All Posts (95)

Closer Looks at Chinese Investment

How Chinese investment and debt finance impacts Africa continues to be a major source of contention. A stream of studies indicate a more nuanced reality between claims China is a benign partner in Africa’s development and claims China is driven solely by geopolitical interests. 

Yu-Shan Wu, Chris Walden and Cobus van Staden of the South African Institute for International Affairs studied responses to the Belt Road Initiative and showed African governments are not…

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China in Africa’s External Debt

The Jubilee Debt Campaign released a study on Africa’s external debt and the contribution of China’s official lending. Overall, Africa’s debt problems continue to increase. External government debt payments have doubled in just the past two years from an average of 5.9% of government revenue in 2015 to 11.8% in 2017. 

While exact figures are difficult to calculate, the study…

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Togo's Inadvertent Internet Experiment

The West African state of Togo shutdown its internet on 5th September for a week. The government wished to stop youth from mobilizing online to hold protests against the reining Gnassingbe family. But the result also provided the world an experiment in what a society would do if it suddenly lost the internet.

Local and foreign media reported that the country, where WhatsApp is ubiquitous, experienced a more attentive civilian workforce, a rise in old-fashioned social interaction such…

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China Jumps in Aid Influence

China’s aid programmes are winning “hearts and minds,” especially in Africa. AidData, which assesses development programmes in the College of William and Mary, in its 2017 Listening to Leaders Survey placed China’s aid programme as the 21st in the world in terms of “perceived influence,” up from 29th only three years ago. India’s aid programme saw a jump from 31st to 24th. This placed both of them higher on the table than the larger aid programmes of Japan and Canada.

AidData also…

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China Pledges $60 Billion at Forum

Chinese President Xi Jinping bowed, rhetorically, to growing criticism of his country’s investment and aid programmes in Africa at the annual Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). He promised “five Nos” would govern China’s policies with the continent: no change to development paths, no domestic interference, no imposition of China’s will, no seeking of political gain and no “strings” to financial assistance. Xi said his country had “full respect for Africa’s own will.”

The 2018…

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Confucious and Culture

A Development Reimagined’s study assessed the soft power of various countries in Africa by looking at their “most visible, and sometimes controversial, public diplomacy tool, their cultural institutes." The study merged both major institutions like Alliance Francaise centres with smaller language training points.

The study toted up over 600 such institutes in Africa, noting this was less than 14 percent of the total number of such institutes worldwide.

Their distribution was…

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Airtel Africa's IPO

Three banks – UBS, JP Morgan and Citibank – will carry out the planned public offer for shares in the holding company of its African business of India’s largest mobile telephone carrier, Bharti Airtel. This is the latest indicator of how much the once loss-making Africa operations of Bharti Airtel have turned around.

Bharti Airtel first announced its intentions to launch an initial public offering in February. The reports said Bharti Airtel plans to list a quarter of the equity of its…

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Islamic States Cells in Africa

A recent study by the Counter Terrorism Centre in West Point concludes that the Islamic State (IS) has nine regional branches in Africa and commands roughly 6,000 fighters across the continent. With the IS being wiped out in Syria and Iraq, its four-year-old presence in Africa may become its main base of operations and recruitment.

The largest IS affiliate is the Islamic State West African Province with an estimated 3,500 fighters. This IS cell is a result of a split within the Boko…

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Kofi Annan, African Statesmen

Kofi Annan, the first black African to become United Nations Secretary-General and co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, died on August 18 at the age of 80. A Ghanaian by origin his many accomplishments include the creation of the Millennium Development Goals which provide targets for social development for developing countries to this day, the establishment within the UN of the Peacebuilding Commission and the Human Rights Council, and the setting up of the Kofi Annan…

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Report Details Zuma-Gupta Nexus

South Africa’s outgoing anti-corruption investigator, public protector Thulisile Nomkhosi "Thuli" Madonsela, released a 355-page report on how much the Gupta brothers, an Indian business family originally from Saharanpur, held sway over the government of ex-prime minister Jacob Zuma. The report implicates Zuma, at least three of his ministers and the Guptas in a web of corruption.

Among its revelations were that the Gupta brothers had the remarkable ability to promote or remove…

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Gao, the Miracle Tree

Farmers in Niger have, through their own efforts, planted millions of Gao trees and successfully made degraded land fertile again. According to scientists, the Gao revolution is the largest scale positive transformation of the environment ever done in Africa. The best part is that the farmers have not been funded or pushed to do this: they have been planting Gao trees because they have experienced the remarkable regenerative capabilities of the tree.

The Gao, known in English as the…

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Zimbabwe Goes to the Polls

Just before his country went to the polls on July 30, former Zimbabwean president, Robert Mugabe, announced he would not support his own party, the Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), in the coming Zimbabwean elections. He said he would prefer the main opposition candidate, Nelson Chamisa.

