Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Ethiopia: Using COVID-19 for Political Purposes?

Ethiopia Insight posted on 2 June 2020 a commentary titled "COVID-19 Triggers Authoritarian Relapse" by Asebe Regassa, Dilla University. 

The author argued that COVID-19 poses practical and technical challenges to countries such as Ethiopia with upcoming elections.  But it also offers incumbent governments in democratic transition leverage to maneuver existing laws or create new ones for their advantage. 

China-Africa Debt and Covid-19

The Diplomat published on 2 June 2020 a conversation titled "COVID-19: The Impact on China-Africa Debt" between Mercy A. Kuo, Pamir Consulting, and Linda Calabrese, Overseas Development Institute in London.

Chinese government, banks and state-owned enterprises are estimated to hold 17 percent to 24 percent of Africa's external debt.  The discussion focuses on China's loans to African countries, and the impact COVID-19 could have on debt payments.  Calabrese suggests that Chinese debt relief will be limited. 

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Future of China-Nigeria Relations

The Conversation posted on 28 May 2020 a commentary titled "Why Maltreatment of Nigerians in China May Not End Soon" by Abdul-Gafar Tobi Oshodi, Lagos State University.

The author argues that the long-standing unequal relationship between Nigeria and China make it difficult to promote a return to normalcy in the aftermath of the Guangzhou incident.

Somalia, Khat, and Covid-19

The Rift Valley Institute published in May 2020 a brief paper titled "Khat and Covid-19: Somalia's Cross-Border Economy in the Time of Coronavirus" by Sahra Ahmed Koshin.

Measures to contain COVID-19 have imposed restrictions on khat imports and consumption that have affected livelihoods of khat sellers.  The reduced supply has hit government revenues and shifted more of the trade to contraband. 

Friday, May 29, 2020

Somalia's Healthcare System

The Heritage Institute for Policy Studies and City University of Mogadishu published a major study in May 2020 titled "Somalia's Healthcare System: A Baseline Study & Human Capital Development Strategy" by Ali Abdullahi Warsame.

The study looks at the state of healthcare in Somalia as it relates to human capital.  It offers an analysis of current challenges and suggests remedial solutions for system-wide recovery strategies. 

China-Africa Space Cooperation

The China Africa Research Initiative at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies published in May 2020 a working paper titled "China, Africa, and the Rest: Recent Trends in Space Science, Technology, and Satellite Development" by Julie Michelle Klinger.

The paper reviews the range of bilateral and multilateral space endeavors through which African countries partner with China and several other international entities.  China's successes in providing relatively low-cost, reliable, and comprehensive satellites to African counterparts have been helpful to both sides. 

Profile of Ethiopian Director of World Health Organization

The Associated Press published on 19 May 2020 a profile titled "WHO Chief Unbowed Amid Attacks, Trump Criticism" by Shivani Kumar.

The article discusses the challenges that World Health Organization Director Tedros Adhanom faces as he navigates COVID-19, China, and the Trump administration. 

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Why Has Coronavirus Had So Little Impact on Ethiopia?

Ethiopia Insight posted on 28 May 2020 an analysis titled "Is COVID-19 as Infectious and Fatal in Ethiopia? Perhaps Not" by Daniel Hailu, multidiciplinary researcher.

As of 8 May, Ethiopia had only 194 confirmed cases of COVID-19, lower even than most countries in Africa.  Reasons for this may be that Ethiopia closed its borders early, although large numbers of passengers arrived at the airport in Addis Ababa during February and March, low testing capacity in Ethiopia, unreported cases, and good containment interventions.  On the other hand, it may be due to Ethiopia's climate, the high altitude of much of the country, a young population, widespread vaccination against tuberculosis, or genetics.

More Trawlers from China Threaten Ghana's Fisheries

The London-based Environmental Justice Foundation published on 27 May 2020 an article titled "New Trawlers Arrive from China as Ghana's Fisheries Teeter on Brink of Collapse."

