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Understanding the Question of What Hopes China can bring to the African Continent

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Today, China plays a new role in the international system, garnering increasing attention around the globe. In its expedition to develop and improve its image, China has focused on maintaining good relations with Africa as a whole and has committed itself to several projects in different African countries. Some researchers have concluded that Africans generally view China as a positive influence. They argue that there is no single African perspective on China, but the number of people who view China as a positive influence in African countries is very close to (and in some cases surpasses) those who consider the United States as a positive influence. China’s assistance to Africa is growing but is dwarfed by the United States. Since the first Forum on China-Africa Cooperation in 2000, China has made a systematic effort to expand and give a greater profile to its soft-power policies in Africa. Although explicit soft-power commitments in health; humanitarian assistance; and academic, professional, and cultural exchange are growing, they are not yet anywhere near the United States’ commitments in these areas. The main source of China’s soft power in Africa is, therefore, the strength of its economy and its economic engagement. The expansion in China-Africa trade and investment, as well as the proliferation of Chinese-led infrastructure projects, reflect a fundamentally more optimistic view of Africa’s future as compared to the Western engagement, which remains driven primarily by humanitarian programs and, to a larger extent, security interests. Many Africans see China’s economic engagement in their countries as more practical and realistic and also in line with the African continent’s priorities. This, in the long run, gives China an important interest in seeing the continent grow economically.

Apart from the actual trade and investment aspects, the reputation of China as a rising power is profoundly appealing and drives a desire to tie African economies more closely to China’s rise to global economic preeminence. The financial crisis of the United States is seen in many ways as a powerful outcome of the Washington consensus and it may continue to seriously undermine the power of the United States’ economic model. China’s respect for sovereignty rhetoric still gives a boost for China to many Africans. China constantly emphasizes respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity and its policy of noninterference resonates for obvious reasons with many African leaders. But it also agrees with many Africans who regard the Western lecturing on human rights, economic liberalization, and democracy as condescending and hypocritical. Besides, China attaches less or no conditions or broad to their assistance and loans and this allows projects to be implemented quickly, with visible and often immediate results. 

Diplomatically, as a result of the increase in trade and investment with Africa, China has fostered closer ties with many African governments, and in doing so, it has won its worldview and managed to reassure Africans as well as the rest of the world of its friendly intentions. China’s public diplomacy emphasizes the notion of solidarity and win-win cooperation. Chinese officials have always taken pride in pointing out that as far back as the fifteenth century when Admiral Zhen He made his famous voyage to the East African coast, China never took this as an advantage to subjugate, colonize, or enslave Africans. They constantly relay and emphasize China’s record of support for African liberation movements and the common interest of the developing world in creating a just and equitable global economy. China seeks to present itself as a champion of developing-country interests in international forums, and actively aims at ensuring that the sense of solidarity will be mutual with other countries. This is illustrated in Minister Shi Guangsheng’s speech at the first FOCAC meeting in 2000 when he declared:

China will unswervingly side with African countries and peoples to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of the vast number of developing countries and push for the establishment of an equitable and rational new international political and economic order. Here, let me take this opportunity to express my heartfelt thanks to African countries for your support for China’s accession to WTO. China’s accession to WTO will be beneficial not only to China and world economic and trade development but also to the economic and trade cooperation between China and Africa. We hope that African countries will continue to render us your precious support so that China’s accession to WTO will be realized at an early date”.

Politically, China accentuates the notion of “respect” for African countries, which is embodied in its policy of non-interference in the domestic affairs of sovereign countries. This approach is less confrontational than the Western interventions and it resonates with many African governments and indeed with many (but not all) African citizens to whom Western intimidation and condemnation seem patronizing and unimpressive. A good example is when China disinclined to sanction President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe in 2008 at the United Nations Security Council. Chinese officials and analysts explained that they were simply following the approach of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and that if SADC changed its stance they would reconsider.

