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COVID -19’s impact on the livelihoods of informal traders in Zimbabwe

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The measures of halting the COVID-19 epidemic have landed a heavy blow on the informal sector of Zimbabwe. The COVID -19 pandemic has posed live threats and also a severe economic shock. The Worldometer reported that, to date, 216 countries have been affected by the COVID-19. Of note, there are approximately 7,872,620 confirmed cases, and death neared 432,475 globally. The informal markets around the globe have not been spared and specifically Africa. Noteworthy, the International Monetary Fund (2018) argued that Africa possesses the most significant informal economy. Likewise, the majority of Zimbabweans livelihoods depend on the informal sector.  The negative economic impact rises simultaneously as the countries scramble to curtail the deadly disease. Against this backdrop, the mitigation measures imposed by some countries have, however, left some communities and families in a difficult situation. Zimbabwe is one of the countries that embarked on robust measures to curtain the disease. For instance, it issued a decree that people must stay at home; however, no meaningful policies, tax relief, or financial bailout were put in place to protect the marginalized and informal traders’ livelihoods. However, the majority of households in Zimbabwe are impoverished and survive on hand to mouth.Zimbabwe failed to provide stimulus packages to cushion the informal businesses and informal traders’ livelihoods.

The meltdown of the Zimbabwean economy and the rise of the informal sector

Zimbabwe’s economic meltdown and political turmoil emerged around 2000. The rampant and violent land reform program crippled the agriculture sector, which was once the backbone of the economy. Additionally, the imposition of sanctions by the US and the EU in 2003 and 2004 further strained the already fragile economy. The Southern African country continues to face poor governance, corruption, low level of investment, high level of unemployment, drought, shortages of essential commodities, an unjustified increase of primary products, and other challenges. As such, it became a fertile ground for the booming of the informal sector and shrinking of the formal area. The manufacturing, textile, and clothing industries collapsed. Recently, almost 90% of Zimbabweans worked in the informal sector, such as trading and self-employment.

Further, some Zimbabweans who are formally employed are indirectly involved in informal part-time jobs to supplement the low salaries. For instance, some are cross border traders. The majority of the Zimbabweans are living below the poverty datum line and require urgent food assistance. Zimbabwe is also experiencing large scale electricity outages. On top of all these challenges, Zimbabwe, like all other countries, is faced with the COVID -19 epidemic. Amidst of these crises, the government placed mitigation measures like lockdown. At the time of this writing, the formal markets were not allowed to operate except those that sell foodstuffs. Zimbabwe was on level 2 of lockdown, but schools, universities, the movement of people, and  large gatherings, was still restricted.

Impact of COVID -19 control measures on the livelihood of the informal traders

Bouey (2020) reveals that informal businesses are the engine of the economy in most countries. Like any pandemic, the lowest-paid workers and informal traders are likely to be more affected economically. The informal traders are affected because they are neither able to work remotely or possess savings to cater to an economic downturn. Most African governments usually shut down informal markets by force during global pandemics. For instance, the Zambia government employed military force to shut down informal markets amid the 2018 cholera outbreak. Farmers and informal traders lost their fresh produce, and their livelihoods were crippled. The bulk of the informal traders lacked proper shelter, food among other necessities. During the Ebola outbreak 2014-15 in Liberia and Sierra Leone, most households required economic support as the government shut down the informal markets. The World Food Program Analysis reported that restrictions and market closure in Central and West Africa negatively affected 80% of smallholder farmers and informal traders. In the same vein, the Al Jazeera (2020) noted that containment measures ushered economic hardship to casual workers in Kenya, yet they constitute 83.6% of the whole workforce.

Most informal workplaces are still closed as the government has set up some minimum requirements for a workplace to open. Most of the informal traders cannot afford requirements set by Zimbabwean authorities. Over-congested informal markets such as Mbare Siyaso, Mupedzanhamo Market, 4th Street, Glenview Area 8 Furniture Complex, and Gazaland lack supporting structures, water, and sanitation. These areas are threats of spreading the COVID -19 pandemic. The measures imposed by authorities are almost impossible as the government fails to provide the supporting structures to their citizens such as stable water supplies. Resultantly, after two months of no income, most informal traders are mired in absolute poverty. While this might be the case, the poor are further marginalized. Most vulnerable families are further exposed to poverty, reduced access to health care, and missed meals for children. Evans (2020) denoted that the economic impacts of COVID-19 have a drastic effect on the well-being of communities and families.