Over-capacity in the fishing fleet in Ghana is driving a crisis that will decimate livelihoods and food security in coastal communities.  Chinese companies operate through Ghanaian front companies, using opaque corporate structures to import their vessels and register and obtain a license.  Three new trawlers recently arrived from China and were registered in this manner under the Ghanaian flag.  The government of Ghana stated that 48 trawlers are the most the fishery industry can sustain; at the end of 2019, the government registered 76.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Podcast on China-Africa and China-Eurasia

The Philadelphia-based Foreign Policy Research Institute did a one hour podcast on 27 May 2020 titled "China's Wider Quest for Influence: Africa and Eurasia."

Jacques de Lisle, University of Pennsylvania, moderated the conversation with Josh Eisenman, Notre Dame, Chris Miller, Fletcher School, and me. The wide ranging discussion covered numerous aspects of the China-Africa and China-Eurasia relationship. 

Africa's Global Trends

The Institute for Global Dialogue at the University of South Africa published in May 2020 its "Spotlight on Africa: Mapping Geopolitical Trends for Quarter One 2020."

It contains brief sections on:

--Growing militancy in the Sahel and beyond.
--The internationalization of the Libyan crisis.
--The hydropolitics of the Nile.
--Navigating high-wire transitions in Sudan and Ethiopia.
--The global Covid-19 pandemic: the black swan of 2020.

Ethiopia: Privatizing Telcom

Ethiopia Insight posted on 27 May 2020 an analysis titled "Let the Competition Begin!" by Samuel Gebre, Ethiopia-based journalist.

Ethiopia has issued a call for bidders to replace one of the world's few remaining state telcom monopolies, known as Ethio Telecom.  This will be a dramatic change for Ethiopian telecommunications.  A half dozen telcom companies have expressed interest so far.   

China's Post-Coronavirus Future in Africa

The most recent edition of African  Current Issues prepared by the Centre for African Studies at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore is devoted to "China's Post-Corona Future in Africa."

China has long held its partnership with Africa as strategically important, not just for its abundance of natural resources, but for the enormous market potential of Chinese exports.  China cannot afford to let Africa fail.  Africa cannot turn its back on China on which it depends so heavily for funding and to purchase its commodities.  Africa has a great deal to gain from China's continued economic success and the BRI-provided African states are able to exercise agency.  The post-coronavirus era may allow African states to improve their balance of power with China. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Russian MiG-29s Operating in Libya?

The Washington-based Middle East Institute (MEI) posted on 26 May 2020 a commentary titled "Why Did Russia Deploy Fighter Jets to Libya?" by Anton Mardasov, non-resident scholar at MEI.

Russia has been supporting the forces of Khalifa Haftar in Libya by means of the private security company, Wagner Group, which has close ties to the government.  On 26 May, the U.S. Africa Command accused Russia of deploying MiG-29s to support the private military contractors operating on the ground.

The Washington Post published on 26 May 2020 an article titled "Pentagon Accuses Moscow of Sending Fighter Jets to Back Libyan Warlord" by Sudarsan Raghavan and Robyn Dixon.

Is Chinese Racism the Same as Western Racism?

CNN posted on 26 May 2020 a piece titled "China Says It Has a 'Zero-tolerance Policy' for Racism, but Discrimination towards Africans Goes Back Decades" by Jenni Walsh.

The CNN program looks at a history of discrimination towards Africans in China and compares Western and Chinese racism. 

Events in Guangzhou Fail to Reset Africa's Relations with China

African Arguments posted on 26 May 2020 a commentary titled "Last Month Could've Been a Real Turning Point for Africa-China Ties" by Barney Walsh, King's College London.

By treating racism against the African community in Guangzhou last month as an anomaly caused by local officials, China managed to end publicly expressed concerns by African leaders.  The outrage on African social media, however, is not likely to disappear anytime soon. 

Monday, May 25, 2020

Will COVID-19 Endanger Ethiopia's Nascent Democracy?

Ethiopia Insight posted on 25 May 2020 a commentary titled "Pandemic Is Blessing for Abiy but Curse for Ethiopian Democracy" by Mebratu Kelecha, University of Westminster.

The author argued that the coronavirus pandemic has allowed Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to alter the balance of political power in his favor.  He added that the Prime Minister must guard against endangering a peaceful democratic future for Ethiopia by using the pandemic to circumvent fundamental political problems that can only be resolved by a genuinely inclusive process.   