Economically, China steadily points out its initiative on the win-win aspect of its engagement in Africa. This approach is welcomed by many African nations for several reasons. First, African nations value the practicality of this approach considering that China comes to Africa as a business partner, not to persuade or offer charity. Second, the perception is that economic self-interest is believed to bring about more sustained engagement as compared to humanitarian impulse or intermittent crisis diplomacy. Finally, the win-win concept implies that there is flexibility which gives room for negotiations on the terms and conditions of the arrangements between China and Africa and that the former will be available to respond to the demands of the latter.

Nevertheless, China’s increasing engagement in Africa has provoked a range of reactions in both Africa and the West. In Africa, some of the reactions are based on the anticipation of what hopes China can bring to the continent in trade, investment, and alternative development partnerships; in other cases, the reactions are instilled by fears of what a seemingly greedy demand for energy, resources, and export markets will mean for growing economies, weak governments, and deprived populations. In the West, China’s mix of economic engagement and soft power has stirred up some fears and insecurities that Western influence in Africa will eventually be diminished and that investments in issues of governance, transparency, and accountability will be damaged and weakened in the eyes of the African States, particularly those that are rich in natural resources but have poor governance and lack legitimacy or national vision. On the other hand, this would imply a healthy competition for trade and investment, and soft power may ultimately benefit Africa’s economic and developmental growth provided that African states utilize the opportunity wisely. Ultimately, the challenge will be whether African governments and their people will make use of this external engagement by China as well as other key players to their eventual national benefit.

In this new expanded phase of engagement in Africa, China has placed special emphasis on its soft-power strategies, while at the same time playing both to African audiences and to the international system. In the process, China seeks to portray itself as a non-threatening and responsible global power to the rest of the world. Since China is involved with multiple audiences, it requires a complex mix of strategies to go forward, and it may also have to avoid employing some of its soft and hard power approaches towards some states concerning their norms and ideals. Some of the approaches may be challenging in African countries especially those with weak and unpopular governments, particularly as opposing nongovernmental forces become increasingly powerful and vocal. Chinese officials and academics often point out that in its engagement with Africa, China is “crossing the river by feeling the stones,” and to date, there have been adjustments of approach in response to popular African reactions.

David Ceasar Wani Suliman is a Doctoral Fellow (Ph.D.) in the school of Political Science and Public Administration at Shandong University China, Majoring in International Politics. He worked as a Research assistant at Jilin University China; He Achieved Master’s degree in International Relations from Jilin University China, and correspondingly graduated with honors from Cavendish University Uganda with bachelor degree in international relations and diplomatic studies.

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Africa

Presidents Chakwera and Nyusi toast for laudable Malawi-Mozambican relations

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Mozambique and Malawi, largely sharing borders, have agreed to forge cooperation in diverse economic sectors and take advantages offered by the single continental market. A number of African leaders have started looking at the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), as it aspires to connect all regions of Africa, to deepen economic integration and to boost intra-African trade and investment. It aspires to create a single market for goods and services across 55 countries and our continent, creating a market of as much as 1.3 billion people with a combined GDP of $3.4 trillion.

On November 22 to 24, President Filipe Jacinto Nyusi of Mozambique went on an official working visit to Blantyre, Malawi. It was to participate in the 5th SADC Industrialization Week in Lilongwe, according a statement from the Malawi’s Ministry or Foreign Affairs.

The first strategy for regional industrialization, he noted at the conference of the Industrialization Week, includes developing synergies linked to value chains, transport corridors, energy, and human potential. It will also involve bringing down barriers at the border to strengthen the economic identity of SADC. According to Nyusi, the impact of this strategy will be amplified through changes to the trade balance as exports are increased and imports substituted.

The second strategy is based on developing technology, employing thousands of people, creating a market to absorb agricultural surpluses from the rural population with a particular focus on women, agro-processing and associated logistics, which, he said, ends up becoming a “powerful weapon” for the well-being of the population and combating poverty.

While still in Malawi during the visit, Malawi President Lazarus Chakwera took his guest counterpart Filipe Nyusi to launch the construction works for Mozambique-Malawi power transmission interconnection project at Phombeya in Balaka District. The power generation project planned to translate into improved access to electricity supply and ultimately strengthen the industrialization programmes in both countries. Construction of the interconnection project, includes laying transmission lines about 142km from Matambo substation and 76km into Malawi to Phombeya passing through Mwanza and Neno Districts – expected to be completed in 2023.

