the quest for development; aid to the rescue in ghana

Poverty: a state of being extremely poor; inferior in quality or insufficient in amount; our generation’s greatest problem; the world’s worst disease; a trap. The definition of poverty is one that is not difficult to grasp, yet so many do not understand how or why it plagues our world of riches. Our world is plagued by poverty and, contestably, Africa is the hardest hit due to it’s historical status of being relegated to unimportance. While poverty continues to take lives day after day the power wielding countries, institutions, and agencies argue over a solution. That solution is called development. Leaders, institutions, philanthropists all argue as to how development should be facilitated, what the best facilitator is, and how aid should be implemented. Is aid the best facilitator of economic development to bring an end to poverty?

Almost two years after Ghana’s President received word from the Group of 8 that aid would be increased to Africa, Ghana will celebrate being the first independent African country. Ghana is an African country that was very near economic collapse, but through the process of reform, gained economic stability. The current President is expected to step down after serving two years and it looks as though Ghana’s days of coups and unrest will long be over. Ghana has become an economically stable country by way of economic reform, which brought in foreign aid from the institutions and investment from the rest of the world. This is seen as a limited success as far as African countries. Ghana has shown itself to be a good reformer and much of that success has been attributed to aid. But why is Ghana such an isolated case of the success of aid from institutions?

The Trap or A Missing Right?

Jeffrey Sachs, the director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, claims that there is a poverty trap and that the only way to get out of it is by climbing up the ladder of development. He states that this is the greatest tragedy of our time; that one-sixth of the world is not even on the development ladder. The reason that one-sixth of the world is not on the ladder is because of the ‘poverty trap.’ They are trapped because of many reasons: disease, isolation, climate, etc., but why? Sachs tells us that this one-sixth is trapped because their families and governments lack the financial means to invest in their own development. The world’s poor need to get a foot up on that ladder, but how? How does one invest in themselves?

Capital is the answer to the poor’s problem – at least that is what Hernando de Soto believes. In his research on the ‘mystery of capital’ de Soto claims to have found that all the poor need is access or ability to use the land and property that they reside on. They have material things, but cannot use their land as a resource to create capital. De Soto says that, “Capital is the force that raises productivity of labor and creates the wealth of nations.” The problem here is that governments have to open up their property systems to the poor and many are not inclined to do so. The processes for land ownership are lengthy and difficult in many LEDCs, so for many people owning property is not worth their time. De Soto fights for an impractical approach to bringing the world’s poor out of poverty. Balaam and Veseth note that de Soto’s argument for property-rights reform could not alleviate LEDC poverty, however such as step may be necessary for the success of ‘the beautiful goal.’

De Soto’s argument is supported in a slightly more practical manner by C.K. Prahalad, who says that there must be a goal to ‘democratize commerce.’ He supports his claim by giving examples of the poor as micro-producers. Prahalad argues that, “We know aid is not the answer to that kind of mass poverty. Subsidies, grants, and philanthropy may have a role to play, but the real solution is local development of the private sector. That requires specific actions that take into account the historical background of the country at hand.” Prahalad makes an excellent point at that there needs to be an understanding of country situations. He tells us that aid has a place, but where is that place?

Property rights are seen by many to be central to investment and the economy of development. Like de Soto they argue for its quick implementation. In regards to property ownership and its use to become developed it seems that Ghana eased from communal to individually owned land system. In the Ghanaian culture property held high importance and even though Ghana had to move from a communal model to individualistic, it was smooth. Property rights were granted to those who had planted or cultivated certain sections of land. This changeover of property rights was facilitated by stable, well-defined laws and customs in regards to the governing of land. The courts also recognized the existence of ‘family land’ and land belonging to larger kinships. This preset tradition of land ownership allowed Ghana to easily transition and permit people to use land as a means of creating capital.

Whose Consensus Should We Use?

Governments can hinder development, people are restricted from development, and societal institutions push the criteria for development. The Washington Consensus is the list by which all must abide in order to receive foreign aid. The Consensus promotes a strong neo-liberal agenda to deregulate economy, privatize government enterprises, create low inflation, low government debt, and open to domestic and international markets. The institutions use the Consensus in a fair amount of disagreement in regards to implementation. The Washington Consensus was a form for economic development that pushed free trade and capital mobility. The issue of free trade versus fair trade is a complete other paper, but the for ‘free’ forces LEDCs to spend funds on making reforms as opposed to implementing programs to serve its people. This causes poverty to continue in LEDC and although the Consensus made an irresistible possibility within reach it also brought the possibility of devastating collapse and risk.

