Diskussion über Themen der Entwicklungszusammenarbeit (EZ) in/mit Westafrika einschließlich (und vor allem) der politischen sowie sozio-ökonomischen Bedingungen in den Ländern und was EZ bewirken kann -- oder auch nicht -- oder ob sie aber nicht sogar schadet. ACHTUNG: In Ermangelung von Kommentaren lediglich Beiträge zu EZ-Themen. _________________________________________________________________

6. November 2007

The strings and non-strings of China's Africa engagement

"The framework of the "new" Sino-African relations should be set into some sort of pragmatic context. Too much of the recent commentary about China-Africa ties are too wide-eyed and annotated to be of much use in gauging critical trends. The widespread notion that the new turn of the relationship is not only qualitatively different from what has been before, in the Cold War, with the West, with China itself in the past, but also unanchored to general global developments, is plainly useless when faced with concrete facts on the ground.

Let's take the principal shibboleth: China's relationship with Africa is one of no strings attached.

From the selected snapshots above, it is obvious that a great many of the concerns that have dogged Africa's dealings with major powers are also present in the relationship with China. In fact, one is easily swayed to the view that the concern should be with Africa itself. As long as it appears to remain "static", even as other parts of the world evolve, or, in the case of Southeast Asia, surge forward, China's relationship with others will appear exploitative, unbalanced, strained. Such a situation is almost as certain as a law of physics.

If Africa's needs and offerings remain fixed, even as the needs and offerings of its partners undergo rapid transformation, then any relationship it enters, no matter how well-meaning, will develop serious compatibility frictions. This is plainly self-evident, so it amazes us that many people believe that the "new" Sino-African relations will thwart this inevitability. In particular, we find the attitude to China's economic cooperation with Africa unbelievably naive.

This perception of Sino-African diplomacy is parodied in a play by Nigerian Nobel literature laureate Wole Soyinka in which a character representing the late Idi Amin of Uganda in a fit of anger over the actions of his Russian allies explains why he prefers his newfound "non-interfering" Chinese technical advisers: "What's more, they bring their own food!" Like all simplistic generalizations, the notion that Chinese aid to Africa carries no strings is of course a myth. It is false even when the assertion is qualified by comparison with Western aid.

What people often mean is that no "transparent" strings are attached. In that sense perhaps so, but only if the uncritical distinction between it and Western aid is then also removed, because in the past several Western aid programs in Africa have similarly come with no "visible" strings attached. One can think of French military-technical assistance to its former colonies (which Lansana Gberie, a security expert, asserts to have been worth many millions of dollars in 1984) or the United States' anti-communist projects across the continent: in what was then Zaire, apartheid South Africa, and Angola.

China's aid, in the absence of these caveats, comes with "strings attached" - in fact it provides enough rope for either partner to hang itself. Foremost among these is the injunction against dealings with Taiwan and the unstated - publicly, that is - commitment by the recipient nation to favor Chinese consortiums for the development of whichever projects the aid is earmarked for.

For example, sports stadiums have become one of Beijing's most favored development projects in Africa. This is because of Chinese companies' track record of building these across the continent. In Mozambique, for instance, China is both the biggest fund provider and builder of roads.

China's Exim Bank makes no effort to hide its mandated purpose of using loans as means of securing contracts, particularly in high-value processes, for Chinese companies abroad. The 800 Chinese companies in Africa are viewed by Beijing as fulfilling both political and economic roles, and as part of a diplomatic effort to project influence.

In Nigeria, to cite a further example, oil concessions have gone to Chinese companies as part of multibillion-dollar infrastructure loan arrangements. The same is the case in Angola. Perhaps to redeem the "no strings attached" argument, it can be said that these are commercial "strings" and differ in that respect from the more complex conditions often insisted on by Western aid givers. Such a contention will be flawed on several levels.

All donor countries have their priorities, which evolve according to different timelines. Western donors may calculate that promoting free markets means eventually securing better trade relations with Africa. China may emphasize immediate gains through political negotiations. The difference is of style and emphasis, not of fundamental structure, which at any rate, in our view, is tied to the very orientation of Africa itself, and far less so to the disposition of Africa's partners."

Read more on this and other developmental issues at the excellent » IMANI Center for Policy & Education Homepage.

5. November 2007

Foreign Aid enables bureaucrats to procure gold-plated Mercedes limousines

"Oxfam and Christian Aid can be powerful social advocates often to chaotic levels as witnessed in Seattle and Cancun– but in many cases, their economics are just plain wrong. In reaction to our extreme poverty, these bodies and their local counterparts conclude that Ghana’s farmers are suffering at the hands of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Trade Organization.

One of their solutions to our problems is eliminating farm subsidies in western countries, which would indeed be a good thing. But it saddens me these bodies including ISODEC, MAPRONET, SEND and the Third World Network has no principles. They ignore history, peddling the misguided belief that poverty, famine, global warming and corruption can be solved with more foreign aid and other policies that have already failed Africa.

Most people would agree though that dealing with the World Bank and IMF is like playing with loaded dice. They do advocate free trade measures – but also push foreign aid and flawed development strategies onto us. Even the average Ghanaian knows that these ‘reform’ programs have achieved nothing other than to enable our bureaucrats to procure gold-plated Mercedes for themselves and their cronies."

Read more on this and other developmental issues at the excellent » IMANI Center for Policy & Education Homepage.

Why Ghana Remains Underdeveloped

"... how do you solve poverty if you have a nationally sanctioned document like the Ghana Poverty Reduction Strategy (GPRSP) that says “the role of government makes considerable case for the government to intervene directly in the economy” and recommends foreign aid and its appendages to ‘finance’ our poverty. Pages vii-viii of the GPRSP for instance, recommends that funds from on-going poverty related projects, HIPC savings, Government of Ghana sources (including the growing tax menace) additional donor support among others, should be used in costing and financing our poverty. It should interest Kwame Avege to learn that such recommendations that tie our apron strings to foreign aid money and planned policies have been our nemesis. Time and again staggering figures have been mentioned as national debt contracted mainly through loans from the Bretton Woods Institutions. Yet the reality is that many of such unaccountable loans end up in the pockets of the politicians or used for funding some electioneering gimmick that is short-lived.

A Ghanaian commentator sums up the results of foreign aid as 'dirty uncovered gutters, kids running around not going to school, cluttered heaps of rubbish burning all over; streets clogged with traffic and smoking vehicles; water shortages; sporadic electricity supply; a corrupt judiciary and even more corrupt executive branch; party politicking about nothing; small and petty-minded government officials etc; no medical delivery system to speak of; an ineffective commercial system that does not encourage private investment; a rural population that simply subsists on less than $1 per day; fraud in public transactions; a parliament of jesters who don't know what they are doing and a general helter-skelter atmosphere of incompetence and mediocrity all around.' "

Read more on this and other developmental issues at the excellent » IMANI Center for Policy & Education Homepage.

Unfree intra ECOWAS trade as development blocker

"What's worse, even as opposers of free trade sneer at the developed world for erecting barriers, it is instructive to know that there are far higher/difficult barriers to trade within developing countries than exists between developing and developed. Figure for instance , Nigeria, Africa's most populaous nation banning 96 agricultural based products from Ghana entering its markets. Meanwhile, the two countries belong to the Economic Community of West Africa States, supposedly a "Free Trade" area. Try travelling by road from Accra to Lagos and be thankful if you arrive with all your goods and money in tact."

Read more on this and other development issues in
» Franklin's Blog Spot