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Ethiopia: Back to the Future 2005

Ethiopia Insight posted on 22 May 2020 a commentary titled "For Ethiopia's Political Tribes, It's 2005 Redux" by Mistir Sew, a generic byline for all anonymous authors.

The author suggests that Ethiopia's political climate today resembles the one that existed before the 2005 elections.  There is, however, a big difference.  The three political power bases now are Tigray and Afar, urban elites including Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, and the Oromo-dominated south.

African Union Urges African Solution to Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam Issue

The African Union issued on 22 May 2020 a brief statement on the recent developments related to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.

The statement implies the need for an African solution to the dispute involving Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan and says the AU Commission stands ready to assist all parties in finding a peaceful resolution and achieving a mutually beneficial agreement.  There is no mention of Washington's role. 

Friday, May 22, 2020

Red Sea Security

The Great Decisions organization in Reston, Virginia, in cooperation with the Fairfax County Public Library interviewed me on the subject of "Red Sea Security."  The 118 minute podcast, moderated by Michael Carpenter of Great Decisions, took place via Zoom on 27 April 2020 but did not appear on You Tube until 22 May 2020.

This wide ranging discussion covers both sides of the Red Sea, the war in Yemen, the conflict between Saudi Arabia and the UAE, on the one hand, and Iran, on the other, the Qatar/Turkey versus Saudi Arabia/UAE alignments, freedom of navigation in the Red Sea, the military bases in Djibouti, Israel's role in Africa, and recent developments in Ethiopia, Sudan, and South Sudan.

Is Africa Getting What It Needs from China?

Premium Times published on 19 May 2020 a commentary titled "China, Africa and the World after COVID-19" by Kingsley Moghalu, former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria.

The author concludes that African countries are approaching their relations with China in the wrong way.  Relations have been focused on trade and access to cheap loans, both of which will likely decline in the post-COVID-19 world.  He suggests that African countries should be advancing their strategic interests such as challenging in the World Trade Organization the dumping of Chinese goods in African markets.

Zambian Air Force Procurement from China

The China Africa Research Initiative at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies published in May 2020 a policy brief titled "African Military Aircraft Procurement from China: A Case Study from Zambia" by Jyhjong Hwang. 

China has sold the Zambian Air Force 44 percent of its current aircraft and helicopter inventory.  The author concluded there is no indication that the increase in Chinese loans to Zambia is an attempt to gain access to Zambia's copper supply.  Nor is there any indication that Zambia is being pressured into purchasing Chinese aircraft due to its current debt held by China.

Nile Dam Talks to Resume

The National published on 22 May 2020 an article titled "Egypt Accepts Proposal to Renegotiate on Nile Dam Dispute."

Egypt says it is willing to resume negotiations to reach a fair, balanced, and comprehensive agreement with Sudan and Ethiopia on filling the reservoir behind the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.  Negotiations will presumably take place in Washington. 

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Does Chinese Construction of Government Buildings in Africa Result in Intelligence Collection?

The Heritage Foundation published on 20 May 2020 a detailed report titled "Government Buildings in Africa are a Likely Vector for Chinese Spying" by Joshua Meservey.

The author notes that Chinese companies, all of which are legally obliged to help the Communist Party of China gather intelligence, have built at least 186 government buildings in Africa and at least 14 sensitive intra-governmental telecommunication networks.  He concludes that Beijing likely uses surveillance in these buildings and the IT networks to advantage Chinese companies competing for contracts and otherwise engage in spying as happened at the Chinese-built African Union headquarters.

In response to a question on 22 May about the report, China's foreign ministry press spokesperson, Zhao Lijian, said that "we noted the report.  It hypes up 'China bugging AU headquarters' and other ridiculous claims based on nothing but lies, illusions and ideological bias.  African leaders publicly refuted such rumors on multiple occasions."

The response recalls the comment of Queen Gertrude to her son in a scene from Hamlet: "The lady [press spokesperson] doth protest too much, methinks."

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Ethiopia: Save Both Lives and New Freedoms in Age of COVID-19

Ethiopia Insight posted on 19 May 2020 a commentary titled "Ethiopia Must Not Lose the Long War for Justice Amid Its COVID-19 Battle" by Kebadu Mekonnen Gebremariam, Addis Ababa University.

The author issued a clarion call to protect both lives and new found freedoms as Ethiopia confronts COVID-19.