The International Monetary Fund and World Bank are very often criticized and reforms within the institutions are called for. However, outside the institutions stand NGOs who fill the gap and many times create longer-lasting and more effective results for the poor of the world. Easterly is a strong critic of the aid agencies and he makes a very strong and compelling argument against them. Ghana has received a large number of loans and aid from the institutions. Easterly notes that in many recent cases of heavy involvement by the aid agencies end in collapses into anarchy. Stiglitz tells us that the Washington Consensus assumes perfect information, perfect competition, and perfect risk markets – an idealization of reality has little relevance to LEDCs.

Sachs writes about Ghana’s poverty reduction strategy. He notes that the government of Ghana reached the conclusion that a major scaling up of the public investments in the social sector and infrastructure, which estimates a required donor aid around $8 million. The Ghana strategy was well designed and argued, but the donors dropped and rejected the plan. Sachs argues that there needs to be a harmonization of aid. The many bi-lateral aid groups need to work together for larger projects, but for smaller-scale projects a more specified aid is required.

The Downside of Backward

Aid has become a dangerous word in today’s globalized, polarized, prioritized world. Another problem is that aid, as a term, is a very broad topic. For the purposes here, aid refers to financial support to increase economic development. The ‘grandiose’ plan of making poverty history or ending poverty brings about the desire to create the ideal aid agencies, administrative plans, and financial resources. Over the past sixty years the West has pushed reform schemes, agencies, and numerous plans all to end poverty. This has created a massive $2.3 trillion failed push by the aid industry to meet this ‘beautiful goal.’ William Easterly has argued that, “this evidence points to an unpopular conclusion: Big Plans will always fail to reach ‘the beautiful goal.’ Easterly tells us that Planners will always fail and their plans will always fail because they ask the question of what does the end of poverty require of foreign aid? When instead we should be searchers and ask, “What can foreign aid do for poor people?”

Balaam and Veseth tell us that the nature of aid flows has drastically changed from the time of the Cold War until now. During that time less aid was given because of security reasons, but now multilateral aid is channeled through institutions such as the World Bank. In the 1990s the World Bank changed its priorities to “fill in the gaps” due to many projects being funded by the private market and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). This shift made less economically developed countries (LEDCs) more dependent on other sources of funding.

If a LEDC has to depend on another source of funding besides the established institutions, as flawed as they may be, they will most likely look for the easiest way to get that funding. Ghana recently received, in June of 2006, a $66 million loan from China to fund its development projects. This is an extremely different and what some would call ‘backward’ step for Ghana. The Ghanaian experience with foreign aid has been to adopt reforms and partner with the institutions. In this case Ghana has strayed from the accepted conventions of the foreign aid industry. China is seen as a rogue aider in that they are undermining the development policy of the foreign aid institutions. By not placing restrictions on aid usage or democratic reforms, China is taking the foreign aid market by storm, as the World Bank is put out of business. China is not the only supplier of rogue aid, but it is the most prolific. What does this all mean for the aid industry?

It can only mean one thing and that speaks to the effectiveness of the aid institutions and the aid suppliers of the West. Ghana the star of economic reform, democracy in Africa, and years of peaceful independence is seeking rogue aid – there is no place anymore for utopias and institutions and big plans.

Utopia is Not Possible?

If the big plans won’t work than what will? Easterly says that the big problem with foreign aid is that is aspires to a utopian blueprint to fix the world’s complex problems. This is where we must refer back to Easterly and his explanation of a ‘searcher.’ Easterly helps us to understand that, “A planner thinks he already knows the answers; he thinks poverty as a technical engineering problem that his answers will solve. A searcher admits he doesn’t know the answers in advance; he believes that poverty is a complicated tangle of political, social, historical, and technological factors. A searcher hopes to find answers to individual problems only by trial and error experimentation. A planner also believes outsiders know enough to impose solutions. A searcher believes only insiders have enough knowledge to find solutions, and that most solutions must be homegrown.” Easterly pushes for giving more assistance and aid to searchers and not planners because the utopian plan is not possible.