According to the Integrated Resource Plan of 2017, peak electricity demand will be 1,860MW by 2030 yet currently Malawi’s installed electricity generation capacity is hovering at 50MW. The objectives of the interconnection project include to support economic growth of the region through sustainable power access by integrating Malawi electricity market to the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP) in order to balance power deficit through regional power trading.

Phase 1 of the project included technical and economic feasibility study that was completed in 2017, project definition and scope and environmental and social impact assessment that was completed in 2019.

In his remarks, President Chakwera said like the railway rehabilitation project that the two countries have embarked on to connect Malawi to the Sena Line across the border from Vila Nova de Fronteira to Marka, “this interconnection project is yet another milestone in the linkages between our two nations.” He reminded Nyusi, that during his visit to Songo Province in Mozambique last year, Chakwera was privileged to tour the Cabora Bassa Dam which is the hub of the Southern African Power Pool (SAPP).

“It was at that time that we agreed to hold this joint ceremony launching the construction of the electricity transmission line for Malawi-Mozambique Interconnection. I am, therefore, glad to see this coming to pass as a step in the direction of integrating infrastructure across SADC for sustainable economic development. The project aims at at creating avenues for trade in the SAPP, with the prospect of more exchanges of trade and power in the future,” he asserted in remarks.

President Chakwera says Malawi and Mozambique are strategic development partners and there is a need for the two nations to continue exploring possible areas of cooperation in the areas of trade, transport and mining for the mutual benefit of their people. Both president also identified areas of rail transport, energy and mining for developing bilateral partnership.

With the construction of The Malawi-Mozambique Interconnector, it marchs towards the goal of adding 1,000 megawatts to the national grid over the next four years is making steady progress. The project is co-funded by the World Bank- IDA Credit at US$15 million; European Union through KFW Grant at US$20 million and the Malawi Government at US$3.5 million.

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European Council offers €40 million assistance under the EPF in support of Mozambique

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With about 3,100 African, European and US soldiers already been deployed to Cabo Delgado province, the security situation has begun stabilizing in Mozambique. Southern African Development Community (SADC) has a Standby Force effectively working, besides the Special Force from Rwanda.

Rwanda was the first foreign army to send troops to Mozambique, deploying 1,000 in July. South Africa has the largest contingent of around 1,500 troops. External countries are enormously helping to stabilize the situation in Mozambique. Mozambique’s former colonizer Portugal and the United States both sent special forces to train local troops.

According reports, the European Union (EU) concretely sent 1,100 soldiers to the country in September and the troops will be in Mozambique for two years to train rapid intervention units. It is supplying the Mozambican army with non-lethal weapons.

“This mission will contribute to operations to defend Mozambique. After finishing the training, we will prepare an operational training plan for the future. The soldiers trained here will be able to go on missions,” Head of Mozambique’s Armed Forces, Joaquim Mangrasse, said in Maputo.

On November 19, the European Council adopted a decision establishing a €40 million assistance measure under the European Peace Facility (EPF) in support of Mozambique. This assistance measure complements an urgent measure amounting to €4 million approved by the Council under the EPF on 30 July 2021 for the most urgently required equipment.

With the measure decided on, the EU will support the Mozambican military units trained by the EU military training mission in Mozambique (EUTM Mozambique), and enable them to conduct security operations in the northern province of Cabo Delgado.

The assistance measure will, in particular provide adequate, non-lethal equipment to strengthen the capacities of the first Mozambican army companies scheduled to be the first to benefit from the EUTM Mozambique’s training. This includes individual and collective equipment, ground mobility assets, technical tools and a field hospital.

The provision of the assistance will be subject to the compliance of the EUTM-trained units of the Mozambican armed forces with relevant international law, in particular international human rights and international humanitarian law, as well as with relevant legal instruments and best practices based on international and EU rules, standards and policies in the area of the supply of military equipment.

