Instability in Africa Can Be Averted Through Development: China & BRICS Will Contribute

October 4, 2023

My friend, Matt Ehret, has written a new article, How the West destroyed Africa and Eurasia will revive it, that provides useful context to understand the coups that have taken place in the Sahel and West Africa. His analysis parallels some of my writing on this same subject. Read my earlier posts: To Prevent More Coups Like Niger: Eliminate Poverty in Africa; and BRICS Offers New Potential for Africa & The World: The Human Race Will Benefit

Excerpts below from Matt’s article:

“In Africa, injustice looms large, marked by poverty, warfare, and famine. Despite post-WWII political gains, economic independence, a vital component of true freedom as envisioned by Pan African leaders like Kwame Nkrumah, Patrice Lumumba, and Haile Selassie, remains elusive. 

After decades of restrictive IMF and World Bank loans, poverty, hunger, and conflict persist throughout the continent. While many attribute this to Africa’s governance challenges, in reality, a deliberate imperial agenda has hindered the continent’s development in all political, economic, and security sectors. 

Coups against neo-colonialism

But much has changed in the past few years. The growing clout of Eurasian institutions that fully embrace Global South countries as valuable, integral, and equal members – the BRICS+ and Greater Eurasian Partnership are examples – offer hope that old neo-colonial shackles will be broken and that Africa can enjoy an unfettered renaissance.

The rise of a new global pole to challenge the old unipolar order has had a notable impact across sub-Saharan West Africa which, in recent years, has seen a surge in military coups shifting power away from regimes that had long prioritized the interests of western corporations. 

These coups occurred in Chad (April 2021), Mali (May 2021), Guinea (September 2021), Sudan (October 2021), Burkina Faso (January 2022), Niger (July 2023), and Gabon (August 2023) – all resource-rich countries with abnormally poor living conditions.

In Gabon, over 30 percent of its people live on less than $1 per day, while 60 percent of its regions have no healthcare or clean drinking water despite the abundance of gold, diamonds, manganese, uranium, iron ore, natural gas, and oil – mostly monopolized by French corporations like Eramat, Total and Ariva. 

Despite its abundance of rare earths, copper, uranium, and Gold, 70 percent of Malians still live in abject poverty. Similarly, Sudan, with its riches in oil, fertile soil, and water, has 77 percent of the population living below the poverty line. 

In uranium-rich Niger, which provides over 35 percent of the fuel for France’s nuclear industry (accounting for 70 percent of France’s energy basket), mainly under the control of France’s Orano, only 3 percent of Nigerians have access to electricity. In the “former” French colony of Chad, that number is only a little higher at 9 percent, and a still-unacceptable 20 percent in Burkina Faso. 

While Altanticists desperately seek ways to keep their talons embedded into the African continent and its abundant riches, a much healthier security paradigm has emerged in recent years from Eurasia…”

Sustainable security means economic development

“The fight against the destructive effects of imperialism may seem daunting, especially when viewed solely through the lens of military affairs. But the growing influence of major multipolar institutions offers an important, consensus-based, strength-in-numbers way forward. 

The BRICS+, for instance, has made sure to add new members strategically. Last month, the organization grew from five to 11 members, which today include three geostrategic African nations of Egypt, South Africa, and Ethiopia, and major West Asian energy powerhouses Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE with extensive interests across Africa.

Then there’s China’s Global Security Initiative, unveiled in April 2022, which represents far more than just a non-western security doctrine. It embodies a fundamentally different paradigm, which at its core, places paramount emphasis on economic development as the foundation for long-term strategic peace.

Beijing has not only endorsed the objectives of the African Union’s Africa Agenda 2063 in words, but has done more than any other country in realizing those ambitious goals which call for “unity, self-determination, freedom, progress and collective prosperity pursued under Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance”…

Over the past decade, China has advanced a policy of rail development, connectivity and building up industrial capacities, training, and skill building across partner nations. During that time, trade with Africa has risen to $282 billion in trade in 2022, marking an 11 percent increase over the previous year—a figure more than four times that of the US, which recorded $63 billion in trade with Africa in 2022. 

During that same 10-year span, Chinese companies have won $700 billion in contracted projects to build energy systems, transportation grids, manufacturing hubs, ports, telecommunication, aerospace, aviation, finance, and a myriad of soft infrastructure. 

Despite the challenges posed by western interventions, China has been able to build 6000 kilometers of rail, 6000 kilometers of roads, 20 ports, 80 large power facilities, 130 hospitals, and 170 schools on the continent.

While some western “democracies” resort to the threat of military intervention, punitive sanctions, or assassinations in post-coup Niger, China assumed the role of peace broker and re-emphasized its commitment to continue all projects in Niger, including the crucial 2,000-kilometer pipeline designed to export crude oil from the Agadem fields to the Port of Seme in Benin. 

