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May 16, 2013

Challenges for China-Africa Relations

April 18, 2013 by

President Jacob Zuma addresses the China-Africa roundtable meeting hosted by China’s President Xi Jinping in Durban, South Africa. Image via GovernmentZA

Adapted from Amb. David H. Shinn’s Speech to the Cosmopolitan Club in Manhattan.

Before making any predictions it is important to begin with a few basic assumptions about China that will also impact its relations with Africa. I believe China’s leadership will remain stable and in full control of the country through at least the Xi Jinping era. China’s focus will remain on ensuring domestic political stability and economic development. But structural challenges such as its aging demography, continued migration to cities, higher population growth rate as a result of loosening restrictions on the one child policy, higher labor costs, dangerous levels of income inequality, lack of a universal social security system, worsening environmental conditions, more severe weather events due to climate change, increasing domestic pressure for input on decision-making by ordinary Chinese, and growing global competition from other emerging nations will take their toll on China’s society and system of governance.

Nevertheless, China’s GDP growth rate will continue to out-perform the world average, but at a less impressive rate than during that past three decades. China will also maintain a high savings rate and contribute disproportionately to global economic growth. While it will try to change elements of the existing international order, it will operate within this system rather than try to replace it.

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Obama’s 2013 Africa Visit

April 10, 2013 by

President Barack Obama meets with, from left, President Macky Sall of Senegal, President Joyce Banda of Malawi, President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone, and Prime Minister José Maria Pereira Neves of Cape Verde in the Cabinet Room of the White House, March 28, 2013. Pete Souza/White House

It was a story that many people missed. United States president Barack Obama met with four African leaders in Washington in late March 2013: President Sall from Senegal, President Banda from Malawi, President Koroma from Sierra Leone, and Prime Minister Neves from Cape Verde.

A positive step in the right direction for America in Africa, but it is time for Obama to return the favor and once again set foot on the continent.  It was announced late last year that Obama was planning a long overdue African tour sometime in 2013. As a specialist in US-Africa relations and an American living in Africa, I remember thinking simply “Amen!”

There are dozens of reasons why Obama needs to be “here,” but to only mention a few. Firstly, there has been a large amount of key personnel changes when it comes to American foreign policy and its African “leadership.” It would prove beneficial for these individuals to accompany Obama on Air Force One for the ride across of the Atlantic, which in turn would help smooth the transition.

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The Next American Crusade: The U.S. Military Campaign in Africa

January 14, 2013 by

Despite upcoming deep cuts to the Pentagon’s budget, the United States has embarked on a military campaign in Africa. Confidential sources inside AFRICOM (the United States military’s Africa Command) spoke of a large increase of materials and manpower making its way to Africa in early 2011.  The past year saw a very quiet and concerted effort on the part of the administration to continue the U.S. military and intelligence build up on the continent.

The latest announcement of an additional three to five thousand troops was accompanied by several conditions and caveats meant to ease any doubt that the troops are there to assist in counterterrorism operations. This is remarkable noting the impending budget crunch the military will endure, the constant down-play by the administration of the condition of Al Qaeda and the overall resistance to venture into another armed conflict.

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Massive Health Care Needs in Africa

November 30, 2012 by

HIV/AIDS health care warning to get checked. Photo by Jon Rawlinson

African countries have massive health care needs. A few basic facts as of 2009 provided by the World Bank about Sub-Saharan Africa illustrate the point. In 2009, life expectancy at birth for Sub-Saharan Africa was 52.5 years; for Ethiopia it was 55.7 years. The under-five mortality rate in Sub-Saharan Africa per 1,000 children was 130; for Ethiopia it was 104.

The prevalence of HIV in the 15-49 age group in Sub-Saharan Africa was 5.4 percent; for Ethiopia it was about 2 percent. The incidence of TB per 100,000 people in Sub-Saharan Africa was 344 cases; for Ethiopia it was 359 cases. The total number of clinical cases of malaria reported in 2009 for all of Sub-Saharan Africa was 72 million; Ethiopia accounted for 3 million of these cases. The number of reported deaths from malaria for all of Sub-Saharan Africa was 113,000; Ethiopia reported 1,100 of these deaths.

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US Foreign Policy and Africa: The Next Four Years

November 22, 2012 by

Africa is probably the single most complex region of the world and arguably its most troubled. While the world concerns itself with the Syrian civil war and the dangers it poses for the Middle East, little notice is taken of the war in the Congo, a tragedy that has taken five million lives and next to which the crisis in Syria pales.

Africa represents 15 percent of the world’s population, yet only 2.7 percent of its GDP, which is largely concentrated in only five of 49 sub-Saharan countries. Just two countries—South Africa and Nigeria—account for over 33 percent of the continent’s economic output. Life expectancy is 50 years, and considerably less in those countries ravaged by AIDS. Hunger and malnutrition are worse than they were a decade ago.

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Africa Needs a New Approach

November 13, 2012 by

In August 2012, Secretary Hillary Clinton made a ten day visit to nine African countries: Senegal, Uganda, South Sudan, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana and Benin. The common thread in Secretary Clinton’s remarks were the building blocks of the new “Presidential Policy Directive” (PPD) for sub-Saharan Africa, to strengthen democratic institutions; spur economic growth, trade, and investment; advance peace and security; and promote opportunity and development.

