Thursday, July 9, 2020

Somalia Fisheries

The Mogadishu-based Heritage Institute for Policy Studies published in May 2020 a major study titled "Somalia Fisheries: Untapped Potential Held Back by Skills Shortage" by Abdirahman J. Kulmiye. 

The study assesses the current state of the fisheries sector in Somalia, which supports over 400,000 Somalis economically.  It looks at existing skills development initiatives and their relevance to the needs of the sector, and local institutions of higher learning and the quality of their fisheries-related academic programs. 

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Database on China's Lending to Africa

The China Africa Research Institute (CARI) has created a useful open source database on Chinese lending to Africa.  Between 2000 and 2018, CARI estimates Chinese financiers signed 1,077 loan commitments worth $148 billion with African governments and their state-owned enterprises.  CARI updates the data regularly. 

Egypt and Ethiopia: The Curse of the Nile

The Wilson Center published on 7 July 2020 an analysis titled "Egypt and Ethiopia: The Curse of the Nile" by Marina Ottaway.

The author suggests the best short-term scenario is a stop-gap agreement that will allow Ethiopia to start filling the reservoir behind the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on a compromise timetable acceptable to Egypt, which would walk back its military threats.  Egypt could also take steps to improve the efficiency of water management for agriculture and domestic consumption. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and Letter from Former Heads of African Bureau

Seven former Assistant Secretaries of State for African Affairs sent a letter on 22 June 2020 to David Hale, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, concerning efforts to mediate the dispute involving the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. 

The letter said the perception of U.S. partiality in favor of Egypt could further destabilize the delicate balance among the stakeholders.  The signatories encouraged the United States to help find a neutral and credible country outside Africa and the Middle East to mediate the disagreement.

The following former assistant secretaries signed the letter:  Johnnie Carson, Herman Cohen, Chester Crocker, Jendayi Frazer, George Moose, Susan Rice, and Linda Thomas-Greenfield. 

Monday, July 6, 2020

Taiwan Finds a New Friend in Somaliland

The Foreign Policy Research Institute published on 1 July 2020 an analysis titled "Taiwan Finds an Unexpected New Friend in Somaliland" by Thomas J. Shattuck.

On 1 July, Taiwan and Somaliland announced that Taiwan will establish a "Taiwan Representative Office" in Somaliland.  This does not constitute formal diplomatic relations.  No country has formally recognized Somaliland, which declared unilateral independence from Somalia in 1991.  Only 15 countries have formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan.  The new Somaliland-Taiwan relationship will focus on agriculture, education, energy, fisheries, health, information and communications, and mining.

Russia's Role in the Horn of Africa

The Foreign Policy Research Institute published in July 2020 a study titled "'Engaged Opportunism': Russia's Role in the Horn of Africa" by Samuel Ramani, DPhil candidate at the University of Oxford.

Russia is principally focused on establishing itself as the region's leading arms provider but is also seeking a Red Sea base.  It is increasingly at odds with France and the United States.  Russia's involvement in the region has been inconsistent, but Moscow can be best described as an "engaged opportunist" in regional affairs. 

African Countries Support China's Crackdown on Hong Kong

Axios published on 3 July 2020 an article titled "The 53 Countries Supporting China's Crackdown on Hong Kong" by Dave Lawler.

Cuba presented a resolution before the UN Human Rights Council backing Beijing's new national security law for Hong Kong, which is widely seen in the West as a repressive crackdown.  The UK presented a resolution opposing the security law.  Fifty-three countries, including twenty-five in Africa, supported Cuba's resolution that backed the crackdown.  Twenty-seven countries, not a single one in Africa, backed the UK resolution that was critical of the crackdown.

The twenty-five African countries that supported the crackdown were: Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Comoros, Congo-Brazzaville, Djibouti, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Gabon, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Lesotho, Mauritania, Morocco, Mozambique, Niger, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Togo, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.  The real surprise on this list is Morocco.  Sudan, in view of its efforts to democratize, is something of a surprise although its much diminished oil sector is still beholden to China.  Somalia is also something of a surprise as it does not owe China anything; most of its support comes from the West and Turkey.  Niger is a mild surprise. 

The Trump administration pulled the United States out of the UN Human Rights Council in 2018 making it largely irrelevant. 

If African leaders are wondering why the West is losing interest in the continent and no longer taking many African governments seriously, all they have to do is reflect on votes like this.   

