[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] O [/yt_dropcap]n October 10 next, elections will be held in Liberia to elect the President and the Legislative Assembly, as well as the Senate. In 2009 the National Electoral Commission of the African country, which is formally independent of both the government and Parliament, already accepted a substantial funding of 17.5 million US dollars directly from USAID to properly manage the previous elections of 2004 and 2014.
Still today the US Agency supports Liberia with various programs, all effective and necessary.
When criticizing US foreign policy, we should also recall the thousands of volunteers who travel everywhere, with sincere evangelical spirit, to help peoples in developing countries.
The Liberian Senate consists of two senators for each of the fifteen regions in which the African nation is divided. The term of each Senator lasts nine years. The House of Representatives has only 73 members.
As far as we know, there is no specific public American support for next October’s elections.
Nevertheless, we are aware of the current US support to the various Liberian initiatives for better managing its national institutions, with specific reference to their functioning vis-à-vis citizens; the respect for the Rule of Law; freedom of information; the technical management of farmland and the strengthening of free people associations – briefly the “civil society” network that is essential to freedom and democracy, as Hegel taught us.
These are the only possible rational proposals to prevent the African youth bulge – now widespread in all the regions of the Black Continent – from turning directly to Europe, thus undermining its Welfare State and disrupting its labour market.
In spite of the too many considerations made, Europe has not the will, rational programs or money to help Africa before its peoples arriving massively in it.
Conversely, the United States knows Africa very well and it is not by mere coincidence that in 2007 it founded the Africa Command, together with 53 African States, but established its headquarters in Europe, precisely in Stuttgart.
Not surprisingly, from May 19 to 30, the United States run the African exercise United Accord 2017 to train local soldiers and monitor the African regions around Ghana.
Then there is China. This is one of the real points of interest and substantial future development for Africa.
Without China, there will be no real economic transformation across the Black Continent – hence not even in Liberia.
It is worth recalling that Sierra Leone and Liberia were, respectively, the countries established by US and British slaves freed in 1820 and in the 1840s, respectively.
The humanitarian and moral motivation was obvious, but there was also a strategic goal: when there was the “rush to Africa” by the European continental powers, control networks of France, Great Britain, Germany and Italy had to be created to prevent the European regional powers from getting a big head.
Neither the United States nor Britain have ever stopped thinking that the States of the Eurasian peninsula are, indeed, dangerous global competitors.
To date, however, the United States depends on Africa for a quarter of its oil imports, while China depends on Africa for over a quarter of its oil imports.
Hence no more of those endless, tragic and especially stupid regional wars, like Rwanda’s and the two Liberian civil wars.
Cold War relics that survived even after the end of the bipolar confrontation, like Princess Sissi on the Geneva pier after being stabbed by the usual Italian anarchist.
At the beginning, Rwanda’s war was instigated by a European intelligence service, while the two Liberian civil wars by some local officers’ hunger for money and by small squabbles between neighboring states.
And by some big Western companies.
Finally no more with that idea – which today is really crazy – to replicate the old divisions of the Cold War in Africa, with so many small geopolitical frogs that swell up until bursting.
Or possibly trying to make third-rate local dictators cherish the illusion that revenue, and raw materials to be sold cheaply to the stupid Westerners, can be extracted – with such unnecessary and cruel violence – from an exhausted people.
We, in the West, we are not stupid at all. We do not need shady brokers who manage raw materials as if they were local monopolists. We do not even want Africa to become not a series of failed states, but a whole continent doomed to disaster.
Again, no more with the idea that the Black Continent is a reserve of raw materials and nothing else, or a region where anything is allowed, even at the expense of Europeans themselves, who, for example, are still paying the fixed exchange rate of the CFA franc against the euro.
Not at all, Africa is a huge continent that must be respected and quickly put back on its legs – just to use again a Hegelian metaphor – and, above all, should not be considered a mere reservoir of raw materials that others process.
By paraphrasing the slogan of Mao Zedong’s first speech as President in Tiananmen Square: the African people have stood up!
Hence work must return to Africa. It must certainly be cheaper than in Europe, but its cost must be such as to change the social, economic and civil system of the Black Continent.
Instead of sending so many African raw materials to intermediate processing areas, which are equally, if not more, distant from the primary consumption areas, namely ours, it would be good to teach to a stupid globalization how to enhance the great local African potential.
