Thursday, May 24, 2018

African Debt and China

International Policy Digest posted on 18 May 2018 a commentary titled "In Africa, Chinese Largesse Comes at a Price" by Max Wirtz, a German national living in Switzerland.

This is one of the growing number of commentaries warning about increasing African debt, in this case debt owed to China. China has become at 14 percent the single largest source of bilateral debt contracted by countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, excluding South Africa. Of course, this means 86 percent of the debt comes from other sources. The author looks particularly at debt issues confronting Angola, Kenya, and Djibouti.

This piece should be read in tandem with a Brookings assessment dated 11 January 2018 titled "China and Africa: Crouching Lion, Retreating Dragon?" by Wenjie Chen and Roger Nord, both with the IMF.

Burkina Faso Breaks Ties with Taiwan Leaving only Swaziland in Africa

Reuters published on 24 May 2018 an article titled "Taiwan Loses Second Ally in a Month Amid China Pressure" by Thiam Ndiaga and Jess Macy Yu.

Burkina Faso announced on 24 May that it had cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan, leaving Swaziland as the only country in Africa that still recognizes Taiwan. This move is not unexpected. China's trade with Burkina Faso has been much greater than Taiwan's for many years. Burkina Faso recognized China from 1973 until 1994, when it broke relations with Beijing and recognized Taipei. The government of Burkina Faso has not yet announced recognition of China, but will almost certainly do so soon.

Improving Security in the Western Indian Ocean

The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) published on 23 May 2018 an analysis titled "From Djibouti to Jeddah, the Western Indian Ocean Needs Security" by Christian Bueger, Cardiff University, and Timothy Walker, ISS.

Twenty littoral countries in southern and eastern Africa and the Arabian Peninsula adopted in 2009 the original Djibouti Code of Conduct that deals with maritime security threats. In 2017, they added the Jeddah Amendments. The guidelines now cover piracy, trafficking of arms and narcotics, illegal wildlife trade, illegal oil bunkering and theft, human trafficking and smuggling, and the illegal dumping of toxic waste. The issue now is how to move from declarations of intent to effective action. In addition, three key states--India, Pakistan and Iran--are not members of the amended Djibouti Code of Conduct.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

A Strange Alliance: Russia and the Central African Republic

Defense One posted on 22 May 2018 an article titled "Russia is Back in Africa -- And Making Some Very Odd Deals" by Marcel Plichta, University of Glasgow.

The posting describes Russia's military support for the government of the Central African Republic (CAR) and its contact with rebel leaders in the country. Russia has had limited involvement in Africa in recent years; focusing on the troubled CAR seems a strange choice. The author concludes that whatever Moscow's endgame might be, capitalizing on the CAR's insecurity and the international community's inaction is giving Russia unprecedented influence in a country traditionally aligned with the West.

African Debt a Growing Problem But Not a Crisis

Project Syndicate published on 23 May 2018 an analysis titled "The Debt Challenge to African Growth" by Abebe Aemro Selassie, International Monetary Fund.

Much of the commentary on African debt recently has been hyperbolic, but there is a growing problem. Sub-Saharan Africa is confronting a pronounced rise in public debt. At the end of 2017, average public debt in the region was 57% of its GDP, an increase of 20 percentage points in just five years. Six of the region's 35 low-income countries (LICs) are in "debt distress," meaning they are unable to service external commitments. A further nine LICs are classified as being at "high risk of debt distress."

The author argues that if Sub-Saharan Africa is to take full advantage of the current global economic upswing, policymakers must tackle public-debt vulnerabilities head-on while they can. Doing nothing will only constrain the region's potential to achieve sustainable and inclusive growth.

South Sudan and Role of Customary Authority in Conflict

The Rift Valley Institute published in 2018 a study titled "Politics, Power and Chiefship in Famine and War: A Study of the Former Northern Bahr el-Ghazal State, South Sudan" by Nicki Kindersley.