Informal traders face dual contests both on supply and demand sides. Some informal traders have no option except to stay home with their children as schools and movements is restricted. Moreover, the supply chain is profoundly affected, resulting in a lack of parts of intermediate goods. There was a sudden loss of revenue and demand for informal traders and SMEs. Their ability to function was hindered, contributing to liquidity shortages. Fear and uncertainty were caused by lost income as consumers were laid off by their employers who were no longer able to pay them.  The direct impact of the shutdown is the decreased level of the output of most economies. The consumer’s expenditure dropped, the decline in GDP, reduced demand for goods and services. According to the international labor organization, COVID-19 could contribute to increased unemployment by up to 24.7 million. Most informal traders are struggling to pay rentals, electricity, and water. Worse, the authorities destroyed some illegal structures of the informal traders as a measure of containing COVID-19 without first considering the consequences as far as the livelihoods of informal traders are concerned. The probability of resuming business by many informal traders is very slim.

The impact of COVID-19 is severe to informal sector of Zimbabwe attributed to lower resilient levels. It shall be a struggle for informal traders to rebuild connections with their former networks as the supply chain has disrupted. Most informal traders, due to their size and financial capacity, lack adequate knowledge to lighten the shocks, lack flexibility resilience of withholding shocks. Most require the latest adopting strategies and technology as well as digitization, lack personal protective equipment (PPEs), such as hand sanitizers and masks, because of their irregular and insecure incomes.

On a positive note, fresh markets have been allowed to operate, including Mbare Fresh Market, Sakubva Fresh Market, among others. The informal traders’ organizations also embarked on a massive program to mobilize resources. As such, some informal traders received materials such as sanitizers and masks throughout the country. However, some informal traders did not benefit from this program. Moreover, the demand for fresh produce has dropped because of reduced travel and decreased human traffic. Resultantly, income could be low, and women might be affected more since they make up a significant percentage of the informal traders. Some informal traders have resorted to operating from their home, raising hygienic concerns, which might contribute to the outbreak of the COVID -19 epidemic. Currently, some informal traders have flooded the streets of Harare after two months of no income since the announcement of a decree that ordered all people to stay home.

 The government of Zimbabwe should develop long-term solutions for a future pandemic to minimize the adverse effects on informal traders’ livelihoods.  A careful tailor-made strategy to accommodate all Zimbabweans should substitute a one–size– fit all approach.

The government challenged to be proactive in the mitigation of the adverse impact on the informal sector. A stimulus package is required to cushion the informal economy. Prioritization and efficiency of expenditures are urgently needed. Authorities must come up with a way of assisting the affected informal traders in a fair and non-politicized manner. The Zimbabwe government should draw lessons from other countries and strengthen its safety nets, such as subsidized health and cash transfers. Namibia has come up with social safety net policies to cushion the informal sector. For example, it has come up with an emergency income grant for all workers who lost jobs. On the same stem, South Africa and Rwanda have taken bold steps to protect their economies, such as some packages for the poor. Kenyan officials have also accepted a pay cut. The government should prioritize the provision of essential goods and services such as mealie meal sanitation and water to all residential areas. Long queues undermine the curtail measures and might contribute to the time bomb of the COVID-19.

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Janet Yellen: U.S. Focuses on Business Investment and Infrastructure Development in Africa

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United States officials, at least, are strategically moving to reset multi-dimensional relations with Africa after the last African leaders summit held in Washington. President Joseph Bidden and Vice President Kamala Harris, in well-coordinated working agenda, with the White House, the Department of African Affairs and the U.S. Treasury are up to the task. This challenging task is backed with $55 billion budget publicly announced during the African leaders gathering.

