Wednesday, November 20, 2019

28 African Countries Support China's Policy on Uighurs in Xinjiang

Pass Blue, which provides independent coverage of the UN, posted on 17 November 2019 an article tilted "China Flexes Its Economic Might More Openly at the UN on Human Rights" by Stephanie Fillion.

The article reports that 54 countries submitted a joint declaration at the UN which states "We commend China's remarkable achievements in the field of human rights by adhering to the people-centered development philosophy and protecting and promoting human rights through development" while also citing "the challenge of terrorism and extremism" in Xinjiang.

The 28 African countries (more than half of all the signatories) that signed the declaration were Angola, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, CAR, Chad, Comoros, Congo, DRC, Djibouti, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Gabon, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Mauritania, Mozambique, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Sudan, Togo, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Nearly all of these countries have serious human rights problems of their own and most are among the most autocratic in Africa.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Why China's Development Model Won't Work in Africa

Forbes published on 31 October 2019 a commentary titled "Why China's Development Model Won't Work in Africa" by Wade Shepard.

The author argues that China's development model is unique. In China, large infrastructure projects can be planned in a top-down manner; in Africa such planning generally isn't possible given the sheer number and complexity of the stakeholders involved. While there is considerable truth to this argument, it does not necessarily apply everywhere in Africa.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Russia, Africa, Arms, and Debt

Eurasia Review posted on 18 November 2019 a commentary titled "Russia, Africa and the Debts" by Kester Kenn Klomegah, independent researcher on Russia and Africa.

At the Russia-Africa summit in Sochi in late October, President Valdimir Putin reiterated a commitment made early this century that Russia had cancelled more than $20 billion in African debt accrued during the Cold War. Most of this debt resulted from loans for the purchase of arms.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, between 2014 and 2018 Russia accounted for 49 percent of arms transfered to North Africa and 28 percent to Sub-Saharan Africa. Russia was the largest single source of arms for both regions. Russia's state arms exporter announced at the Russia-Africa summit in Sochi that Russia plans to transfer $4 billion worth of weapons to African countries in 2019, according to an article in the 24 October 2019 The Moscow Times. This raises the question whether African countries are accruing new debt or Russia is insisting on other terms before it transfers arms. There is some evidence that arms are being bartered for mining rights as reported by Eric Schmitt in an article tilted "Russia's Military Mission Creep Advances to a New Front: Africa" in The New York Times on 31 March 2019.

Water War between Egypt and Ethiopia?

Foreign Policy published on 15 November 2019 a commentary titled "River of the Dammed" by Imad K. Harb, Arab Center in Washington.

The author argues there is a possibility of war between Egypt and Ethiopia over allocation of water as Ethiopia fills the reservoir behind the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile. His principal solution for avoiding war is for Ethiopia to capitulate to Egypt's position on the main point of contention. In other words, Ethiopia should guarantee irrespective of annual rainfall that 40 billion cubic meters of water flows down the Blue Nile each year. Not much of a compromise here!

Sunday, November 17, 2019

What Follows the Russia-Africa Summit?

Eurasia Review published on 12 November 2019 a commentary titled "After Sochi, What Next for Africa?" by Kester Kenn Klomegah, a consultant on African affairs in the Russian Federation and Eurasian Union.

Heads of state from 45 African countries attended the Russia-Africa summit in Sochi in late October and all 54 African countries were represented. The participants agreed to establish the Russis-Africa Partnership Forum, which will meet every three years. The question now, however, is where does this relationship go from here. Russia must still demonstrate that it is serious about expanding relations in Africa.

Trump Inaccurately Links Ambassador Yovanovitch to Somalia's Problems

Politifact posted on 15 November 2019 an article titled "Trump Inaccurately Disparages Yovanovitch in Somalia, Ukraine" by Amy Sherman.

In a tweet on 15 November, President Trump implied that things went bad in Somalia because former U.S. ambassador to the Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, was once assigned to the U.S. embassy in Mogadishu. In the late 1980s, this was the first Foreign Service assignment for Yovanovitch. The idea that she, as a junior officer in the embassy, caused things to go bad is absurd.

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Friday, November 15, 2019

Chinese Investment and Labor Practices in Ethiopia

The ChinAfrica Project posted on 15 November 2019 a 49 minute podcast titled "Chinese Investment and Labor Practices in Ethiopia" with Weiwei Chen, PhD candidate at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London.

China is the largest foreign investor in Ethiopia. Most of the investment comes from China's private sector and emphasizes manufacturing, especially the leather industry. This is a highly positive account of China's investment in Ethiopia.

BRICS Bank Off to Slow Start

Chinadialogue published on 14 November 2019 an article titled "What Happened to BRICS Bank's Promise to Revolutionise Development Finance?" by Manuela Andreoni, Dialogo Chino's Brazil editor.

