeman is a Political Economic Analyst for Africa with thirty years of experience in Africa promoting infrastructure development policies.

To Understand Zimbabwe and Sub-Saharan Africa One Must Know Evil Colonialism

September 15, 2019

Robert Mugabe, deceased President of Zimbabwe

Below is an insightful article on the death of Robert Mugabe. One cannot honestly and competently analyze African nations today, unless one thoroughly studies the affects of colonialism, and before that slavery.  When I look at the current state of affairs in Africa. I see the consequences of the long waves of hundreds of years of slavery, colonialism, and neo-colonialism. For example, can one truly understand Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, and  South Africa, without examining the evil role of British Imperialism and colonialism? Is Kenya not suffering today from the removal of the Kikuyu from the the Highlands, which were turned into the “Whitelands” by the British in the early 20th century? Similarly, it is impossible to truthfully discuss Zimbabwe, and its now deceased leader, Robert Mugabe without revealing the failure of the 1980 Lancaster agreement to rectify the stealing of 70% of the nation’s most fertile land from millions of “black” Zimbabweans that was given to 4,500 “white” farmers. Why are African nations, with abundant  fertile soil, still using primitive methods of farming and have weak agricultural sectors? Why does Africa suffer from the greatest deficit of infrastructure in the world per land area, which is only beginning to be reversed by China with its Belt and Road Initiative? Why is Africa the least industrialized continent on the planet?  Are we going to blind ourselves to the ugly history of what was done to Africans over hundreds of years, and naively and simplistic blame conditions today on a lack of good governance? This error, this lack of understanding Africa’s history, perverts the the thinking of Western institutions and Africa specialists, yielding flawed analysis.

Mugabe’s Obituaries Rife with White Supremacism

 

How the Imperialist CFA franc Suppresses Growth in Africa

Africa’s ‘colonial’ CFA currency (courtesy dw.com)

The article in the link below is a detailed and useful expose of how the CFA franc, controlled by France, contributes to the suppression of economic development in Africa. We have now past a half century since many nations in Africa liberated themselves from colonialism. Yet the French banking system still exercises colonial domination over the finances of African nations that should be economically independent. African nations will never be truly independent until they are economically sovereign. This means having sovereign control over their own currencies and the issuing of credit for internal improvements of their economies. African nations should have National Banks and Development Banks for the issuing of credit, as first conceptualized by Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton’s concept of government-national credit was essential for the creation of an industrialized USA from thirteen agrarian based colonies.

Read: Towards a Political Economy of Monetary Dependency

For more analysis of Alexander Hamilton’s credit policy read: Nations Must Study Alexander Hamilton’s Principles of Political Economy

Failed US-Africa Policy Exposed Yet Again

August 2, 2019
March 1961-President Kennedy provides real leadership by collaborating with President Nkrumah to industrialize Ghana

The article below, “More than Just Investment: Why America Was Once So Popular in Africa” by Nick Danby, published in World News, is a useful contribution to analyzing President Trump’s flawed African policy.  He accurately reports that the Trump’s administration’s “Prosper Africa” will not contribute to the development of Africa. He also highlights, as I have done, the leadership provided by President John Kennedy to support the rights of Africans to achieve economic sovereignty.

More than Just Investment: Why America Was Once So Popular in Africa

“On June 19 of this year, the Trump administration unveiled a new plan, known as “Prosper Africa,” to engage and invigorate the oft-forgotten continent. At the 2019 U.S.-Africa Business Summit in Mozambique, American leaders and allies heralded the $60 billion investment plan as a “once-in-a-generational opportunity” for Africa. But the U.S. government is not strengthening greater commercial and trade connections between U.S. companies and Africa’s ICT sector out of the kindness of its own heart. Both publicly and privately the deal has been construed as a way to “provide financially sound alternatives to state-led initiatives from countries like China” and to prevent countries from falling into “opaque and unsustainable debt traps being laid by Beijing throughout the developing world.” At face value, the White House is working to promote a prosperous Africa by focusing on multilateral investment and trade. Yet the altruism of such an approach is undermined when administration officials, like national security advisor John Bolton, suggest that the new strategy predominantly serves as a counterweight to Chinese and Russian “predatory practices.”