It all began with series of working visit to Africa late December and early 2023, which underscored the message delivered by Biden at last summit: “The United States is all in on Africa, and all in with Africa.” The $55 billion budget and along with private sector investment for Africa, well-built institutionalized structures and the African-American diaspora are distinctively linking together the United States and Africa. 

On January 20, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen went for a 10-day trip to three African countries that aims to revitalize and expand U.S.-African ties and address challenges such as climate change, food security and debt in Africa. After decades in which China has dominated investment on the continent, the U.S. is pitching itself as a more sustainable alternative. In the sub-Sahara, Yellen visited Senegal, Zambia and South Africa.

That will be followed by the United States Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who travelled to three Republics of Ghana, Mozambique and Kenya starting Jan. 25  and another round trip by Secretary of State Antony Blinken official visits to Eastern Western and Southern Africa.

In Dakar, Yellen had an extensive and fruitful discussions with Senegalese President Macky Sall, who is also the rotating Chair of the African Union. The African Union is a 55-member continental organization with headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. With President Macky Sall, she highlighted United States efforts to boost economic ties with the region “by expanding trade and investment flows,” according to official reports.

Later, she also interacted with Senegal’s Minister of Economy, International Planning, and Cooperation Oulimata Sarr, who, like Yellen, is also the first woman to serve in her current role. In a meeting with Finance Minister Mamadou Moustapha Ba, Yellen said the two officials had “much to discuss on how best to meet the challenges both of our countries face, including in the context of global financial tightening and an increasingly uncertain global economic environment. The U.S. is committed to working with Africa to realize that promise, because we know that a stronger African economy is good for the world, and good for the United States.”

In a speech delivered at a business event in Senegal’s capital Dakar, Yellen mapped out the United States vision for strengthening African relations, eyeing the massive economic opportunities created by its demographic boom.

Currently, Senegal is participating in a G-20 programme that helps finance a shift from fossil fuels to clean power generation, it’s also on the verge of becoming a significant fossil-fuel producer. A new offshore project straddling its border with Mauritania is projected to bring Senegal $1.4 billion of oil and gas revenue from 2023 to 2025. The project may also provide Europe with energy relief as it turns away from Russian gas and oil.

Reports indicated that Treasury Yellen gave the concrete go-ahead on rural electrification project in Senegal. The new rural electrification project estimated to bring reliable power to 350,000 people while supporting some 500 jobs in 14 American States.

Our monitoring shows that Yellen traveled to the site of the project, headed by Illinois-based engineering firm Weldy Lamont. The new project received technical assistance from the U.S. Power Africa initiative, capacity building through the U.S. Agency for Trade and Development, and a $102.5 million loan guarantee from the Export-Import Bank.

“Our goal is to further deepen our economic relationship and to invest in expanding energy access in a way that uses renewable resources spread across the continent,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen underlined in her remarks. Senegal has among the highest rates of electrification across Sub-Saharan Africa – between 70% and 80% – but access to electricity remains far more limited in rural areas.

Such disparities can hinder opportunity for households and businesses in areas otherwise ripe for economic development, Yellen said. The project includes an important renewable energy element with a solar grid to power 70 villages. “This groundbreaking will create a higher quality of life in many communities, and it will help Senegal’s economy grow and prosper. It will also help Senegal get one step closer to its goal of universal electricity access by 2025,” she said.

Yellen, who met women and youth entrepreneurs in Dakar, said the electrification project would allow Senegal to rely on energy sources that are within its borders, cost effective and not prone to the kind of volatility in energy prices sparked by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The U.S. Power Africa project has helped connect 165 million people to reliable electricity across Africa. Its goal is to add at least 30,000 megawatts (MW) of cleaner and more reliable electricity generation capacity and 60 million new home and business connections by 2030.

Yellen, then, travelled to Zambia to meet President Hakainde Hichilema as well as other finance officials. President Hichilema, who took office in 2021, has promised to restore the copper-rich nation’s credibility and creditworthiness after inheriting a cash-strapped economy. Here, she spoke on efforts to improve global health and prepare for future pandemics, as well as on food production.

