Some new data is now available regarding Chinese military and police forces who now operate under UN command in African peacekeeping operations.
China is also the second-largest contributor to UN's peacekeeping budget, accounting for 15.22% of the $7 billion 2019 budget, up from 10.28% in 2018.
Florida governor Rick Scott is by no means an important voice on foreign policy matters but he does offer some insight here on how a lot of senior US politicians now consider China to be an "adversary" who's determined to exert influence around the world.
It is interesting nonetheless to see how an issue like China's engagement in Africa is now making its way into the broader political discourse in the United States about China.
New data from the National Treasury in Nairobi revealed a dramatic surge in borrowing from Japan, up 162% to more than $1.3 billion during the period of June 2018 to June 2019. The increase in Japanese loans comes as China is slowing its lending to Kenya. "China’s bilateral loans to Kenya, which stood at $6.4 billion by June had only grown 16 percent from $5.5 billion in the same period last year," reported Kenya's Business Daily newspaper.
Citing "difficulties beyond its control" (translation: they haven't been paid), China’s state-owned Sinohydro has stopped work building the 750mw Kafue Gorge hydroelectric dam in Zambia, dealing a major blow for the country's drive for energy self-sufficiency and the livelihoods of thousands of workers on the project.
The Kafue Gorge Lower Power Station (see graphic above) was among a number of Chinese-funded energy projects underway in Zambia. In this particular case, the Kafue plant is funded through a public-private partnership (PPP) between the Zambian government and the country's power company ZESCO and financed through a $2 billion loan from China's Exim Bank.
In an article that recently appeared in the Paris-based magazine The Africa Report, Andrew McGregor, Managing Director of the independent research organization Who Owns Whom, and Marthinus Havenga, Director of Cathkin Consulting, provided some interesting data on the top five export and import categories that dominate the bulk of China-Africa trade.
In short, China sells heavy equipment and other machinery to African countries and in turn, buys a lot of natural resources. While that's not a tremendous surprise, it is interesting to note the volumes and how they've changed between 2001 and 2018.
Read the full article on The Africa Report website that includes a number of other compelling charts and data points.
Russia is stepping up its engagement in Africa with a new focus on trade. Although Russia does considerably less trade with Africa than China, less than a tenth the volume, in fact, it nonetheless remains an important actor on the continent. Although Russia and China are often put together as representatives of Africa's new trading partners, breaking the hold that the U.S. and European countries long had, they are different in one fundamental way.
Charles Robertson, Global Chief Economist at Renaissance Capital, explained that while China needs to buy Africa's resources, Russia does not. The Russians have sufficient supplies of oil, gas, and timber while lacking China's industrial capacity that depends on raw materials to build the phones, cars and countless other products we all buy from the Chinese.
China's oil ambitions in Niger clearly appear to be on the rise. The two sides agreed this week to build a massive, hugely ambitious new 2,000-kilometer pipeline that will transport crude from the landlocked West African country to the port of Seme in Benin, according to a report by the French news agency AFP.
AFP reports that the pipeline is expected to take approximately three and a half years and $4.5 billion to complete.
The pipeline announcement comes just a couple of months after the Niger government agreed to re-draw the boundaries of the Termit and Tin-Toumma nature reserve, one of Africa's largest protected wildlife zones, to accommodate an agreement with the China National Petroleum Corporation to explore three oil blocks that it had purchased.
For more on that story, listen to a recent Q&A with journalist Chloe Farand from Climate Home News in London who broke the story in the English-language news media:
One of the key discussions in the run-up to the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation summit is whether China is stepping away from funding large-scale infrastructure projects like roads and ports.
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Zimbabwe's Information Communications Technology Minister Kazembe Kazembe and China's Vice Minister for IT took time got together on the sidelines of International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Telecom World 2019 that is underway in Budapest, Hungary to sign a comprehensive MoU on bilateral ICT cooperation, according to a report in the Zimbabwe Herald.
When you look at the scope of work that's outlined to be done by the Chinese in Zimbabwe, it's well, pretty much everything.
If this is MoU is realized, China will have effectively built the entire communications network in Zimbabwe.
The challenge for other countries competing with China in the ICT space, in Africa and elsewhere, is that it's difficult to deliver the breadth that the Chinese can offer -- not to mention that every single item proposed in this MoU will also likely coming with generous Chinese government-backed loans.
Journalist Ismail Einashe tried to buy a ticket on the new Chinese-funded/built standard gauge railway (SGR) in Ethiopia to travel from Addis Ababa to Dire Dawa. In nearby Kenya, buying on their SGR is a pretty straightforward transaction, as it should be. Not in Ethiopia, though, according to Einashe's experience.
There's no online service, which is more difficult lately given the regular politically-motivated internet outages, no phone reservation system and even at the train station itself it's not possible.
Braving rain, mud and seemingly endless aggravation, Einashe, not surprisingly just gave up.