Mugabe was overthrown in an internal coup by his own defence minister, Emmerson Mnangagwa. While ZANU-PF is expected to win, in part because of its control over the state…

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New Ethiopia: The Rock Star Ruler

Ethiopia’s new leader, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, has been in office for barely four months but has already achieved the political equivalent of rock star status. Abiy came to power after months of protests against the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) forced the resignation of his predecessor. While Ahmed comes from one of the four constituents of the EPRDF, he is the first to come from the section representing the Oromo – the country’s largest but politically…

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Modi Goes to Rwanda

Prime Minister Narendra Modi went to South Africa for the annual BRICS Summit in late July. Along the way, he made state visits to Rwanda and Uganda. This was the first such a visit by an Indian leader to Rwanda.

In visiting Rwanda and Uganda, Modi completed an Indian diplomatic outreach to the countries of East Africa. India has focussed prime ministerial and presidential visits to the region as part of a larger attempt to develop stronger ties with littoral Indian Ocean nations.…

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New Ethiopia: Geo Politics & Horn

Ethiopia’s diplomatic blitzkrieg also reflects the changing geopolitics of the Horn of Africa and its surroundings. These new alignments are largely being driven by the Persian Gulf struggle of Iran and Qatar versus Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates. That is why the UAE played a backroom role in Prime Minister Abiy’s peace initiatives with Eritrea and Egypt.

The two sets of Gulf rivals had sought allies in the Horn because of the civil war in Yemen. In 2015, Djibouti ended the…

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Consumer goods are an increasing share of Indian exports to Africa but trade facilitation issues are a barrier to greater trade concluded a PHD Chamber of Commerce issued a report entitled “Reshaping India-Africa Trade” in July.

Among the highlights of the report:

One, the share of consumer goods in Indian exports to Africa is rising sharply. In 2011, such goods were just over half of Indian exports to Africa. By 2015, they had jumped to 62.4%. Indian goods were also aligning…

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Ramaphosa's Investment Push

South Africa’s new president, Cyril Ramaphosa, has announced a drive to garner $100 billion in foreign investments to revive his country’s stuttering economy. The success of this campaign will be a crucial test of Ramaphosa’s plans to move South Africa away from the cronyism of his predecessor, Jacob Zuma.

Ramaphosa hopes a large portion of this will come in the form of Chinese capital. A large delegation of Chinese businesses from Zhejiang will visit South Africa soon. South African…

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Indian Tea Moves to Africa

Some of India’s best-known tea companies have been setting up tea estates in East Africa. Luxmi Tea, owners of the Makaibari brand, McLeod Russel, Dhunseri Tea and Jay Shree Tea have set up tea-growing estates in Uganda, Malawi and Rwanda. The primary motive: the much fatter profit margins that accrue in Africa.

Business Standard reported that compared to margins of Rs 15-20 per kilogram earned from Assam tea, these companies were earning Rs 40-90 from Ugandan and Rwandan tea. Tea…

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New African Tech Hubs

Nearly 130 tech hubs were opened across Africa in the past two years, says the international telecom industry body GSM Association. The body said it had recorded 442 active incubators, accelerators and co-working spaces as of March 2018, up from 314 such places from two years before. Nigeria continued to experience the highest growth in such centres, seeing its numbers increase to 55 from 23 and placing it just four centres below traditional leader South Africa.

The survey said…

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China's Celluloid Rescue

The Chinese government helped finance the $20-million budget of a film “China Salesman” starring martial arts star Steven Seagal and former boxer Mike Tyson that was released in English a few weeks ago. The film claims to be first Chinese film shot in Africa with a plot based on a “true story.”

The plot mirrors other Chinese-sponsored or Chinese made action films like “Wolf Warrior II” in portraying hapless Africans being exploited by white Europeans or Americans being saved by…

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About the Author

Pramit Pal Chaudhury

Pramit Pal Chaudhuri, Foreign Editor, Hindustan Times, and Distinguished Fellow & Head, Strategic Affairs, Ananta Aspen Centre

Pramit Pal Chaudhuri writes on political, security, and economic issues. He previously wrote for the Statesman and the Telegraph in Calcutta. He served on the National Security Advisory Board of the Indian government from 2011-2015. Among other affiliations, he is a member of the Asia Society Global Council, the Aspen Institute Italia, the International Institute of Strategic Studies, and the Mont Pelerin Society. Pramit is also a senior associate of Rhodium Group, New York City, advisor to the Bower Group Asia in India, a member of the Council on Emerging Markets, Washington, DC, and a delegate for the Confederation of Indian Industry-Aspen Strategy Group Indo-U.S. Strategic Dialogue and the Ananta Aspen Strategic Dialogues with Japan, China and Israel. Born in 1964, he has visited over fifty countries on five continents. Mr. Pal Chaudhuri is a history graduate from Cornell University.