Yellen cited $11 billion in commitments by the U.S. Development Finance Corp and $3 billion in programmes by the Millennium Challenge Corp in 14 African countries, with more in the pipeline. On a wider scale, the G7 group of wealthy Western nations also planned to mobilise some $600 billion for global infrastructure investments over the next five years.

“We are saying that African countries firmly belong at the table. Their communities are disproportionately vulnerable to the effects of global challenges. And any serious solution requires African leadership and African voices,” she said.

In South Africa, which recently assumed the chairmanship of the BRICS emerging economies group, Yellen held talks with Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana and South Africa Reserve Bank Governor Lesetja Kganyago. She also visited the Ford assembly plant to showcase successful examples of U.S.-Africa economic relations.

Washington provided about $13 billion in emergency aid and food assistance last year, and was now setting up a U.S.-Africa strategic partnership to address the short-term food needs of more than 300 million Africans, Yellen said. It is also helping to build more resilient and sustainable systems for the future.

In practical terms, Yellen focused on building relationships and understanding the barriers to investment and business in Africa. Our monitoring shows that Chinese trade with Africa is about four times that of the United States, and Beijing rapidly expanded its lending by offering cheaper loans, although the opaque terms and collateral requirements are now being questioned by some African countries.

United States is currently looking to broaden investment in South Africa, which is developing new legislation to speed up energy projects. There are a number of external players showing interest in the energy sector, these include Russia, China, United Arab Emirates and others in the Arab world.

Former US ambassador Susan Page told AFP that despite positive developments like the major summit in Washington last year, “the proof is in the pudding” when it comes to pledges of support for African countries. “Are they really going to come up with the serious money… Or is it going to be a trade-off?” asked Page, now a professor at the University of Michigan. She added that while US moves have been largely framed as countering China’s advances, it “is a shame because African countries want to be treated as Africa, and not as a wedge between great power competition.”

Joseph Siegle, who leads the Africa Center for Strategic Studies research programme, said the scope of Yellen’s visit was far broader than the matter of China’s influence. “From an emerging market standpoint there is a lot going on there – with its resources and growth and a large African diaspora in the U.S. Arguably the U.S. has not paid enough attention to Africa with the rigor that’s warranted,” he said. “I think the significance of this trip is trying to rectify there hasn’t been enough high-level engagement on the part of the U.S. in Africa.”

In fact, despite criticisms especially over neo-colonialism and unipolarism, the United States and Africa are culturally, and by biological blood, are inseparable. According to the latest World Bank report, remittances from the African diaspora to the continental was $49 billion in 2021. 

With rivals China and Russia competing for influence and opportunity in Africa, the United States has been working to stave off an erosion of its once-powerful position in the region. But as Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen strongly noted the histories of the United States and Africa were “intimately connected” by the “tragedy” of slavery, as Washington seeks to strengthen relations with the continent. Speaking at Goree Island off the Senegalese capital of Dakar, the largest slave trading centre on the African coast. 

For their part, many African countries say they are keen for increased investment and financial support for infrastructure development across Africa. And that Africa is only ready for potential credible investors, and not for active sloganeers and ideological choristers. Africa is not a field for confrontation, but for cooperating on transforming the economy and operate the single continental market.

In the emerging multipolar world, the United States still shares cultural values and democratic principles with Africa. The trans-Atlantic slave trade is an integral  part of both American and African history. United States is their second home, nowhere else. United States and Africa are ‘intimately connected’ by slavery, have culturally indivisible bondage, and currently with the growing African-American diaspora it is completely absurd and awkward for external geopolitical rival countries asking African leaders and Africans to abandon their history and the United States.

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Sergey Lavrov Embarks on Geopolitical Lecturing Tour to Africa

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Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and South Africa's Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor shake hands during a meeting. Image source: Russian Foreign Ministry Press Service

As Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov begins his four African nations tour, Russia’s future is what matters the most especially in the emerging multipolar world. Russia continues to enlist African leaders’ support for its ‘special military operation’ in the former Soviet republic of Ukraine, expresses overwhelming support against the growing neo-colonial tendencies in Africa and, at least, intensifying efforts to strengthen its hyperbolic political dialogue with Africa. 