[mepr-show if="rule: 7733"] Read his comical, albeit frustrating account here: [/mepr-show]
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[mepr-hide if="rule: 7733"] [mepr-membership-registration-form id="7543"] [/mepr-membership-registration-form] [/mepr-hide]
[mepr-show if="rule: 7733"]
[mepr-show if="rule: 7733"]There's a tragedy in stories like this that are often overlooked in the news coverage and social media commentary about the SGR lines in both Kenya and Ethiopia. Given the huge risks that both countries have taken in borrowing billions of dollars to build these massive infrastructure projects, to hear that they are not being properly managed and well-executed is concerning. [/mepr-show]
[mepr-show if="rule: 7733"] Railways, even in societies with good governance, are difficult businesses to run, much less in countries like Ethiopia where management is often far less experienced and operational inefficiencies are commonplace. [/mepr-show]
[mepr-show if="rule: 7733"] So, the next time you hear a discussion over whether China has loaded Ethiopia up on too much debt, consider Einashe's inability to buy a ticket on a train built with those loans and whether Ethiopia is effectively managing its investments.[/mepr-show]
During a meeting last week with Yang Jiechi, Chinese president Xi Jinping's special envoy for Africa and one of Beijing's most senior foreign policy officials, Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta gave one of the first indications that the mounting pressure over his country's rising debt levels may be having an impact. The Kenyan president told the Chinese emissary that he wants the China's private sector to become more focused on investing in Kenya and for the Chinese market to be more accessible to Kenyan exporters.
Yang and other Chinese officials are likely quite receptive to this message from Kenyatta and other African leaders given the pressures in Beijing to focus more on their investment in Africa on projects that are financially feasible.
Similarly, in Kenya after Yang's visit, a spokesperson for China's ambassador to Nairobi, Wu Peng, echoed that message by reiterating that Beijing remains committed to investing in Kenya as part of China's ambitious Belt and Road Initiative but is only interesting in pursuing projects that are economically viable.
The Nation Media Group's Senior Diplomatic Affairs Writer, Aggrey Mutambo, has more on the recent discussion between Kenyatta and Yang including details on Kenya's waning appetite for more bilateral Chinese debt.
You can also follow Aggrey Mutambo on Twitter at @agmutambo.
Anti-fraud consultant Michael Kuria says he's not worried about Chinese loans to Kenya. If Kenya defaults on their debts to Beijing, he writes in today's Daily Nation newspaper, well, that's China's problem. "I trust that they are smart enough to know not to throw good money after bad and that if it came to that they would be open to a debt restructuring proposal."
Instead, he's more concerned about the presence of Chinese organized crime in Africa which he argues is an inevitable outcome of China's deepening engagement on the continent.
Chinese organized crime which has attracted very little attention if any in Africa. It is a fact of life that organized crime always follows the movement of capital, goods and people. The inflow of these into Africa from China guarantees that Chinese organized crime will have a presence on the continent.
East African Anti-Fraud and Corruption Consultant Michael Ndichu Kuria
Read Michael Kuria's full column on the growing threat of Chinese organized crime in Africa on the Daily Nation website.
"Fake news" is how Huawei's vice president of strategy, Andrew Williamson, characterized last week's Wall Street Journal story on alleged spying in Uganda and Zambia. He made the comments in an interview with the state-led Russia Today television network.
It's Fascinating to see how Russian propaganda is now rallying in defense of #China/#Huawei against U.S. government and U.S. media. That is not something one would have expected to see even just a few years ago given the historically frosty relations between China and Russia.
Watch the full clip on Russia Today:
With the 7th Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) coming up in two weeks, the pre-summit messaging coming from the Japanese government indicates that it plans to use this event to highlight the differences its approach to infrastructure development on the continent from that of the Chinese.
Some 54 countries and international organizations are expected to attend the triennial event that will be hosted in the Japanese port city of Yokohama from August 28-30.
One of the key talking points that is likely to emerge from this year's summit will be the quality difference between Japanese and Chinese built infrastructure, with the implication, of course, that the Japanese build "high quality" and the Chinese, well, don't.
But some experts are expressing concern that this whole notion of challenging or countering the Chinese in Africa's infrastructure sector may actually be missing a much larger, far more important point:
While the pre-summit slights against the Chinese may seem to be focused on how Japan can provide better quality infrastructure to Africa, South China Morning Post correspondent Jevans Nyabiage reports that it may actually have very little to do with Africa and much more about the longstanding historical feuds between these two Asian powers:
But the rivalry between China and Japan had little to do with Africa, according to Seifudein Adem, a professor at Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan.
“It is a spillover effect of their contest for supremacy in East Asia,” said Adem, who is from Ethiopia.
“Japan’s trade with Africa, compared to China’s trade with Africa, is not only relatively small but it is even shrinking. It is a result of the acceleration of China’s engagement with Africa.”
[ABACUS] Compared with their Western competitors, Chinese companies have a particular edge in developing regions. Companies like Alibaba and Tencent, which started in the late 1990s, have already overcome challenges facing developing and emerging markets today. These countries often have inefficient payment systems, poor logistics networks and lower incomes.
Some Chinese companies have struck gold by offering innovative products at lower prices. Smartphone makers such as Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo have become popular in India thanks to their good value for money. Lesser-known Chinese companies are now becoming stars in Africa.