Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Tripartite Blue Nile Dam Talks

The Middle East Institute published on 21 January 2020 a brief update titled "There's Still a Long Way to Go, but Nile Dam Talks Are Finally Making Some Progress" by Mirette F. Mabrouk.

Washington hosted in mid-January officials from Ethiopia, Egypt, and Sudan in an effort to resolve issues surrounding the filling of the reservoir behind the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile River. The three parties agreed that filling of the reservoir would occur over stages and take into account the hydrological conditions of the Nile, that it would take place during the rainy season, and that it would address Ethiopia's electricity generation needs while providing for mitigation avenues for Egypt and Sudan in times of prolonged dry spells or drought. The final talks are scheduled for 28-29 January in Washington. As usual, the devil is in the details.

Ethiopia: Somali Region Charges Underrepresentation and Discrimination

Ethiopia Insight published on 21 January 2020 a commentary titled "Democratic Reform Must Mean Fair Deal for Long-suffering Somalis" by Mohamed Olad, advisor to the president of Somali Region.

The author makes the argument that the people of Somali Region are underrepresented in Ethiopia's House of Federation. He adds that this is just the tip of the iceberg of systematic discrimination that Somalis have endured over the last century.

China in the Middle East

The Center for Strategic and International Studies just posted an excellent 20 minute podcast titled "China in the Middle East: Part One" narrated by Jon Alterman and including remarks by several China-Middle East experts.

The podcast concludes that China is not interested in kinetic military engagement or great power competition with the United States in the Middle East. China's focus is on expanding its economic interests. The commentary in the podcast provides a useful juxtaposition vis-à-vis China's engagement in Africa.

Debate Over US Military Drawdown in Africa

The Washington Post posted on 20 January 2020 an article titled "Pressure Builds against the Pentagon as It Weighs Reducing Troop Numbers in Africa" by Dan Lamothe and Danielle Paquette.

There is growing bipartisan opposition in the U.S. Congress to the Trump administration's proposal to reduce U.S. troop levels in Africa from their current level of more than 6,000. There is concern this is not the time to reduce troop numbers as China and Russia ramp up their engagement in Africa.

Almost on cue, the Military Times published a story titled "How AFRICOM Plans to Counter Russian, Chinese Influence in Africa" by Diana Stancy Correll.

U.S. AFRICOM's approach to the continent is to become the "partner of choice" by helping to build African capacity. Russia and China are more focused on arms sales.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Podcast on East Africa and Horn

The International Crisis Group recently posted a 23 minute podcast titled "East Africa in 2020" with Murithi Mutiga, Crisis Group's project director for East Africa, and Alan Boswell, senior analyst for South Sudan.

They discuss the situation in Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, South Sudan, Nile water allocation, the Kenya-Somalia maritime dispute, relations with Gulf states and major powers, and elections in Tanzania.

Chinese Contractor Delays Construction on Kenya's Lamu Port

The Star (Kenya) published on 17 January 2020 an article titled "Terrorism Fears, Late Payment Delay Lamu Port Construction" by Martin Mwita.

China Communication Construction Company has delayed work on its port project in Lamu, Kenya because of late payments by the government of Kenya and a terrorist attack by al-Shabaab at nearby Camp Simba, a military base used by both Kenyan and American forces.

China-Africa Trade Increases in 2019, But Slowly

The South China Morning Post published on 18 January 2020 an article titled "China's Trade with Africa Grows 2.2 Per Cent in 2019 to US$208 Billion" by Jevans Nyabiage.

Total China-Africa trade grew by 2.2 percent in 2019 to almost US$209 billion, compared with a 20 percent rise in 2018, according to official figures from China's General Administration of Customs. While the dollar value of China-Africa trade is on the rise again, it has still not returned to the high of $215 billion reached in 2014.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Airstrikes in Somalia Not Stopping Al-Shabaab

The Washington Post posted on 15 January 2020 an article titled "2019 Saw Record U.S. Airstrikes in Somalia. Why Is Al-Shabab Surging?" by Max Bearak.

Larger numbers of U.S. drone strikes against al-Shabaab in Somalia in 2019 did not stop the terrorist organization from carrying out a record number of attacks against civilians.

China-Africa Critical Issues 2020

The ChinAfrica Project has just published "The 2020 China-Africa Critical Issues Guide: A Practical Guide to 10 Important Trends that Will Shape China-Africa Relations in 2020" by Eric Olander and Cobus van Staden.