Sachs states that, “One of the weaknesses of development thinking is the relentless drive for a magic bullet.” This is very ironic because at the end of Sach’s book he argues for a big plan to end poverty, a magic bullet? Sachs outlines four main points for what a donor should do. However he seeks to create an overarching plan for all developing countries to escape the poverty trap. Sachs criticizes the aid agencies as well as promotes their reform and continuation. Easterly on the other hand calls for the West to build a willingness to aid individuals rather than governments. He tells us in his book that the ideas thought to be crazy are the ones that work best and reach the people in need of aid. He outlines a plan for how aid should be used for development starting with development vouchers, which the poor could turn in at any NGO or agency for a vaccine, food, health check-up, etc. Easterly strongly emphasizes getting feedback from the poor on development progress and pushes for aid groups to go back to the basics and be accountable for individual, feasible areas of action.

In her Foreign Policy article, Esther Duflo notes that a good many people have qualms about foreign aid, but that we need to fund what works. “Governments and citizens of poor countries resent the us of aid as a means of buying political support, their lack of control over it, the development fads to which it is subject, and the administrative burden that accompanies it.” This idea of funding what works makes sense and many in the development field advocate for a focus on people.

Many people would like to advocate for the big push, an increase in foreign aid, to eradicate poverty throughout the world, however unfortunately the track record of aid institutions and aid in general shows otherwise. If we are to be donors and fighters of poverty, then we need to understand poverty’s complexity and understand that a pragmatic and effective approach is needed. We need to adopt more the idea of Easterly and support the searchers in their quest to actually save lives.

What does this all mean for Ghana? The country will continue to receive large aid packages from the foreign aid institutions for its stability and rogue aid states for their economic successes. Ghana has become a stable economy and even though the Ghanaian people’s pride is very strong they remain chained to the aid institutions and donors when it would be better for sustainability for their development to have their searchers be supported. Aid funding needs to be linked to the implementation of a successful program to avoid waste by governments. Creating an accountability for foreign aid that provides results will justify the increase of aid to LEDC and Ghana. Today’s society has the access and ability to distribute effective aid that actually helps those in need. The greatest problem that we will face is if our government will have the political will to restore confidence in the abilities of foreign aid. Ghana is a success story of Africa as far as economic development and building a stable government, their success was backed by foreign aid from institutions, and yet many of their people remain unserved. The direction and continuation of poverty reduction in Ghana will depend on the country’s ability to recognize and support searchers with effectively implemented aid.

Bibliography:

Anonymous. “Chinese PM announces Ghana loan.” BBC News, 19 June 2006. . (accessed 3 May 2007).

Anonymous. “Proud Ghana still depends on aid.” BBC News, 15 June 2006. . (accessed 3 May 2007).

Balaam and Veseth. Introduction to International Political Economy. Pearson Education Inc, New Jersey: 2005.

Besley, Timothy. “Property Rights and Investment Incentives: Theory and Evidence from Ghana.” The Journal of Political Economy. The University of Chicago Press, 1995. . (JSTOR accessed on 3 May 2007).

De Soto, Hernando. The Mystery of Capital. Basic Books, New York: 2000.

Doyle, Mark. “Can aid bring an end to poverty?” BBC News, 4 October 2006. . (accessed 3 May 2007).

Duflo, Esther. “Fund What Works.” Foreign Policy Magazine, May/June 2007. 43

Easterly, William. The White Man’s Burden. The Penguin Press: 2006.

Naím, Moisés. “Rogue Aid.” Foreign Policy, March/April 2007. . (accessed 3 May 2007).

Sachs, Jeffrey. The End of Poverty. The Penguin Press, New York: 2005.

Stiglitz, Joseph E. Making Globalization Work. W.W. Norton & Company, New York: 2006.

Tsikata, Yvonne M. “Aid and Reform in Ghana.” World Bank. Preliminary Draft Working Paper, May 1999.

Prahalad, C.K. “The World for Sale.” Foreign Policy Magazine, May/June 2007. 50

Index of blog post series on Ghana.

the politics of genocide

Genocide continues, people continue to be murdered, lives continue to be lost. The next month will mark the anniversary of the Darfur Peace Agreement. The crisis in Sudan’s western region of Darfur is only getting worse. The Sudanese government claims to be making it easier for aid groups to provide humanitarian support, yet aid groups are at times allowed to work and later denied. Under-staffed and under-supported African Union troops are being threatened and killed. The US deputy secretary, John Negroponte, sees this as the last opportunity to bring in a hybrid UN-AU peacekeeping force as hope seems to be running out for a solution. As Negroponte travels to Sudan he will be bringing the message that Washington’s patience has run out. Ban Ki-moon says that he thinks a misunderstanding with the Sudanese government is holding up the peacekeeping force.

