China’s „One Belt One Road “Initiative has been allocated as its most determined project ever in trying to shape and influence behavior in the international system in line with her growing figure. At the same time, mounting Sino-Africa relations have been the subject of scholarly debate with supporters taking an optimistic view, also presented by China herself, of this relationship being a win-win partnership. Critics led by the US argue China is just using Africa to extract resources for its use, an allegation she disproves. The authors therefore sought to look at Sino-African relations but focusing on the implementation of One Belt, One Road, in the African continent.
OBOR is a mixture of two outward-facing notions introduced by Mr Xi in late 2013 to uphold economic engagement and investment along two main routes. To date, reports suggest that the first route, the New Silk Road Economic Belt, will run westward overland through Central Asia and onward to Europe. The second route, the 21st-Century Maritime Silk Road, will probably circle south and westward by sea towards Europe, with proposed stops in South-east Asia, South Asia and Africa. Being the center of china’s foreign policy since 2013 study on OBOR in Africa will give an understanding and fully answer some questions surrounding these relations.
China’s approach to international diplomacy is growing. Having long sought to maintain a “low profile” on the global stage, it has in recent years begun to advocate a greater role for itself in the international order. Chinese companies are also leaving the comforts of their home-based market and going overseas, seeking to blow new markets and acquire new machineries. China’s president, Xi Jinping, is ramping up efforts to reinforce China’s global position. He has proclaimed a number of high-profile multilateral initiatives intended to advance China’s international existence and promote closer ties with more countries. The main initiative under this impulse, “one belt, one road” (OBOR), promises to be among the widest-reaching of these. It not only represents a renewed, stronger and better co-ordinated push to expand China’s influence overseas, but it is also coupled with a domestic investment drive, in which nearly every Chinese province has a stake.
In a period of three decades, China has transformed from an agricultural, self-contained and inward looking state into a global economic capital second only to the United States (Cheung & Lee, 2015). In line with her growing stature in the international system, China has sought to exert influence on the global stage, from Latin America, Middle East, South East Asia, to Africa. One way of achieving this and as part of China’s „global grand strategy‟ is the 21st Century Silk Road Economic Belt Initiative, informally known as One Belt, One Road‟. In the same vain, Sino-African relations have grown exponentially since the 1955Bandung conference. The original „Silk Road‟ was established over 2100 years ago during the Han Dynasty to promote trade and cultural development between China, Asia, Africa. The „New Silk Road Economic Belt‟ launched tenderly as “One Belt One Road‟ initiative or Yídàiyílù was introduced by china’s President Xi Jinping as the centerpiece of his foreign and economic policy in 2013. It is by far the most significant and far-reaching project China has ever embarked on however the One Belt One Road project or is fundamentally comprised of two interdependent and interrelated concepts; the „Silk Road Economic Belt‟ and the „Maritime Silk Road‟. Essentially, the „belt‟ is comprised of a network of roads, rails, power grids and gas pipelines that run over land from Central China in Xi‟an, the capital of Shanxi Province through Central Asia, to Moscow, Rotterdam and Venice. This corporation of infrastructural projects will consequently pass through a number of countries. The Maritime Silk Road on the other hand is its oceanic counterpart. This involves the construction of a network of sea ports in the South China Sea, Indian Ocean and the South Pacific Ocean. It will essentially connect South East Asia, Oceania, East Africa and North Africa through the Mediterranean. the essential pillars of the initiative are „promotion of policy coordination, facilitating connectivity, unhindered trade, financial integration people-to-people bonds and the African section of the belt and road is of concern for this article. It covers three countries; Kenya, Djibouti and Egypt.
