Thursday, August 21, 2014

US versus China in Africa

The National Interest published on 17 August 2014 a commentary titled "Five Reasons Why the United States Can't Beat China in Africa" by Zachary Keck, managing editor of The Diplomat.

Unfortunately, the title of the article misses the point.  The United States is not trying to "beat" China in Africa.  There are areas of competition such as competing for contracts just as there is US competition with companies from the UK, France, and Germany.  In the final paragraph of the article, the author writes: "In sum, the U.S.-Africa Leaders summit notwithstanding, the United States cannot compete with China in Africa."  Even if you accept the premise of the article, it is silly to suggest that the United States cannot even "compete" with China.  Fortunately, the author goes on to say that the United States does not have to compete with China as the two countries' interests are not zero sum.  This should be the real point of the article. 

Going back to my problem with the title in the event you are inclined to agree that the United States must "beat" China in Africa, the data to support this case are cherry-picked.  The argument depends heavily on China's growing and America's declining trade with Africa and the fact that China has more high level visits to Africa.  These points are valid.  But there is no mention of the fact that US aid to Africa in recent years has been running at about $8 billion annually versus an estimated $2.5 billion from China.  Cumulative US investment is still larger than cumulative Chinese investment in Africa.  And whether you agree with the policies or not, the United States has a deeper security relationship with most African countries.  China has far more peacekeepers assigned to UN missions in Africa, but Washington pays about 28 percent of UN peacekeeping operations while Beijing pays only 6 percent. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Illegal Wildlife Trade in Africa

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences has just published a highly technical analysis titled "Illegal Killing for Ivory Drives Global Decline in African Elephants" by George Wittemyer and a number of other authors.  Based on a study of illegal wildlife trade in Samburu, Kenya, the study concludes that the problem increased markedly after 2008 and was correlated strongly with the local black market ivory price and increased seizures of ivory destined for China. 

Foreign Policy magazine summarized the study in an article dated 20 August 2014 titled "These Two Charts Show How China is Helping Decimate Africa's Elephants" by Elias Groll. 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

US and China Viewed Favorably in Sub-Saharn Africa

The Pew Research Center published a brief analysis on 4 August 2014 titled "U.S., China Compete to Woo Africa" by Katie Simmons, a senior researcher at the Pew Research Global Attitudes Center.  Drawing on data from Kenya, Ghana, Tanzania, Senegal, Nigeria, South Africa, and Uganda, the US and China are both viewed favorably.  The US actually does slightly better than China overall in these 7 countries.  The data also show that in 5 of the 7 countries, there is a declining belief that China's growing economy helps Africa. 

Cost of Stalemate in South Sudan Peace Process

The Juba-based Sudd Institute published on 12 August 2014 an analysis titled "South Sudan's Crisis: Weighing the Cost of the Stalemate in the Peace Process" by Jok Madut Jok.  He emphasized that the stalemate in the peace process has become costly and that the process lacks genuine intent to end the carnage as the warring parties appear fixated on political and military gains.

A "quick fix" peace agreement is not the answer.  Any peace agreement that does not commit the warring parties to programs of institutional reforms, justice and accountability, national dialogue, healing and reconciliation programs, security sector enhancements, stricter oversight of financial institutions, the constitution and democratic processes, would be the same as continuing the war.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Countering Extremism in Africa

The New York Times published on 15 August 2014 an important op-ed titled "Handmaiden to Africa's Generals" by Alex de Waal, director of the World Peace Foundation at Tufts University, and Abdul Mohammed, chairman of the InterAfrica Group in Ethiopia.  They focus especially on US policy and the situation in South Sudan and Nigeria.

I have a high regard for both authors.  They make a critically important point that the policy response to extremism and terrorism in Africa needs to focus more on addressing the root causes of the problem rather than military support for Africa's strong men.  Where I think the op-ed tends to veer off track is the implication that somehow Washington is responsible for significant fraud or the improper allocation of resources by certain African governments, even in countries where the United States provides little or no military assistance. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

South Sudan Heads towards Famine Amid Descent into Lawlessness

Inter Press Service published on 14 August 2014 an article titled "South Sudan Heads towards Famine Amid Descent into Lawlessness."  It offers a dismal prediction on the likely success of peace talks, commenting that tribal divisions are driving the conflict.  

