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:
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-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:
I don’t know about you, but I’m suffering from COP26 stress. There’s so much riding on the global climate summit happening in Glasgow at the end of the month that it’s sometimes difficult to remember we face a few other pressing issues too.
To this point, Foreign Affairs this week published a poll asking a stellar group of experts whether American foreign policy is too hostile to China. Not surprisingly they got ...
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.
China is pursuing an ambitious plan to triple its nuclear energy output by 2020, from 2% of the country's total energy supply to 6%. Beijing's nuclear power agenda is part of the government's broader agenda to reduce carbon emissions that is contributing to staggeringly high-levels of pollution in many of China's largest cities. To do so, the Chinese have embarked on a nuclear reactor building spree with some 20 new plants currently in development.
If China is going to rely more on nuclear power as part of its renewable energy strategy then it is also going to have to find a reliable supply of uranium to power all of these new reactors. Not surprisingly, Chinese energy officials have set their sights on Africa, specifically two of the world's largest sources of uranium in Niger and Namibia.
Until now there has been relatively little research done on the impact that Chinese investment is having in Niger and Namibia's uranium mining sectors. Harvard doctoral student Peter Volberding and Dr. Jason Warner recently published a paper on the issue that examines whether the massive Chinese investments are potentially eroding sovereignty in these two African countries? Peter joins Eric & Cobus to discuss why there is not a simple answer to this complex question.
- China-Africa Research Initiative: China and uranium: comparative possibilities for agency in statecraft in Niger and Namibia by Peter Volberding and Jason Warner
- Mining.com: China demand driving renaissance of global uranium market
About Peter Volberding
Political science doctoral candidate at Harvard University with specific expertise in Chinese foreign policy, international relations, and international economic development. More specifically interested in the evolving roles and activities of national development banks (NDBs)--particularly in Germany, Brazil, and China--in the post WWII international economy, as well as the increasing use of financial instruments in development.
Hooray! The Chinese government finally came to its senses and announced that after 2017 it will no longer be legal to sell or trade ivory. Today’s announcement was long overdue and highly anticipated, particularly among Western wildlife conservationists pegged a Chinese ivory ban as the last best hope to save what’s left of Africa’s rapidly shrinking elephant population.
China is by far the world’s largest market for ivory where, until the end of 2017, five tons of ivory have been permitted to be sold every year. The problem is that demand for ivory in China averages somewhere around 100 tons annually and it’s been impossible to segregate the limited amount of legal ivory from the black market supplies that have flooded the market. With so much ivory circulating in China, according to critics, the demand for ivory products will remain strong which is why activists have spent years lobbying Chinese officials to eliminate this grey area with a total ban on all ivory sales.
The thinking here is that "when the buying stops, the killing can too” and while that catchy tag line is obviously very compelling in its simplicity, the reality is that China’s announced-ban alone will not be enough to stop this bloody trade. Well beyond 2017, China will likely continue to be a lucrative market for what will now be exclusively illegal ivory. Corruption and weak rule of law in China will act as lubricants among the highly-organized international crime syndicates who will easily import this illicit precious resource. Even if Chinese authorities are successful in cracking down, neighboring countries like Vietnam will also serve as new gateways for ivory traders to transit their cargo across the border.
The inability, and in some cases unwillingness, of governments in Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa and others to do more to root out corruption should become the new priority in the fight to save Africa’s increasingly vulnerable elephant community.
Just as a 30 year old “War on Drugs” in the United States did absolutely nothing to stem the flow of illegal drugs into America’s cities, there is little reason that a similar ban on a valuable product such as ivory will produce a different outcome in China.
Let’s also not forget that although China is far and away the world’s largest ivory market, it is by no means the only one. The ivory trade remains legal in Japan, the U.S. is the world’s second largest destination for illegal ivory and demand in emerging markets like Vietnam, Thailand and other Southeast Asians is actually going up. Unfortunately, in so many of these countries, cracking down on illegal wildlife traffickers is not a high political priority, especially since there is evidence that senior government officials themselves are actually complicit in the trade.
Weak governance on environmental and animal conservation issues is not just a problem in Asia but also in Africa where sophisticated crime syndicates, working in collusion with corrupt officials, are believed to be behind the vast majority of elephant poaching on the continent. The inability, and in some cases unwillingness, of governments in Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa and others to do more to root out corruption should become the new priority in the fight to save Africa’s increasingly vulnerable elephant community.
I am personally thrilled that Chinese authorities have finally come to their senses to enact this historic policy to outlaw the sale of ivory. We should all commend President Xi Jinping and the State Council for enacting what is no doubt a controversial and difficult policy change given the significant cultural importance that ivory has had over thousands of years of Chinese history. Our celebrations, though, should be short-lived and expectations should be modest. For even in the short time that its taken me to write this post (less than an hour), two more elephants were violently murdered for their tusks. Long after China’s ban takes effect beginning in 2018, the killing will go on and so should the fight to save these beautiful animals.
For more information on China's role in the African ivory trade, please click here, hereand here or listen to this interview with Peter Lafontaine from the International Fund for Animal Welfare on the implications of the proposed Chinese ivory ban: