Friday, August 12, 2022

Sudan: Is Military Government Peace Proposal Sincere or a Ploy?

 The International Crisis Group published on 12 August 2022 an analysis titled "A Breakthrough in Sudan's Impasse?" by Alan Boswell.

The author suggests that the offer by Sudan's military government to withdraw from stalled negotiations with civilian political forces, assume only security responsibilities, and then negotiate powers with a new all civilian administration could be a breakthrough in resolving Sudan's governance deadlock.  Or it could be a tactical maneuver to defuse popular unrest, shift blame for the deadlock and Sudan's economic problems to its civilian opponents, and offer a reason to assume total power.  

China Makes Increasing Use of Private Security Companies in Africa

 The Conversation published on 8 August 2022 a commentary titled "Chinese Private Security Firms Are Growing Their Presence in Africa: Why It Matters" by Alessandro Arduino.

As China's presence and interests increase in Africa, so does its need for additional security.  This commentary discusses China's growing reliance on private security companies for this purpose.  

US-Africa Strategy: Seizing the Moment

 The US Institute for Peace published on 11 August 2022 a commentary titled "The New U.S. Africa Strategy Is a Moment We Must Seize" by Joseph Sany.

The author proposes a "to do" list over the coming months in order to take full advantage of the recently announced US-Africa strategy of the Biden administration.  The steps include:

--African governments need to generate bilateral and multilateral responses for implementation of the new US strategy.

--Both Africa and the US need to engage now to shape plans of action for the December US-Africa Leaders' Summit in Washington.

--The US needs to engage the US private sector in a more intense dialogue on investment in Africa.

Status of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on Blue Nile

 Bloomberg published on 12 August 2022 an article titled "Why Ethiopia's $5 Billion Dam Has Riled Its Neighbors: Quick Take" by Samuel Gebre and Fasika Tadesse. 

The article provides a short status report on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam now that the third annual filling of the reservoir behind the dam has been completed.  The reservoir is now about one-third full.  Once it is full, the Blue Nile will continue flowing normally again throughout the year, including during the rainy season when the filling takes place.  Downstream Egypt continues to protest construction of the dam while Sudan's position seems to ebb and flow. 

Third Filling of Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam Completed

 Agence France Presse published on 12 August 2022 an article titled "Ethiopia Says Completes Third Filling of Mega-dam Reservoir" by Aymeric Vincenot.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced on 12 August that Ethiopia had completed its third annual filling of the reservoir behind the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Blue Nile.  GERD construction is 83 percent finished and scheduled for completion in two years.  Two of the thirteen turbines are now producing electricity.  Egypt protested the third filling to the UN Security Council.

Political Violence in Somaliland

 The Voice of America published on 11 August 2022 an article titled "Protesters, Security Forces Clash in Somaliland; Three Reported Killed" by Mohamed Olad Hassan.

Clashes between supporters of opposition political parties Wadani and UCID, on the one hand, and security forces, on the other, in at least three Somaliland cities this week resulted in 3 deaths and 90 injuries.  The protesters insisted that elections be held on schedule.  

Thursday, August 11, 2022

How Bad Is the Humanitarian Situation in Northern Ethiopia?

Ethiopia Insight published on 11 August 2022 a commentary titled "Ethiopian Officials Admit Using a Biafra-like Siege to Starve Tigray" by Jan Nyssen, Ghent University in Belgium. 

The author argues that it was the policy of the Ethiopian central government to starve into submission the population of Tigray Region.  

The UNOCHA published on 5 August 2022 its "Situation Report for Ethiopia." It suggests the food security situation in Tigray Region has improved somewhat compared to the report cited above.  It also notes the situation in Afar Region is dire and other parts of Ethiopia are experiencing significant food security problems.

Sudan Looking At Purchase of Chinese J-10C Fighter Aircraft

 Military Watch Magazine published on 6 August 2022 an article titled "Sudan Discussing Acquisition of China's J-10C Fighters: New Squadron Could Be Africa's Finest."

Sudan's Air Force consists primarily of  Russian aircraft.  Sudan is in discussion with China for the possible purchase of the J-10C.  If acquired, this would revolutionize Sudanese aerial warfare capabilities and make it a close contender for the title of the most capable fighter on the African continent. It would also give Sudan an edge over aircraft used by the Egyptian and Ethiopian Air Forces.

New US Partnership with Africa Seeks Improvement from African Side

 The Council on Foreign Relations blog posted on 10 August 2022 a commentary titled "Biden Signals Policy Reset, but African Leaders Must Meet Washington Halfway" by Ebenezer Obadare.  