We can no longer imagine a geopolitics of the Black Continent managed by ongoing and very harsh conflicts – and, indeed, Liberia is a tragic evidence of this, with its civil war between 1989 and 1996 and its second phase between 1999 and 2003.
All conflicts between the usual third-rate dictators operating for the second lines of the old global powers, new masters who thought to repeat the old game of the great powers – the “Great Game or the Tournament of Shadows”, as the Russians called it – with few means, no effective geopolitical idea and no command.
Not even of the network of raw materials brokers – and this is really serious. Certainly prices increased, but consumption plunged.
Let us now revert to Liberia’s elections scheduled for next October.
The President of the country is elected with a two-round system, while, as already said, the Legislative Assembly, composed of 73 members, is elected with the first past the post system, designed more by bookmakers for horse-race betting than by serious political scientists.
It is an electoral mechanism granting election to the candidate who has achieved the parity of votes, but who may also have even one single vote more than his/her direct competitor.
Its effects are obvious: clientelism and political patronage, corruption, electoral manipulation, unfulfilled promises, excessive power of the local ringleaders of the various candidates.
It would have been good also for Sicily in the second half of the nineteenth century.
Currently there are nine Presidential candidates.
There is Alexander B. Cummings, Head of the Liberian Alternative National Congress, former Coca Cola manager, who is currently President of the Cummings Africa Foundation.
Then there is George Weah, a well-known (and very talented) football player who spent four years in Italy.
Today, after two elections the outcome of which was not positive for him, he has been a member of the Liberian Assembly since 2014.
Another candidate is Joseph Boakai, Vice-President until January 2006, but already manager of the Liberia Wood Management Corporation and of the Liberia Petroleum Refining Company.
Once again, oil.
Liberia does not have it, but it has approximately one billion offshore reserves divided into 30 concessions, 17 deep sea and 13 ultra-deep sea ones. As early as 2011, Exxon Mobil had already started oil exploration, but the Ebola virus epidemic had blocked everything.
In 2017, but only at the end of the year, Exxon Mobil will resume explorations. Do you think this is not alien to the October elections? You are perfectly right.
The candidates also include Charles Walker Boakine, a lawyer and partner of a major law firm in Monrovia.
Head of the Liberty Party, and former ally of the Congress for Democratic Change – currently the two old coalition parties which, in European terms, we would define as center-left – are sworn enemies.
Another Presidential candidate is Prince Johnson, current Senior Senator from the Nimba County, former rebel general who is notorious for publicly slaying coup leader and ex-President Samuel K. Doe, during the First Liberian War (1989-1997), and narrowly failing to kill the kleptocrat James Taylor, who became President of Liberia in 1997.
It is worth noting with some malice that the Guinness Book of Records reports that the 1927 Liberian presidential election was the most fraudulent in world history – but even today the situation has not changed so much.
The 2017 Presidential candidates include Benoni Urei, a wealthy businessman, as well as two other businessmen, namely Jeremiah Wapoe and Richard Miller.
However, to put it frankly, our favourite candidate is Macdella Cooper.
She has long established the foundation, bearing her name, for the health and cultural and civil development of Liberian children and women.
When the first local civil war broke out, she was at first exiled to the Ivory Coast and later migrated to the United States in 1993.
She got a degree in Communication at the College of New Jersey and later her life was characterized by work and experiences designed to better know the world.
She started as mannequin in the high fashion world and then began fashion designer for the most famous griffes of the international fashion industry, both in the United States and Europe.
In 2003, she launched her foundation, with offices in Charlesville, Margibi County, Liberia.
There Macdella Cooper drafted her political program – a rational and practicable program, but especially useful for everyone.
First and foremost, free education for all Liberian children.
Currently, in Liberia, the literacy rate is 63.5% for boys and 32.2% for girls and young women.
The adult literacy rate is very low, namely 42.9%, while currently only 41% of all children attend primary school.
No country can really survive with these education statistics.
These are figures which can only pave the way for illegal recruitment of workers for very low wages, endemic hunger, the low but inevitable technological level of local, foreign or national industries and – as is natural – the criminal degeneration of politics and, hence, of public spending.
Hence how to fund this new and smart African Welfare State, which is even more unlikely in a country, such as Liberia, having all institutions, even the most irrational ones, modeled on the Anglo-Saxon idea, as Carroll Quigley – Clinton’s ignored professor – called it?
