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May 16, 2013

2013 Top Young Celebrities Helping Africa

April 23, 2013 by

Pictured: Jessica Alba, Natalie Portman, Angelina Jolie, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and Ben Affleck

Editor’s Note: In partnership with YPIA, we are especially delighted to cross-post this 2013 list.  The 2012 Top 5 winners can be found here.

YPIA is once again happy to announce its top five young megastars under 40 years old who take time out of their busy schedules to help the African continent. This is an annual award and serves as a precursor to the May release of YPIA’s top 35 under 35.

And the winners are:

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China’s Xi Jinping Seeks to Strengthen Relations with Russia and Africa

March 22, 2013 by

China’s president, Xi Jinping, pictured with He Guoqiang and Jia Qinglin in Beijing in November 2012. How Hwee Young/EPA

The first official state visits by the new president of China, Xi Jinping, have just been announced; Xi Jinping will embark on a four-country tour of Russia, Tanzania, South Africa and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). In terms of grand strategy, the Chinese visit to Russia and South Africa, as well as BRICS countries is about balancing against the West and pushing for a multi-polar world order. The visits will prioritize China’s interests as a mixture of cementing geopolitical alliances and closing major strategic resource deals.

While one can expect the usual announcements of eternal friendship in Tanzania and South Africa, the real test for Xi Jinping will be whether he can close an oil deal with Russia and resolve the resources-infrastructure trade-off agreement with the Democratic Republic of Congo. From an African perspective, it appears that the new Chinese leadership is redoubling efforts on its comprehensive charm offensive in Africa.

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Goma has Fallen: M23, North Kivu and Why Rwanda’s Donors Might Hold the Key to Peace

November 21, 2012 by

UN Peacekeepers patrol Bunagana in North Kivu province. Sylvain Liechti/UN

Goma, the capital of the resource-rich North Kivu province in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, is now in the hands of M23 – a rebel group accused of human rights abuses and the recruitment of child soldiers. The Congolese Army offered only sporadic resistance and the UN retreated to the airport. Some 50,000 people, including 35,000 from a nearby refugee camp, are thought to have fled the region around Goma. Once more the UN proved impotent, and once more thousands are forced to leave their homes.

To make matters worse, Rwanda claimed that the Congolese Army fired on Rwandan territory. Rwanda, however, did not respond with military action and was accused by the DRC that it fired on its own territory in order to establish a precedent for a later invasion.

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China’s Investments in Africa

November 5, 2012 by

Chinese and Chadian oil workers worked side by side at the exploration site in southern Chad. Ruth Fremson/The New York Times

There is agreement among those who follow China-Africa relations that state-owned and private Chinese companies have become major investors in Africa over the past 10 years.  Even Chinese individuals are investing small amounts in enterprises ranging from restaurants to acupuncture clinics.  It is possible that in the past several years, China was the single largest bilateral source of annual foreign direct investment (FDI) in Africa’s 54 countries.

There is, however, considerable confusion as to what constitutes Chinese investment in Africa.  Many analyses, especially journalistic accounts, conflate investment with multi-billion dollar loans from China to African governments that often use the loans to build infrastructure by Chinese construction companies.  These loans tend to go to resource rich countries such as Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ghana and are usually repaid by shipping natural resources to China.  These loans are not FDI; they are commercial deals, albeit often with a concessionary loan component.  It is important to keep them separate from investment.

So how much have Chinese companies and individuals invested in Africa?  I have concluded that no one, including no one in China, knows the answer to this question.  For that matter, it is not even clear how China defines FDI.  China’s Minister of Commerce, Chen Deming, stated in mid-2012 that as of the end of 2011 China’s cumulative FDI in Africa “exceeded $14.7 billion, up 60 percent from 2009.” 

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African Success Story or Tarnished Donor Darling? In Rwanda, Kagame Epitomizes the Debate

October 14, 2012 by

President George W. Bush and President Paul Kagame shake hands Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2008, following the dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony to formally open the new United States Embassy in Kigali, Rwanda. Chris Greenberg/White House

More than 18 years after leading the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) into power in Rwanda, President Paul Kagame has become a flashpoint of debate in the country that he has, in many ways, come to singularly personify.  Tall, skinny, and professorial in demeanour, Kagame has been called “one of the greatest leaders of our time” by Bill Clinton and a “visionary leader” by Tony Blair, who has also declared himself “a believer in, and supporter of, Paul Kagame.” Yet, despite such high-profile praise, the Rwandan leaders critics present a different story.

