Tuesday, March 20, 2018

2018 World Happiness Report: East Africa and Horn

The 2018 World Happiness Report has just been released. It evaluates 156 countries based on the pooled results from Gallup World Poll surveys from 2015-2017. The key variables are income, healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom, trust, and generosity.

East Africa and the Horn do not score well. The best performer at number 98 is Somalia! Go figure. Kenya comes in at number 124, Ethiopia at 127, Uganda at 135, Sudan at 137, Tanzania at 153, and South Sudan at 154. Eritrea is not ranked.

Monday, March 19, 2018

African Countries at Risk of Debt Distress

There has been much public discussion of debt distress in Africa recently with the finger often pointed at China. For the record, the International Monetary Fund, identified as of 1 January 2018 the following African countries as currently in debt distress but did not assign any blame for the distress: Chad, South Sudan, Sudan, and Zimbabwe. The IMF identified the following countries as being at high risk of debt distress: Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Djibouti, Gambia, Ghana, Mauritania, Sao Tome and Principe, and Zambia.

Prominent Saudi-Ethiopian Swept Up in Saudi Anti-Corruption Campaign

The New York Times published on 16 March 2018 an article titled "He Owns Much of Ethiopia. The Saudis Won't Say Where They're Hiding Him" by Danny Hakim and Ben Hubbard.

Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Al Amoudi is a well known businessman with significant assets in Ethiopia. His mother is Ethiopian and his father Saudi. He was recently swept up in a Saudi anti-corruption campaign and reportedly being held in a hotel in Saudi Arabia.

Mega-Themes in Africa-China Relations 2017

Lina Getachew Ayenew, Ethiopia-based author and consultant focused on Africa-China relations, recently posted her 2017 "Mega-Themes in Africa-China Relations."

The focus of the 2017 edition is the Belt and Road Initiative, China versus the US, ivory trade, technology, education and healthcare.

How Many Chinese Businesses Are in Africa?

Asia Times published on 16 March 2018 an article titled "How Many 'Chinese' Businesses Are in Africa?" by Doug Tsuruoka.

The article notes the comment in the June 2017 McKinsey & Company report titled "Dance of the Lions and Dragons" that "there are more than 10,000 Chinese-owned firms operating in Africa today." China-Africa expert Thierry Pairault rightly points out that the authors of the McKinsey & Company report do not define what is a Chinese firm. He offers the example of small Chinese-owned businesses in Africa that are locally incorporated, which makes them local and not Chinese enterprises. Does the McKinsey report count the mom and pop Chinese restaurant owner or acupuncturist? We don't know.

The problem is that no one knows for certain how many Chinese companies there are even if there is an agreed upon definition. The Secretary-General of the China-Africa Business Council, which represents Chinese companies in Africa, told me in Beijing in June 2017 there are an estimated 8,000 Chinese companies in Africa while the Ministry of Commerce has 4,000 registered companies. Again, there is no definition and there may be double counting as some companies have multiple branches. So take your pick: 4,000, 8,000, 10,000 or something else.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Sub-Saharan Africa and Democratization Through 2022

The National Intelligence Council published in February 2018 an analysis titled "Sub-Saharan Africa: Pitched Contests for Democratization Through 2022."

The analysis concludes that standing in contrast to what academics have noted as a global drift toward authoritarianism, democracy remains a potent ideal in Africa. This tug of war between leaders and their constituents will become more intense through 2022, as stagnating economies, urbanization, and access to technology upset many longstanding balances of power. The resulting volatility will pose challenges and create opportunities for the international community as it pursues its strategic interests in this rapidly changing landscape.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

China's Medical Aid in Africa

The Diplomat posted on 14 March 2018 an article titled "China's Medical Aid in Africa" by Long Wang, Xiangya Hospital at Central South University, and Joshua Bateman.

This is a generally positive account of China's public health program in Africa that began in 1963 with the sending of a Chinese medical team to Algeria.

Russia Tries to Ramp Up Relations with Africa

The Institute for Security Studies published on 13 March 2018 an analysis titled "Russia and Africa Meet Again" by Ronak Gopaldas, director at Signal Risk.