According to Xinhua News Agency, three countries in Africa are directly involved in the belt and road initiative; Kenya, Djibouti and Egypt. However, the extent of their involvement is unclear, with many documents indicating Egypt as the sole African state to be involved in this initiative. Various factors have been attributed for the inclusion of these exclusive three African states into the center piece of china’s 21st Century diplomacy;
According to the realism theory of international relations world politics has been characterized by power politics. In the context of security and global geopolitics the horn of Africa region and the Suez Canal has been traditionally a Western-controlled zone with the US and her allies being the primary guarantor for maritime security. Any powerful state controls the security of that region, also controls the maritime trade routes between Asia, Europe and Africa. Egypt and Djibouti, two of the three African states part of the OBOR are strategically located at the heart of global geo-politics playground. Djibouti is quite unique as it now hosts military bases for the US, France and now China. While the fight against pirates has often been cited as the propellant behind this, one can’t quite push the power struggles as being the true variable for these great power shaving such a heavy military presence in the region. The entry into Djibouti and the region by China could slope and re align security partnerships that have underpinned global order since 1945 but For Egypt, its strategic geographical location at the Suez Canal gives it an indispensable status, explaining why it’s the only African nation to officially sign bilateral agreements with China on One Belt, One Road.
The initiative simply cannot afford to exclude Egypt. On the other hand, the inclusion of Djibouti has been a result of logical‟ assumptions than from official statements. This can purely be explained under the quest for global dominance and the geopolitics of the horn of Africa as stated earlier. With 30% of world shipping going through the entrance of the Red Sea from the Indian Ocean and on to the Suez Canal, Djibouti and Egypt are very critical.
In addition the opportunities can be eye from different aspects firstly the 1,780km Tanzania Zambia Railway line (TAZARA) has symbolized china’s presence in Africa since the 1970‟s. Currently China is involved in numerous mega infrastructural projects in Africa. For purposes of this paper, some of those which lie within the mandate of OBOR will be highlighted. Top on the list is the 2,700kmEast African Railway line. This includes Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan. As indicated earlier, extent of involvement of OBOR affiliated institutions in financing the Kenyan part are not clear, though China‟s Exim bank has been linked. 8Another major railway project is the 1,315km Kano-Lagos railway line in Nigeria, the 1,302km Bengue railway line in Angola (which brings to total 4,000km railway in Angola constructed by China), 560km Belinga-Santa Clara railway in Gabon, 172km railway in Libya and 430km rail in Mauritania to name but a few. To put this into perspective, the entire African rail network is 50,000km.On the other hand, China is constructing port facilities in Kenya, Tanzania, Gabon, and Djibouti among others, with most road construction being handled by Chinese contractors, using Chinese financing. The 1302km Angola railway line will be linked with Angola-Zambia and TAZARA in future. On port construction, China is involved in construction of the Lamumega port in Kenya, Bagamoyo port in Tanzania, Santa Clara deep water port in Gabon amongst others9. It’s safe to say even without OBOR therefore, China is heavily involved in opening up Africa.
What Can OBOR Offer On Infrastructure?
Firstly, with China involved in all these infrastructural projects in Africa, coupled with OBOR‟s vision for improving connectivity among countries, the initiative will offer a centralized, clear vision, and concerted effort in streamlining infrastructural development in Africa. A case in point is the railway line in Angola which is complete on their side of the border, but under-utilized because neither Democratic Republic of Congo nor Zambia have linked up to connect to the port, hence hindering efforts to export their products. Secondly, capital for infrastructural development in Africa comes from various Chinese bank loans under individual bilateral agreements entered into by these countries. Through OBOR, the capital inflow can be clearly centrally monitored through the AIIB and the SRF. This need is further strengthened with China signing a memorandum of understanding with the African Union (AU) in January 2015 to connect all 54 countries with high speed rails, ports and roads. The traditional „equatorial land bridge‟ which is the natural trade route between East and West Africa can be a good starting point for OBOR in Africa expansion. This route begins in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the Congo’s, Central African Republic, to the West in Douala Cameroon.
Increase China’s Soft Power
China’s fellow competitors in global influence, enjoy considerable advantage in Africa due to colonialism and history that exists between Africa and the West. Joseph Nye (1990) defines soft power as when „one country gets other countries to want what it wants‟. This means, the country uses attraction to get support by other states rather than the traditional use of military force and pressure. China has over the years strived to increase its soft power over other competitors. Through her slogan of „peaceful development‟ (hepingfazhan) she has sought to create a niche for herself as a peace loving, development minded global citizen, who has noble intention in her relations with other states.
Undeniably, this rhetoric has been repeatedly cited by Chinese diplomatic officials, and has earned China many friends. OBOR as a grand strategy squarely falls within the realm of peaceful development as espoused, with its commitment to peace and economic prosperity along the belt and road, and amongst all states involved. In a world dominated by the US hegemony and influence in virtually all the compasses, perhaps building soft power is the only way China can earn the trust of her neighbors, while at the same time building a modern state both in terms of her people, economy, and military. Any other strategy other than a soft peaceful rise might trigger US counterbalancing measures and perhaps destabilize Chinese society, leading to civil unrest and other issues that might curtail accumulation of power and her rise. Assigning primacy over economic matters therefore is designed to prevent drawing attention to her military pursuits, which would attract counterbalancing measures leading to a Soviet-style collapse, while earning China allies both regionally and globally. This is essentially, one goal of OBOR. In essence, through OBOR, china’s vision of a new modernity, characterized by free flowing ideas, goods, services and people to people engagement, and that shared economic future, common prosperity, would replace doubt, competition and power play. The Belt Road Initiative and the new regional order‟ that Beijing is using new ideas like „China dream‟ and„ Asian dream‟ to build what Chinese leaders call a „community of shared destiny.‟ this community begins in Asia which China at the epicenter, and would gradually aim to conquer the global order. This is the gist of china’s new vision of global governance to replace the Western fronted status. Compared to the US, UK, Germany and Japan, China has less soft power abilities in Africa. These countries have for many years used language and culture (largely due to colonization), and through aid and donor agencies ,the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has acted to impart democratic ideals of the US in Africa, the Bretton woods institutions have propagated Western free-market policies, while United Kingdom Agency for International Development (UKAID) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) have served to further UK‟s and Japan‟s soft power aspirations. China on the other hand has risen largely on a different path. It has none of these organizations to further her soft power in Africa. OBOR as a source of soft power is not on the projects themselves being implemented in Africa, but the „Beijing consensus‟ which offers an anti-thesis to the„ Washington consensus.
The „Beijing consensus‟ is one which does not give a standard solution to all situations, but which encourages development based on the unique circumstances of individual states, and a „ruthless willingness to experiment and innovate‟. While for very long the US and her allies pushed the rhetoric that economic freedom is intertwined with political freedom (Washington consensus), over the years, the Chinese model has earned many admirers all over the globe.
Nevertheless OBOR‟s focus on trade between Africa and China, and the inclusion of the continent in this initiative will boost further the commitment China shows to Africa, not due to any hidden motives but as a true ally of Africa, thus furthering the narrative in support of the „Beijing consensus‟ as the best for Africa to replace the failed„ Washington consensus‟ fronted by the Bretton woods institutions and the West for many years. While the West emphasized on governance, political and economic reform along what they thought was acceptable to them in order to access development funds in the 1990‟s (through the Structural Adjustment Programs by World Bank and IMF), OBOR and affiliate financial institutions are cognizant of the fact that one-size-fits-all solutions are not realistic. Hence, they let states handle their own internal matters while helping them access the funding they require for their infrastructural development. The immense „soft power‟ that will arise from this will propel China into great heights in global politics.
Challenges to OBOR in Africa Intra and Inter-State Conflicts
The biggest challenge to OBOR in Africa is the state of continuous warfare experienced throughout the continent. War and conflicts have exacted a heavy burden to Africa’s development since time immemorial. As cited by Ndlovu-Gatsheni (2012) highlighted the five different types of conflicts that have plagued Africa; anticolonial, imperial, international, intra-state and inter-state conflicts. At present, many countries in Africa are experiencing wars of „regime change‟ with the Democratic Republic of Congo being a perfect example, while the Greater Sudan „War of Decentralization‟ led to splitting into north and south. In time however, South Sudan has also started experiencing its own war, what can be called „inter-communalinsurrection‟.17Conflicts are not limited to these, with Somalia, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Congo Brazzaville, Angola, Nigeria, Liberia, Kenya, Libya, Central African Republic, just a few of the African states to get into warand violence within the last decade or so. Greig, Mason and Hamner (2016) have identified and geo referenced over 73 different civil conflicts in Africa. In their paper, they argue that, conflicts begin, continue and end from depending on the logic behind the war.18 the potential gain from these wars is mostly control of massive natural resources which motivates parties to engage in long and drawn out wars. These wars have come with massive economic and infrastructural damage to the countries affected. In South Sudan alone, China imports 5%of its oil when operations are at full capacity.