The assistance measure will cover part of the EUTM’s mandate duration. In 2021, partial support packages will be provided to the two companies currently undergoing training by Portugal while, as from 2022, three additional companies will receive support. In total, 11 companies of the Mozambican army and navy will undergo training by the EUTM in several batches and subsequently form a Quick Reaction Force.

The November 19 decision follows the request by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Mozambique in her letter of 27 August 2021 to the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.

Reports said that Islamic-State linked militants have been wreaking havoc in the area since 2017, raiding villages and towns in violence that has claimed at least 3,340 lives and displaced more than 800,000 people. The grave situation attracted international concern when they attacked the key port town of Palma in March, killing dozens as thousands fled into surrounding forest.

The violence forced France’s Total Energies to declare force majeure and evacuate staff from a nearby multi-billion-dollar natural gas project.

Mozambique is a member of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC). Mozambique is a country located in Southeast Africa bordered by the Indian Ocean to the east, Tanzania to the north, Malawi and Zambia to the northwest, Zimbabwe to the west, and Eswatini (Swaziland) and South Africa to the southwest.

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Underdevelopment Mindsets: An Africanizing American Perspective

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I took my first international development studies class in the 1970s while pursuing Northwestern University Sociology doctoral studies in the United States.  International development studies back in those days was a brand-new field in the various social sciences emerging from growing assessment of scholars, consultants, emerging international development NGO administrators, and so called first world national and international organizational policy makers in the United States, Europe, the United Nations, and the World Bank as American and European colonial powers legally freed their colonies. Such legal freedom called “independence” usually was with strings attached to assure dependent marginal new nations without competition capacity against their former colonial authorities.

Before I began to travel and live in African countries, beginning with Sierra Leone as a 1989-90 Fulbright Scholar, and in other legally decolonized countries, back then labeled the “third world”, I belonged to that liberal naive branch of international development studies which rejected terminologies such as ” underdeveloped” and ” developing” which insinuated that peoples of such lands were somehow inferior humans or not human at all. I still do reject any such insinuations about anyone which are biogenetic or theological which claim some people wherever they are, in this case, so called third or first world peoples, are naturally inferior or superior human beings.

But there are, indeed, psychological, social, economic, and political consequences of what has happened to still dependent legally decolonized peoples with underdevelopment and developing outcomes when compared with what it is like living in the first world.  After traveling and living in Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America off and on since the 1990s and full time in Africa for nearly 10 years now, I can now attest to the realness of what it means to live in a developing or merely, underdeveloped country.

I will here focus on psychological aspects of underdevelopment which I have found to be characteristic in the African and other so called third world countries I have   traveled to and especially those I have resided in for a couple of reasons. First, because before my so called third world lived experiences, I used to reject most now classical psychological theorists of societal development and underdevelopment, conventional such as David McClellan and radical such as Franz Fanon. I assumed their views were patronizing over generalizations. Second, what matters the most in human development are the individual cognitions, attitudes, and coping skills we learn institutionally from our families, communities, schools, faith communities, communication technologies, and governments embedded in vastly varied historical sociopolitical, cultural, and socioeconomic contexts. That is, what is generally called our daily mindsets.

What I wish to point out then is: in various historically contextualized ways such as the dominant cultural and linguistic backgrounds of legally former colonizers and thus their colonized oppressed, the status type of historical colonization such as slavery, indentured labor, limited free people, or mode of economic production such as plantation, factory, retail and other consumer sectors, limited businesses and civil service employment, all produced patterns of daily mindsets.  As their now neo-colonial continuities, these mindsets contribute greatly to national underdevelopment. Unless they change a nation may adapt more or less to the 21st century well developed world in consuming first world fashion styles, food, car purchases, smart phones, home and commercial office building designs, and legal and health practices but the mindset is in being say a slave, an indentured laborer, or in being a limited freed person used to having limited civil liberties or human rights and human responsibilities.

What are some of the more common neo-colonial mindsets generating continued underdevelopment where I have casually observed and experienced   over the years in Africa and elsewhere in the so called third world?