Macdella proposes to check the Liberian natural resources.
It is an excellent idea.
However, we have to come to terms with what Stiglitz calls the resource curse and also with the excessive volatility of commodity prices dominated by Western futures and hence by speculation that focuses on raw materials when there is nothing else to attack.
Therefore, either a price and sales Authority is set up, being careful of international prices, but above all of not being cheated – a national and State body – but it is precisely the “resource curse” theorized by Stiglitz which makes us think that it becomes a rent seeking area.
Or Liberian raw materials, agricultural produce, gold, iron, diamonds, rubber, precious wood are sold to the highest bidder – with an auction regulated by international customary practices and Liberian laws.
The customers are the following: China, the United States – since the devil is not so black as he is painted – and Israel.
In the case of rare raw materials, part of the price is always set by the supply.
Finally, when you have to increase the price of what is sold, the supply is diversified. Do you not want Liberian gold? We will sell it to China or Japan.
Furthermore, Macdella focuses on health.
A central issue in the country where Ebola caused at least 11,000 victims.
Not to mention malnutrition, corruption and the lack of public health facilities, subject to the crazy and vicious religion of “liberalization”.
Obviously if you liberalize business activities, the average income increases, but are we sure that a job providing you two additional dollars a day can also make you afford good treatments and therapies?
This is the fallacy of the general argument, as already maliciously described by Pareto.
In fact, in Liberia 35% of health costs are borne by the patients themselves, who are statistically the poorest people. A reverse economic rationale.
Furthermore, for some time in 2015, the whole African country was deprived of 77% of its basic medicines.
As Macdella recalls, Ebola was largely defeated by the Liberian people’s good will and by international aid – less significant than it is believed – as well as by China’s efforts, in particular.
How can the Liberian public health system be paid – a system that is essential as education or even more to tackle the problem of underdevelopment?
A WHO share to be set, which is transferred by the World Health Organization – a share of structural aid (medicines, hospitals, training centers for doctors and nursing staff) funded by the EU, which now believes that today’s Africa is still the same as that of the Roman ancient imperial maps, bearing the warning hic sunt leones (“here are lions”) – as well as a large share of international volunteers and finally direct support by China and Israel.
In other words, my dear Liberian friends and my dear Macdella, if you immediately sell yourself to one single master, your price will drop until you cannot even pay the production costs.
In less metaphorical terms, do not let anybody handcuff you, both in the East and in the West.
You will see then how, magically, the prices of your raw materials will stabilize.
Once again, Macdella Cooper wants free access to healthcare – otherwise the phrase attributed to Marie Antoinette of France when alerted that the people were suffering due to widespread bread shortages, “Then let them eat brioches”, would echo also in Monrovia.
Liberalism has been invented by the theorists of the Mont Pèlerin Society as a tool for the general increase of incomes. However, if people have to pay everything by themselves, namely pensions, healthcare and education, can you tell me how can earnings and savings be increased? Are they all rich people there?
And to think that the Code of Camaldoli, drafted at the end of World War II by the best Catholic intellectuals in Italy, had already solved everything.
Let us now talk about electricity, which reaches only 10% of Liberian households.
Sometimes, in Liberia, there is also a lack of fuel, managed by the local monopoly.
My dear Macdella Cooper, what if your internal monopoly broke and possibly our ENI could set in, since it has a formidable and long-standing tradition of balanced policy and respect for the African peoples?
And it just so happens that electricity is supplied only by diesel generators.
Who manages them, apart from the private ones? You have certainly already understood it.
In 2015 the Millennium Fund signed a 257 million US dollar contract for restructuring the Mount Coffee hydroelectric power plant, but an autonomous authority is required to regulate the energy system.
Autonomous Authorities reporting only to Macdella Cooper if she is elected President, as we hope, are the administrative and political key not to have to do with the huge, corrupt, enemy local bureaucracy.
You should remember, Ms. Macdella Cooper, that – as Machiavelli said – men “must be either pampered or annihilated.”
Another fair and topical issue is decentralization.
The issue lies in providing services, healthcare and education to all Liberians, thus avoiding the destiny of the big cities generated solely by great poverty, as already happened in Haiti, in Latin America and certainly also in Africa – just think of Cairo or the South African Federation.