Five years after its creation, the BRICS' New Development Bank has yet to approve loans to any non-member developing country. They have all gone to BRICS' members China, India, Brazil, Russia, and South Africa. The author argues that the criteria for choosing investments remain vague.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Ethiopia's Changing Economy Through the Eyes of Street Hustlers

Ethiopia Insight published on 14 November 2019 a commentary titled "Hustling at 'the End of History'. Development and Inequality in Inner Addis" by Marco Di Nunzio.

The author looks at the transition of the Ethiopian economy from Meles Zenawi's statism to Abiy Ahmed's market economy through the eyes of Addis Ababa street hustlers.

Consortium that Includes Chinese Company Wins $14 Billion Iron Ore Deal in Guinea

Reuters published on 13 November 2019 an article titled "China-backed Consortium Wins $14 Billion Guinea Iron Ore Deal, Pipping Australia's Fortescue" by Saliou Samb.

A consortium of French, Singaporean and Chinese interests won a $14 billion tender to develop part of Guinea's Simandou iron ore project. Guinea required that bidders build a 400 mile railway and deepwater port to transport the ore from the remote southeastern corner of Guinea to the coast. Investors include the Chinese aluminum producer Shandong Weiqiao.

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Ghana, China, and Illegal Mining

The Conversation posted on 12 November 2019 an article titled "Ghana's Traditional and State Powers Must Collaborate to Halt Illegal Mining" by James Boafo.

The author suggests that the increasing involvement of the Chinese in small-scale gold mining in Ghana is part of a bigger problem: the lack of coordination between key state and customary institutions.

Huawei and African Safe Cities

The Center for Strategic and International Studies published in November 2019 a brief titled "Watching Huawei's 'Safe Cities'" by Jonathan E. Hillman and Maesea McCalpin.

China's Huawei has signed memoranda of understanding (MOUs) with 16 African countries to provide "safe city" solutions. The MOUs involve one or more of the following solutions: command centers, CCTV cameras, intelligent video surveillance, crowd monitoring, situational awareness detection, noise monitoring or detection, abandoned object detection, social media monitoring, and facial and license plate recognition technology.

The 16 African countries are: Ghana, South Africa, Mauritius, Botswana, Nigeria, Uganda, Cote d'Ivoire, Madagascar, Kenya, Ethiopia, Cameroon, Angola, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, and Egypt. The question is whether all of these countries will use these products for democratic purposes.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

South Sudan: Peace Requires New Leadership

Foreign Policy posted on 11 November 2019 a commentary titled "South Sudan's Proposed Unity Government Is Still Divided" by Jon Temin, Freedom House.

The author concludes that the broader goal of U.S. policy should be the departure of both Salva Kiir and Riek Machar so that South Sudanese politics can move forward.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Tanzania-China Dispute over Bagamoyo Port Project

The East African published on 4 November 2019 an article titled "Chinese Firm Dismisses Dar Claims on Stalled $10b Port as Not True."

China Merchants Holdings International (CMHI) is disputing recent accounts by the Tanzania Ports Authority concerning the terms for building the $10 billion port and special economic zone in Bagamoyo, 75 kilometers north of Dar es Salaam. This project has been interrupted on several occasions in recent years. The Tanzania Ports Authority said that CMHI is insisting on a 99 year lease while the Ports Authority will only offer 33 years. CMHI responded that it had already agreed in principle to a 33 year lease.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Ethiopia: Testimonial for Oromo Opposition Leader

Ethiopia Insight posted on 9 November 2019 a commentary titled "In Defense of Jawar, a Brilliant and Dedicated Agent of Change" by Ezekiel Gebissa, Kettering University.

This is a "friend's testimonial" of Oromo opposition leader Jawar Mohammed, who returned to Ethiopia in 2018 from the United States. The author argues that opponents of Jawar Mohammed should work with him and not try to demonize him.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Russian Private Military Security Contractors

New America published on 7 November 2019 a major report titled "Decoding the Wagner Group: Analyzing the Role of Private Military Security Contractors in Russian Proxy Warfare" by Candace Rondeaux, Arizona State University.

Russian private military security contractors (PMSCs) are pivotal players in proxy wars in the Greater Middle East and its periphery. This report examines what social media and other digital traces combined with interviews and other research can tell about Russian PMSCs and their role in Russian proxy warfare strategy. Moscow denies any links to Russian PMSCs like the Wagner Group, a paramilitary group linked to Kremlin insiders close to Vladimir Putin. Mounting PMSC casualties in Ukraine, Syria, and more recently Libya have undermined the plausible deniability of their Kremlin connections.