1.Transactional relationships meaning building relationships with others especially those with means perceived or real is an end to get something rather than to build authentic caring friendships and other trusting and loyal meaningful rather than ends oriented relationships. The person is important to get to know as long as you get something out of it– money, position, property, a child, and is tossed away as soon as use value is depleted. The more people place value in sincere private and public caring (charity) relationships, the more a country like its communities and institutions within develops.

2. Little value for efficiency. This means other things matter besides time management, setting and reaching goals, and being productive in workplaces and in general life such as beauty maintenance, gossiping, family affairs, leisure, and pursuing romance. Work is organized around playtime not playtime around work so having time off like short standard work hours, and long weekends and breaks and many holidays are top priority.

3.Buying status symbols such as cars and homes, makeup, facelifts, and fashions through great loan debt beyond real cost of living finances is an obsession which causes great stress, waste of time and energy in constant comparisons competition while ignoring holistic life values and practices. All of this comes crashing down at the least economic crisis such as unemployment, ill health or death of breadwinners as seen in COVID-19 pandemic impacts disproportionately impacting personal and societal indebted so called third world countries with their easy loan opportunities.

4. Looking Outward and Upward. Rather than having an attitude and commitment value to advocate for national pride rooted in good governance and genuine economic and sociopolitical human rights for everyone including the riddance of societal and institutional insufficiencies such as corrupt governments and corrupt institutions such as police, hospitals, media, and schools, one dreams about going to America, France, New Zealand, UK, Canada, or Australia as promised lands of milk and honey. It is a mindset that few in developing countries can realize. It causes negativity, stagnation, and apathy rather than effective human rights movement mobilization. It also encourages casting blame at the wrong causes of corruption, poverty, marginality which keeps citizens in mindsets of blaming their leaders for forced choices they must make due to the neo-colonial boxes they are locked into. It is ironic that such common dreamers wish to run to the very so called first world countries which are the sources of their societal miseries. By the way, this “looking outward and upward” mindset refers as well to the tendency to view anything made in the West in terms of consumer goods and anything sounding western like an accent or being Western such as a potential mate is superior to anything native, providing of course that which is western is somehow white.

5. Having mass consumer literary rather than real life reading and understanding which means buying the ” I love New York” t-shirt or working or eating in a KFC restaurant without knowing or caring about what the words mean or the history of the company hiring you or selling you chicken. Using Internet search engines such as Google to find video games or latest American movie or pop song or to do online shopping without using search engines let alone bookstores and libraries to read about what’s going on in the world or about historical issues.  Wanting to only read a few soundbite Instagram words with photos while reading more than a couple of paragraphs is too much.

6. Thinking about “success,” “achievement,” “making it” are magical things which happen to you absent of loyalty, faithfulness, sacrificial hard work, and a committed value for needing to be mentored and at times criticized not just praised. So, dream and do nothing or little and quit the first time someone makes you feel bad or disagrees with you or criticizes you. This is a mark of a low self-esteemed mindset which makes developing countries filled with dreamers rather than doers; those afraid of taking risks and taking criticism it takes to achieve. Always talking never doing. Just dreaming.

7.Mindless development means taking development ideas from the West and applying them to non-western contexts usually through some exorbitant international loan or government funding or international development NGO support which does not fit the realities of the country.  But it feeds well the pockets of those who cook up the plans to copy the West in being Western in image though does great harm to the ordinary citizens of their country. What happened in Afghanistan with its 12,000 contractors propped up for twenty years as mindless projects making money is characteristic of what has been going on in the so-called world for decades now. Building schools which have failed to educate. Building unnecessary skyscrapers which come to collapse. Building unnecessary bridges and tunnels. Building clinics and research labs which for years chase chronic diseases seemingly unable to cure and capture while building resumes and providing the income and comfortable accommodations of so called third world health experts be they Westerners or the Westernized. Missionaries of so many faiths coming over by the boatloads to the shores of Africa and to the continent’s many nations who after they leave things remain the same. The morality problems, the poverty, the massive lack of genuine conversion, etc. Such contemporary missionary work, in more cases than a few done in great material comfort, is another example of mindless development which perpetuates underdevelopment adorned in the usual smiles and well intentions that mindless development displays though in different flavors and fabrics.