The decentralization program in Liberia is old and dates back to 2012. So far it has been supported by the EU and by the Liberian government itself, as well as by the efficient and humanitarian Swedish government and by Liberia’s Permanent Mission to the UN and by the United Nations Development Program.
Perfect, but are we sure that, in peripheral areas, the Liberian bureaucracy behaves as when it is closely scrutinized?
Another key issue in Macdella Cooper’s program is the distribution of land ownership.
This is the political axis to develop the new Liberia.
In March 2017 actions were started to support the Lands Right Act, which envisages a role for civil society organizations in managing new, safe and stable rights for land cultivation and ownership, the sale of agricultural produce and for maintaining these rights for a sufficient period of time.
Hence for stabilizing – at the highest level – farmers, the real future middle class of the new, free and rich Liberia.
The EU representative for these issues in Monrovia is a brilliant Italian official, Alberto Menghini.
Owners must always be created in rural areas.
Just think of the importance for the Italian history of the land struggles, supported by the Catholic union movement (Miglioli’s peasant leagues) and by the Socialist one, often even “softer” than the Catholics’ struggles for land ownership.
You can understand nothing of Italy if you do not recall the cry “the land to the peasants”, which characterized Socialists, Catholics, Republicans and finally the Fascists supporting “full land reclamation”.
The land to the peasants, the land to those who cultivate it, must still be the cry of all responsible African political forces.
Hence, as Macdella Cooper rightly says, the customary rights and those established by everyone and long time ago must not be eradicated. On the contrary, a census of said rights must be possibly carried out and this agricultural pourparler must be replaced by real ownership rights.
As Macdella says, never eliminate the commons.
She is perfectly right.
If England had not abolished the agricultural commons to favour the migration of the impoverished and hungry masses to work for nothing in Manchester’s factories, it would not have recorded the huge food crises of the nineteenth century.
Hence, as a sign of support and friendship, I have made some considerations on Macdella Cooper’s program for Presidential elections in Liberia.
I hope they will bring her luck.
Global community must go beyond military cooperation to assist Africa
Russian Special Presidential Representative for the Middle East and Africa and Deputy Foreign Minister, Mikhail Bogdanov, has urged global community to go beyond military cooperation to assist African countries that are still facing a number of serious development problems particularly infrastructure, social inequality, healthcare and education.
According to Bogdanov, transnational problems, the issues of arms smuggling, drug trafficking, illegal migration and even slavery continue escalating on the African continent.
“Joint efforts of the whole global community are required for meeting those challenges, I am confident that the aid to African states should go beyond military components,” the Russian diplomat stressed.
“It is necessary to fortify public institutions, engage economic and humanitarian fields, construct infrastructure facilities, create new jobs,” Bogdanov said, adding “those are the ways of solving such problem as migration, for example, to Europe.”
Bogdanov was contributing to the panel discussions on the topic: “Engaging Africa in Dialogue: Towards a Harmonious Development of the Continent” at the Dialogue of Civilisations Forum that was held from October 5-6 in Rhodes, Greece.
This plenary discussion aimed at identifying specifically African countries’ priorities and issues holding back these countries and if competition between the West and Asia could benefit Africa, or is a more collaborative effort needed.
Bogdanov’s advice to the global community to go “beyond military cooperation” came at the crucial time when as part of the foreign policy, Russia has increasingly stepped up exports of military equipment through its “military-technical cooperation” abroad instead of assisting with needed investment in economic sectors in African countries.
Within the context of strengthening ties, Director for International Cooperation and Regional Policy Department of Rostec, Victor Kladov, said at the Business Forum of 2018 Army Games recently organised by the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation that “African countries are now returning to military-technical cooperation market as their national economies steadily develop.”
Rosoboronexport’s cooperation with traditional importers of Russian weapons from Africa include Algeria, Angola, Burkina Faso, Botswana, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Libya, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Sudan, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe. It has recently concluded agreements with a few more African countries.
In March, President Putin chaired this year’s first meeting of the Commission for Military Technical Cooperation with Foreign States and Kremlin’s website transcript pointed to the geographic reach of military technical cooperation as constantly expanding, with the number of partners already in more than 100 countries worldwide.
It’s an established fact that the major driver for Moscow’s push into Africa is military-technical cooperation more broadly. These often include officer training and the sale of military equipment, though the full details are rarely publicly available.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) reported in December 2017 that Russia accounted for nearly 20% of the volume of major arms supplied to sub-Saharan Africa.