However, the civil war within South Sudan itself, and conflict with the neighboring Sudan, has disrupted oil production from the oil fields, and subsequent shipping of this oil to China. Zhou (2014) goes further to posit that, the war in Sudan means production was reduced by over 30%capacity from 245,000 barrels of oil per day, to less than 160,000 barrels per day. Operations in oil blocks 1, 2and 4 were completely shut down in December 2013 following outbreak of war, and Chinese oil personnel evacuated from site. This is aside from the shutdown occasioned from conflict between the two Sudan’s with regards to transit fees between the two Sudan’s. While Sudan was demanding a fee of 30 USD per barrel of oil pumped through its pipeline, South Sudan wanted to pay the standard worldwide fee of 3USD per barrel on the physical infrastructure, conflict has a damaging impact on roads, railway lines and other infrastructural developments. A case in point is in Angola where over 4,000km of its rail network was destroyed in conflict and had to be repaired before it could be operational again. As an example therefore, the success of OBOR expansion in Africa would depend on how China navigates the conflict land of the African jungle for full potential to be realized. With conflicts experienced in DRC, CAR, Burundi, instability in Egypt among other countries, china’s resolve will be tested in launching and sustaining the OBOR initiative in Africa.
In conclusion China continues to be an important ally for the African continent to date. And the One Belt One Road Initiative offers an opportunity to deepen Sino-Africa Relations and should be explored further by the leadership of both China and Africa. The current status of OBOR in Africa is minute. As it is, OBOR in Africa, when looked at in terms of the importance that China puts in Africa does not mirror the optimism that Sino-African relationship has attracted in the recent past. It shows a discord between the rhetoric about the significance and growth in the relationship, vis a vis the reality, which is that Africa remains a cross-reference in china’s plans globally. 3 countries out of 67 involved in the project do not give an optimistic picture. However, the opportunity for further cooperation is still there.PRC can seize the opportunity presented by OBOR to streamline its foreign direct investment in the continent to leave lasting foot print. Indeed, successful implementation will result into firmly entrenching China as a „true friend‟ for Africa. China has global ambitions, while Africa is in dire need of capital for infrastructural development, and OBOR offers the best platform to pursue this.
Persistent Conflict and Instability Hamper the Recovery of the Central African Republic
According to the first issue of the Central African Republic (CAR) Economic Update published today by the World Bank, the deterioration in security conditions and the humanitarian situation is dampening hopes for a robust economic recovery in the Central African Republic. After peaking at 4.8% in 2015, the growth rate slowed to 4.5% in 2016 and 4.3% in 2017. Despite the optimism prevailing since the 2016 presidential election and the government’s promising fiscal consolidation policy, the CAR remains a fragile state that could draw lessons from the successful experience of other fragile states in order to sustain its peacebuilding and recovery efforts.
Titled “Breaking the Cycle of Conflict and Instability,” the World Bank’s publication provides an in-depth analysis of the factors creating fragility and proposes a number of avenues to achieve economic recovery. It identifies three essential prerequisites to break the cycle of instability and conflict: restoring security, combating impunity by guaranteeing compensation for the harm suffered by the victims, and promoting equitable and inclusive economic and social development.
“Without a doubt, the persistent insecurity is the biggest obstacle to poverty reduction, as each new violent confrontation between armed groups leads to additional displacement, destroys private property, and complicates the work of humanitarian organizations,” said Jean-Christophe Carret, World Bank Country Director for the Central African Republic. “The protracted security crisis in the CAR is taking a toll on the capacity of the state to provide essential public services and goods in the areas of health, education, and water.”
The report recommends that lessons be learned from other post-conflict countries such as Ghana, Liberia, and Rwanda, which have managed to put prolonged periods of instability behind them.
“The experience of these countries underscores the importance of promoting the development of civil society in order to consolidate democratic progress, strengthen public accountability, and enhance transparency while implementing a pragmatic set of policy and institutional initiatives to achieve gradual but steady improvement in the quality of the public service,” said Souleymane Coulibaly, World Bank Lead Economist for the Central African Republic and publishing coordinator for Economic Updates.
