Biden Administration Must Break from Past Practices, to Collaborate with China in Fostering Economic Development in Africa

CGTN published an abridged version of my article under the title: Biden administration should work with China to boost growth in Africa. https://news.cgtn.com/news/2020-12-16/Biden-administration-should-work-with-China-to-boost-growth-in-Africa-WgaMXPhB0A/index.html

Read below my complete article entitled: 

Biden Administration Must Break from Past Practices to Collaborate with China in Fostering Economic Development in Africa

Lawrence Freeman

December 16, 2020

For the incoming Biden/Harris administration to make a real difference and have positive impact on the lives of hundreds of millions of African still living in poverty, they should work in partnership with China. This would require rejecting and reversing the anti-China mindset of the Trump and Obama administrations, echoed by the current chorus of voices spewing from officials of both the Democratic and Republican parties. A repeat of the defective policies of the last twelve years coupled by the shrill geo-political motivated propaganda against the nation of China, will not only do little for Africa, but it will also harm the United States, and endanger strategic relations. It should be obvious to qualified leaders, as it is to me, that the horrific conditions of life for a majority of Africans, reflects the scope of the continent’s deficit in vital infrastructure. Over 600 million are without access to electricity, over 400 million Africans live in poverty, and several nations are currently threatened with famine. If the two economic power houses, China, and the United States, worked in partnership with African nations, this impoverishment could be eliminated.

US President Donald Trump (L) and China’s President Xi Jinping speak during a joint statement in Beijing on November 9, 2017. (NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP via Getty Images)

Failures of Trump and Obama

Presidents Trump and Obama similarly failed to understand the necessary requirements to create real-physical economic growth to improve the conditions of life, for America or Africans. Neither comprehend the principles of the American System of economics that built the foundation of the industrialized U.S. Their conception of economics remains dominated by a belief that the wealth of a nation is measured by Wall Street’s monetary values.

US President Donald Trump (L) and China’s President Xi Jinping speak during a joint statement in Beijing on November 9, 2017. (NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP via Getty Images)

Trump began his presidency establishing an amiable relationship with Chinese President, Xi Jinping. Unfortunately, that quickly deteriorated as Trump propitiated the anti-China prejudices of his supporters.  Although President Trump’s road to the White House was achieved by his status as an outsider to the Washington establishment, it was evident by the second year of his administration that he had acquiesced to the same geo-political world view of his predecessors. Geo-political doctrine speciously asserts that nations are either winners or losers in a zero sum game with the world as a chessboard. That the only interest of a superpower is achieving hegemony, rejecting any conception of a shared common interest among nations. His choice of neocons, Mike Pompeo for Secretary of State, and John Bolton as National Security Advisor in April 2018, left no doubt the direction of President Trump’s foreign policy.

On December 18, 2018, speaking at the Heritage Foundation in Washington DC, Bolton unveiled President Trump’s so called Africa Strategy. In his presentation Bolton defined the goal of U.S. policy in Africa, to wit: stopping China’s advances on the continent. In less than an hour, he attacked China and its Belt and Road seventeen times.  President Trump did not disavow Bolton’s assault on China, nor his demeaning treatment of Africa as a game board for geo-politics. Read President Trump’s Non-African Strategy: Published in AU’s “Invest in Africa” magazine

Prior to President Obama’s anti-China Asian Pivot in January 2012, his administration launched the most destructive military operation against an African nation by any U.S. President. In October 2011, President Obama, advised by UN Envoy Samantha Powers, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Susan Rice and Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, toppled the government of Libya. This irresponsible military adventure resulted: in the death of Libyan President, Muammar Gaddafi; the destruction of the nation of Libya, turning it into a failed state for the last nine years; and unleashing hordes of violent extremists across the Sahel into Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and Nigeria, causing tens of thousands of deaths and displacing millions of Africans.

Courtesy CSIS China Power Project

China Delivers Infrastructure

Contrary to U.S. squealing and whining about China’s influence in Africa, Deborah Brautigam of the DC based China Africa Research Initiative, precisely presents the paradox: “China still addresses Africa’s hunger for structural transformation in a way the West does not.” (1)  China has increasingly been engaged with African nations over the last two decades to build vitally needed infrastructure in rail, energy, ports, airports, roads, etc., and the U.S (West) has not.