The Soviets provided military assistance, a historically accepted view, but many experts have also acknowledged that now ideology is not a significant factor.
Dmitri Bondarenko, Deputy Director of the Institute for African Studies Institute (IAS) of the Russian Academy of Sciences, told me: “With African countries, the primary aim now for Russian business is to regain a competitive edge in the global arms trade, and what’s interesting is that the approach is not ideological but very pragmatic – you pay, we ship. It’s simply business and nothing more.”
“Russia has revived their contacts with their African comrades that used to be the traditional buyers of Soviet weaponry. It is a similar policy, in the sense, that they are using military diplomacy once again in order to gain stature and influence in certain countries,” Scott Firsing, a visiting Bradlow fellow at the South African Institute for International Affairs (SAIIA), wrote in an emailed discussion.
Arguably, Shaabani Nzori, a Moscow based Foreign Policy Expert, thinks that Russia’s military-technical cooperation with African countries is appropriate in Russia’s foreign policy but African leaders should also allocate enough money to spend on priority development projects in Africa.
“It shows clearly Russia’s weak business engagement with Africa. Until now, we can’t point to completed Russian infrastructure projects in Africa. There are many investment areas. What is important these days is Russia has to go beyond just selling arms to Africa! Still, Russia has the chance to transfer its technology to agriculture and industries in Africa,” Shaabani said in the interview discussion.
President Vladimir Putin said a major part of Russia’s weapons business includes new equipment supplies, upgrades and refurbishment of Soviet-era technology and hardware. “Russia places special emphasis on developing countries that gradually increase military procurement. We understand that competition in this sector of the international economy is very high and very serious,” he said.
According to Kremlin website, Russia targeted global export contracts worth $50 billion in 2018. Russia’s export priority is to expand its scope and strengthen its position on the market. Last year’s results indicated that Russia has been keeping its standards high, confirming its status as one of the leading suppliers on the global arms market. The portfolio for Russian arms and military equipment stands at $45 billion.
Russia plans “to enhance multifaceted interaction with African states on a bilateral and multilateral with a focus on promoting mutually beneficial trade and economic cooperation” – the full text of the new foreign policy concept was approved by President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin on February 12, 2013.
France and China in Africa
A geoeconomic and strategic clash between China and France is currently emerging across Africa, with France supporting the United States in a new bilateral relationship, and China changing its economic penetration into the Dark Continent- in a new relationship with the Russian Federation.
Let us look at the main data and statistics: this year the African Development Bank has forecast a 1.9% growth in Southern Africa; a 2.2% growth in Central Africa and even 3.4% in Eastern and Northern Africa.
However, the trend is towards a slowdown in economic growth across the world – a slowdown that will be ushered in by the reaching and exceeding of the 100 US dollar threshold of the oil barrel price.
In fact, if we analyse the data and statistical series, the recent great economic and financial crises have been triggered by a significant increase in the oil price – that the West is facing with increasing difficulty.
Reverting to the focus of our analysis, in East Africa growth will be even 5.7%, the current highest rate in the world, apart from some Asian countries.
Africa’s development, however, has two sides – the side of the GDP growth and the equally important one of the increase in the external debt of many African countries.
An African indebtedness that mainly concerns China.
Here two very severe cases can be seen: in fact, in January 2017, Mozambique declared it could not to repay its foreign debt, due to a hidden debt incurred by its companies to the tune of 1.8 billion euros.
Furthermore, in August 2017, Congo had to revaluate its debt to 120% of its GDP (it was previously 77%) for similar reasons.
Hidden indebtedness is currently one of Africa’s plagues. It is currently worth 34% of the total African GDP. It is a debt mainly denominated in foreign currencies, often run up by unsavory and deceptive bankers, including members of Italy’s and other regions’ organized crime. This obviously favours China’s purchase of African companies that now cost a handful of rice.
In Nigeria, currently 60% of State revenue is used for servicing the public debt, with evident and foreseeable internal turmoil in the near future, considering that the Nigerian government has no reserves for productive public spending and for the necessary poverty mitigation policies.
In Ghana, the government led by Nana Akufo-Addo, who has been in power since January 2017, has taken on the debt piled up by its predecessors, which today accounts for 80% of GDP.
Also Angola, the second sub-Saharan oil power, is debt-ridden and is reducing extraction activities.