The Sudanese economy has boomed with the backing of China, but now China is knocking. China has strengthened military ties with Sudan and so far has been behind the blockage of a peacekeeping force in Sudan. As a permanent member on the Security Council, China has vetoed previous efforts to put peacekeepers in Darfur. Currently there is a 7000 troop AU force trying to secure an area the size of France with limited supplies and no mandate. However, China is now urging Sudan to accept a peacekeeping force. For the past two years China has vetoed sanctions and peacekeeping forces for Sudan. Now as the 2008 Bejing Olympics are fast approaching more pressure has been placed on China to resolve the Darfur crisis. From the New York Times article: “But in the past week, strange things have happened. A senior Chinese official, Zhai Jun, traveled to Sudan to push the Sudanese government to accept a United Nations peacekeeping force. Mr. Zhai even went all the way to Darfur and toured three refugee camps, a rare event for a high-ranking official from China, which has extensive business and oil ties to Sudan and generally avoids telling other countries how to conduct their internal affairs.”

Pressure from the Olympics has been the tipping point for Chinese authorities. There are efforts to call the 2008 Olympics the ‘Genocide Olympics’ from prominent advisors to the Chinese goverment dealing with the Olympics. The Olympics are a great source of pride for the Chinese people. The growing pressure over Darfur has made the Chinese worry that the crisis is hurting their image. This large push is coming from the activist community and hollywood, where people are saying that China needs to be a responsible partner in the Olympic Games. There is still plenty of time before the 2008 Olympics for China to persuade Sudan or accept sanctions.

african economic growth and oil

The UN has reported that Africa’s economic growth is increasing, slow and steady, but frail. They are predicting that the continent’s economies will grow almost 6% in 2007. However the report states that if African countries are to continue to grow they will need to diversify their economic output and invest more in infrastructure. The top growing econmies include: Mauritania (19.8%), Angola (17.6%), and Mozambique (7.6%). The report points out that the economic growth rests on a very fragile base and there are still conflicts to face. The HIV/AIDS crisis has killed much of Africa’s workforce. Countries need to open their borders to trade, invest in their infrastructure, and insulate themselves against external shocks. If these predicted growth percentage’s come true in 2007 this will be the continent’s fourth year of growth. Zimbabwe was the only economy to contract in the last year by 4.4%.

The Foreign Policy blog notes that the landlocked Rwanda will be the prime spot for multinational corporations to invest. The article states: ‘Kagame, who has been president since 2000, is viewed as an honest, business-savvy man opposed to corruption, unlike many other African leaders. Consequently, American businessman Dan Cooper, who has been pitching Rwanda to U.S. corporations, describes the Maryland-sized country as “the most undervalued ‘stock’ on the continent and maybe in the world’.” However Freedom House listed as not free, the hope is that this economic upswing will benefit the citizens.

Africa is gaining economically even as Zimbabwe’s inflation reaches 1,600% and Angola calls off talks with the IMF. China continues to invest in countries regardless of political or human rights standings. Africa’s countries have a lot to deal with if they are to continue their strong economic upswing. The recent signing of many bilateral trade agreements will hurt these economically developing countries. Many countries still have conflicts to clean up before more growth can happen. Rwanda is recovering from genocide, but seems to be gaining a foorhold in the economic system. Oil, don’t forget about oil. It is my belief that oil will be the greatest hope for African countries to become economically stable and advanced, as long as the resource is used wisely. Africa’s hope is growing, but so is the resource lust of emerging economic giants.

no more foreign aid institutions. . . it’s china

Foreign aid; development assistance; foreign investment; these terms are now gaining another synonym: rogue aid. In an excerpt from the Foreign Policy Blog, rouge aiders are defined as such, “Because their goal is not to help other countries develop. Rather, they are motivated by a desire to further their own national interests, advance an ideological agenda, or sometimes line their own pockets. Rogue aid providers couldn’t care less about the long-term well-being of the population of the countries they ‘aid’.”

