Friday, March 27, 2015

Grand Renaissance Dam: Ethiopia, Egypt and Sudan

Foreign Policy published on 27 March 2015 a commentary titled "A Ray of Light for Africa's Dam of Discord" by Keith Johnson.  The author suggests that recent talks among the leaders of Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan on the Grand Renaissance Dam may allow Ethiopia and Egypt to pursue a more productive relationship, at least as far as security is concerned. 

Chinese Foreign Policy Comes of Age

The New York Times published on 26 March 2015 an op-ed titled "Chinese Foreign Policy Comes of Age" by Andrew Small, German Marshall Fund of the United States.  Small concludes that Beijing, long content to sit on the sidelines of security issues beyond its borders, has finally come to see inaction as an even greater risk.  He also applies this new Chinese approach to recent developments in Africa.

Interview with Chinese Specialist on China-Africa

The Diplomat carried on 17 March 2015 an interview with Tang Xiaoyang, a specialist on China-Africa relations, resident scholar at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center, and associate professor at Tsinghua University.  He is the author of a Chinese-language book China-Africa Economic Diplomacy and What It Reveals about the Global Supply Chain

Outsider's Role in Fixing Somalia

The South African Brenthurst Foundation published in January 2015 a discussion paper titled "Less is More? The Role of Outsiders in 'Fixing' Somalia" by Dickie Davis, a retired major general in the British Army, and Greg Mills, Brenthurst Foundation.

The study focuses on the reasons why Somalia might finally break from its deeply troubled past to chart a new course.  The role of the international community needs to remain one of careful and realistic engagement, not prodding and grand schemes.  Less can be more. 

Turkey's Focus on Somalia

Daily Sabah published on 22 March 2015 a summary titled "Turkish Model in Somalia Focus of Daily Sabah's London Panel" of a discussion on Turkey-Somalia relations held at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London.

The panelists commented that Turkey is especially appreciated in Somalia because its involvement is based on business and not counterterrorism or engagement in local politics.  Turkey also takes risks that other countries are unwilling to take.  Finally, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has taken a personal interest in the relationship. 

The Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research published in October 2014 a major study titled "Turkey's Involvement in Somalia: Assessment of a State-Building in Progress" by Mehmet Ozkan, who described Somalia as "a novelty" in Turkish foreign policy. 

China's Arms Trade with Africa

The Berlin-based DW Journal News published on 16 March 2015 a brief interview titled "SIPRI: China's Arms Trade with Africa at Times Questionable" with Pieter Wezemann, senior researcher at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).  The interview identifies some of the issues related to China's arms transfers to Africa. 

Financing African Infrastructure

Brookings published in March 2015 a major report titled "Financing African Infrastructure: Can the World Deliver?" by Jeffrey Gutman, Amadou Sy, and Soumya Chattopadhyay, all at Brookings. 

The report begins with the premise that nowhere is lack of infrastructure more crucial and potentially transformational than in sub-Saharan Africa.  The three major sources of external financing are: private participation in infrastructure investments; official development finance from multilateral institutions and most of the OECD-DAC donors; and official Chinese financing.  The top recipients in sub-Saharan Africa of external financing in 2009-2012 were South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, and Ethiopia.

This report offers recommendations on how to better exploit the political, technical, and financial synergies needed to address the infrastructure gap.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Chinese Agricultural Engagement in Angola

The China Africa Research Initiative at the School of Advanced International Studies in Washington published in March 2015 a policy brief titled "Neither 'Friendship Farm' nor 'Land Grab': Chinese Agricultural Engagement in Angola" by Zhou Jinyan, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

The author traces the development of Chinese agricultural investment in Angola and assesses its current state.  After conducting research on the six Chinese-run farms she questions both the "land grab" narrative as well as the long-term sustainability of these projects. 