This pipeline, currently three-quarters finished, will boost Niger’s oil output by 450 percent upon completion.

In Tanzania, the Chinese government hosted the 25 August China-Africa Vision conference promoting a myriad of economic initiatives, but its highlight was the Tanzania-Burundi-Democratic Republic of Congo railway which will likely become the first of several major trans continental rail lines outlined in the Africa Agenda 2063 Report…”

Read the full article: How the West destroyed Africa and Eurasia will revive it, written by Matt Ehret: matt.ehret@tutamail.com

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 a teacher, writer, public speaker, and consultant on Africa. Mr. Freeman strongly believes that economic development is an essential human right. He is also the creator of the blog:  lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com.

China’s experience: Helping transform an African desert into a garden

William Jones

Editor’s noteWilliam Jones is the Washington Bureau Chief for Executive Intelligence Review and a non-resident fellow of the Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. The article reflects the author’s opinion, and not necessarily the views of CGTN.

With the upcoming visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Italy, there will no doubt be some discussion of cooperation between the two nations on the African continent. For Italy, helping to resolve the dire economic situation in Africa is both a humanitarian and an economic concern. The devastated economy in many African countries is bringing more and more refugees to Italy’s shore, and the burden is taking its toll on the Italian economy. For China, Africa has always been a particular concern having shared in the condition of underdevelopment for so many years. Even when both were clearly developing countries, China offered its assistance to its African brothers.

One of the most significant projects in that regard is the Transaqua project. This project would take some of the water from the Congo River, a river with the greatest flow of water in the world, and through a series of canals to the Chari River which flows into Lake Chad, a lake whose surface has been dramatically reduced from 25,000 km2  in 1960 to 1,500 km2 today.

The water transfer project would help revive the lake, and with the construction of dams and power plants along the canal, would help to bring development to the region, directly affecting the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central Africa and Nigeria, through which it would pass. In addition, it would also bring economic benefits to Niger, Cameron, Chad and Congo Brazzaville as well.

People crowd the oceanfront area along the Galle Face green in Colombo, Sri Lanka, November 20, 2018. /VCG Photo

The Italian engineering company, Bonifica SpA has been instrumental in working out the plans for this project and is fully committed to it. In 2017 Bonifica and Powerchina entered an agreement for the joint development of the project. China, with its own extensive south-to-north water diversion project, possesses a good deal of expertise in dealing with such a project. Such collaboration also fits in nicely with the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), which has received strong support from the Italian government. The Transaqua project developed by Bonifica has in part been developed by PowerChina.

Representatives from both Bonifica and PowerChina were invited in 2018 as speakers at the International Conference on Lake Chad, in Abuja, sponsored by the Government of Nigeria. The final declaration of the conference stated that Lake Chad needs to be saved and that its current situation demands immediate action. The Italian government at the time pledged 1.5 million Euros (1.7 million U.S. dollars) to start the Transaqua feasibility study.

The expansion of the BRI to Africa has kindled new hope in a continent that had virtually been abandoned by the West in terms of large development projects. The Mombasa-Nairobi railway, the Nigerian coastal railway, the Chad-Sudan railway, the Port Sudan-Khartoum railway have already provided the template for industrializing the entire African continent.

President of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Peter Maurer attends the Oslo Humanitarian Conference on Nigeria and the Lake Chad Region in Oslo, Norway, February 24, 2017. /VCG Photo

While China has been ground-breaking in returning to the long-awaited – and much-delayed – project of African industrialization, the enormity of the project is of such a magnitude, that China alone cannot do it.  But the BRI opens the possibility of working together with other Western nations in realizing this goal. And the cooperation with Italy on the Lake Chad project can serve as a paradigm for how the BRI must work.

While some Western nations are trying to depict the BRI as a geopolitical “ploy” by China, anyone looking at the effect of the project on the recipient countries will see the falsehood of these claims. As Abraham Lincoln famously said, “You can’t fool all the people all the time.” And to the extent that countries overcome their fears and begin to work with the BRI and contribute their strength to developing other countries, they will better understand the importance of the project and its more profound implications for global development.

China has made great gains in reversing the effects of desertification by means of their water diversion projects, their reforestation efforts and their irrigation projects. If some of this know-how were to be applied in Africa, it would help turn the devastated Sahel region into a veritable garden, which it once was. And the lessons learned can be used on a broader scale to change the nature of life on this planet – for all its people.

*Lawrence Freeman has been an advocate of the Transaqua inter-basin water transfer project for over two decades. I am the Vice Chairman of the International Scientific Advisory Committee to the Lake Chad Basin Commission