China is now the largest rogue aid competitor. The author of the blog entry says, “My friend was visibly shaken. He had just learned that he had lost one of his clients to Chinese competitors. ‘It’s amazing,” he told me. “The Chinese have completely priced us out of the market. We can’t compete with what they are able to offer’.” China can outbid the World Bank in aid lending power! What does this say for the future of the aid community? What does this say for the future of development? When economically powerful, wealthy, nondemocratic countries can circumvent the aid policies of the established lending institutions what can we really expect for development and aid programs? China can outbid the World Bank for a railroad project in Nigeria and sets no stipulation for combatting corruption, it can sign environmentally harmful agreements, it can provide funding without regard to the transparency of governments.

The Foreign Policy article gives three simple answers as to why China and other countries are stepping up their aid game. “[…] money, access to raw materials, and international politics.” These countries are not so concerned to create development or provide aid and help as many people as they can. There are obvious underlying motives to China’s upswing in development aid. This is not to say that China is the first to use rouge aid as a international relations tool. The United States and the Soviet Union used rogue aid to gain the allegiance of dictators. Our world is not in the position now to allow such initiatives to continue. The World Bank and other large aid agencies are monitored closely by watchdog groups, but these ‘rogue’ countries can lend and corrupt and ignore as much as they want.

The greatest threat that I see, and which I wrote about in an earlier post, is the obvious – China is set on getting all that it can from Africa. China has a great lust for Africa’s resources and their thirst is becoming unquenchable. Will Africa be drained and left with people living without basic infrastructure, left empty handed, left to die in ‘under-development.’ There is a quote from the FP article that sums up my thoughts, “Worse, they are effectively pricing responsible and well-meaning aid organizations out of the market in the very places where they are needed most. If they continue to succeed in pushing their alternative development model, they will succeed in underwriting a world that is more corrupt, chaotic, and authoritarian. That is in no one’s interests, except the rogues.”

oil to the people?

Nigeria’s economic focus on the trade of oil can be reversed from being its greatest downfall to being its greatest achievement. Currently, Nigeria’s economy is fueled and supported by the energy sector and the international trade system. Nigeria is Africa’s largest exporter of oil, being the number one exporter to China and the fifth largest supplier to the US. However, the corruption of the government, the un-diversified economy, political instability, and poor management has led to an over-dependence on the oil sector. The oil sector currently supplies 20% of Nigeria’s GDP, 95% of its foreign exchange earnings, and 80% of its budget revenues. The oil sector has not led to an end to the crushing poverty of Nigeria and this leads many to join the rebel groups combating foreign involvement and trade. Nigeria used to be a large exporter of food, but with an emphasis on fossil fuels and a growing population, the agriculture sector could not keep up and now the consequences can be seen.

Nigeria’s focus on international trade in oil has developed the problems that Nigeria now faces. International trade is the oldest and most controversial subject within the international political economy. International trade is the production structure of the international political economy, this means it deals with relations between states and non-state actors such as international businesses. Controversy on the international trade structure comes about when the state governments and international businesses grab the economic benefits and limit the negative effects on themselves. This controversy could not be more evident in Nigeria’s case as the government works to fight corruption of politicians, angered rebel groups, and the hunger of foreign governments and investors for raw materials. From Nigeria’s agreements and interactions with other countries in the international political economy we can view Nigeria’s place within the international system.

If you were to look at Nigeria’s international dealings with China and the US, you would notice two different perspectives on international trade. One perspective is China being mercantilist as they work to create bi-lateral agreements and the other, the US, with a push for a more liberal global system to allow multinational corporations access to the market. Hu Jintao, President of China, visited Nigeria for a second time in 2003 and secured four oil-drilling licenses for China in exchange for investing nearly $4 billion in infrastructure projects. In the international trade system, China is looking for a market to place its abundance of cheap goods and Nigeria is looking for a reliable importer of its oil who will also support the country financially. China is also on the search for natural resources to fuel its growing population. Yet the US is also seeking a place to receive oil as it looks to become less dependent on the Americas. US corporate interests are high in the energy sector and the US government has offer much help in the way of democratic reform. However as the world’s powers seek to find sources of energy, the instability of the Niger Delta region of Nigeria causes much concern as both US and Chinese workers are held hostage. This creates a strain on the pricing of production and consumption of oil. Likewise the kidnapping of foreign oil workers creates political tension, which could potentially lead to future problems in trade with Nigeria.