Courtesy CSIS China Power Project

Take rail for example. Examine China’s commitment to building railroad tracks in Africa, as reported by the Washington think tank, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). (2)

Between 2008 and 2019, China built an average of 5,464 kilometers (km) of railway track per year. Roughly half of the new track added was high-speed rail. At 35,388 km, China’s high-speed rail network is the largest in the world.” China has built an additional 100,000 km of non-high speed rail track.

According to the CSIS report,

“Chinese companies signed $61.6 billion worth of rail construction contracts from 2013 to 2019 – more than double the value of the previous seven-year period (2006-2012) coinciding with the launch of China’s Belt and Road Initiative in 2013.”

“Africa received the second-highest amount of [China’s] rail contracts from 2013-2019. At $20.8 billion, this accounted for 33.8 percent of the total… About $7.5 billion worth of rail-related construction contracts (36.1 percent of the amount in Africa) were signed with Nigeria, where China is constructing a series of lines that comprise the 1,300 km-long Lagos-Kano Railway Modernization Project. This massive undertaking has made Nigeria the world’s top recipient of Chinese rail construction contracts during the 2013-2019 period.”

Courtesy of dica.logcluster.org

China’s construction of Kenya’s Standard Gauge Railway and the Addis Ababa to Djibouti railroad are exemplary of crucial infrastructure projects for Africa.

Michelle Gavin in her December 3 post, The United States and Europe Should Work Together to Promote a Prosperous Africa, expresses the dilemma for U.S.-Africa policy:

“There is no doubt that U.S. influence—and therefore U.S. capacity to achieve various foreign policy goals—suffers when China’s investments in the tangible, visible infrastructure of African prosperity appear (sic) to dwarf U.S. development efforts.” (emphasis added)

Speaking in China on December 8, Rahamtalla Osman, the Permanent Representative for the African Union in China, said, “The goals of the BRI coincide with the AfCFTA,” referring to the African Continental Free Trade Area.

The “Same Old” Will Not Do

As the inauguration of the new U.S. president nears, many words are written extolling how a Biden administration will bring a return to “normalcy, global alliances, international diplomacy.” We should think for a minute. Do we want to return to war, regime change, sanctions, and drone assassinations as the core of U.S. foreign policy? Early indications are that under a President Biden, the U.S. will pursue with our allies, a more belligerent policy with China. How will this realignment shift the world to a higher platform of development? How will it stimulate economic growth in Africa?

Presidents John F Kennedy and President Kwame, Washington DC, Head of State visit- March 1961.

The Biden-Harris agenda for Africa is vague with no specifics to address Africa’s urgent needs. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who is President Elect Biden’s nominee to be envoy to the United Nations, has a deep background in Africa and is respected by many African leaders. Having played a prominent role in the Biden transition team, she may be an individual who can put a focus on Africa in the new administration. However, it is unclear what those policies will be.

The last U.S. president to fully engage in Africa’s development was John F Kennedy, who established a personal relationship with Ghanaian President, Kwame Nkrumah, and gave crucial backing for the construction of the Akosombo Volta Dam complex.

For the incoming administration to genuinely support Africa, the new president should audaciously break from past boundaries of previous thinking and join with China in launching a great mission for mankind: the elimination of poverty in Africa within the next generation through massive infrastructure expansion. That is my mission.

(1) African countries will remain best friends with China, https://www.economist.com/the-world-ahead/2020/11/17/african-countries-will-remain-best-friends-with-china

(2) How Are Foreign Rail Construction Projects Advancing China’s Interests? https://chinapower.csis.org/rail-construction/

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

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.”

Celebrating Kwame Nkrumah’s Ghana With Observations from Cape Coast By Donielle DeToy

Please accept an article from my wife, as my belated contribution to the March 6, anniversary of Ghana’s independence from its colonial master, Great Britain.

 Akwaaba: You Are Welcome in Ghana by Donielle DeToy

 I have just completed seven weeks of my teaching internship at Mary Queen of Peace Catholic School in Cape Coast, Ghana. Living in the tropical region of Cape Coast and learning about Ghanaian culture was a unique and transformative experience that I shall always cherish. I loved everything about Ghana, the culture, people, climate- Cape Coast was welcoming and beautiful.