Chinese Investment in Southern Africa's Cotton Sector

The China-Africa Research Initiative at the School for Advanced International Studies in Washington published in  February 2015 a policy brief titled "Assessing the Impact of Chinese Investment on Southeast Africa's Cotton: Moving up the Value Chain?" by Tang Xiaoyang, Tsinghua University. 

By analyzing the effects of Chinese investment on the cotton sector in southern Africa, the author identifies challenges and opportunities for the future of the textile industry in Africa.  While cheap textile imports from Asia have undermined manufacturing in southern Africa, investment from Asia may provide an opportunity for growth. 

Kenyan Politics Don't Seem to Change

The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) published on 24 March a commentary titled "Kenyan Political Leadership: The More Things Change . . ." by Sebastian Gatimu and David Wamugo Wagacha, both with ISS Nairobi. 

The authors concluded that the post-2010 political leadership in Kenya has been unable to adapt to the devolved system of governance, which calls for transparency and accountability.  Instead, leaders continue to engage in a way that is combative and confrontational, punctuated with negative political posturing. 

Will Sudan's Elections Derail National Dialogue?

The Institute for Security Studies in South Africa published on 26 March 2015 a commentary titled "Navigating a Bump in the Road: Will Sudan's Elections Derail National Dialogue?" by Peter Fabricius, foreign editor of South Africa's Independent Newspapers.  Fabricius offers a fairly negative account for Sudan's political prospects.

Power and Influence in Africa: Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and South Africa

The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in Pretoria published in March 2015 a study titled "Power and Influence in Africa: Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Nigeria and South Africa" by Jakkie Cilliers, Julia Schunemann, and Jonathan D. Moyer, all of ISS. 

The authors looked at Africa's "big five" over the next 25 years: Algeria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and South Africa on the basis that they potentially hold the greatest amount of power in Africa.  Collectively, they represent 60 percent of the African economy, 40 percent of Africa's population, and 58 percent of the the continent's military spending.  By 2040, Africa's total relative power is forecast to surpass that of the declining European Union and the United States.  At the same time, Africa will likely remain at the margins of global power because it does not speak with one voice or act in unison.  Nigeria and Ethiopia are expected to grow considerably in the next 25 years while Egypt, South Africa, and Algeria are forecast to remain stagnant or experience a slight decline. 

ISS published on 25 March 2015 a summary of the report titled "Africa and Global Power: On the Rise, but at the Margins."

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Private Investors Pile into Africa

CNBC published on 17 March 2015 a nice summary titled "Private Investors Pile into Africa" by Lawrence Delevingne.  Drawing on data produced by the London-based African Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (AVCA), the author notes that private equity firms invested $8.1 billion in African companies in 2014.  US equity firms are the largest investors.  Nigeria is the largest recipient at 25 percent of the African total followed by South Africa with 24 percent.  Much of the investment is going into telecommunications.  AVCA tracks the investment at its "African Private Equity Data Tracker."  

The Indian Ocean: India and the Maritime Silk Road

The Diplomat published on 23 March 2015 an analysis titled "Narendra Modi's Active Indian Ocean Diplomacy" by SK Chatterji, a retired brigadier in the Indian Army.  Due in part to China's Maritime Silk Road project, the author said that India is now ready to discharge its responsibilities in the Indian Ocean area, proactively.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Role for Women in South Sudan Peace Process

The Guardian published on 23 February 2015 a commentary titled "The Voice of South Sudan's Women Must Be Heard to Give Peace a Chance" by Leymah Gbowee.  The article points out that when women are an important part of the peace process, agreements are more likely to hold up.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

American Jihadis

The New York Times published on 21 March 2015 an article titled "From Minneapolis to ISIS: An American's Path to Jihad" by Scott Shane.  The focus of the article is a young Somali-American who made his way from a seemingly normal life in Minneapolis to the Islamic State in Syria.  The article underscores the small number of Americans from various parts of the United States who have followed this route, but suggests Minneapolis has been ground zero for this kind of activity.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

China Becomes Third Largest Arms Exporter

China is now the third-largest exporter of arms after Russia and the United States.  In 2014, China passed France and Germany as major exporters.