The issues are:

1. China's New "Twitplomacy" in Africa.
2. Chinese Tech Reaches Critical Mass in Africa.
3. A New Approach to Chinese Debt Financing.
4. The Emergence of Chinese-financed Railways in Africa.
5. Africa's Precarious Position between the U.S. and China.
6. Why Africa Matters to China.
7. China Finally Makes West Africa a Priority.
8. The Rise of Chinese Private Sector Investment in Africa.
9. China Finances Both Clean and Dirty Energy in Africa.
10. Protecting Chinese People and Property in Africa.

Rebuilding Sudan's Health System

The Lancet published on 18 January 2020 an article titled "Rebuilding Sudan's Health System: Opportunities and Challenges" by George Wharton, Omar E. Ali, Siddiq Khalil, Hatim Yagoub, and Elias Mossialos.

The new government in Sudan has inherited a health system that is ill-equipped to respond to growing and neglected needs, including depletion of medical staff following a brain drain. The authors argue the obvious solution is the introduction of a single-payer national health service.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

China's Bauxite Deal with Ghana Encounters Environmental Opposition

Peace FM Online posted on 15 January 2020 an article titled "A Rocha Ghana, 20 CSOs Sue Ghana Gov't over Atewa Bauxite Mining."

The government of Ghana entered into a barter agreement with China to mine Ghana's bauxite in the Atewa forest reserve in exchange for $2 billion in infrastructure development. An environmental protection group, A Rocha Ghana, and 20 civil society groups have sued the government of Ghana in an attempt to stop it from allowing the Atewa forest reserve to be mined for bauxite.

Beijing's Global Megaphone

Freedom House published in January 2020 a report titled "Beijing's Global Megaphone: The Expansion of Chinese Communist Party Media Influence since 2017" by Sarah Cook.

The study looks at China's global state media outreach, which has accelerated since 2017 and deployed new tactics. It reflects how the Communist Party of China is working in influence public opinion globally. There are numerous examples of its efforts in Africa.

Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Eritrea's Suffering Female National Service Conscripts

Ethiopia Insight published on 15 January 2020 an article titled "No Peace for Eritrea's Long-suffering Female Conscripts" by Hiba Said, Ethiopia Insight editor.

Eritrea has a National Service that requires men and women to join. It is believed to be the single most important reason why Eritrea ranks ninth in the world as a country of origin for refugees. An estimated 12 percent of Eritrea's population has fled the country. According to the author, the National Service has become especially abusive for Eritrean women.

China and Other Emerging Players in Africa

Brookings published on 14 January 2020 an analysis titled "Unpacking the Engagement of Nontraditional Actors in Africa: China and Other Emerging Players" by Yun Sun.

The author looks at the recent engagement in Africa of China, India, Russia, Turkey, UAE, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar.

China-Mediterranean Relations

The ChinaMed Report 2019 edited by Enrico Fardella and Andrea Ghiselli is available on-line.

It contains the following contributions concerning Africa:

--The Belt and Road Initiative: A View from Morocco by Mostafa Rezrazi, Policy Center for the New South
--The One Belt One Road: A Framework for Egyptian-Chinese Strategic Partnership by Mohamed Fayez Farahat, Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies
--A Glimpse View on China-Ethiopia Relations in Recent Times by Maadin Sahleselassie Gessese, Ministry of Finance and Economic Cooperation

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

US International Development Finance Corporation vs China

The Financial Times published on 23 December 2019 an article titled "China's $1.3tn Global Spending Spree Will Collapse, Says Top US Official" by James Politi and Demetri Sevastopulo.

The article notes that Adam Boehler, the new chief executive of the US International Development Finance Corporation, which replaces the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, said that China's international investments were "100 per cent" like a house of cards because of "debt overload, poor infrastructure, bribes [and] lack of transparency." Boehler added "we have to be there as an alternative because I could see China take down a whole bunch of emerging countries . . . there will be more and more cracks and then the glass will break."


Some unsolicited advice for Mr. Boehler and the International Development Finance Corporation: Get your own house in order and leave the criticism of Chinese financing to others. There are legitimate criticisms of China's approach to finance, but the sky is not falling.

China in Africa: Security Implications

The American Foreign Policy Council published in December 2019 its Defense Dossier, which contains a short piece I did on China in Africa. The focus is on security implications for Africa, China, and the United States.