Opponents say that Rwanda, under President Kagame, has become an authoritarian state where political opponents, journalists and other dissenting voices are subjected to a widespread campaign of harassment, intimidation, imprisonment, repression and even murder. Critics charge this has made Rwanda inhospitable to opposition and an unwelcome environment for dissidents and those willing to challenge the status quo.

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Emerging Powers expand ties with Africa

September 17, 2012 by

Chinese and Chadian workers at an oil site in southern Chad, part of China’s growing economic presence in Africa. Ruth Fremson/The New York Times via The New York Times

The end of the Cold War resulted in the strategic disengagement of western countries, including the United States, from Africa. They continued their trade, aid and assistance relationship with Africa, but once the threat of communist expansion disappeared, the West interacted with the continent in a different way. This change permitted an opening for several emerging countries to expand their ties with Africa.

As some of these emerging non-African countries became economically strong, they increasingly replaced western influence and engagement in Africa, particularly in certain countries. This new development has fundamentally changed the relationship between the fifty-four countries of Africa and the rest of the world.

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Enter the Dragon: Will China’s Deal of the Century Save Congo?

July 16, 2012 by

Twenty-four trillion dollars. It is a number that beggars the imagination, almost 40% of the global economy, and it is buried in one of the world’s poorest and most violent countries: The Democratic Republic of Congo. Failed state, rape capital of the world, humanitarian catastrophe…Congo personifies all these but beneath the surface its dark earth holds $24 trillion of copper, cobalt, coltan, the bones and blood of information age manufacturing. For this reason, if for no other, the world cannot ignore Congo. It can’t afford to.

Called Congo’s “deal of the century”, in 2007 China recognized the beleaguered nation’s importance to the global economy with an unprecedented $9 billion resources-for-infrastructure agreement which holds the potential to unlock Congo’s vast mineral wealth and improve the material lives of its seventy-one million people with new roads, rails, hospitals, and universities.

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How UN Peacekeeping in the Eastern DRC Blurs the Line

July 14, 2012 by

United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) peacekeepers have been busy assisting the Congolese brigades over the past week in the fight against rebels known as M23 based in Bunagana. This comes at a crucial time, as the provincial capital of Goma, a military stronghold, may be overrun.

This military cooperation between UN troops and the DRC military, also known under the French acronym of FARDC, has led to international media and NGOs raising concerns about UN peacekeepers and international law, with the biggest question posed being: “has the UN become a ‘party’ to a conflict?”  If it has, it poses a serious problem. However, it is a difficult question to answer.

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Damned by Riches: How Afghanistan’s Mineral Wealth Undermines NATO Mission

June 27, 2012 by

Uzbek workers build a signal station on the new railway spur between the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif and Uzbekistan. Image via Assignment Afghanistan

It is like something out of a movie: deep in the archives of a war torn country a team of intrepid scientists discovers forgotten maps leading to buried treasure. Fantastical as it seems, such a scene played out in 2004 when American geologists found a cache of charts in the Afghan Geological Survey’s library dating from the days of Soviet occupation.  Returned to the library after the NATO invasion, these Russian charts were protected in geologists’ homes through the tumultuous 1990s’ and for good reason: the data indicated under Afghanistan’s mountains and dry plains lay vast mineral deposits.

Guided by Soviet charts, aerial surveys in 2006 and 2007 covered 70% of the county and produced the most comprehensive geologic study in Afghan history and estimate the nation’s untapped mineral wealth at $1 trillion.  Today the Afghan government believes this wealth buried in their rugged provinces could exceed $3 trillion, but as frequently asked of buried treasure: is it cursed?

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Ethiopia: World Bank to Fund Destructive Dam through the Backdoor?