The author commented on the recent visit to Africa by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, noting that Africa's relationship with Russia is complementary rather than competitive. Russia is interested in obtaining African political support as it works to increase its relevance on global issues. It sees the advent of the Trump administration as a good time to reassert itself in Africa.

Is Justice Possible during South Sudan's Civil War?

The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) published on 15 March 2018 a commentary titled "Is Justice Possible during South Sudan's Civil War?" by Peter Fabricius, ISS consultant.

Based on two recent death sentences, including one for a South African national, handed down recently by a court in Juba, the author suggests that probably no one is getting real justice in South Sudan.

Djibouti Economically Dependent on Ethiopia

The Institute for Security Studies (ISS) published on 12 March 2018 an analysis titled "Port Deal Underscores Djibouti's Reliance on Ethiopia" by Simon Allison, ISS consultant.

The author notes that Djibouti's economy is dependent on Ethiopia. Any disruption to Ethiopia's economy as a result of current political unrest will have a knock-on effect in Djibouti. The same argument applies to Somaliland's port of Berbera, where Ethiopia is expanding its connections.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Is There Any Prospect for Peace in South Sudan?

World Politics Review published on 14 March 2018 a commentary titled "A Resurrected Peace Plan Is the Best Hope for Ending South Sudan's Brutal War" by Andrew Green, a freelance journalist based inn Berlin.

In spite of the optimistic title of the author's commentary, he concludes there is no end in sight for the current negotiations as fighting continues for a fifth year and aid agencies report that 9,000 people are estimated to be losing access to food every day.

China's Energy Financing in Africa

The Global Development Policy Center at Boston University maintains a database called "China's Global Energy Finance," which tracks since 2000 Chinese financing by the China Development Bank and the Export-Import Bank of China to foreign governments in the energy sector.

As of 2017, it tracked $34.8 billion in China's energy finance for Africa out of a global total of $225.8 billion. Latin America received almost twice as much energy financing as Africa and Russia received more than all of Africa combined. The major recipients in Africa have been Angola, Nigeria, and Zambia.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Secretary Tillerson Visit to Africa Followed by Firing

The BBC Radio World Service asked me to comment on 13 March 2018 on Secretary of State Tillerson's visit to Africa followed by his abrupt firing by President Trump.

Kenyan Leaders Reconcile: Will It Last?

The International Crisis Group published on 13 March 2018 an analysis titled "After Kenya's Leaders Reconcile, a Tough Path Ahead."

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta and opposition leader Raila Odinga agreed on 9 March to address the deterioration of relationships between communities and aggressive antagonism and competition that has blighted repeated elections in Kenya. While this step is welcome, the hard part comes next.

African Migrants in China

The Africa Studies Quarterly published by the University of Florida devoted its February 2018 issue to "China-Africa Relations: Theoretical and Practical Perspectives on African 'Migrants' in China."

The issue contains the following articles:

--Introduction - China-Africa Relations: Theoretical and Practical Perspectives on African "Migrants" in China by Agnes Ngoma Leslie
--African Students in China: Research, Reality, and Reflection by Li Anshan
--From Pioneers to Professionals: African Brokers in a Maturing Chinese Marketplace by Heidi Ostbo Haugen
--The Bridge Is Not Burning Down: Transformation and Resilience within China's African Diaspora Communities by Adams Bodomo
--Transient: A Descriptive Concept for Understanding Africans in Guangzhou by Dong Niu

Time To Get Tough with Warring Faction Leaders in South Sudan

African Arguments posted on 12 March 2018 a commentary titled "South Sudan: Buying Off Elites To Stop Fighting Won't Work. Here Is What Might" by Daniel Akech Thiong, an independent consultant dealing with South Sudan.

The author argues that you cannot buy off warring elites in South Sudan. He calls for "emptying the fuel tank" by removing the rewards of war. This may include an arms embargo, asset freezes, and a travel ban.

Monday, March 12, 2018

US Concerns Over China's Expanding Role in Africa

CNN ran on 11 March 2018 a segment titled "'Weaponizing Capital': US Worries Over China's Expanding Role in Africa" by Steve George and Brad Lendon.

