All Posts (81)

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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Gandhi Convention Centres

The Sahel nation of Niger has asked India to build a convention centre in its capital Niamey in preparation for its hosting of the 2019 African Union summit. New Delhi, which plans to name the centre after Mahatma Gandhi, sees this is an opportunity to promote India’s profile. It has agreed to provide a grant to finance the project. 

The Economic Times reported that similar Gandhi Convention Centres are being planned for eight other African countries: Uganda, Zambia, Malawi,…

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China's Africa Defence Forum

Beijing announced plans to host a China-Africa defence and security forum in China from June 26th to July. Chinese military officials say the forum will look at regional security, how China can help upgrade – and finance – African security forces and how to improve defence cooperation generally.

The move to institutionalize Sino-African defence cooperation is seen as a logical extension of the extensive economic and political relationship that has developed between Africans and…

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Tunisia Starts Up

After two years of debate and delay, Tunisia’s parliament passed a Startup Act in April. The legislation’s passage was praised by Tunisian Prime Minister Youssef Chahed in a tweet “Tunisia has just passed the Startup Act. Another step to take our economy into the digital age.”

The Startup Act is seen as a major boost for entrepreneurship in a country whose economy has been battered by unemployment of 36 percent, huge foreign and government debts, a currency that has depreciated by…

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Pan African Capitalism

Pan-African economic integration is “gathering speed” says a Boston Consulting Group (BCG) report, “Pioneering One Africa,” and it is a group of African companies that are driving the process.
The report identifies 75 African companies across 18 countries, including airlines, financial institutions and telecom operators, which are leading the integration of the continent.  Half of these firms are South African. Ten of them, the next largest cluster, are from Morocco.

“On…

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Starting Up in Africa

There is increasing evidence Africa’s nascent tech startup culture has evolved to a new level. For the past decade the continent’s startup funding was dominated by angel and early-stage investors who operated in the $ 10,000 to $ 50,000 range. The past few years have seen deals up to $ 100,000 making their appearance. What was missing were Series A fund deals involving six-figures. These are now taking place regularly.

In one week in April, the continent saw Lagos based…

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America, Africa and Rexit

The five-nation tour of Africa by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in early March was completely overshadowed by his dismissal, via Twitter, by US President Donald Trump as the secretary returned from his tour.

During his tour Tillerson outlined the current US policy towards Africa. The policy acknowledged the economic and demographic rise of the continent, noted the need for greater intra-African economic ties but also warned against China’s model of infrastructure…

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Sino- Africa: Hides and Polls

Chinese impact on Africa continues to manifest itself in curious ways. How Chinese demand for ivory and rhino horn is encouraging poaching in Africa is well-known. Less known is that a similar Chinese belief in the potency of donkey meat is causing serious problems for the lowly African donkey.

Donkey skin is used for ejiao, a Chinese traditional medicine used for a number of ailments ranging from anemia to impotency. Ejiao production, reported the Guardian, consumes four million…

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Indian Envoys and Energy

India made two major policy announcements regarding Africa in March.

The Indian cabinet approved the opening of 18 new Indian embassies in Africa covering a host of countries that, until now, India had no direct diplomatic presence. This will expand the number of missions India has in Africa to 47 and helps New Delhi to fulfil promises it had made during the last Indo-Africa Forum Summit.

According to the Public Information Bureau the countries to be covered are Burkina Faso,…

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Panther's Progress

The Hollywood superhero movie, Black Panther, caused unusual cultural ripples in Africa and among black people globally. The movie, based in a fictional East African nation of Wakanda and based on a 1960s Marvel comic, was notable for having an African hero, a cast that was almost completely black, and portraying Wakanda as wealthy, socially peaceful and possessing of advanced technology.

Black Panther did well in the Indian box office, pulling in Rs 248 million in its opening…

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Fall of Two Leaders

South Africa and Ethiopia experienced regime change this month. Domestic political upheaval led to their respective leaders resigning their offices, though in somewhat different circumstances.

South African President Jacob Zuma was forced to resign on February 14th when his own party, the African National Congress, threatened to support a vote of no confidence against him. Zuma sought to avoid resigning right to the last, agreeing only when it became clear the vote would go against…

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Illicit Capital Flows

The OECD released a report on illicit financial flows from West Africa showing how these flows – driven by corruption, trade fraud and crime – undermined the capacity of regional governments to finance their development. While a common phenomenon in the developing world and Africa as a whole, the report argued West Africa felt this problem more “acutely.” Illicit financial flows are estimated to cost Africa about $ 50 billion a year in lost funds, greater than the continent’s total foreign…

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China's Hard Win, Soft Loss

In January last year Nigeria ordered the Taiwanese trade office to relocate from the capital, Abuja, to Lagos. Two months later it delivered further humiliation saying the office director should leave the country because his “security” could not be guaranteed. When Taiwan resisted, military personnel in June sealed the Abuja office.

Last month, the Taiwan trade office reopened in Lagos. But Nigeria has warned it plans to review the reciprocal understanding that allows for the trade…

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Single Aviation Market

Africa took a large step towards making itself a single aviation market with the coming into force of the Single African Air Travel Market on January 28. Twenty-one African countries representing 670 million people are the initial signatories to the agreement. The SAATM includes Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya and Mozambique among its first members.

Modelled after similar treaties governing air travel in Europe and Latin America, the agreement is expected to promote…

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Delay in Natural Gas from Mozambique

Indian hopes for a natural gas bounty from its offshore holdings in Mozambique have been put off until 2022. ONGC Videsh, Oil India and Bharat Petroleum control 30% of the Rovuma Area 1 offshore gasfield with proven reserves of 75 trillion cubic feet. It had originally been hoped gas production would start by 2019.

The reasons for the delay seems to be threefold. Political and economic instability in Mozambique has slowed down decision making in the country. The other consortium…

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About the Author

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.