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China-Africa Cooperation

Tag Archives | China-Africa Cooperation

U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit: Focus turns to Africa

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Pete Souza/White House

Now that the sixth BRICS Summit and the FIFA World Cup are over, the focus moves from Brazil and the emerging powers to the United States. The first ever U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit on 4-6 August 2014 finally offers an opportunity for Washington to focus on the African continent. This suggests things are slowly changing in U.S.-Africa relations. The most obvious change, beside this event, is the host of new Africa-focused initiatives launched by the U.S. in recent years, such as Power and Trade Africa, and President Barack Obama’s Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI).

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China Sending Troops to South Sudan

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Al Jazeera asked me on 21 June 2014 to comment on the decision by China to send an infantry battalion of 850 troops to the UN peacekeeping mission in South Sudan. I explained that these additional troops would join some 350 non-combat Chinese troops who have been part of the UN peacekeeping operation for the past several years. The Chinese contingent is part of an authorized UN force of 12,500 troops from many other nations.

This decision by China underscores that it is taking an increasingly robust role in protecting its security interests in Africa. The China National Petroleum Corporation controls 40 percent of the oil production in Sudan and South Sudan and Chinese companies built most of the oil infrastructure. Several hundred Chinese nationals work in South Sudan; some 300 have already been evacuated. When the oil fields in both Sudan and South Sudan are operating at full capacity, they provide about 5 percent of China’s imported oil.

Ethiopia and China: How Two Former Empires Connected in the 20th Century

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Liu Zhen/China News Service

Liu Zhen/China News Service

Ethiopia was never colonized and along with China has a long imperial history. China’s imperial period came to an end with the fall of the Qing dynasty and formation of the Republic of China as a constitutional republic in 1912. The overthrow of Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974 by a left-wing military junta ended Ethiopia’s empire. In 1970, four years before the end of Ethiopia’s empire, the People’s Republic of China established formal diplomatic relations with Haile Selassie’s imperial government.

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New $2 Billion Fund, China and the African Development Bank

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Asahi.com

Asahi.com

According to the Financial Times, the Chinese and the African Development Bank will soon announce a contribution of $2 billion to an Africa-wide investment vehicle, “Africa Growing Together Fund.” Unlike most Chinese finance on the continent, this would be open to all companies to compete.

If it’s true (and it is still to be confirmed), this is a huge change and a very welcome one. While the multilateral banks are not immune from corruption and embezzlement challenges, they do have stakeholders that try to hold them accountable in a transparent process. That has not been the case with the Chinese policy banks. I suspect that Chinese firms will still win the majority of contracts but what an excellent tactic by a maturing Chinese leadership to make them compete internationally for their wins.

This kind of competition is how companies become excellent, not by having deals handed to them, or by winning through collusion or non-competitive means. I can’t wait to learn more. A hat tip to John Briscoe.

Africa in China’s Foreign Policy

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Brookings published in April 2014 an extensive analysis titled “Africa in China’s Foreign Policy” by Yun Sun, a fellow at the Henry L. Stimson Center in Washington. The author notes that given the low priority of Africa in China’s foreign policy agenda, African issues rarely reach the highest level of foreign policy decision making in the Chinese bureaucratic apparatus. She also emphasizes, correctly in my view, that there is a constant tension between the narrow, mercantilist pursuit of economic interests in Africa and that pursuit’s impact on the overall health of the Sino-African relationship and China’s international image.

How Africans view Chinese Business in Africa

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The Ethics Institute of South Africa (EthicsSA) published in February 2014 a major study titled “Africans’ Perception of Chinese Business in Africa: A Survey.” Pretoria-based EthicsSA is a non-profit, public-benefit organization that opened its doors in 2000. The survey involved an on-line questionnaire from 1,056 Africans in 15 countries that have a large presence of Chinese companies.

The perceptions were surprisingly negative. In terms of the reputation of Chinese business in Africa, 43.3% is negative and 35.4% is positive. In respect to the quality of Chinese products and services, 55.9% is negative and 22.7% positive. Regarding environmental responsibility of Chinese companies in Africa, 53.9% is negative and only 11.1% is positive. In terms of economic responsibility of Chinese companies in Africa, 40.1% is negative and 28.3% positive. Concerning corporate social responsibility, 45.7% is negative and 21% positive. Perceptions of employment practices of Chinese companies in Africa are 46% negative and 19.1% positive.

The survey concluded that Africans are happy with Chinese investment in the sense that it contributes to the development of their countries. However, Africans are concerned about the economic, workplace, social and environmental impact of Chinese investment.

China’s Aid to Africa: Monster or Messiah?