May 22, 2012 by

Gilgel Gibe III Dam on the Omo River in Ethiopia. image via Grand Millennium Dam

Some projects are so destructive that no reputable actors want to get involved with them. Think of the oil wells in Sudan’s conflict zones, China’s Three Gorges Dam, and the gas pipelines in Burma. If the price is right, however, some will still be tempted to do business on such projects through the back door. The World Bank is currently taking such an approach with a big credit for Ethiopia’s power sector.

The Gibe III Dam, now under construction in Southwest Ethiopia, will devastate ecosystems that support 500,000 indigenous people in the Lower Omo Valley and around Kenya’s Lake Turkana. The UN’s World Heritage Committee called on the Ethiopian government to “immediately halt all construction” on the project, which will impact several sites of universal cultural and ecological value. In August 2011, the Kenyan parliament passed a resolution asking for the suspension of dam construction pending further studies.

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Report Calls on New World Bank President to Change Course on Infrastructure

May 16, 2012 by

World Bank funded development project in India. Ray Witlin/World Bank

Infrastructure lending has once again become the World Bank’s core business. A new report by International Rivers reviews the Bank’s track record in the sector, and calls on the new Bank President to replace the top-down approach to infrastructure with a strategy that prioritizes the needs of the poor.

In November 2011, the World Bank and the Group of 20 prepared new strategies for infrastructure development. They proposed concentrating public finance on large projects with private participation that can transform whole regions. The Bank and the G20 identified the giant Inga hydropower scheme on the Congo River as an example of the proposed approach.

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Emerging Powers vie for Influence in Africa

May 4, 2012 by

The end of the Cold War resulted in the strategic disengagement of western countries, including the United States, from Africa. They continued their trade, aid and assistance relationship with Africa, but once the threat of communist expansion disappeared, the West interacted with the continent in a different way. This change permitted an opening for a variety of emerging countries to expand their ties with Africa.

As some of these emerging non-African countries became economically strong, they increasingly replaced western influence and engagement in Africa, particularly in certain countries. This new development has fundamentally changed the relationship between the fifty-four countries of Africa and the rest of the world.

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Goldman Prize for Kenyan River Activist Ikal Angelei

April 16, 2012 by

Kenyan River activist Ikal Angelei. Photo by Ian Elwood

Ikal Angelei, the founder of Friends of Lake Turkana in Kenya, receives the prestigious Goldman Environmental Prize in San Francisco today. The award will honor an activist who is defending the interests of 500,000 poor indigenous people against a destructive hydropower dam, and has successfully taken on many of the world’s biggest dam builders and financiers.  Ikal Angelei grew up on the shores of Lake Turkana, the world’s biggest desert lake.

This lifeline of Northwestern Kenya is under threat from the giant Gibe III Dam, currently under construction on the lake’s main water source, the Omo River in Ethiopia. When she learned about this threat, Ikal founded Friends of Lake Turkana with a few friends in 2007. Working together with partners around the world, she started an international campaign to stop the mega-dam which threatens her people’s livelihoods.

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The United States Reassesses the China-Africa Relationship

January 18, 2012 by

China, India, Brazil and Russia and even smaller non-western countries such as Turkey, Iran and Indonesia steadily have been replacing western influence in Africa throughout the first decade of the 21st century.  China has contributed more to this process than any other single non-western nation and perhaps more than all of the others combined.

China surpassed the United States in 2009 as the largest bilateral trading partner with the combined fifty-three countries in Africa. Although accurate statistics are elusive, Chinese investment in Africa during 2009 may also have been larger than that of any other single nation. Chinese leadership in trade and investment with Africa almost certainly extended through 2010 and will likely continue into the foreseeable future.

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China-Africa Relations: The Big Picture

December 6, 2011 by

South Africa’s Jacob Zuma with Hu Jintao in Beijing. Image via Examiner.com

China has four hard interests in Africa’s fifty-four countries. I exclude from this list interests often cited by Beijing such as support for economic development and political stability in Africa. These are goals or objectives of Chinese policy, but they do not constitute China’s interests any more than they are interests of the United States.

China’s principal interest in Africa is continuing access to raw materials, especially oil, minerals, and agricultural products. China now imports about one-third of its total oil imports from Africa.

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