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Ethnic Conflict in Ethiopia

Aljazeera's Inside Story did a half hour program on Ethiopia on 4 July 2020 titled "Can Ethiopia Bridge Its Ethnic Divide?"

The panelists were Laetitia Bader, Human Rights Watch, Awol Allo, Keele University in the UK, and myself. 

Friday, July 3, 2020

Responding to Ethiopia's Current Crisis

The International Crisis Group posted on 3 July 2020 a statement titled "Defusing Ethiopia's Latest Perilous Crisis."  The statement calls for calm and offers several practical suggestions for dealing with the violent aftermath of the killing of a popular Oromo musician.

Ethiopia and Rwanda Are Hubs for Jack Ma's Electronic Global Platform

The blog for the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London posted on 2 July 2020 an article titled "COVID-19 Pushes Forward Jack Ma's Plans for a World Trade Revolution" by Lauren A. Johnston.

COVID-19 has encouraged Jack Ma, founder of China's e-commerce company Alibaba, to push forward with his electronic global platform.  In Africa, Ethiopia and Rwanda are hubs for this project. 

China and Russia Winning African Space Race

War on the Rocks published on 23 June 2020 an analysis titled "Is the United States Losing the African Space Race?" by Judd Devermont and Temidayo Oniosun. 

Since 1999, 11 African countries (Algeria, Angola, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Morocco, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, and Sudan) have successfully launched 38 unilateral and 3 multilateral satellites into orbit.  China and Russia are increasingly dominant in this effort.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Chinese Investment and Africa's Economic Transformation

Independent thank tank ODI published in June 2020 a study titled "Africa's Economic Transformation: The Role of Chinese Investment" by Linda Calabrese, ODI, and Xiaoyang Tang, Tsinghua University. 

The study addresses China-Africa development relations and their impact on African economies and livelihoods.  It reaches almost entirely positive conclusions. For example, it concludes that Chinese firms investing in Africa contribute to substantial job creation for African workers.  Chinese companies build the skills of host countries' workers.  Chinese investment tends to contribute to increased economic growth.  Chinese financing can contribute to unblocking the bottleneck to economic growth.  Trade has a mixed effect, but even here the effort is to emphasize the positive. 

New Somaliland-Taiwan Ties

The Taiwan News published on 2 July 2020 an article titled "KMT Doubtful about Taiwan's Relations with Somaliland" by Kevin Chen.

Somaliland Foreign Minister Yasin Haji Mohamoud visited Taiwan on 1 July 2020 and met with Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu, who subsequently announced that Taiwan will set up in Somaliland a "Taiwan Representative Office."  Taiwan's opposition Kuomintang (KMT) party questioned the wisdom of establishing the office. 

This does not constitute diplomatic relations and appears to be designed to encourage trade although Somaliland may try to portray it as having more formal status. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

China-Africa Virtual COVID-19 Summit

The Daily Maverick published on 28 June 2020 a commentary titled "Not Much Give from China in its Relationship with Africa" by Cobus van Staden, South Africa Institute of International Affairs.

China's President Xi Jinping met virtually with African counterparts on 17 June 2020 to discuss COVID-19.  The author concluded that the virtual summit was more notable for what it did not do. 

Somalia and Somaliland: American Diplomats Recall Oral History

The Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training posted a piece titled "Somalia--From Great Hope to Failed State" based on the oral history of five American diplomats dating back to 1960.  Two are former ambassadors, two embassy officers, and one based in Washington during the international intervention in Somalia from 1992 to 1993.  These are the recollections of the officers a number of years after they served in Somalia. 

China to Cancel Debt on Interest-Free Loans to Africa

The Council on Foreign Relations blog posted on 30 June 2020 a commentary titled "As Africa Faces COVID-19, Chinese Debt Relief Is a Welcome Development" by Stephen Paduano, London School of Economics. 

President Xi Jinping's offer of cancelling debt on China's interest-free loans to Africa, about 5 percent of Africa's total debt to China, may appear as too little, too late, but the author argues it is still a welcome start. 

Monday, June 29, 2020

Tax Collection in Somalia

The Rift Valley Institute published in May 2020 a paper titled "Tax and the State in Somalia: Understanding Domestic Revenue Mobilization" by Sagal Abshir, Khalif Abdirahman, and Hannah Stogdon.