Former Northern Bahr el Ghazal State has been deeply affected by and embedded in South Sudan's civil war. This study looks at how customary authorities on South Sudan's border with southern Darfur have managed repeated wars and famines since the 1960s. It sets out chiefs' and elders' experience of negotiating with successive states, rebel movements and local militias during times of famine, flight and fighting. It concludes that chiefs and other customary authorities are a fundamental part of the political-military structures of power in South Sudan.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Five Second Tier Non-Western External Actors in Africa

This is a brief comparison of five second tier non-Western external actors in Africa: India, Brazil, Russia, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia. It compares their trade, aid, investment, peacekeeping, and security relationships. My definition of first tier countries engaged with Africa includes the United States, China, France and perhaps the UK.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Russia Works to Step Up Relations with Africa

Eurasia Review posted on 21 May 2018 an article titled "St. Petersburg Important Event for Networking, Exploring Possibilities in Africa" by Kester Kenn Klomegah, a Ghanaian journalist.

Russian influence in Africa, despite several efforts towards resuscitation, remains marginal. The St. Petersburg International Economic Forum taking place from 24-26 May aims to reverse this trend according to the author.

Friday, May 18, 2018

India in the Western Indian Ocean

The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative published on 20 April 2018 an analysis titled "Islands as Game Changers in the Indian Ocean" by Darshana M. Baruah, research analyst at Carnegie India.

The author concludes that although India has traditional ties with most of the island states in the Indian Ocean region, it has failed to leverage its strategic advantages. India's military strengths lie in the northern and eastern Indian Ocean; it has operational limitations in the western Indian Ocean where it is trying to improve its position in Seychelles and Mauritius.

Kenya Concerned about Trade with China

Kenya's Business Daily published on 15 May 2018 an article titled "Kenya Rejects China-EAC Trade Pact" by Boniface Otieno.

Kenya's long-standing and large trade deficit with China was highlighted when Kenya announced that it will not sign a free trade agreement with China that has been under negotiation with the East African Community (EAC) since 2016. The decision is intended to protect Kenya's nascent manufacturing sector from being overrun by China's cheaper and more efficient producers.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

China's Just Another Great Power in Africa

The East Asia Forum posted on 17 May 2018 my brief commentary titled "China's Just Another Great Power in Africa."

It looks at the aid, trade, investment and security relationships between Africa and Western countries and Africa and China, concluding that they all are pursuing their own interests in similar ways. In fact, a lot of the recent commentary on China-Africa relations is engaging in hyperbole.

Ethiopia: History, Religion and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed

Pambuzuka News published on 15 May 2018 an analysis titled "Dr. Abiy Ahmed's Ethiopia: Anatomy of an African Enigmatic Polity" by Odomaro Mubangizi, dean of the Department of Philosophy at the Institute of Philosophy and Theology.

The author, whose analysis draws extensively on Ethiopia's history and religious diversity, concludes that Ethiopia remains an enigmatic polity that defies clear-cut categorization. He adds that Ethiopia has great potential and its new Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, has come at the right time when the country needs fresh insights to propel it into the middle income category by 2025.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

China-DRC: Resource-for-Infrastructure Deal

The China-Africa Research Initiative (CARI) at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies published in May 2018 a study titled "The Risks and Rewards of Resource-for-Infrastructure Deals: Lessons from the Congo's Sicomines Agreement" by David G. Landry, researcher and consultant.

The Sicomines resource-for-infrastructure agreement signed by the Democratic Republic of the Congo and China in 2007 outlined a mammoth deal worth over $9 billion. It was subsequently scaled back considerably but has remained highly contentious. This paper explores the agreement and highlights the role risk has played from its inception until now. The author concludes that the deal has become much less lucrative for China, largely due to the downward reevaluation of the copper mine's estimated deposits, the downward spiral in copper prices, the the delays and setbacks that have plagued the operations.

CARI also published a policy brief with the same title.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

China and the West in Africa

China Global Television Network America ran on 9 May 2018 a half hour program with a panel of experts titled "The Heat: China and the West in Africa."

The international panel discussed trade, investment, debt, aid, infrastructure, the Belt and Road Initiative, and whether China is or is not engaged in neo-colonialism.

The Ethiopia-Djibouti Railway

The Guardian published on 14 May 2018 an article titled "In Ethiopia's Bushlands, Promised Riches of a Railway Boom Turn to Dust" by Tom Gardner, Addis Ababa correspondent for The Economist, and Charlie Rosser, filmmaker and photographer.