In Angola the debt is supposed to account for 90% of GDP and it is rising quickly.
As previously mentioned, China already holds much of the African debt.
It owns 70% of Cameroon’s public debt. This holds true also for Kenya.
Moreover, international banks inform us of the fact that between 2010 and 2014 the appetite for Chinese credit has increased by 54% throughout Africa.
A figure never reached by any developed country in banking and economic development relations with Africa.
Until 2017, however, the average of the African public debt was 45% of GDP.
Currently, however, according to the African Development Bank, at least 11 out of the 35 low-income African countries are considered to be at very high over-indebtedness risk.
For years the low cost of raw materials has been the trigger of the crisis, which will certainly become very severe in the phase of the “debt peak” which, in the case of Africa, is expected to materialize in 2021.
At the same time, however, some African States have begun to lend money to some emerging African countries, obviously at a rate higher than the rate granted to them. Countries that had no access to international credit.
And with raw materials that have been on the wane for long time, as well as a growing cost of manpower and the increase in internal political instability, caused by the crisis in public spending for a minimum level of Welfare State.
A debt spiral that has already enabled as many as 32 African countries to accept the unfair conditions of the private Funds for debt recycling, which acquire the securities at derisory prices and then resell them at a higher price to good European and American clients.
In 1996, however, the Ivory Coast, Ghana, Cameroon, Gabon, Rwanda and Kenya accepted the PPTE program of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund – the program for heavily indebted countries which imposed strict spending control on them so as to later enable them to return into the international credit mechanism.
The recipes are well-known: privatization, in the belief that the private sector is metaphysically better than the State one; heavy cuts in current spending, as well as reduction of spending on security and investments, including the productive ones.
As can be easily imagined, this has created a very profound crisis in the income of the poorest walks of society and has really annihilated the prospects for the young generations who, in fact, flee unreasonably towards the EU – or swell the ranks of the very strong exchange of manpower between the various African countries.
Currently the most indebted countries in Africa are South Africa, Sudan, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Ivory Coast, Nigeria and Kenya. Hence a continent already destroyed before being made sufficiently productive.
Ironically, many of these countries are also on the list of the richest nations in Africa: Egypt, South Africa and Nigeria–again in descending order.
France, however, has lost its traditional role as top investor in Africa.
Between 2015 and 2016, for example, China invested as many as 38.4 billion US dollars in the Dark Continent, while the second largest investor in Africa, namely the United Arab Emirates, reached 15 billion US dollars over the same period.
Italy, however, is the top investor among European countries, especially through ENI.
France ranks only sixth with 7.7 billion US dollars invested.
Meanwhile the Russian Federation is strengthening its traditional ties with Algeria and it is arranging a free trade area in the Maghreb region, with the Alawite Kingdom of Morocco at the core. It is also building nuclear power plants in Egypt and Southern Africa, with further exports of Russian grain to the poorest African countries.
Russia is also organizing peer cooperation projects in Equatorial Guinea, Burundi, Zambia, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
Areas that are less relevant to China or where there may be cooperation between China and Russia, with the latter interested in agriculture and oil and the former building infrastructure and operating on the market of the other raw materials.
China already owns 98% of the world’s coltan -i.e. the columbite-tantalite used for all commercial electronic devices – which can be found in the Central African Republic.
France’s exports to Africa, however, have almost halved in 2018 compared to 2000, falling from 11% to 5.5%.
In Senegal, French exports fell by 25% in 2017 – a loss that locally favoured Turkey, Spain and, above all, China.
Certainly the French-speaking Africa – linked to the CFA Franc – is a huge source of raw materials, with 14% of the world’s energy reserves and 22% of the world’s habitable areas.
Through the Africa using the CFA Franc, the French-speaking regions, which alone account for 4% of the world population, still account for 16% of world GDP and 20% of global trade in goods. France led by President Macron (but also France led by his more colourless predecessor Hollande) wants to create an autonomous common market – to be used also against an adverse EU – between the economy of the French Hexagon and the economies of the African French-speaking countries.
And this is precisely the point of geopolitical contrast with China.
China, however, still has many strings to its bow.
Last June, for example, Burkina Faso announced it had broken its relations with Taiwan to recognize only the People’s Republic of China.
The first step that China asks all its partners to take.
China also doubled US bilateral trade with Africa as early as 2013.