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Convergence of US and Chinese interests on African Security? The Case of the Two Sudans

November 2, 2012 by

Liberian children hold Chinese flags before the arrival of China’s President Hu Jintao in Monrovia in 2007. Christopher Herwig/Reuters via Reuters

There has been intense interest in and outright alarm expressed by western civil society and governments on the rapidly increasing Chinese presence in almost all spheres in African life. Many articles paint a picture of a saintly west and a demonic China in Africa, charging the Chinese on the hearsay evidence of abuse of African workers and poor Chinese workmanship of roads and infrastructure projects. The Chinese focus on resources and infrastructure and its pragmatic and self-interest motivated policy of non-interference in domestic affairs is paraded as the smoking gun of Chinese responsibility for a range of African ills from unemployment here in Cape Town where I write, to the Darfur genocide.

The intense interest by the west in China-Africa relations - arguably a natural development of the globalization process - betrays a deep seated unease on the part of the west as Chinese companies, government and Chinese models of development are shown to be more adaptable, better liked and more suitable in Africa compared to the western counterparts.

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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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My Mission to the Republic of Mali

September 7, 2012 by

Villagers drawing water at a well near Bandiagara, in southern Mali. John Isaac/UN

Yeah Samake, the mayor of Ouelessebougou and I had become acquainted over a year ago. Since then we had met on a number of occasions. I was impressed with him — a breath of fresh air in Africa’s young up-and-coming political leaders. In the presidential elections scheduled for April 29, 2012 he was a major contender.

The campaign however was cut short by a military coup, that has since destabilized Mali. More than half the country is under siege by radical Islamists, both home grown and imported.

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The Crisis in Mali

August 26, 2012 by

A cholera hospital close to the Mali border in western Niger. Sean Smith

The reports filtering out of Northern Mali are appalling: a young couple stoned to death, iconic ancient shrines dismantled, and some 365,000 refugees fleeing beatings and whippings for the slightest violations of Sharia law.  But the bad dream unfolding in this West African country is less the product of a radical version of Islam than a consequence of the West’s scramble for resources on this vast continent, and the wages of sin from the recent Libyan war.

The current crisis gripping northern Mali—an area about the size of France— has its origins in the early years of the Bush Administration, when the U.S. declared the Sahara desert a hotbed of “terrorism” and poured arms and Special Forces into the area as part of the Trans-Sahal Counter Terrorism Initiative. But, according to anthropologist Jeremy Keenan, who has done extensive fieldwork in Mali and the surrounding area, the “terrorism” label had no basis in fact, but was simply designed to “justify the militarization of Africa.”

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Mali: Not on Clinton’s Farewell Agenda

August 24, 2012 by

On August 10, 2012 Secretary Hillary Clinton ended her ten day trip to nine sub-Saharan African countries: Senegal, Uganda, South Sudan, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana and Benin. The trip was publicized as her last to the continent, as Secretary of State in the Obama Administration. The common thread throughout her structured remarks was on the building blocks for democratic institutions, good governance, rule of law, corruption, security, and trade.

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China, Africa and Implications for the United States

July 14, 2012 by

China is planning to build Chad’s first oil refinery, lay new roads, provide irrigation and erect a mobile telephone network. Chinese oil workers at the exploration site. Ruth Fremson/The New York Times via The New York Times

China and the United States have surprisingly similar interests in Africa. Both rely increasingly on the continent for oil while China also imports large quantities of minerals. Both seek political support from Africa’s 54 countries, which constitute more than a quarter of the membership of the United Nations. Both see Africa as an increasingly attractive export market, although today the African countries collectively account for a tiny percentage of each country’s global trade.

China also wants to expand the “one China” principle throughout Africa; four African countries recognize Taiwan. This is not an American interest. For its part, the United States wants to minimize the impact in Africa of terrorism, narcotics trafficking, international crime, piracy and money laundering so they do not harm US interests in Africa or the homeland. While these are increasingly becoming Chinese interests, they have not yet reached the level of US interest. The United States also seeks to continue naval access to African ports and maintain the ability to overfly and land military aircraft. This is not yet an important interest for China.

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Somalia: U.S. Dual Track Policy

May 18, 2012 by

Abandoned Al-Shabaab ‘technicals’ in Mogadishu’s stadium. Image via Enough Project

Let’s be sure we understand what the United States means by the dual track policy towards Somalia and Somaliland. In October 2010, Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson announced the dual track approach. Track one involved continuing support for the Djibouti Peace Process, the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), its National Security Forces and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).

Track two recognized that there were large pockets of stability in Somalia that merited greater engagement.  These areas included Somaliland, Puntland and regional and local anti-al-Shabaab groups throughout south/central Somalia. Track two included additional support for Somali civil society groups and clan leaders.

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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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Somalia: Under the Tutelage of Ghost-Lords

February 2, 2012 by

London Conference on Somalia. Image via UK Foreign Office

At this dreadful moment in its history—when the obituary of a nation on life support is being written—political correctness is a luxury that Somalia cannot afford. Yes, Somalia is a failed state. But, failure is not a permanent condition, unless people choose to make it so by retiring their dignity and spirit of resilience.

Since the collapse of the military government 21 years ago, Somalia went through various levels of problems perpetuated by clan militias, warlords, economic-lords, religious-lords, regional-lords, and a group that I would refer to as the Ghost-lords.

All except the latter were domestic phenomena, and as counter-intuitive as it may seem, the Ghost-lords is the most elusive and perhaps the biggest obstacle to the reconstitution of the Somali state. Yet it remains the highest international authority that oversees every aspect of the political process in Somalia.

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