This is not my first adventure onto the large continent of Africa. In 2011 and 2012, I traveled to Sudan visiting Khartoum, Darfur, and the Nuba Mountains. In 2014, I had the honor of accompanying my husband to Ndjamena, Chad. He is a scientific adviser to the Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC). We attended a conference addressing the complex dangers of Lake Chad evaporating and made proposals for workable solutions. We then explored Ethiopia both Addis Abba and the Rift Valley region. Of all my travels to Africa, Ghana was the absolute best!

There is a phrase the Ghanaian population speak when greeting visitors, “Akwaaba” which means “you are welcome” or “happy to have you visit.” Ghanaians definitely “Akwaaba” visitors and make you feel very relaxed. That welcoming spirit shines in every classroom at Mary Queen of Peace Catholic School.

If you don’t like warm weather or tropical creatures, you won’t like Ghana, but I loved it! Ghana is close to the equator and the sun sets very quickly. Cape Coast is on the ocean and it is often hot and humid. However, there is a cool and refreshing breeze throughout the night.

As for the tropical creatures- I shared my room with 4 (probably more) Geckos and no they don’t have funny Australian accents. These creatures are EVERYWHERE!! Outside, inside, under, over, above, absolutely everywhere. I learned to live with them (I didn’t really have a choice). I was outnumbered AND in that tropical climate there is an advantage of having roommates who eat bugs. I gave some of them names which personified them and discovered where they “live” within our house and school. There are two other common lizards in this region, the first is a slower moving Agama Lizard, there is one that lives on the school campus, he is nicknamed “Charlie.” The other managed to evade my camera- it is called a Monitor Lizard; my students call them “dragons” probably because they can weigh up to 200 pounds.

Are there cultural differences?? Absolutely. One of the amusing and challenging tasks was trying to explain winter temperatures, snow, and ice to my kindergarten age school children. They have never experienced temperatures below 70 degrees and only know two seasons; raining and dry. I taught a unit on weather and showed pictures and videos of Maryland’s bitter cold, but it was still too abstract. Finally, I made a huge block of ice and asked each student to hold her/his hand on it for as long as possible. They loved it!! Although most could not keep their hands on the ice for more than 30 seconds.

My students were very respectful and greeted us by our first names, but with the pre-fix “Teacher”, so I am “Teacher Donielle.” Education is universal, all children love to laugh, discover, and learn. The more fun I can have teaching my lessons, the better their learning experience.

In Ghana, Friday is Africa dress day, everyone wears traditional African attire. I decided to join the fun and wore a lovely African dress. All the teachers at my school were very happy that I joined in the tradition. I believe when visiting (and teaching) in another country one needs to participate in cultural activities. The teachers appreciated it and my students loved the fact that I got dressed up for their special day.

One of the saddest moments was my visit to the infamous slave castles/dungeons. I toured two different ones. The first, was in Elmina, this is the largest slave castle, built by the Portuguese in 1482. It had been sacred land for the people, but the European empires were callous and erected a hideous structure of death over this revered area. This “castle” was used as an export point for African men and women for over 400 years. The brutality in which the Europeans treated the people of Africa is revolting and horrifying. One tour guide estimated that over 20 million slaves were shipped from Africa. The other Castle was in Cape Coast. Our guide briefly locked us in one of the dungeons…the stench of blood and death still lingered, 200 years later. Both castles have a “door of no return” this is a narrow opening where the slaves where forced onto a ship leaving their homeland forever.

During a brief stay in Accra prior to my departure, I visited the museum and mausoleum of Kwame Nkrumah. He was the founding father of Ghana, achieving independence from the British empire in 1957.  He was also a key component in the creation of the OAS- Organization of African States. I was struck at the strong connection between Nkrumah and America. The museum had dozens of artifacts from his 1939-1944 studies at University of Pennsylvania and Lincoln University. During his lifetime he reflected a deep understanding of the true meaning of American System of Economics. This is most evident in his speech at the founding conference of the OAS, which called for a commitment to a scientific and infrastructure renaissance in Ghana and Africa, echoing both Franklin Roosevelt and John F Kennedy.

Two happy Presidents, John Kennedy and Kwame Nkrumah, Washington DC March 1963. Nkrumah was Kennedy’s first Head of State to visit the White House.

After my first week in Cape Coast, I thought the biggest challenge and most difficult adjustment was not being plugged into the internet or access to emails 24 hours a day. But as I prepared for my departure, I realized the most difficult task was saying good-bye. The school theme for Mary Queen of Peace is Shine Forever, and the School Sisters of Notre Dame, students, staff, and community shall Shine Forever in my heart.