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Tanzania

Brookings published in January 2014 an analysis titled “China’s Aid to Africa: Monster or Messiah?” by Yun Sun, East Asia fellow at the Stimson Center. She concludes that the intention of China’s aid to Africa is benign but not altruistic. China does not seek to use aid to influence the domestic politics of African countries or dictate policies. But Chinese projects create access to Africa’s natural resources and local markets, business opportunities for Chinese companies and employment for Chinese laborers. China’s comprehensive, multi-dimensional aid to Africa defies simplistic categorization.

The China-Comoros Malaria Eradication Experiment

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The Economist on January 25, 2014, carried an article by Shannon van Sant — “Malaria eradication: cure all?

Artemisinin. Photo: Brigitte Betzelt

Shannon van Sant analyzes the fascinating and controversial effort by Chinese researchers, a Chinese drug company, and the Government of the Comoros to eradicate malaria across their three islands, and 700,000 people, using several rounds of an malaria treatment: artemisinin, developed from a Chinese herb, for the entire population, one by one. The questions she raises are good ones. Being myself in the middle of an intensive, months-long IRB (Institutional Review Board) process at Johns Hopkins to allow me to move forward on grant-funded research on Chinese agricultural investment, I can say that (no surprise) it appears that China lags behind in imposing rigorous safeguards for ethical research practice.

1. Are side-effects being monitored in a systematic way?
2. Are people who participate doing so with adequately informed consent?
3. How commercial is the motivation, given the involvement of China’s Ministry of Commerce and the Chinese drug company?

Van Sant concludes with two interesting comments. First, she notes the point made by the Minister of Health in the Comoros, Dr. Mhadji, that Western criticism may not be unbiased: “Not that the West is a disinterested party, for Western firms, too, manufacture artemisinin-based malaria therapies. On that point Dr. Mhadji has strong views. He dismisses criticism of the experiment as fuelled by competition between Western and Chinese pharmaceutical companies.” And she concludes with two great quotes from Nick White and Oscar Wilde:

As Nick White, a malaria researcher at Oxford University’s School of Tropical Medicine who has been working for years on eradicating malaria, says, “This research is radical. It is controversial. It is led by a very famous Chinese physician and investigator. There are lots of very serious questions here and a lot of unknowns.” Or, as Oscar Wilde more succinctly put it, “The truth is rarely pure and never simple.”

A lot of reporting went into this story. It is very well-balanced and insightful, and pulls in informed voices from different sides of the debate. Other islands (Mauritius, for example) eradicated malaria by compulsory spraying of DDT inside people’s houses. This option is no longer available and obviously contained its own risks. I’m not a public health expert — but I’m interested in comments from readers who are: what is your take on this experiment? What is the WHO position on it?

South Africa’s Relations with China and Taiwan

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The Centre for Chinese Studies at Stellenbosch University published a policy brief in November 2013 titled “South Africa’s Relations with China and Taiwan: Economic Realism and the ‘One China’ Doctrine” by Ross Anthony, Sven Grimm and Yejoo Kim.

The authors conclude that at the heart of the relationship between South Africa, China and Taiwan exists an economic pragmatism which functions in tandem with a policy of diplomatic isolationism.

Rwanda’s Development Drive

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For many Rwanda is synonymous with genocide. However, since the inter-ethnic conflict has ended, President Paul Kagame’s government is focused on revolutionizing Rwanda’s public image and converting the nation into the economic powerhouse of East Africa.

Rwandan President Paul Kagame during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, January 23, 2013. Photo: Moritz Hager

After coming into office in 2000, Kagame outlined his primary economic objectives: privatize state-owned industries, reduce financial regulation for businesses and transform Rwanda from an agricultural economy to a knowledge-based economy. What is helping to achieve these objectives is the government’s wide-ranging advisory support from institutions such as the Singapore Economic Development Board, the Clinton Foundation and the African Development Bank.

In terms of infrastructure development, Rwanda ranks 96th out of the 144 countries surveyed in the Global Competitive Index. This is due to major transport deficits which impede national and regional connectivity and contribute to the high costs of doing business. In response, the government has instituted the National Transport Sector Policy which provides the implementation framework for transport development. Among the envisaged projects is an ambitious transnational railway line which will link the Rwandan capital, Kigali, with the Kenyan port city of Mombasa. Since the Rwandan section costs an estimated $1.5 billion the railway line will rebate its cost by creating a cheaper and more efficient trade route for Rwanda to export its agricultural products and mineral wealth to international markets. More importantly, the railway line is expected to reduce the cost of importing machinery and construction material - both of which are imperative in the development of Rwanda’s infrastructure.