The new Economic Updates series for the Central African Republic will review economic trends in the country on a biannual basis in order to help the government and its development partners identify new opportunities and tackle persistent challenges.
Mauritania Conference : AU Reopen Western Sahara File
Since the kingdom of Morocco left the OAU in 1984, the Kingdom’s participation with the African states has been seen by its enterprise involvement in several fields like oil imports and humanitarian aid. At the end of the 90s, under the King Mohammed VI rule, Morocco’s African alignments accept a new measurement whereby, continental banking, commercial and economic exchanges took the significant stage in Morocco’s re-engagement with the African States. The main objective for this collaboration and mutual African team banding was to build up a solid South-South strategy cooperation, tapping into Morocco’s longstanding historical, cultural, geopolitical and economic band with the African continent.
On the beginning of July, the 31st Ordinary Session of the African Union(AU) meeting, which took place in Nouakchott, the capital of Mauritania which is expectedly going to discuss a report on the Moroccan Sahara Issue.
Depending on the African Union calendar released, this meeting will hold the presentation of three main reports, including a report on the Moroccan Sahara Issue, conferred by Moussa Faki Mohamed, Chairman of the AU Commission.
Basically, this is the first time that the Western Sahara dispute has been conferred with the calendar of an African Union conference since the Kingdom’s return to the African organization last year, after it had left the country three decades ago because of the same issue, which necessitates the kingdom of Morocco would face any challenge to its national case as its priority .
On Thursday, Moussa Faki Mohamed, head of the African Union Commission in Morocco, met with King Mohammed VI, Prime Minister Saad Eddin Othmani and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation Nasser Bourita, along with some of the King’s advisors to discuss the Sahara Dispute which is a report in AU.
The communiqué issued by the African Union on Vicky’s visit to Morocco did not refer to the Sahara issue with Moroccan officials. The communiqué issued on Friday made reference to the role of the Kingdom in the Union Foundation, as well as issues of major concern.
The Moroccan government refuses the inclusion of the Sahara report in the AU calendar and esteems the report to be an exclusive competence of the United Nations, especially in the presence of a total of parties opposed to the Moroccan proposal, led by the separatist Polisario Front, supported and financed by Algeria and some other countries.
Additionally, to offering a report on the Moroccan Sahara Issue, it is anticipated that the 31st AU Meeting, on 1 and 2 July, will show a report on the tools and implementation of the institutional reform decision of the African Union by Paul Kagame, President of the Republic of Rwanda. Additional report on the Africa-Africa Free Trade Area will be handled by Mohamed Essovo, President of the Republic of Niger. Moussa Faki will come up with another report on the African Common Position on the African, Caribbean, and Pacific countries beyond 2020.
This African Union Agenda also includes the presentation of the subject of the year on “Victory in the struggle against corruption: a sustainable path towards African transformation”, to be seen by Mohamed Boukhari, President of the Republic of Nigeria, to be pursued by a debate by the Conference. The concluded sessions will argue the discussion of the activities of the Peace and Security Council on Africa, in which Morocco won a seat months ago.
The calendar of the African Meeting contains a report on the implementation of the African Union’s main roadmap for practical ways to silence guns in Africa in 2020, the adoption of the AU’s 2019 budget and the ratification of appointments in the Federation’s institutions.
Morocco’s acquisition to the African Union will undisputed change the policy of how the Pan-African organization stands the Western Sahara file. Despite Morocco’s diplomatic orientation to refine solving the Sahara dispute in a pragmatic way, its policy will sustain the same as for the acceptance of the SADR is concerned. The kingdom of Morocco is likely to endure its changeless policy to delegitimize any declare or allege of the Polisario in its search for being an independent state. It will also try to undermine the political impact of the Polisario leadership and its keen supporters, South Africa and Algeria.
At the same time, to disband the SADR from the African Union will be a weak mission, as the latter can only discourage other countries whose governments were agreed towards unconstitutional layers. Several African states refuse to disband the SADR. Regardless of Morocco’s intense African policy calendar and huge commercial economic projects, there stay countries who still cover the Polisario leadership. For instance, the case of Nigeria, which get advantage from Morocco’s economic bonus, continuing exercises its position to support the Polisario in their faith for independence.