Russia and Africa: New Engagement?

Pambazuka News published on 13 August 2014 a piece titled "Russia's Investment in Africa: New Challenges and Prospects" by Kester Kenn Klomegah, a frequent writer on Russia-Africa relations.  He notes that Russia's presence in Africa remains marginal but suggests this could soon change based on the number of African delegations that visited Russia in the first half of 2014.  One wonders, however, if Russia will not be preoccupied with the crisis in the Ukraine in the months ahead.

Reforming the Sudan People's Liberation Movement

The Institute for Security Studies published in August 2014 an analysis titled "Reforming the SPLM: A Requisite for Peace and Nation Building" by Paula Cristina Roque, a specialist on South Sudan and Angola.

The author concludes that transforming the SPLM entails ensuring that politics become demilitarized; party structures reach the grassroots; and decision-making rules and leadership succession processes are established.  The SPLM must neutralize the military legacy of being structured according to Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) seniority, demobilize private militias, and allow the SPLA to become a professional, depoliticized national army.  It also requires more political consultation.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

China-Zambia Economic Relations

The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) just published a study titled "The Developmental Implications of Sino-African Economic and Political Relations: A Preliminary Assessment for the Case of Zambia" by George Schoneveld, Laura German, and Davison Gumbo. 

The study concludes that China's investments have made a valuable contribution to Zambia's struggling economic recovery.  It did identify concerns over conflicts between Chinese companies and their employees and Chinese environmental practices in remote parts of the country. 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Border Problems in East Africa and the Horn

Foreign Policy Magazine published on 6 August 2014 an article titled "Why East Africa's Borders Are Blowing Up" by Daniel Branch and Jason Mosley.  The article links a series of local incidents and concludes that they are shaping the region's future.

Labor Relations at a Chinese Company in South Africa

The Centre for Chinese Studies (CCS) at Stellenbosch University published on 4 August 2014 a commentary titled "Has Chinese Investment Evolved?: Hisense in South Africa" by Yejoo Kim, research analyst at CCS.  The author reviews working conditions at the Chinese home appliance and electronics manufacturer, Hisense, in South Africa.  She concludes there are numerous recurring problems that will require a greater commitment by company management in future years. 

China-Africa Knowledge Gap

The Centre for Chinese Studies at Stellenbosch University published on 16 July 2014 a commentary titled "China-Africa Co-operation: A Mind Shift East" by South African Tienie Fourie.  A long-time resident in China, he looks at the lack of cultural understanding between Africans and Chinese.  He concludes there is still a long way to go before true mutual cultural acceptance can be achieved. 

China, the US and Africa: Foreign Aid Cooperation

The New York-based Asia Society published on its blog on 5 August 2014 a piece titled "China, the US, and Africa: A New Foreign Aid Triangle?" by Christina Dinh at the Asia Society Policy Institute in Washington.  The author concluded that the United States and China should increase their engagement on foreign aid for Africa. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

South Sudan's Oil War

The Turkish Anadolu News Agency published on 5 August 2014 a story titled "Outsiders Cannot Stop Oil War, Say Observers," by Selen Tonkus.  Anadolu asked for my comments on the story.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

US-Africa Summit: VOA Discussion with Cohen and Shinn

The Voice of America "Encounter" program with Carol Castiel on 8 August 2014 discussed the outcome of the US-Africa Summit with Hank Cohen, former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, and myself.  This wide ranging 30 minute radio discussion dealt with investment, aid, trade, security, Ebola, human rights, Power Africa, natural resources, the Export-Import Bank, China, and the role of the private sector. 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Reaction to US-Africa Summit

The Institute for Security Studies in South Africa published on 7 August 2014 a commentary titled "Washington Consensus: First US-Africa Summit Succeeds and More Will Likely Follow" by Peter Fabricius, foreign editor, Independent Newspapers.  This is a mostly favorable account of the US-Africa Summit in Washington. 