This report does not focus on the Africa connection of Russian PMSCs, where the Wagner Group has been operating in the Central African Republic, Libya, Sudan, and Mozambique. On the other hand, it reports an interesting scandal in Nigeria involving another Russian PMSC, the Moran Security Group.

Ethiopia: Moving beyond Ethnic Politics

Foreign Policy posted on 8 November 2019 a commentary titled "Ethiopia Will Explode If It Doesn't Move Beyond Ethnic-based Politics" by Addisu Lashitew, Brookings Institution.

The author argues that in order to keep the country together, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed needs to convince various ethnic groups that he and his new party represent all Ethiopians.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

US Hosts Tripartite Talks on Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

The Voice of America published on 6 November 2019 a story titled "Trump Meets with Egypt, Ethiopia, Sudan FMs about Dam Feud" by Patsy Widakuswara.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi asked President Trump to "mediate" the dispute with Ethiopia concerning water flows from the Blue Nile as Ethiopia constructs the huge Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). The Blue Nile provides more than half of the water that eventually reaches the Aswan Dam. President Trump asked Treasury Secretary Mnuchin (unusual in that this is an issue normally handled by the State Department) to meet with the foreign ministers of Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan in Washington on 6 November. World Bank President David Malpass joined the session; the World Bank administers the Nile Basin Trust Fund.

At the conclusion of the meeting, the participants "reaffirmed their joint commitment to reach a comprehensive, cooperative, adaptive, sustainable, and mutually beneficial agreement on the filling and operation" of the GERD. The ministers said they would work to reach completion of an agreement by 15 January 2020. The World Bank and the United States would support and attend the meetings as observers.

These talks have been underway for several years. The Egyptian president and Ethiopian prime minister most recently met in late October on the the margins of the Russia-Africa summit in Sochi. While the fact they are still talking is positive, it does not appear there was any breakthrough in Washington. The role of the United States also sounds much more like "good offices" rather than mediation.

China Is Becoming More Cautious in Financing Large African Infrastructure Projects

Reuters published on 6 November 2019 an article titled "Uganda Seeks Other Backers to Fix Creaky Railway after China Delays US $2.2 Billion in Funds."

Uganda has been negotiating for years with China for a $2.2 billion loan to construct a new standard guage railway. China demured as Uganda failed to develop its oil fields, thus raising questions about Uganda's ability to repay the loan.

African Population Growth, Jobs, Industrialization, Agriculture, and China

World Politics Review published on 6 November 2019 a commentary titled "Why Africa's Future Will Determine the Rest of the World's" by Howard W. French.

The author focuses on Africa's rapid population growth and the urgent need for additional employment. He argues, correctly in my view, that in most African countries the future lies with improved agriculture rather than industrialization. He also cites the myth that China is in the process of industrializing Africa. In fact, China is mostly an obstacle to African industrialization because it industrialized decades ago and now dominates with overwhelming advantages of scale most of the industrial sectors that countries in Africa seek to enter.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Russia to Step Up Media Presence in Africa

Global Research posted on 5 November 2019 an article titled "Media Debates as Russia Pushes into Africa" by Kester Kenn Klomegah, frequent commentator on Russia-Africa relations.

Moscow plans to increase its media presence in Africa over the next four or five years. In particular, it is looking to increase the number of Russian news agency, TASS, offices in Africa in an effort to spread a more positive image of Russia and convey more information about Africa to Russian audiences.

Freedom on the Net in Africa

Freedom House has just released its "Freedom on the Net" report that assessed the level of internet and digital media freedom in 65 countries, including 16 in Africa.

Of the 16 countries included in Africa, the best performing was South Africa, followed by Kenya, Angola, Nigeria, and Tunisia. Although much improved over last year, Sudan was the worst performing. Egypt, Ethiopia (also much improved over last year), Rwanda, and Zimbabwe followed as worst performing.

Russian Mercenaries in Libya

The Washington Post published on 5 November 2019 an article titled "Arrival of Russian Mercenaries Adds Deadlier Firepower, Modern Tactics to Libya's Civil War" by Sudarsan Raghavan.

Hundreds of Russian mercenaries are fighting alongside renegade Libyan commander Khalifa Hifter as he seeks to oust Libya's United Nations-backed government. The mercenaries work for the Wagner Group, a private army that is linked to a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Moscow apparently sees an opening to gain back billions in lucrative oil and military contracts that it lost when former President Gaddafi was killed in 2011.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Ethiopia: Revolutionary Democracy versus Liberal Democracy

Ethiopia Insight published on 3 November 2019 a commentary titled "Liberal Democracy Is No Liberator" by Emmanuel Yirdaw, an undergraduate student at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

The author compares Meles Zenawi's revolutionary democracy with Abiy Ahmed's liberal democracy but seems to be skeptical that liberal democracy will correct the glaring mistakes of revolutionary democracy.