Mindless development also relates to the misapplication of Eastern and Western ideologies imposed on the ex-colonial Non-West such as communism or democracy which don’t even fit or do well in originating Eastern or Western countries and overtime have evolved into different forms of governance than original constitutional mandates. And then everyone seemingly in East and West elite foreign policy making circles become disappointed when collective farms, multiparty, and even human rights and responsibilities don’t work in neocolonial impositions in African or other so called third world countries. Or shock or dismay occurs if such nation building practices occur in ways apart from Eastern and Western scripts and prescriptions. The emergence of bubbling up citizen movements against standing African governments in recent years in Egypt, Tunisa, Nigeria, Botswana, The Gambia, Zimbabwe, and South Africa have Easterners and Westerners scratching their heads, since after all, according to their paradigms, African countries don’t have civil societies. African citizens are conventionally viewed in the East and West as being merely passive pawns, especially those claiming to be in what has been called authoritarian states or because they are in democracies which are poorly lead and managed.

Anyone who is honest rather than in denial due to ideological blinders or blind nationalism would have to admit the observational points made are worthy of further investigation and acting on to eradicate and thus authentically liberate those who remain victimized by the neo-colonial underdevelopment which plagues their countries. As well, underdevelopment mindsets learned in the homeland can come to hinder their own individual development if they have been able to emigrate elsewhere since changing sovereignty geography does not necessarily change well internalized psychological mindsets. Such a geographical change in life can merely allow for a mindset to find new fertile soil for germinating a transplanted mental inclination causing just as much individual underdevelopment as the structural underdevelopment continues to do back home.

It would be a grave inconsideration if I did not raise the point that even though what I have been casting here as the mindset psychology of underdevelopment pertains to the so called the third world, it can be said to also refer to human developmental problems in the so called first world. The American mindset claiming we are so superior allows us to forget our own chronic areas of individual and societal underdevelopment and the mindsets which maintain such dominant mythologies.  American medical systems and our higher education systems rank among the lowest in the world. Our election of Donald Trump as President of the United States in 2016 and his behavior while in office and his refusal to concede losing to Joe Biden is a script expected in a so-called Banana Republic or African country as much as members of a national legislative branches well in the deep pockets of donors rather than representing the quality of life needs of their constituencies and of the nation. The Republican effort to repress voter rights of Non-Whites to win future elections is something you would expect in a so called third world country as is the paralysis of Democrats as national political rulers claiming to be for the people but too much in the pockets of Wall Street with no energy to standup to racial injustices in effective ways as an empty campaign promise. The recent Kyle Rittenhouse court decision to acquit a White Supremacist vigilante is something you would stereotypically expect in a so called   third world country where we are taught miscarriages of justice for such violent people is expected. So, like the underdeveloped nations we Americans enjoy looking down to and patronizing with our smug media remarks and foreign charity aid, we continue to in many respects look like because we are, an underdeveloped country with the psychological mindsets of underdevelopment listed earlier but of course with our own twists and turns. The extremely rural and urban poverty. The deep problems the middle class as well as the poor is having paying the house note, being gainfully employed, and having quality food to eat and air to breath. The deep discrimination against women, especially the Non-White, the lack of decent healthcare and education of the poor, especially those who are Non-White, and the massive illiteracy of all of us which makes us so vulnerable to emotional manipulation such as who we decide to vote for even against our quality-of-life interests.

So increasingly, and tragically ironically, what I have listed as mindsets of underdevelopment in the formerly colonized Non-West is in many respects attitudes and behaviors the ex-colonized pick up and internalize as mindsets from the East and West in this information and social media digital age where emulation, too often of things which injure rather than help and empower run rampant without needed reflection, critique, and prevention. So that goes as well to explain why and how too often the ex-colonized watch and copy the xenophobia, racism, elitism, and corruption of not only Americans but also of their former European colonizers in their distorted mindsets of dominance through which they afflict their own underdevelopment.  It is why when people arrogantly point to corruption on the part of African leaders or about how African leaders do not take of their own people, my first response is a question, not to excuse but to put in proper context: where did they learn it from?

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