The beginning of the new relationship between China and Africa – after the “Three Worlds” Maoist theory in which, however, the People’s Republic of China became the leader of the Third World, after the two American and Soviet “imperialisms”-materialized after the Tiananmen Square protests and crisis in 1989, with a view to escaping the isolation imposed by the West (and by Russia which, at the time, had many problems to solve).
It should also be noted that many current African leaders have been educated in China.
Think of Joseph Kabila, the leader of the Democratic Republic of Congo, who studied at the National University of Defence in Beijing.
Or to Mulatu Teshoma, the President of Ethiopia, who studied philosophy and political economy with a PhD in international law at the Peking University, before continuing his studies at the Tufts University in the United States.
Or again to Emmerson Mnangagwa, the President of Zimbabwe, former student of the “School of Marxism” at the Peking University, who later spent a period of time in Nanjing studying combat training.
The current leader of Tanzania studied military engineering in China and then returned to the country in 1964.
Hence how is France responding to this? In July 2018 President Macron went to Nigeria -after having paid an official visit to Ghana – but he has the clear intention of gaining broad consensus not only in the old African French-speaking countries, but also in the English-speaking part of the Dark Continent.
The French President believes that also Africa is now “globalized” and hence he must go well beyond the old traditional perimeter of the so called Françafrique.
The concept underling the strategy of President Macron is no longer the traditional one of Françafrique, but rather that of AfricaFrance.
The offer made to the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, to become President of the International Organization of the Francophonie must be seen in this context.
From the African autonomous culture – which, according to President Macron, must be revitalized – to the recovery of the French economy and companies in Africa: the French market in Africa fell from 11% in 2003 to 5% in 2017.
Meanwhile China rose from 3% in 2001 to the pan-African 18% in 2017.
Even Germany has currently overtaken France in foreign trade with Africa.
Certainly the French President also wants his country to remain the “policeman” of Africa – as during the Cold War – but he plans to confine his fight “to terrorism”, or more precisely to the sword jihad, in the Sahel region, which is and will be the future core of the French military presence in Africa.
Furthermore, President Macron intends to deal with business, thus limiting the security role played by France in Africa France as much as possible.
This is also the meaning of the increasingly important role that will be given to the G5 Sahel,i.e. the Joint Force of the Group of Five for the Sahel including Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad.
In short, according to its best strategic analysts, France wants to prevent future geoeconomic battles by preserving its global strategic role. Hence it wants to protect its old African colonies from the predatory and harmful effects of globalization.
This means that France tends to produce a new African “common market” between its economy and the developing economies if its old Françafrique.
Hence the recent France-G5Sahel military operations must be seen in this context: Operation Barkhane, which began in 2014 with 3,000 French soldiers, in addition to those of the G5-Sahel, based in ‘Ndjamena, the capital of Chad, as well as the Operation Serval aimed at ousting Islamic militants from the North of Mali, and Operation Epervier, a French counter-terrorist action between Cameroon and Chad.
The other two French military operations, namely Sangaris and Licorne – the former in the Central African Republic, which ended in 2016, and the latter a peacekeeping action in the Ivory Coast, replaced in 2015 by the “French Forces in the Ivory Coast” -were a relative success, but with a progressive support from the US African Command.
However, what about the CFA Franc, which is now a controversial topic inside and outside Africa France?
For some African Heads of State and Government, who obviously do not want to give in to China or to other new players in Africa, the CFA Franc “is a sound currency” and “does good to the African people”, just to quote the explicit words of Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara.
President Macron stated that the CFA Franc is “a currency that works and needs to be modernized together”.
It should be recalled, however, that France intervened militarily in Africa as many as 42 times from 1968 to 2013.
France will never give up Africa, but it has not the liquidity to really do so. China, too, will certainly not give up Africa and will never intervene militarily, if not directly hit, while investing massively in the Dark Continent.
Hence how will the CFA Franc be reformed?
It is easy to predict: with an increase of its value as against the Euro and new internal regulations governing the relations between France and the other African partners.
The French game in Africa will work until the Chinese economy slows down and hence there will be less Chinese capital to invest in Africa.
China, however, is already a net importer of semi-finished goods, as well as clothes and basic products from countries such as Ethiopia, while many African countries keep on importing high-value-added goods and capital for basic industrialization from China.