Currently, the Kingdom of Morocco has used its diplomatic and economic might to return its empty seat at the African Union, it has to bestow that it is a capable partner whose membership will favor the African Union, therefore, solving and resolving the deadlock of an African colonial dispute. In contrast, the SADR can also urge for a resolution by sustaining powerful AU member states endorsement, especially, South Africa and Algeria, to guarantee the Kingdom of Morocco brings up some sort of a win-win barraging agreement.
New Somali Business Fund Creates Jobs
Sahal, a dairy farmer, is CEO of Bovine Industry, an urban dairy farm in central Mogadishu. The company cross-breeds Somali cattle with Jersey cattle to produce higher-quality milk.
“Mogadishu is the only capital in the world where you can’t buy fresh milk,” Sahal said. “How can a country that exports the most livestock in the world not have fresh milk?”
Despite the clear need for fresh milk, it has been difficult for Sahal and other small and medium enterprises (SMEs) like his to access capital to grow their businesses. That was before the November launch of the Somali Business Catalytic Fund (SBCF), which aims to spur economic growth in country by supporting SMEs and entrepreneurs.
With support from the SBCF, Sahal was able to fit his backyard business with grazing grass and fences. The demand for fresh milk is soaring, with an average waiting list of three months for a single liter. Soon, Sahal will be able to increase his herd of 15 cows, producing more milk and allowing him to employ more people. He believes that development should be based on grassroots needs, and simple supply/demand analyses.
“Farmers have the knowledge to pasteurize milk, produce yogurt and expand the Somali dairy sector,” he said. “We just need the machinery and capital to make it happen.”
SBCF, the Bank’s flagship job creation initiative in Somalia, targets businesses that focus on innovative processes, products and markets new to the region. It is also intended to stimulate the business and technical services industry to build sector expertise in agriculture, livestock and energy, among others. So far, the SBCF has selected 101SMEs across the Somali peninsula – South Somalia, Puntland and Somaliland — to receive financial and technical support. The selected firms are expected to generate more than 2,000 jobs.
“Poverty reduction in Somalia must be private sector-led. We have relied on traditional aid since the early 1990s, and handouts have not been a sustainable method to reduce poverty,” said Sahal. “I believe that access to capital is crucial for both job creation and dignified poverty reduction.”
Asli Health Care Company, based in Hargeisa, has also benefited from the SBCF. The company’s manager, Nemo Yusuf, founded the company after she and her partners studied imports to Somaliland. Through a market study, she and her partners studies the viability of producing beauty products and creating jobs in the process.
“We observed an excess of imports of personal healthcare and beauty products from China and the Middle East, most of which could be produced domestically,” she said. “Our study confirmed that we could produce and sell shampoo, soaps and detergents competitively,” she said. “A reality that is too familiar with Somalis is that we import most products, when we should be producing them.”
Through the SBCF, Yusef was able to purchase high-speed manufacturing equipment, allowing her to produce shampoo bottles that limit waste from importing more plastic.
Her company is also supported through the SME Facility (SMEF). SMEF provides technical assistance and business development services to assist Somali entrepreneurs to launch, manage, and grow successful businesses. Asli and her partners were trained in budget planning, finance, and human resources training, which is helping their business become more effective. SBCF and SMEF fall under the Somali Core Economic Institutions and Opportunities (SCORE) Program, which is funded by the World Bank’s Multi-Partner Fund (MPF).
Armed with this knowledge, Yusuf and her partners have expanded their business. They created a sachet-packet shampoo line as a new product.
“There is a demand for one-time use 10 milliliter sachets, especially among young people and those who cannot afford full bottles,” Yusuf said. “We are in the process of manufacturing our own bottles to drive prices even lower.”
Challenges in Hargeisa are similar to those in Mogadishu, where Yusuf said “accessing capital is probably the main constraint to private sector growth.” There are also challenges such as the availability of skilled labor, supply-chain issues related to infrastructure, affordable energy and economic policies that support private sector competitiveness are also prominent.
Yusuf can see the results in Hargeisa, where the large market could be used to create jobs for young people as well as keep currency in the market and limit inflation.
“Our company is managed entirely by fellow citizens,” she said. “We have employed an additional 17 people to support the expansion of our company, of which most are young people. A third of our employees are women.”
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