Minister Sergey Lavrov visited Egypt, Congo-Brazzaville, Uganda and Ethiopia last year and attempted to justify Russia’s correctness of waging war on Ukraine. As he embarks on another round of lecturing tour to Southern Africa (South Africa, Eswatini, Botswana and Angola), the popular focused themes include geopolitical changes, growing neo-colonialism and creating multipolar world order. After Southern Africa, Lavrov would return to North Africa in February to visit Tunisia, Mauritania, Algeria and Morocco. 

Since his appointment on  9 March 2004 by President Vladimir Putin, Lavrov has occupied this position for nearly two decades (20 years). Throughout these several years of his official working visits to Africa, unlike his Chinese counterparts Lavrov hardly cut ribbons marking the completion of development projects in Africa. Most of his trips were characterized by impressive policy rhetorics full of many pledges and countless initiatives, and geopolitical lectures.

During his marathon three-hour media conference, summing up foreign policy achievements and way forward on 18 January, Africa only appeared at the bottom of the discussions. And yet Africa is considered as a priority in Russia’s policy. Lavrov made little response, reminding of the forthcoming summit planned for late July 2023. He mentioned that there were drafted documents to reset cooperation mechanisms in this environment of sanctions and threats, and in the context of geopolitical changes.

“There will be new trade and investment cooperation tools, logistics chains and payment arrangements. The change to transactions in national currencies is under way. This process is not a rapid one, but it is in progress and gaining momentum,” he told the gathering in closing the media conference that day.

Nevertheless, African leaders are consistently asked for support for Ukraine. Since the symbolic October 2019 gathering in Sochi, extremely little has happened. With high optimism and a high desire to strengthen its geopolitical influence, Russia has engaged in trading slogans, and many of its signed bilateral agreements have not been implemented, including all those from the first Russia-Africa summit. The fact-files show that 92 agreements and contracts worth a total of $12.5 billion were signed, and before that several pledges and promises still undelivered.

Since his appointment in 2004 as Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Sergey Lavrov has succeeded in building high-level political dialogues in Africa. He will, during the first quarter 2023, engage in his geopolitical rhetoric and anti-Western slogans, often unremittingly smearing and attacking other countries especially the United States and France. His political lectures have largely overshadowed Russia’s achievements in Africa. 

These three decades, hardly Lavrov cuts white-ribbons marking the handing over or completion of concrete development projects in Africa. Of course, Russia could choose to maintain its state-centric approach since it is also an admirable foreign policy instrument to push for influence in Africa. While currently, Russia seems to be soliciting the support of Africa to lead the emerging new multipolar world, Russia does not still recognize that it needs to adopt more public outreach policies to win the minds and hearts of Africans. Its economic footprint on the continent is comparatively weak.

Historically Africa has attained its political independence and currently need to transform its economy to provide a better living conditions for the estimated 1.3 billion population. That’s the factual situation now for Africa. The fight against growing neo-colonialism requires investing in the critical sectors, building needed infrastructures, modernize agriculture, production facilities for manufacturing, and add a bit of value to products by industrializing. That’s the main reason and the conditions necessitated the creation of single continental market. 

Our monitoring shows that the Russian business community hardly pays attention to the significance to, and makes little efforts in leveraging unto the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) which provides a unique and valuable platform for businesses to access an integrated African market of over 1.3 billion people. Nevertheless, Russia brings little to the continent especially in the economic sectors that badly need investment. Undeniable fact is that many external players have also had long-term relations and continue bolstering political, economic and social ties in the continent.

Almost all African countries are looking for building and creating new incorporated economic situation that takes care of the growing young generation. These further involve the availability and accessibility to necessary technologies and innovations. In order to realize these novel transformations, African leaders need credible external partners with funds to invest, external partners to support large-scale projects in the continent. Days of political sloganeering are long ago gone.