Nigeria now holds a prominent position as the world searches for its fossil fuel fix. With their abundance of oil, Nigeria has the potential to reform its political system and create positive trends from its trade in oil. The flow of oil brings in investors and in turn these investors can be used to build the countries dying infrastructure. As has been evidenced by China’s recent push in Nigeria, countries are willing to invest in Nigeria to have access to its oil. However, investors will not be able to help with ethnic tensions in the oil-producing region. Nigeria will need to solve its internal problems if they are to keep a hold on their oil-trading niche. There is now a significant push to calm those problems through social and economic development programs run by government agencies and multinational corporations. As Balaam writes, “If wealth is power, then trade is both.” Nigeria needs to be sure to use its trading power as both an internal development tool and a foreign policy tool. Nigeria needs its investors and MNCs to focus on more then just their international responsibility to provide oil to consumers. They need to have these international partners assist in focusing on domestic issues in order to be a trading partner.

In February 2007, the Nigeria Oil and Gas (NGO7) Strategic Conference was held. The conference held attendance from over 550 delegates from almost 70 companies in the Nigerian oil and gas market. Interesting to note is that although China has recently become a front-runner in Nigerian assistance, speakers at the conference included country managers and directors from the large US oil companies, however only one from a Chinese company. Was this a political move or are the US companies most prominent in Nigeria at this time? Time will tell.

The greatest hope for Nigeria is foreign investment. With foreign investment focused on development and reforms focused on eliminating corruption Nigeria will be able to become a more important regional and international trader. Investments are increasing in Nigeria. Companies are seeking long-term investment and are especially searching for trade in raw materials. Nigeria holds a huge potential and it needs to use its power in the international political economy to reverse past trends and push for greater development assistance from investors. Along with bringing in foreign investors, Nigeria needs to stress an understanding by investors of local conditions and make partnerships carefully.

the final battle in the continent

The noise will make all else inaudible, not even the whisper of, “here they come,” will be understood. The noise will be unbearable. TICK TOCK, time is running out to stop and realize the impending doom. CHING, money is flowing so fast and smoothly for anyone to truly care and take notice. RATTA-TATTA, RATTA-TATTA, anti-terrorism gunships will tear through the sky and open fire marking holes on the cratered dirt roads, the cargo shipments will crash and the cheap goods will burn as the bombs fall, KABOOM, refugees will run from camp to camp to avoid the madness of it all, AHHHH, disease will run rampant as systems of infrastructure are torn apart, rebel groups and religious sects will race to claim control before they are cut down in the streets, RATTA-TATTA, buildings and factories will be contructed and destroyed all in the same day, BOOM KA-BLAM, the force of trade will combat the force of military imperialism in the last great epic battle for the African continent.

Africa has already faced two huge battles between superpowers on its soil, this I am telling you will be the last and the greatest. The first great battle for Africa was during and after the Berlin Conference of 1884-5. As the Western powers of the day argued and squabbled over land rights to various parts of Africa, the African pie was sliced and later devoured. After the conference many of the Western powers preceded to lay claims to more of the continent slowly moving Africa in to the period of colonialism or maybe a better term would be pure exploitation of land and people. Leopold II of Belgium ravaged the Congo Free State’s people for rubber, the Firestone Tire company established itself in Liberia, Brazil perpetuated the slave trade in Senegal, France’s blatantly promoted colonial racism, the British imposed custom and culture, and the list goes on of colonial atrocities and wrong-doings. The division of the ‘African pie’ led to the failure seen in later years and in the future created by colonialism. The Great Western powers of that age saw Africa only as an opportunity to gain territiory and resources, to exploit being who walked the earth for their own good and nothing else, to be bigger, stronger, and more impressive. However, this was not always the Western European view of Africa.

Africans and Europeans worked and lived as equals in the Ancient and Renissance eras. Europe depended on Africa for its economic stability. In the Greek, Roman, and European Renissance societies ‘blacks’ and ‘whites’ were treated as equals as evidenced in paintings from the time periods. Africa was an ancient center for learning, religion, and wealth (ie: Timbuktu). Ships from the Swahili coast reached farther than any European vessel and the Swahili people mastered sailing techniques before the Europeans. This spread the sale of goods, cultures, and ideas. This is evidenced by porcelain from China embedded in East African tombs and Chinese paintings of an African giraffe, given as a gift to Chinese emperor. This wealth and power of Africa lasted up until Vasco de Gama‘s voyage around the tip of Africa, when he noted the great gold wealth of Africa. This prompted the return of Western fleets to plunder and pillage African Islands and coasts for the wealth and gold.