Somalia faces major challenges in creating an effective system of domestic taxation.  Revenue collection by the federal government suffers due to competition it faces from other systems of governance--both traditional and religious, as well as by non-state actors--which also collect taxes, or other financial contributions.  Often, they do this with more efficiency and accountability than the federal government.

Somalia: Al-Shabaab's Attempt to Combat COVID-19

The June 2020 issue of CTC Sentinel includes an article titled "The Limits of 'Shabaab-Care': Militant Governance Amid COVID-19" by Christopher Hockey and Michael Jones, both with the Royal United Services Institute. 

Al-Shabaab has proactively established an isolation center and is issuing health advice, the latest extensions of a long-running experiment in militant governance.  The pandemic may nevertheless expose intrinsic limitations in al-Shabaab's approach to civic administration. 

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Somalia-Somaliland Talks

The Somaliland Horn Tribune published on 27 June 2020 a brief interview with me titled "'Social Engagements Seems Harmless, If Somaliland Leader Thinks Otherwise, He Can Stop It' Prof David Shinn."

The interview focused on the recently concluded talks in Djibouti between Somalia and Somaliland.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Chinese Private Maritime Security Companies Guard Maritime Silk Road

War on the Rocks posted on 24 June 2020 an analysis titled "Who Guards the 'Maritime Silk Road'?" by Veerle Nouwens, Royal United Services Institute.

This is carefully researched piece on the role of Chinese private security companies offering protection services along the Maritime Silk Road and beyond.  The government of China is careful to point out that the Belt and Road Initiative is not part of a military strategic objective.  Consequently, Chinese private maritime security companies can potentially protect Chinese national commercial interests overseas in a way that conforms with Chinese culture and characteristics.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

New World Bank Data on China's Loans to Poor Countries

The Diplomat published on 24 June 2020 an analysis titled "Putting a Dollar Amount on China's Loans to the Developing World" by Yufan Huang and Deborah Brautigam.

The World Bank recently published the specific debt statistics as of 2018 for 68 low-income countries eligible for the Debt Service Suspension Initiative.  The statistics included 37 African countries.  China made up 21 percent of the 68 countries' total public external debt.  For the African countries, it was 22 percent.  China was the biggest bilateral official lender for 30 of the 37 African countries. 

Tigray Region and Lessons from Failed Ethio-Eritrean Federation

Ethiopia Insight posted on 25 June 2020 a commentary titled "Abiy Ahmed Must Draw Lessons from the Failed Ethio-Eritrean Federation" by Bizuneh Getachew Yimenu, University of Kent. 

The author argues that in dealing with the TPLF and Tigray Region today, the Ethiopian central government needs to revisit the lessons learned from the failed Ethio-Eritrean federation of 1962.

African Debt Relief with Chinese Characteristics

The China Africa Research Initiative at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies published in June 2020 a policy brief titled "Debt Relief with Chinese Characteristics" by Kevin Acker, Deborah Brautigam, and Yufan Huang.

This short policy paper looks at China's debt cancellation, restructuring, and refinancing of African loans since 2000.

How Will China Respond to Global Debt Crisis?

Panda Paw Dragon Claw posted on 21 June 2020 a commentary titled "How Will China Handle Multiple Debt Repayment Crises?" by Ma Tianjie. 

As global demand for commodities such as oil and minerals collapses, the revenue streams of exporter countries, many of which are located in Africa, have dried up.  This has led to a growing debt crisis in Africa where China holds between 17 and 20 percent of all external debt. 

President Xi Jinping pledged to write off all zero-interest loans owed to China by African countries that are due this year.  But these loans make up less than 5 percent of China's lending to Africa between 2000 and 2018.

China may not have the luxury to review its overseas lending stock on a loan-by-loan, country-by-country basis as it seems to prefer.  The debt tsunami is on its way and how China manages the challenge will be a key test of its international diplomacy, understanding of global finances, and the future of the Belt and Road Initiative. 

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

China's Naval Basing Strategy in Indian Ocean and Around Africa

Jane's produced for the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission in April 2020 a report titled "China's Logistics Capabilities for Expeditionary Operations" by Chad Peltier.

This is a detailed report complete with satellite photography of ports.  It looks at the logistical needs of the PLAN and potential base locations in the Indian Ocean, Atlantic, and southern Pacific.  It includes an evaluation of the following African ports for potential use by the PLAN: Luanda, Angola; Mombasa, Kenya; Walvis Bay, Namibia; Lekki Port, Nigeria; Port Victoria, Seychelles; and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.