It has taken three decades to finally make its return journey back to Africa. It is still at the crossroad, and worse thinking indecisively which way to turn in order to reach its the final destination. At the crossroad, there are truly four options: turn left, move ahead, choose right or go back especially this time, in the context of dramatic geopolitical changes.

Russia has to concretely design its comprehensive policy with Africa. It has to show, in practical terms, its great confidence, powering strength and clean determination in various ways to support economic sectors, to win the minds and hearts of Africans. Multipolar in its basic meaning, is creating an integrative conditions. Today’s Russia is a closed country in the world. For years, Africans have heard of ‘neo-colonialism’ and ‘Soviet-era assistance’ through lectures, speeches and official statements from Russia’s officialdom. These are archaic playing gamecards.

Russian International Affairs Council, non-government organization and policy think tank, published an opinion article authored by Kirill Babaev, Director of the Institute of Far Eastern Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Professor at the Financial University. He made an excellent analysis of the relations between Russia and Africa. The article highlighted future perspectives based on the existing successes cloaked in building political dialogues during the previous years. On the other hand, he exposes for serious consideration by authorities some existing obstacles and weaknesses.

Going forward, Russian officials have to note: Russia’s return to Africa has been discussed in the media and at various levels of power for two decades. That the African elites, especially those who studied at Soviet institutes and universities, still have memories of the struggle for the freedom of Africa. 

During the Soviet times, at the height of fighting against Western colonialism, there were economic offerings of the Soviet era. However, all these cards are a matter of the past, while in the present it has been difficult for Russia to offer Africa anything of value that could compete with large-scale Western investment or Chinese infrastructure projects (until recently), Professor Kirill Babaev wrote in his article.

Going forward, Russian officials have to note: That in another publication headlined “Russian Business in Africa: Missed Opportunities and Prospects” in the journal Russia in Global Affairs, Professor Alexei Vasilyev, former Special Representative of the Russian Federation to African Countries and Director of the Institute for African Studies, wrote in that article that Russian companies are pursuing their various economic interests in Africa.

But, Africa still accounts for just 1.5% of Russia’s investment which is a drop in the ocean. It must be admitted that Russia’s economic policy grossly lacks dynamism in Africa. “African countries have been waiting for us for far too long, we lost our positions in post-apartheid Africa and have largely missed new opportunities. Currently, Russia lags behind leading foreign countries in most economic parameters in this region,” he underlined in the article.

Going forward, Russian officials have to note: Federation Council Deputy Speaker Konstantin Kosachev said Russia’s Western opponents are trying to prevent African states from taking part in the second Russia-Africa summit, scheduled to take place in July 2023 in Russia’s second largest city of St. Petersburg. 

Moreover in Senator Kosachev’s opinion, the first Russia-Africa summit held three years ago was successful, “but, in many respects, its results remained within the dimension of politics” and were not translated into additional projects in trade, economic, scientific or humanitarian cooperation. “I’m sure it will be a very serious miscalculation on our part if the next year’s summit is not prepared in a drastically different fashion, providing each of its participants with a concise roadmap of our bilateral relations, with clear incentives to participate and conclude practical agreements,” argued Senator Kosachev.

In November 2021, the ‘Situation Analytical Report’ compiled by 25 Russian policy experts vividly highlighted some spectacular pitfalls and shortcomings in Russia’s approach towards Africa. The report noted Russia’s consistent failure in honouring its bilateral agreements and several pledges over the years. It decried the increased number of bilateral and high-level meetings that yield little or bring to the fore no definitive results. In addition, insufficient and disorganized lobbying combined with a lack of “information hygiene” at all levels of public speaking.

The South African Institute of International Affairs has published its latest policy report on Russia-African relations. In the introductory chapter, Steven Gruzd, Samuel Ramani and Cayley Clifford – have summarized various aspects of the developments between between Russia and Africa over the past few years and finally questioned the impact of Russia’s policy on Africa.

According to Steven Gruzd, Samuel Ramani and Cayley Clifford, Russia has been struggling to make inroads into Africa these three decades, the only symbolic event was the first Russia-Africa Summit held in Sochi, which fêted heads of state from 43 African countries and showcased Moscow’s great power ambitions.