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China Confronts Terrorism in Africa

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China’s counterterrorism policy since the 2001 attacks on the United States has increasingly been pursued in the context of the global war on terror.

A Somali soldier in Afgooye, Somalia. Tobin Jones/UN

Exhibit number one is its preoccupation with terrorism in the troubled Xinjiang region of northwest China inhabited primarily by the Muslim Uighur people. China underscored this concern following the 28 October 2013 vehicle crash in Tiananmen Square. Chinese officials said the incident was a terrorist attack perpetrated by the East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM), a group linked to Xinjiang. The United States listed ETIM in 2002 as a terrorist organization. In October 2013, Pakistan, at China’s request, banned ETIM and two other organizations that are active in Xinjiang.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai, speaking at the United Nations in January 2013, identified four themes in China’s international counterterrorism cooperation. First, China fully respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the countries that are combatting terrorism. Second, China seeks to leverage the UN and the Security Council as the main channel of cooperation and welcomes the establishment of the UN Counterterrorism Center. Third, China believes in a comprehensive approach that addresses the root causes as well as the symptoms of terrorism. Fourth, it argues there should be no double standard; all terrorist organizations including the ETIM must be condemned and defeated.

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What Game is Gambia Playing with Taiwan and China?

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Until 15 November 2013, Gambia was one of only four countries in Africa that recognized Taiwan. On that date, President Yahya Jammeh announced that Gambia had cut diplomatic ties with Taiwan for reasons of “national strategic interest.” Gambia hoped to remain friends with the Taiwanese people, he said. A day after making the announcement, Jammeh posted on Facebook that the People’s Republic of China is the only China Gambia recognized diplomatically as the country goes forward. There has been no indication that Beijing has recognized Gambia.

A report in the 19 November 2013 Taipei Times titled “Taiwan Declares Ties with the Gambia ‘Terminated’,” states that last January President Yahya Jammeh requested $10 million in cash, which is contrary to Taiwan’s foreign aid policy. Taiwan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, David Lin, said there is no indication that Beijing had anything to do with this unexpected decision by President Jammeh. He added that should China and Gambia establish relations, “it would be a very serious warning to us.” Taiwan and China have had an informal diplomatic truce on the issue of diplomatic representation since the election of Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou.

Paths to Achieve Peace and Security in Africa

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It is impossible to separate peace and security in Africa from economic development, democratic governance, and improvement in the daily lives of Africans, including those from ethnic and religious minorities.

A Somali woman waiting for medical treatment from AMISOM. Stuart Price/UN

A significant failing in any one of these three areas will put in serious doubt the ability of a country to maintain peace and security. Africa has experienced impressive economic growth in recent years. That is the good news. At the same time, too many African countries continue to experience conflict. That is the bad news. Conflict can quickly reverse the benefits of even strong economic growth. Fragile states are especially susceptible to conflict.

The African Development Bank estimates there are 20 “fragile states” today in Africa. Almost half of these states qualify as “middle income,” a shift from a decade ago when most were low-income countries. The African Futures Project, a collaborative effort involving the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa and the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver, uses criteria that identify 26 fragile African countries. It projects that 10 of these countries will remain fragile until at least 2050. Whether the number of fragile states in Africa is 20 or 26, the large number is of concern for many reasons. Adding to the concern is the estimate that by 2050 some 23 percent of the world’s population will be living in Africa.

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Chinese Multinationals Score Low on Transparency

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A new report from Transparency International rated Chinese companies lowest among 100 companies from the emerging market countries for levels of transparency. This has implications for African countries and civil societies.

Beijing has required little of its firms. Yet what is also interesting is that two Chinese firms were among the five best performers, with regard to transparency (below). Unfortunately for Africa, two of the firms that operate on a large scale across the continent, Huawei and CNOOC, are also among the firms that scored 0 on TI’s scale (below). Add to this the zero rating of Brazil’s huge engineering firm, Odebrecht Group, and the challenges for transparency in Africa are apparent. It would be interesting to study the “best” and “worst” Chinese firms on this list to discover why some have chosen to adhere to a growing international norm, while others choose to remain opaque.

Transparency
Source: Transparency International. 100 = most transparent. 0 = least transparent.

Political Risk Factors Facing Chinese Investment in Africa

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The Centre for Chinese Studies (CCS) at Stellenbosch University published in September 2013 a paper titled “Political Risk Factors: What Chinese Companies Need to Assess When Investing in Africa” by Gerda du Toit, a research intern at the CCS.

She argues that security is becoming a more important factor for Chinese firms as they expand investments in Africa. Economic development, social development, political instability, corruption and political violence are host country factors that may shape the African political environment and Chinese firms’ exposure to political risk.