This issue of Defense Dossier contains the following additional contributions:

The Kremlin Eyes Africa by Greg Mills and Jaco-Louis du Plessis
The Challenge of North African Salafism by Emily Estelle
The Promise and Peril of Africa's Cities by Jacob McCarty
Competing for Africa: A Strategy for Partnerships against Predators by Blaise Misztal

Monday, January 13, 2020

China-Zimbabwe Relations

The South China Morning Post published on 13 January 2020 an article titled "China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi Backs Call to Lift Sanctions on Zimbabwe" by Jevans Nyabiage.

During a visit to Zimbabwe, China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi called on the US and the EU to lift sanctions against Zimbabwe as soon as possible.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Chinese Demand for Gelatin Threatens African Donkey Population

The Washington Post published on 11 January 2020 an article titled "Chinese Demand Is Fueling Donkey Theft and Stressing Out Farmers in Ghana" by Danielle Paquette and Maxwell Suuk.

High Chinese demand for donkey hides used to make gelatin is decimating the donkey population in some African countries and resulting in donkey theft because of the money that can be made from donkey skins.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

China Reshapes International Development Assistance

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace published on 8 January 2020 a Q & A titled "How China Is Reshaping International Development" with Matt Ferchen, Mercator Institute for China Studies.

About half of China's global aid (but not concessional loans) goes to Africa. The author believes that China's new development agency is unlikely to change China's often self-serving commerce as development approach to its aid program. Nor has the Belt and Road Initiaitive (BRI) fundamentally altered China's development-themed approach to foreign economic policy. China was promoting loans-for-infrastructure deals in Africa and elsewhere well before it announced BRI in 2013.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

EU Funding To Keep Eritreans in Eritrea

The New York Times published on 8 January 2020 an article titled "How Forced Labor in Eritrea Is Linked to E.U.-Funded Projects" by Matina Stevis-Gridneff.

The European Union is funding projects in Eritrea designed to improve the economy and create jobs so that Eritreans do not seek asylum in Europe. The problem is that the projects rely on labor from Eritrea's National Service, which constitutes conscript labor. This has outraged human rights organizations.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Is China Changing Its Approach to African Markets? (in French)

Thierry Pairault, director of research emeritus at CNRS, posted on 29 December 2019 a paper titled "La COIDIC: signe d'une nouvelle strategie." It includes a translation from Chinese of a press release from the Ministry of Commerce on what could constitute an evolution in the approach to the African market by Chinese service providers. The pretext for this press release is the agreement reached in Guinea between the Administration of Control of Major Projects and Public Procurement and a Chinese investment fund, China Overseas Infrastructure Development and Investment Corporation (COIDIC).

Chinese Rocket, Ethiopian Satellite

Space in Africa reported on Ethiopia's new satellite in an article dated 6 January 2020 and titled "ETRSS-1 Captures First Test Images" by Ogechi Onuoha.

On 20 December 2019, a Chinese Long March 4B rocket launched a 70 kilogram Ethiopian civil earth observation satellite to provide data to monitor the environment and study weather patterns. The first test images are now arriving.

AFP ran a story dated 2 January 2020 titled "No, It Is a Chinese Rocket Doctored with the Ethiopian Flag." It seems that social media has been carrying pictures of a Chinese rocket doctored with the Ethiopian flag and logo, suggesting that an Ethiopian rocket launched the satellite. Although probably all in good fun, it was a Chinese rocket.

Monday, January 6, 2020

Kenya's Chinese-financed and Built Standard Gauge Railway

Kenya's Daily Nation published a two-part series titled "The Future of State Capture: Lessons from the Standard Gauge Railway" by Luis Franceschi, the founding dean of Strathmore Law School, and several others. Part I appeared on 20 December 2019 and Part II appeared on December 29, 2019.

The authors conclude that while the Chinese-financed and built standard gauge railway will produce benefits for Kenya, the question now is whether the cost will outweigh the benefits. The operational capacity of the railway is currently less than half of that projected.

Al-Shabaab Attacks Kenyan Military Base

The New York Times published on 5 January 2020 an article titled "3 Americans Die in Shabab Attack on Kenyan Base" by Eric Schmitt and Thomas Gibbons-Neff.

An American soldier and two American military contractors died in an attack on 5 January 2020 on Kenya's military base at Manda Bay near the border with Somalia. The Americans were training Kenyan special forces. Al-Shabaab has taken responsibility for the attack.