Russia’s expanding influence in Africa are compelling, but a closer examination further reveals a murkier picture. The authors further wrote that “Russia’s growing assertiveness in Africa is a driver of instability and that its approach to governance encourages pernicious practices, such as kleptocracy and autocracy promotion, the dearth of scholarship on Moscow’s post-1991 activities in Africa is striking.”

Now Russia’s main tactics to expand its influence, such as debt forgiveness, arms contracts to fragile states and resistance to US unilateralism, come from its transition-era playbook and are not simply throw-backs to its Soviet-era superpower status. On the other hand, Russian public diplomacy in Africa explores the targeted use of historical ties, existing anti-Western narratives, state-centric approach and educational programmes to enhance Moscow’s ‘soft power’ on the continent.

In the context of a multipolar geopolitical order, Russia’s image of cooperation could be seen as highly enticing, but it is also based on illusions. Better still, Russia’s posture in a clash between illusions and reality. Russia, it appears, is a neo-colonial power dressed in anti-colonial clothes. Russia looks more like a ‘virtual great power’ than a genuine challenger to European, American and Chinese influence.

The new scramble for Africa is gaining momentum. Russians have to face the new geopolitical realities and its practical existing challenges. With flexed-muscles sloganeering and ear-deafening noises relating to ‘neo-colonialism’ and ‘Soviet-era assistance’ should be addressed by investing in competitive sectors and economic spheres. Russia’s priority should include building public perceptions through social and cultural activities in Africa. The reality is that African leaders await practical investments proposals from potential credible Russian investors and to take advantage of the immense untapped resources. 

This time raising economic cooperation to a qualitatively new level and ultimately contribute to the building of sustainable relations be the focus with Africa. After all, the 1.3 billion Africans would prefer living and working with one heart and one mind in United Africa. The slogan ‘Africa We Want’ is now propagated by the African Union. Therefore, Russians must strongly remember that Africa’s roadmap is the African Union Agenda 2063.

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Africa and the Grand Diplomacy with Chinese characteristics comprehensively

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On November 2021, China witnessed the convening of the Sixth Plenary Session of the Nineteenth Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, which adopted a resolution to the effect that:

 “China is still the largest developing country in the world, a characteristic that China shares with Africa, as it is the continent that includes the largest number of the developing countries”

 The session also adopted a resolution emphasizing the comprehensive development of “major country diplomacy with Chinese characteristics. Where China and Africa are two important forces in building a community with a shared future for mankind”

  And in support of China’s diplomacy as a major country with special socialist features in the African continent, we find a return for this on the commercial level, as Chinese companies make huge investments in the African continent, and provided more than 50 thousand job opportunities for Africans.  China also pledged to supply the African continent with an additional billion doses of anti-Covid-19 vaccine, in addition to China’s participation in several medical and health projects for African countries, and 10 projects in the field of poverty reduction and agriculture, and 10 other projects for the digital economy, in addition to the implementation of 10 projects for green development, environmental protection and climate action, in addition to China providing $10 billion to support African exports, and encouraging Chinese companies to invest a similar amount in Africa in the coming years.

 In addition to the Chinese programs and initiatives in Africa, Chinese President “Xi Jinping” put forward four proposals for building a Chinese-African community with a shared future in the new era, namely:

(combating COVID-19 through solidarity, deepening practical cooperation, promoting green development,  adherence to fairness and justice)

 Here came the “Eighth Ministerial Conference of the China-Africa Cooperation Forum”, which was held in the Senegalese capital, Dakar, from November 29 to 30, 2021, under the slogan of:

“Deepening the partnership between China and Africa, promoting sustainable development, and building a Chinese-African community with a shared future in the new era”

The most important consensuses and important results reflected in the main decisions and documents that were adopted at the conclusion of the Sino-African Ministerial Conference were:

Adoption of the Dakar Action Plan (2022-2024), China-Africa Cooperation Vision 2035, China-Africa Declaration on Climate Change, and Declaration of the Eighth Ministerial Conference of the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation.