Secretary of State Antony Blinken laid out a new US policy for Africa during his visit this week to South Africa.  The US proposes to improve its partnership with African countries and do more to support African democracy.  At the same time, African governments are expected to deal with human rights abuses, corruption, and exclusionary governance.  

China Fumes Over Somaliland's Warm Ties with Taiwan

 The Wall Street Journal published on 11 August 2022 an article titled "China Fumes Over Somaliland's Warm Ties with Taiwan" by Michael M. Phillips.

China's ambassador to Somalia asked to visit Somaliland, which declared its independence from Somalia in 1991 and subsequently established warm ties with Taiwan.  Somaliland turned down the ambassador's request when it appeared he wanted to use the visit to build support to sabotage Somaliland's ties with Taiwan.  

Impact of China's Domestic Governance on Cooperation with Africa and CEE Countries

 The Journal of Contemporary China just published a study titled "The Domestic Mechanisms of China's Vertical Multilateralism: The FOCAC and the 16+1 Format Case Studies" by Dominik Mierzejewski, Bartosz Kowalski and Jaroslaw Jura.  

The study concludes that China's engagement in multilateral cooperation with Africa and Central and Eastern Europe has to a considerable extent, mirrored mechanisms in China's domestic governance: generating enthusiasm and mobilization through slogan politics and informal political networks, which are influenced by the process of centralization of power and the coordination of horizontal competition with Beijing in a dominant position.  However, due to different cultural backgrounds, the political landscape, and the economic environment, the mechanisms of the FOCAC and China-CEE cooperation are implemented differently and with different intensity to those in Chinese internal affairs.   

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Great Power Competition in Africa

 Foreign Policy published on 10 August 2022 a commentary titled "A Little Great-Power Competition Is Healthy for Africa" by Howard W. French.

Most African states still prefer a democratic form of government.  In its competition with China and others for influence in Africa, the United States needs to focus on improving governance and building capacity on the continent.  

Possible Explanations for Al-Shabaab's Attack on Ethiopia

 Modern Diplomacy published on 29 July 2022 a commentary titled "Al-Shabab's Enigmatic Invasion of Ethiopia" by Abukar Arman, former Somali special envoy to the US.

Al-Shabaab recently carried out a large and rare attack inside Ethiopia's Somali region.  The author offers four explanations what al-Shabaab was trying to accomplish.  

China-Angola Relations

 Modern Diplomacy published on 30 July 2022 a commentary titled "The Angola Factor in China's Relations with Africa" by Shivangi Basu, intern at the Nepal Institute for International Cooperation and Engagement.

The focus of the commentary is on China's interest in Angola's natural resources, especially oil and diamonds.  

The Evolution of Africa's Militant Islamic Groups

 The Africa Center for Strategic Studies published on 9 August 2022 an analysis titled "Sahel and Somalia Drive Rise in Africa's Militant Islamist Group Violence."

This study provides an infomap that identifies the location of attacks in Africa by militant Islamist groups from 2013 through 2022.  In 2021 and 2022, most of the attacks occurred in Somalia, Kenya, Mozambique, Chad, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Cote d'Ivoire.  

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

American Democracy and Africa: A Cautionary Tale

 The New York Times posted on 3 August 2022 an opinion piece titled "Kenya's Elite Talk About American Power in the Past Tense" by Farah Stockman, a member of The New York Times editorial board.

Comment:  While this excellent commentary represents the views of a limited number of Kenyan elites, it probably reflects a much wider view held by educated Africans.  Challenge number one is getting our own democracy in order and implementing a more consistent foreign policy based on traditional American principles and values.  

South African Reaction to Secretary Blinken's Visit and New US Africa Policy

 The Washington Post published on 8 August 2022 an article titled "In Africa, Blinken Seeks To Beguile, Not Browbeat, Over Russia" by Missy Ryan. 

The article reflects the lukewarm reaction in South Africa to the Biden administration's new Africa strategy announced on 8 August at the University of Pretoria.  

Comment:  US relations with South Africa have been strained for many years.  It is surprising the South African reaction was not harsher than reported.  

Biden Administration Africa Policy Statement

The Biden administration released its "U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa" on 8 August 2022.  This is the first comprehensive Africa policy statement by the Biden administration.  The focus is on the development of democracies, pandemic recovery, economic development, climate adaptation, and improvement of security.  

Following release of the Africa policy document, Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke about U.S.-Africa policy at the University of Pretoria in South Africa on 8 August 2020.  The title of his speech was "Vital Partners, Shared Priorities: The Biden Administration's Sub-Saharan Africa Strategy."

Monday, August 8, 2022

Panel Discussion on Situation in Ethiopia

The Philadelphia-based Foreign Policy Research Institute taped on 2 August 2022 an hour long podcast titled "Ethiopia: Is There Hope for an End to the Crisis in Tigray?" with panelists Hank Cohen, Rea Brazeal, and me.   