“Countering Chinese and Russian influence in Africa remains a top priority for the U.S., but the most prudent way to win over African leaders and citizens is by demonstrating that American officials truly care about Africa’s well-being. China has built useful connections and alliances on the continent because it acts as though its efforts directly benefit Africa more than themselves. China’s powerful hold on the continent through its dominant commercial presence and debt diplomacy schemes were further developed when Xi Jinping invited dozens of African foreign dignitaries to Beijing and then pledged $60 billion in financial aid for the continent. Xi has also visited Africa on numerous occasions, hob-knobbing with leaders, boosting China’s public relations, and enlisting nations to join the “Belt and Road Initiative.” Even Russian President Vladimir Putin will host 50 African leaders in Sochi for the first Russian-African Summit in October.

“If the Trump administration wishes to engage African leaders and dissuade them from partnerships with the Chinese and the Russians by teaming up with U.S. companies, it must develop a strategy that goes far beyond an anachronistic amalgam of trade and investment. The U.S. must first build off of the goodwill and trust it fostered with PEPFAR by not only continuing to fund PEPFAR (which has been nominated for the chopping block since the Obama days) but also other programs that can improve Africa’s standard of living, whether that be through strategic health diplomacy or the vast array of other issues their civilians must endure on a daily basis.

“President Kennedy always had a special interest in Africa that predated his own time in the White House. In the 1960 campaign, he lambasted Eisenhower for not exerting enough effort or attention on the continent as it underwent decolonization. During one campaign speech, Kennedy told his audience, “We have neglected and ignored the needs and aspirations of the African people. The word is out – and spreading like wildfire…that it is no longer necessary to remain poor or forever in bondage.” The U.S. should heed Kennedy’s words and work toward improving Africa with the Africans. By caring about the continent’s welfare, Chinese and Russian influence will soon dwindle.”

Trump’s Policy for Africa Exists Only to Stop China

July 20, 2019

The analysis in the article below published by WPR is useful. However, I can be more blunt: President Trump’s policy for Africa has nothing to do with helping Africa, but it only to counter China’s influence! President Obama did very little for Africa, but make speeches about so called good governance and promoted his fraudulent “power-less Africa” program. Sadly, President Trump is following in Obama’s footsteps, premising his strategy for Africa on the old British geo-political doctrine of winners and losers in a zero-sum game. Read my article:  President Trump’s Fundamentally Flawed Africa Policy  Stopping China is not a policy to help Africa, a continent still suffering today from enormous infrastructure deficits, a legacy of 500 years of slavery, colonialism, and neo-colonialism. Despite all the propaganda against China, China’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative has done more to assist African nations in developing their economies in recent decades, that all the combined initiatives of Europe and the United States. President Trump’s “Prosper Africa” will not advance Africa’s interests. The best way to actually promote development in Africa, build robust manufacturing sectors, and industrialize the underdeveloped continent, would be for President Trump to join China in building infrastructure across the continent in the spirit of the Belt and Road Imitative. 

World Politics Review

Donald Trump’s daughter and adviser, Ivanka Trump, and Kwesi Quartey, Deputy Chairperson of the African Commission.
Ivanka Trump, and H,E, Kwesi Quartey, Deputy Chairperson, African Union

Trump’s ‘Prosper Africa’ Strategy Is Fixated on a Cold War-Like View of China

Kimberly Ann ElliottTuesday, July 16, 2019

During the Cold War, American policymakers frequently pushed nonaligned countries to take sides. The Central Intelligence Agency fomented coups against governments that flirted with communism and the Soviet Union, or that just drifted too far to the left for comfort. The State Department threatened to cut aid flows to countries that voted too often against U.S. priorities at the United Nations. Could sub-Saharan Africa find itself caught in the middle again if a cold war with China breaks out?

In a speech at the Heritage Foundation last December, President Donald Trump’s hawkish national security adviser, John Bolton, launched a new initiative called “Prosper Africa” that he said was aimed at promoting trade and commercial ties “to the benefit of both the United States and Africa.” But there are a number of reasons for African governments to be concerned about what the administration really has in mind.

