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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

October 2018

(excerpts follow)

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

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

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

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

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

Checking these figures through country cases

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

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

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

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

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

Some Western media and politicians have recently created the phrase “debtbook diplomacy” to accuse China of “miring nations in debt” and “undercutting their sovereignty.”

According to CNN, a new report presented to the US State Department claims the “Chinese government is leveraging billions of dollars in debt to gain political leverage with developing countries.”

“This phrase ‘debtbook diplomacy’ shows the West is nervous of China-Africa cooperation. ‘Debtbook diplomacy’ is what they did to Africa for decades, but now China is actually helping African nations rid themselves of ‘the debt trap’ set by the West,” said Wang Yiwei, director of the Institute of International Affairs at Renmin University of China in Beijing.

The West left African countries with a heavy debt on projects and failed to support their sustainable development, or to increase productivity and help them realize self-reliance, Wang noted. “Western countries wanted Africa to become their raw materials supplier while maintaining their post-colonial influence over the continent. This prevented African countries from realizing their own industrialization, Wang said.

China, on the other hand, is helping the nations move toward self-reliance and industrialization. The West doesn’t like that and this is why it is attempting to slander China, Wang added.

Xu Weizhong, deputy director of the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations’ Institute of West Asian and African Studies, said that “Africa needs a lot of investment to build infrastructure, and China’s loans, which have increased African countries’ debt, are necessary for their development.”

China’s assistance to Africa differs from what the West offers. China has a “crucial principle,” which is to respect African countries’ will and conditions. China has never forced African countries to accept loans on large infrastructure projects beyond their ability to pay, Wang said.

“China and Africa have walked an extraordinary path in developing relations and cooperation, and our peoples have benefited greatly from it,” Assistant Foreign Minister Chen Xiaodong said at the opening ceremony of the Seventh China-Africa Think Tank Forum in Beijing on July 4.

“A minority of Westerners are blinded by their ‘pride and prejudice’ and choose not to see this… maybe that is what they call ‘sour grapes’?” Chen said.

West is largest debt holder

Data shows that Western countries and West-led organizations are the largest owners of African debt, not China, Shen Shiwei, a research fellow at the Charhar Institute and former government relations and business consultant for Chinese enterprises in Africa, said in an article published on CGTN’s website.

Research from SAIS and the China Africa Research Initiative at Johns Hopkins University shows that China has provided loans worth $114.4 billion to Africa from 2000-2016, which accounts for 1.8 percent of Africa’s total external debt. 

“The IMF and World Bank own 36 percent of African debt. These multilateral financial institutions and other giant investors in Europe and the US have far stronger leverage [than China],” Shen noted in his article.

“For historical reasons, the West has many interests in Africa. Those that are reasonable should be respected when we cooperate with Africa. But for those that are unreasonable, should China and African countries continue to respect them? Before accusing China, the West should think about this carefully,” Xu said                   (emphasis added)

 

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

By Mark Kapchanga
June 26, 2018

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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