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.
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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