First of all, Bolton cast the goal of increased economic engagement as something necessary for “safeguarding the economic independence of African states and protecting U.S. national security interests,” not as something helpful for African economic development. He pointed to the growing influence of “great power competitors,” China and Russia, which he suggested were investing in Africa mainly “to gain a competitive advantage over the United States.” While there are certainly valid concerns about some of China’s foreign aid and lending practices in Africa and other developing countries, African governments have generally welcomed Chinese aid and investment. It’s not at all clear they would agree that this is a competition where they must choose one side or the other.

A second reason to be skeptical of how seriously this administration takes the goal of helping Africa develop is the low level of U.S. engagement to date. President Donald Trump has not visited the continent; his wife and daughter have in trips heavy on photo ops but light on policy substance. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross—hardly the most dynamic member of the Cabinet—was supposed to represent the administration last month at the U.S.-Africa Business Summit in Maputo, the capital of Mozambique, where details of the Prosper Africa initiative were announced. But he cancelled at the last minute because of a “scheduling conflict,” according to his office, sending Deputy Secretary of Commerce Karen Dunn Kelley instead.

By contrast, Chinese President Xi Jinping has visited Africa multiple times and has welcomed a stream of African officials to Beijing. Russian President Vladimir Putin will host 50 African leaders at a summit in Sochi later this year. Gyude Moore, a former minister of public works in Liberia (he’s now my colleague at the Center for Global Development), called the lack of Cabinet-level U.S. participation at the Maputo meeting insulting.

There are a number of reasons for African governments to be concerned about what the Trump administration really has in mind.

Finally, another reason to question the White House’s intentions with respect to trade with Africa is Trump’s view that trade policy is a zero-sum game: If another country wins, the United States must lose, and vice versa. Indeed, before getting to the mutual benefit part of his speech last December, Bolton asserted that the administration’s new Africa strategy would remain true to Trump’s “central campaign promise to put the interests of the American people first, both at home and abroad.”

So it should be no surprise that when he discussed trade, Bolton emphasized American jobs and exports to Africa. He said that the administration wants to pursue “modern, comprehensive trade agreements… that ensure fair and reciprocal exchange.” In recent congressional testimony, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer also reiterated the administration’s goal of negotiating a bilateral trade agreement with an African country that could become a model for others. Negotiators for a little country, negotiating with a big country like the United States, might wonder just what reciprocity means in that context.

If more than two decades of history is any guide, negotiating a trade deal with the United States will mean more or less accepting whatever text American negotiators put in front of their counterparts, including onerous demands for strict intellectual property protections that could increase prices for drugs and agricultural inputs. Negotiating with one country at a time is also problematic because most African countries are party to one or more regional communities, which they are stitching together in a single, continent-wide free trade agreement that just formally entered into force. The continent—home to a large number of small economies, many of them landlocked—desperately needs more regional integration to increase its competitiveness by lowering transportation and other costs of trade and achieving economies of scale.

Beyond these problematic trade plans, what else is in the administration’s Prosper Africa initiative? Its second stated aim is to engage the private sector and double U.S. trade with and investment in Africa. According to Kelley’s remarks in Maputo, two of the three strands of the program are aimed at helping American companies find and close deals across Africa by streamlining and better coordinating U.S. government activities that provide information, financing and risk insurance to the private sector. She also suggested that these efforts on behalf of American businesses could include “U.S. government advocacy” to “expedite” transactions, which sounds like it might involve a little arm-twisting if African officials question the terms of a deal.

Helping African countries improve the investment climate, which is Prosper Africa’s third strand, and connecting American investors to opportunities on the continent, are worthy—and indeed longstanding—goals. Overall, however, the initiative appears to be a mix of existing programs in shiny new packaging, and with little new money. The $50 million proposed budget for Prosper Africa is a drop in the bucket compared to the administration’s proposed 9 percent cut in overall aid to Africa. And efforts to negotiate bilateral trade agreements country by country would undermine the regional integration that is needed for the continent’s development.

Trade and aid to support development in Africa can and should be to the mutual interest of all involved. But putting Prosper Africa in the context of the geopolitical rivalry with China, alongside Trump’s belligerent America First rhetoric, undermines that positive message.

Kimberly Ann Elliott is a visiting scholar at the George Washington University Institute for International Economic Policy, and a visiting fellow with the Center for Global Development. Her WPR column appears every Tuesday