A fact sheet prepared by Pieter D. Wezeman and Siemon T. Wezeman at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute in March 2015 titled "Trends in International Arms Transfers, 2014" summarizes the role of key arms exporters and contains a section on African arms imports. 

Friday, March 20, 2015

Cautious Optimism about Somalia

The Brenthurst Foundation in South Africa recently reprinted an article that appeared originally on 27 January 2015 in the Daily Maverick titled "Somalia: A Case for (Very) Cautious Optimism" by Greg Mills, The Brenthurst Foundation, and Dickie Davis, a retired major general in the British Army.  Their report is based on a visit to Somalia.

This is a good summary of the situation in Somalia by two seasoned and knowledgeable observers.  Overall, they conclude that trends in Somalia show some cause for optimism.  On the downside, the state operates as a clan-based mafia, where entwined business and political interests feed off each other.  The big test on the horizon is whether Somalia can agree on a new constitution and then find a solution for a successful 2016 election without slipping backwards, possibly into more violence. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

China-Zimbabwe Relations

The South African Institute for International Affairs published in November 2014 a study titled "China-Zimbabwe Relations: A Model of China-Africa Relations?" by Zhang Chun, Shanghai Institutes for International Studies.  The paper argues that the China-Zimbabwe relationship is a possible model for China-Africa relations as a whole. 

Options for Peace in South Sudan

The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) published in March 2015 a report titled "Reviewing Options for Peace in South Sudan" by Emmanuel Kisiangani, senior researcher at ISS. 

The report describes the forces driving the violence in South Sudan and explores how these forces might interact to influence the country's short- and medium-term future.  The author concludes that continuing violence erodes the country's capital, aggravates structural problems and polarizes the population.  When viewed against the backdrop of South Sudan's history, prospects for durable peace appear far off.

African Economies and the Future

This Is Africa, supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, recently published a series of brief commentaries titled "Building Inclusive Economies: Can Africa Bridge the Development Divide?" by a number of experts.  They provide some insightful comments on the future of African economies.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

What China's Economic Shift Means for Africa

The World Economic Forum published on 11 March 2015 an analysis titled "What China's Economic Shift Means for Africa" by Martyn Davies, CEO for Frontier Advisory in South Africa.

Davies suggests that as China's strategy towards Africa matures, so too must Africa's strategy towards China.   Beijing is no longer just an actor in Africa's resources sector, but is broadening the scope of its commercial interests in Africa.  African governments need to respond accordingly and be  more agile in their policy-making vis-a-vis China's engagement.  China's foreign policy towards the continent under President Xi Jinping will need to balance its growing commercial interests while having to accommodate a changing and more assertive Africa. 

China's Maritime Silk Road and Africa

The Asia-Pacific Journal published on 16 March 2015 an analysis titled "Africa and China's 21st Century Maritime Silk Road" by Alvin Cheng-Hin Lim, a research fellow with the Longus Institute for Development and Strategy.

The author argues the Maritime Silk Road promises an intensification of Chinese investment in African infrastructure and should be seen as one of China's new engines of growth.  He concludes that China's presence in Africa is that of a partner in economic development rather than that of an aspiring neocolonial hegemon. 

China's Interest in and Strategy towards Africa

The Italian publication Italianieuropei published in March 2015 an article in Italian titled "Pechino in Africa: prove di soft power" that I wrote for the journal.  It is an overview of the China-Africa relationship.  It was written originally in English.

Monday, March 16, 2015

African Construction Trends Report 2014

The private American company, Deloitte, published in 2015 its "African Construction Trends Report 2014".  It reviews the continent by region--Southern, West, East, Central, and North--and provides brief case studies on Kenya, Nigeria, and Mozambique. 

Investment by value of mega projects under construction in Africa grew by 46 percent in 2014, climbing from $222 billion in 2013 to $326 billion in 2014.