This is a wide ranging discussion of the peace process for Tigray Region, the situation in Tigray, and implications for the wider region.  

VOA Discussion on US and Russia in Africa

 The Voice of America posted on 5 August a 25 minute radio show "Encounter" with Carol Castiel and panelists Joshua Meservey, Heritage Foundation, and me on the US and Russia in Africa.  

The VOA program discusses how Russia's false narrative regarding the food crisis is playing out in Africa as well as why visits by key US officials are so critical for reinforcing US-Africa relations.

Kenya's Controversial Chinese-financed and Built Railway

 The New York Times published on 7 August 2022 an article titled "'Jewel in the Crown of Corruption': The Troubles of Kenya's China--Funded Train" by Abdi Latif Dahir.  

Five years after its launch, the Chinese-designed, funded, and built railroad from Mombasa on the coast to Nairobi and beyond to a vacant field has become associated with debt, dysfunction, and criminal inquiries.  It is now a hot-button issue in the presidential election on 9 August.  

Friday, August 5, 2022

Another View on China and African Debt

 Chatham House published on 3 August 2022 a commentary titled "Climbing Out of the Chinese Debt Trap" by Alex Vines.  

China's involvement in African debt has varied considerably and over time.  Having engaged in lending for poorer quality projects in earlier years, China is now imposing stronger sustainability requirements.  It is also paying a price for its lack of transparency.  This situation seems to have resulted in a decision to move away from loans and towards foreign direct investment.  

Ethiopia: Amnesty International Calls for Investigation of Attack on Ethnic Amhara

 Amnesty International posted on 21 July 2022 a press release titled "Ethiopia's Authorities Must Investigate Massacre of Ethnic Amhara in Tole" by Deprose Muchena, Amnesty director for East and Southern Africa.

On 18 June, at least 450 ethnic Amhara died, allegedly at the hands of the Oromo Liberation Army, in Tole ward of Oromo Region, according to a local official.  Amnesty conducted interviews with local people who confirmed the killings and called for a thorough investigation.   

Economist Intelligence Unit Predicts New Direction in Africa-China Relations

 The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) has just released a thoughtful report titled "A New Horizon for Africa-China Relations."

It concludes that the new themes in the Africa-China relationship suggest a more balanced approach to Chinese engagement in Africa during the decade ahead.  EIU argues that China intends to expand its engagement with Africa over the coming decade through increasingly diversified trade; additional investment in target sectors and trade-facilitating infrastructure; projects that address Africa's environmental, social and governance issues; and a more hands-on and interventionist approach to regional diplomacy.

EIU says China's food security issues and enormous food import requirements could drive large trade and investment flows in African agricultural products and production.  African-located manufacturing ventures will increasingly serve as an export base for industries that connect with Chinese value chains and target Chinese markets.

Citing the hosting by China in June of a Horn of Africa Peace Conference in Addis Ababa, EIU foresees an increase in political engagement in the subregion but without a fundamental shift in Chinese foreign policy away from its long-standing principle of non-interference in the affairs of other countries.

The trajectory of China-Africa ties will remain more focused on deepening still relatively shallow trade and investment links, rather than more active diplomatic mediation or more formal security arrangements.  

EIU offers a cautionary note.  The Chinese economy is slowing, and this will directly impact Africa in the short to medium term.

Comment:  I would add three other cautionary notes.  While China-Africa trade has resumed and reached a new high in 2021, it has since 2013 become increasingly unbalanced in favor of China with China maintaining a significant trade surplus with Africa.  This is good for China, but not so good for Africa, and will likely lead to growing concerns in those African countries experiencing large and persistent trade deficits with China.

EIU suggests Africa may play a more important role in exporting agricultural products to meet China's increasing need.  This may occur over the long term, but Africa remains a net importer of food products and is not well positioned over the short and medium term to fulfill this need.

EIU also suggests Africa may benefit from the shifting of manufacturing capacity from China to Africa.  So far, however, most of the manufacturing that has left China has not gone to Africa but to other lower cost destinations in Southeast and South Asia.   


Overstated Role of China in African External Debt

 The London School of Economics blog published on 1 August 2022 a commentary titled "How the US-China Rivalry Is Undermining Efforts to Address Africa's Debt" by Harry Verhoeven, Columbia University, and Nicolas Lippolis, University of Oxford.  

By imposing initiatives that do not acknowledge China's incentives or concerns, Western powers are undermining efforts at debt resolution, while failing to address the root causes of Africa's over-indebtedness.  Eurobonds have been the chief factor in the growth of African external debt.