The Second great battle for Africa came with the end of the Second World War and the rise of the Cold War. With the ‘threat’ of spreading communism through the Soviet Union and the US’s mandate to halt that spread the greatest proxy wars were waged on the African continent. Angola, Mozambique, Rhodeisa (Zimbabwe), Zaire (DRC), Guinea Bissau, Egypt, Somalia, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Benin were all hot spots for the tug-of-war in the continent. <a href="http://www.piedmontcommunities.us/servlet/go_ProcServ/dbpage=page&gid=01350001151109257610111573
“>”When two elephants are either making love or fighting, the grass perishes.
And when the Third World countries become the hotbed of struggle, they suffer.” Most African countries gained their independence during the height of the Cold War and so the terms of independence were dicated by either the Soviet Union or the US. The African people lost the opportunity to set up their own governments and systems. The lasting effects of this are evidenced in the current civil wars and conflicts happening today (ie: Sudan). Many African countries are now moving towards adopting democratic governance and conflict resolution. The ill effects of the Cold War are being reversed and yet there is an ever growing presence of foreign dominance on the continent.

This brief background moves us into the third and what I believe will be the last epic battle in the African continent. This third battle involves the use of neo-colonialism, mercantilist trade, military intervention, and resource exploitation. The battle in the African continent pits China’s production and trade poweress over the US’s seeming military might. At this stage China is winning the battle. With its history of supporting the African independence movements and its current bi-lateral trade agreements set-up in twelve African countries, China is well on its way to taking the continent by storm. The US has seen this rise of Chinese investment in Africa and has come back with actions against terrorism. The new <a href="http://ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=36396%22
“>AFRICOM, or Africa Command, is now official. The US has been involved militarily in Africa for a long time. Many believe that since the Somalia 1993 conflict where 18 servicemen died, that the Pentagon is un-interested in Africa. Ethiopia has received extensive US military support in the way of training and supplies. The US has also led efforts to attack Islamist terrorist groups and has used Ethiopia’s support. Many Sahelian countries have recieved support as part of a Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Initiative focusing on Algeria, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal, Nigeria, and Morocco, the US has become more involved in West Africa where US energy interest is growing. The Pentagon is taking on more humanitarian roles usually filled by USAID, however I would argue that this may be a better approach. Adding aid to military support brings good governance and stability of the people. What does bother me is that this is being initiated through the Pentagon and through military means with a goal of US national security as the underlying issue motivating the anti-terrorism actions and support.

While the US works to gain militarily for national interest, China is developing more peaceful trade gains for its national interest. President of China, Hu Jintao, has been touring the continent looking to make investments and partnerships to give the Chinese market a place to trade more. Recently in South Africa, where diplomatic ties of nine years ago have strengthened trade, Jintao announced huge loans for the country, increase in trade, and increases in South Africa’s tourism industry. Agreements were signed in South Africa and Namibia to increase the “brotherly friendship” between the countries. Also recently in Nigeria nine Chinese oil workers were freed from Nigerian gunmen. This comes as President Jintao is touring eight African countries. There was no reported ransom paid. Many foreign workers are held hostage in the Niger Delta as the region wrestles with poverty and an uncaring oil industry. Even as the Chinese are working to increase trade and investment, their workers are not free from the conflicts and issues of the continent.

As the US and China are increasing investments and military actions other countries are joining the battle to gain influence and power in Africa. <a href="
http://allafrica.com/stories/200702020829.html”>Brazil is hot on China’s heels. Brazilian President Luiz Inicio Lula da Silva apologized for almost 400 hundred years of slave trade on a visit to Senegal. Brazil is seen as being in contention with China and India as the next superpower. Engaging Africa is the centerpiece of Lula’s diplomacy. He has visited 13 African countries and has opened 12 embassies in Africa during his term. Brazil is slightly ahead of the game in regards to China with bi-lateral agreements with Ghana, Nigeria, and Mozambique. Lula is interested in “digging beneath the layers of guilt and sorrow to find commercial and geo-political issues.” The German government is also joining the iniative to increase African investment. Germany’s plan is to create <a href="http://blog.foreignpolicy.com/node/3511
“>African Bond markets: “Berlin has presented its initiative, part of its agenda as president of the G8 group of industrial nations, as part of an effort to help African countries to insulate themselves against rapid swings in international exchange rates. However, Thomas Mirow, deputy finance minister, said the move would also address concerns fuelled by Beijing’s policy of granting generous, unconditional loans to African countries as a way of securing access to these countries’ resources and markets.”