China financed and built the standard guage railway between Addis Ababa and Djibouti. The Chinese Railway Construction Corporation hired more than 20,000 Ethiopians and 5,000 Djiboutians during the construction process. China will manage the railway for 5 years. Ethiopia and Djibouti are expected to repay China for the cost of the original loan and management contract. The authors conclude the lesson of the railway is that top-down development breeds special resentment when grand promises are perceived to have been broken.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Djibouti: Interview with President Guelleh (in French)

Jeune Afrique published on 25 April 2018 a wide ranging interview with the President of Djibouti titled "Ismail Omar Guelleh: Djibouti n'est pas a vendre."

The interview includes a discussion of the US, French, Chinese, and Japanese military bases in Djibouti and the rent each country pays. When Russia and India also requested permission to establish a base in Djibouti, the President responded "no" there are already enough.

US Fed Up with South Sudan, Which Praises Chinese Companies

The White House press secretary released on 8 May 2018 a tough statement on South Sudan, which stated the United States "will not continue in a partnership with leaders who are only interested in perpetuating an endless war characterized by ethnically-motivated atrocities." The US has initiated a comprehensive review of its assistance programs to South Sudan.

Coincidentally, the Oil Review reported on 10 May 2018 a statement made that day by South Sudan's oil minister praising the Chinese National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), which does not ask "how is the political situation?" but unlike western companies is only interested in doing business.

Turkey Competes with China in Africa

Nikkei Asian Review published on 12 May 2018 an article titled "Turkey Jockeys with China for Influence in Africa" by Akihiro Sano.

The article concludes that while Turkey cannot match China's financial muscle in Africa, it does offer an alternative to China, particularly construction of large infrastructure projects.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Saudi Arabia Supplies Oil to Sudan

News 24 published on 8 May 2018 an article titled "Saudi To Supply Oil To Fuel-Starved Sudan, Oil Minister Says."

Saudi Arabia will supply once oil-exporting Sudan with millions of tons of oil for the next five years. Sudan lost 75 percent of its oil producing fields with the independence of South Sudan.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

US Charges China Using Laser Beams against Pilots in Djibouti

CNN posted on 4 May 2018 a report titled "Chinese Lasers Injure US Military Pilots in Africa, Pentagon Says" by Ryan Browne.

The article reported that the US has formally protested the use of military grade laser beams by China against American pilots flying in and out of its military base in Djibouti. China also has a military base in Djibouti.

The Diplomat posted on 10 May 2018 an updated account titled "Why Is China Attacking US Aircraft?" by Ben Lowsen.

Africans Moving from China to Vietnam?

VN Express International published on 8 May 2018 an article titled "Rising Costs in China Make African Entrepreneurs Look To Vietnam" by Mi Na.

The number of Africans living in Guangzhou, China, has been dropping due to the rising cost of living and visa issues. Some are looking to move to markets in Vietnam, India, and Cambodia.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Ethiopians Riding Wave of Hope

The Washington Post published on 6 May 2018 an article titled "After Years of Unrest, Ethiopians Are Riding an Unlikely Wave of Hope. Will It Last?" by Paul Schemm.

The author argues that new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has ushered in an unlikely wave of hope and even optimism for a country that serves as a linchpin for stability in East Africa.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

The Gulf Crisis and Somalia

The Institute for Defense Analyses published on 3 May 2018 an analysis titled "The Gulf Crisis Comes to Somalia" by Sarah Constantine.

The author concludes that the Gulf crisis has challenged Somalia by highlighting how unprepared the government is to take on the basic tasks of governing. Somalia's ability to build a responsive national government appears increasingly distant.

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Somalia-UAE Diplomatic Dispute and AMISOM

The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) published on 2 May 2018 a commentary titled "How Will the Somalia-UAE Diplomatic Row Affect AMISOM?" by Meressa K. Dessu, ISS Addis Ababa.

The author concluded that the diplomatic dispute between Somalia and the United Arab Emirates will have a multifaceted impact on AMISOM being able to exist as planned.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Somaliland between Democracy and Prosperty

The Daily Maverick published on 13 March 2018 an oped titled "Somaliland -- between Democracy and Prosperity" by Greg Mills and Jaco-Louis du Plessis, both of the Brenthurst Foundation.

The authors argue that democracy helps keeps things together in Somaliland, and radicalism in check. Nevertheless, Islamic radicalism is an attractive alternative for some.