In addition to what China put forward of programmes, practical measures, initiatives and plans for the benefit of partners in Africa, which confirms that the “Eighth Ministerial Conference of the China-Africa Cooperation Forum” represents an important starting point towards a new era of high-quality advancement in Chinese-African cooperation.

We find out that 46 African countries have also signed cooperation agreements with the African Union Commission with China within the framework of the Belt and Road Initiative.  China has become Africa’s largest trading partner, with the volume of trade exchange between the two sides reaching $207 billion in 2021, an annual increase of 40 percent.  While the proportion of Chinese investments in the African continent increased, the proportion of Africa’s trade with China out of the continent’s total foreign trade exceeded 21% in 2020.  China also directed about 45 percent of its foreign aid during the period from 2013 to 2018, which totaled 270 billion yuan, to African countries in the form of grants, interest-free loans, and soft powers.

More than 200 Chinese companies make investments estimated at $2 billion in the agricultural sector in 35 African countries, and the direct investments of Chinese companies in Africa have exceeded $43 billion.  More than 3,500 Chinese companies across the continent have directly and indirectly provided millions of jobs for Africans.

 China is also supporting Africa in developing infrastructure projects, during the period from 2016 to 2020, the total volume of investment in these projects amounted to about $200 billion.  Infrastructure projects implemented by Chinese companies in the African continent accounted for about 32% of the total of these projects in 2020.

 Likewise, Chinese companies have helped African countries build and upgrade more than 10,000 km of railways, nearly 100,000 km of roads, nearly 1,000 bridges and 100 ports, 66,000 km of power transmission and distribution systems, and build up power generation capacity.  A vehicle of 120 million kilowatts, a basic communications network with a length of 150,000 km, and a network service covering about 700 million users.  China has also established more than 80 large-scale energy facilities, built more than 130 medical facilities, 45 gymnasiums, and more than 170 schools with Chinese funding, and China has trained more than 160,000 specialists in various fields within the continent, in addition to treating 230 million patients.  In Africa.  These Chinese projects have greatly improved the infrastructure of the African continent and improved the living standards of the local population.

 China has also pushed forward industrialization and economic diversification in Africa, by building economic and trade cooperation zones, special economic zones, and industrial and scientific parks.  According to the annual report on economic and trade relations between China and Africa for the year 2022, there are 25 Chinese zones for economic and trade cooperation in 16 African countries, which attracted, until the end of 2020, about 623 Chinese companies with investments estimated at eight billion dollars, and provided more than 50,000 job opportunities for Africans.

China has also provided the African continent with an additional billion doses of anti-Covid-19 vaccine, participating in 10 medical and health projects for African countries, 10 projects to reduce poverty and the field of agriculture, and 10 other projects for the digital economy, in addition to implementing 10 projects for green development and environmental protection.  and climate action, as well as providing $10 billion to support African exports, and encouraging Chinese companies to invest a similar amount in Africa in the coming years.

 China is looking forward, through its diplomacy as a major country with socialist characteristics within the African continent, to confirm its position as a great power in Africa, in light of the new cold war with the West.

  Hence, we reach an important conclusion that China’s diplomacy as a major country with a socialist diplomatic nature, especially within the African continent, will be in favor of China at the expense of the United States of America and the West, especially in light of the American and Western focus on human rights and democracy files and the political, military and security intervention in African countries, in  the areas of combating terrorism and the great political dominance over their capabilities, without this leading to any effect in the field of combating extremist terrorist ideologies on the ground and without developing a clear national strategy to combat corruption, or producing a direct positive American and Western economic impact that is applicable on the ground in the countries of the African continent.  This is evident in the exclusion, reduction and marginalization of the French role to a large extent in a number of West African countries, and until the holding of the African-American Summit at the end of December 2022, the United States of America did not take African issues seriously at all, but on the other hand, China has become a player  Real on the land of the African continent through its huge initiative of the Belt and Road and its investments in the transportation and infrastructure sector, as well as China’s opening of a large number of driving schools to educate and train political cadres in a number of African countries, which increases China’s strength increasingly in returning to global status, through soft power and business initiatives within the African continent.

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