Expose of Secretive Hong Kong-based Queensway Group Activities in Africa

The Financial Times published on 8 August 2014 a fascinating look at the secretive Queensway Group in an article titled "China in Africa: How Sam Pa Became the Middleman" by Tom Burgis.

Sam Pa seems to have been born in China but moved as a child to Hong Kong, where his network known as the Queensway Group is based.  It has an office tower at 88 Queensway in Hong Kong.  Its primary operation in Africa is located in Angola where its China International Fund has committed billions of dollars.  It has activities in a number of other countries, including Guinea, Tanzania, Mozambique, Nigeria, and Zimbabwe.  Chinese officials deny any link with the Queensway Group, but the Financial Times investigation established that Pa and his associates have connections to powerful interests in Beijing, including Chinese intelligence and state-owned companies.  Pa's involvement in Zimbabwe has caused the U.S. Treasury Department to add him to a sanctions list. 

Eritrea: Ending the Exodus?

The International Crisis Group (ICG) published on 8 August 2014 a report titled "Eritrea: Ending the Exodus?" It deals with the growing flight from the country of mostly young people.  It reports that even the government of Eritrea has concluded, despite the side benefits, that the level of the exodus is unsustainable, not least for maintaining support from political constituencies at home and in the diaspora. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Zanzibar: A Power Sharing Success Story?

The Washington-based Institute for Defense Analysis (IDA) published in Africa Watch on 7 August 2014 a brief analysis titled "Zanzibar: A Power Sharing Success Story?" by Alexander Noyes, an adjunct research associate at IDA.  According to two recent studies, the author concludes it appears that overall the power-sharing agreement has ushered in a new, relatively peaceful era in Zanzibar's politics.

China and the US in Africa

The Biz Asia America program at CCTV asked me to comment on 6 August 2014 on the US-Africa Summit.  Most of the five minute program dealt with China and the United States in Africa.

China's Foreign Aid

Pambazuka News published on 6 August 2014 an analysis titled "China's Foreign Aid: How Big Is It and What Is Its Aim?" by Luo Jianbo, Center for African Studies at the Party School of the Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, and Zhang Xiaomin, Beijing Foreign Studies University.  The analysis contains some surprisingly frank recommendations for changing China's foreign aid policy.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Situation in Libya: Discussion with China Radio International

China Radio International broadcast on 5 August 2014 a 25 minute program on the situation in Libya.  It consists of three separate interviews with Flynt Leverett, Pennsylvania State University, Li Guofu, China Institute of International Studies, and myself.  The focus was on the effects of Western intervention in 2011 and whether Libya can extricate itself from its current troubles. 

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Syllabus for Undergraduate China-Africa Course

This syllabus for an undergraduate course on China-Africa relations in the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University may be of use to those of you thinking of teaching such a course. 

China, America, and a New Cold War in Africa?

TomDispatch published on 5 August 2014 a long analysis titled "China, America, and a New Cold War in Africa?" by Nick Turse.  While the commentary contains some useful analysis, the title and lead are unfortunate and misleading.  Much of the piece deals with the situation in South Sudan.  To even suggest that China supports the Salva Kiir government and the United States supports the Riak Machar rebels (hence new Cold War?) is just plain silly.  South Sudan is actually a place where China and the US both seek an end to the conflict and to encourage political stability.  It is hardly the location of a new Cold War.  In fact, China and the US have worked together in an effort to end the mayhem.

Asian Investment and Africa's Textile Industry

The Center for Global Policy at Carnegie-Tsinghua published on 5 August 2014 a study titled "The Impact of Asian Investment on Africa's Textile Industries" by Tang Xiaoyang, resident scholar at Carnegie-Tsinghua.  The author argues that as African countries seek to industrialize and build indigenous cotton-textile-apparel value chains, the interactions between Asian, primarily Chinese, investors and African companies become more complex.  Asian investors present both a challenge to an opportunity for local industries.