The piece focuses on China's growing security role in Africa, especially its new military facility in Djibouti and reports that Djibouti recently terminated a contract with Dubai-based port operator DP World to run the Doraleh Container Terminal. This has led to speculation that control of the operation may be given to a Chinese company.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

China-Africa Statistics and the Tillerson Visit to Africa

The China-Africa Research Initiative at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies recently posted updated background papers on China-Africa relations intended to complement the visit to Ethiopia, Djibouti, Kenya, Chad and Nigeria by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

The first paper is titled "The United States and China in Africa: What Does [sic] the Data Say? 2016 Updates." The second is "China in East Africa and the Horn: Ports, Trains and Industrial Zones." The third is "China in West and Central Africa: Railways and Refineries."

China, Africa, and Presidential Term Limits

The Conversation posted on 8 March 2018 a commentary titled "Why China's Removal of Term Limits Is a Gift to African Despots" by David E. Kiwuwa, Princeton University.

The author concluded that the removal of China's presidential term limits adds a new dimension to the China-Africa relationship. African presidents now have a political godfather whose practice they can claim to emulate or use to validate their continued stay in office.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Sexual and Gender Based Violence against Refugees in Kenya and Uganda

Women in International Security published in March 2018 a policy brief titled "Sexual- and Gender-Based Violence in Refugee Settings in Kenya and Uganda" by Pearl Karuhanga Atuhaire and Grace Ndirangu, graduate students respectively at the Durban University of Technology and the African Nazarene University in Nairobi.

Their research concluded that female refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo at refugee camps in Kenya and Uganda face a high incidence of sexual- and gender-based violence. The authors argue that refugee settlements are not safe spaces for refugee women.

Trump Administration Africa Policy

The Council on Foreign Relations posted on 7 March 2018 a commentary titled "Trump's Policy Taking Shape with Tillerson's Trip" by John Campbell.

In view of the previous problems in the Trump administration's handling of Africa, the author concluded that the most important aspect of Secretary of State Tillerson's Africa trip is that it is happening at all.

Some African Traders Leaving China

Pambazuka News published on 9 March 2018 a commentary titled "African Traders in China: Is the Honeymoon Over?" by Daouda Cisse, independent researcher based in Canada.

In the last couple of years small numbers of African traders living in China have been leaving. The author argues that those who are leaving are concerned about overstaying their visas compounded by a more difficult business climate following the drop in world commodity prices. China's economic restructuring reportedly is not a significant factor.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Protests in Eritrea

African Arguments published on 7 March 2018 a commentary titled "More Dissent in Eritrea: A Country Where Dissent Is Not Tolerated" by Abraham T. Zere.

The recent death in detention of a respected Muslim elder led to protests in Asmara. The author suggests this could lead to growing problems for the government of President Isaias Afewerki.

China's Investment in Africa: Problems with Numbers

Asia Times published on 7 March 2018 an article titled "How Accurate is Investment Reporting on China in Africa" by Doug Tsuruoka.

The article cites a recent analysis by the Financial Times that reports China invested $36 billion in Africa in 2016. It then provides China's official FDI flows to Africa in 2016 at just over $2 billion.

Neither of these figures represents the real number, which is not known with any certainty. The $36 billion cited by the Financial Times is much too high for the flow of Chinese FDI to Africa in 2016 for the reasons stated in the Asia Times article. At the same time, the official Chinese figure is too low because it only captures FDI reported to China's Ministry of Commerce. It does not include smaller investments and fails to capture Chinese FDI that passes through Hong Kong, the Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands, and other tax havens. Take all of these numbers with a grain of salt.

China-US Cooperation in Africa

The Institute for Security Studies published on 8 March 2018 a commentary titled "US and China Inch towards Awkward Cooperation in Africa" by Peter Fabricius.

The commentary emphasizes the recent US invitation to China to meet in Washington for purposes of discussing Africa. It implies this is a significant new initiative. In fact, China-US meetings on Africa at the assistant secretary of state level have occurred every one or two years, alternating between Washington and Beijing, dating back several administrations. There is no reason to believe the upcoming meeting will be any more significant than previous sessions.