In Africa, China tends to replicate the same development as its development of the early days of the “Four Modernizations” phase.
Therefore, the most likely solution in the near future will be a concentration of French power on the G5 Sahel, with a parallel reduced role of France in the Eastern region of the Dark Continent.
While China will keep on expanding its influence in Africa, from the South to sub-Saharan Central Africa, up to Egypt and the Northern Atlantic Coast of Africa.
Twenty Years of South Africa’s transition: An Economic and Foreign policy perspective
Authors: Srimal Fernando and Siksha Singh*
South African has made a major transition from apartheid to democracy which is one of the most significant political occurrences of the past 20 years. The flag bearer of this movement was anti-apartheid crusader Nelson Mandela. Through his deep commitment to the cherished ideals of equality he introduced South Africa to the larger world. The nation’s vision on foreign affairs during this period was based on the tenet that human rights should be at the core of international relations. This period also witnessed the constitution of Truth and Reconciliation Commission to set in place the justice mechanism. South African constitution has also gone through many transformations post the political upheavals in the region since 1996.
Mandela‘s tenure from 1994 to 1999 was credited for its emphasis on economic growth through a framework of market economics and encouragement of foreign investment. The former President exercised active, determined leadership in the years following his consolidation of power. There had been sincere attempts to shift to democratic federalist system which had helped in improving the economic welfare of all communities. On the economic front the nation was transitioning from Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) Policy to Growth, Employment and Redistribution (GER) Policy. This policy accelerated the economic growth of the nation to 3.5%, led to creation of 400,000 Jobs and uplifted the Black Middle class.
Mandela was succeeded by Mebaki’s Presidency. His government was instrumental in establishing intra-continental trade with other African nations which resulted in national exports rising from ZAR 8.6 Billion in 1994 to ZAR 38.8 Billion in 2003 which was a 300% increase. Mebaki’s regime was known for quiet diplomacy; however South Africa’s leadership among African nations was making new strides. The leader’s key emphasis was on finding solutions to Africa’s problems such as reducing poverty levels and helping in establishing stability in African states. However his foreign policy was criticized for the refusal to express disapproval of Zimbabwe’s President Mugabe’s authoritative rule and gross neglect of human rights abuses. The pursuit of economic development at all cost had implications for the political complexation of the Mebaki presidency as well. Former leader therefore wished the country’s performance to be measured in terms of its acceleration of economic change.
Zacob Zuma succeeded Thabo Mebaki and his economic policy shifted from Mandela’s Growth, Employment and Redistribution to a new macro-economic policy which provided social assistance to 17 million South Africans and ZAR 120 Billion a year on infrastructure projects like Roads, Railways, Ports and electricity supply. During his presidency South Africa also got the distinction of the number one country in the world for extending maximum subsidy for housing. South Africa also became a part of BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa)in 2011 and helped in laying the foundation for BRICS Development Bank in Johannesburg. The country got the chair of IORA (Indian Ocean Rim Association) and BRICS since 2017.
The appointment of former Vice-President Cyril Ramaphosa as South Africa’s President can be seen as a period achieving stability and taking significant steps towards consolidating its economic and social status in the next four years. His policy formulation is vastly different from his predecessors. South Africa’s perception of foreign relations has remained fairly consistent since the time of late President Nelson Mandela and current President has been the most successful in combining creativity and collaboration with numerous regional groupings taking a lead on matters of foreign policy. The countries GDP per capita over the last twenty years has grown from 3,447$ in 1994 to 7,524$ (World Bank, 2017).The growth however has been inequitable due to the high rates of unemployment which was estimated to be around 26%.(Statistics office, 2017).The government recently set the vision for 2030 which is Quality basic education, decent employment through inclusive economic growth and Vibrant, equitable and sustainable rural communities contributing to food security for all. Changes in South Africa’s social structure during the past decades are insufficient to explain the policy changes that took place during Mandela’s period. Transforming the democratic leadership in South Africa was a process of what’s called dismantling of the old system in a way that simultaneously creates a new foundation for a political system that will lead South Africa to new heights. Nevertheless there are things that draw these leaders together as the political economy of South Africa has found a stable equilibrium with less than maximal redistributive taxation. The desire to preserve South Africa’s status as a global and a continental power will require small steps beyond the presidency.
*Siksha Singh, a scholar of Masters in Diplomacy, Law, International Business at Jindal School of International Affairs, India
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