So as the country is over-run by Western powers seeking to increase their trade options and other forces are working to gain a military influence I wonder what lasting effect this will have on the continent. As you can gather from my introduction I cannot see this initiative as being completely positive. While China is offering great loans and investment to Africa, but on the flip side China is one of the world’s premier arms suppliers. Countries cannot afford expensive Western arms and so they line up to buy from China. China is heavily invested in Sudan where there is an intense internal conflict, a genocide – fueled by Chinese arms deals. China often ignores the impact of its arms deals. China claims to not mess with the internal affairs of countries, but these arms deals can have massive impacts on internal affairs. However China is concerned with being viewed as a responsible world power, so it may make efforts to invest positively. China, Brazil, Germany, the US, who is next to join in this last rush for the resources of the African continent? Will this last ‘battle’ and investment tear the continent apart?

the emerging superpower, by way of africa

By way of Africa, countries become superpowers. By way of Africa, countries gain influence, power, and resources. By way of Africa, exploiters can fuel their desires. And now this is the point where you should ask: “Why?” Well listen my children (not meant as a speaking down to you) and you shall hear of the midnight rise of the new Paul Revere. Instead of racing to sound the alarm of an invasion of British troops, this new Paul Revere races to beat the competition to the resources of the land and people. The new Paul Revere races to establish himself economically and politically in every middlesex town for his bank accounts to be up and full. This new Paul Revere yells to the people to get up and listen to what he can give them and what they can give him in return, he tells them not be get up and to arm against the invasion, but to sit down and join him in this great opportunity.

President Hu Jintao of China began his first official 12-day tour of Africa. Jintao began in Cameroon and signed a number of bi-lateral cooperation agreements. Cooperative? Possibly, it is important to note that trade with Africa has increased almost three-fold over the past few years as China searches for resources and markets to fuel its economy. This will be Jintao’s third visit to Africa since his term began in 2003. What many people do not know is that Africa supplies China with one-third of its imported oil. With this power of handing out loans and aid over the next three years, China has been pushed to use its influence on the African oil industry to pressure Sudan on the Darfur issue. Along with this potential issue, China is accussed of selling weapons to Zimbabwe adn flooding African markets with cheap goods that threaten the local producers.

Jintao’s tour takes him to Liberia, Sudan, Zambia, Namibia, Mozambique, and Seychelles. In Sudan, Jintao was given a <a href="http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/AF777D16-5D77-406D-8045-FCF8714F6BD2.htm
“>red-carpet welcome in the capital of Khartoum. Members of the UN Security Council and numerous activists are calling for Sudan to use this economic influence to push Sudan to end the fighting in Darfur. Sudan has refused demands for a UN peace-keeping force, which it calls ‘neo-colonial.’ Currently China is the number one foreign investor in Sudan and buys oer two-thirds of its oil exports. China is also Sudan’s top political ally with its veto power on the Security Council keeping Sudan from facing heavy burdens. When the Bush Administration named Darfur a genocide and placed heavy sanctions and many Security Council members calling on Sudan to stop the government sponsored killing, Sudan has had to depend on China to buy its exports and support its infrastructure. Surprisingly, ahead of Jintao’s visit, Chinese officials highlighted human rights in Sudan and called for the government to find a solution to Darfur. This act is very uncommon for China, who claims to stay out of internal affairs of other countries. However there are also accusations that along with buying oil in Sudan, China also sells weapons, which calls into question the true strength on China’s words. Are they just meant to appease the international community? Is there any real threat behind that statement? I think not.

During Jintao’s visit to Liberia thousands lined the streets and cheered in arguably what is now Africa’s strongest democracy. Liberia is looking for much needed investment in the war-scarred country. China re-started diplomatic ties in the ‘American stronghold in Africa’ during the Cold War. In Liberia Jintao signed about seven bi-lateral argeements in regards to iron ore, rubber, and timber. “The visit of the president is good for Liberia. China is a super power in its own way. If such a country’s president can visit this small country, it means a lot for us,” said Jimmie Smith, as he painted a stairwell at the Foreign Ministry. This may be true but many people including Africans warn poor African countries of the dangers of making bi-lateral agreements with China if the agreements do not protect their markets from cheap Chinese goods.

In a <a href="http://newsforums.bbc.co.uk/nol/thread.jspa?threadID=5398&&&edition=2&ttl=20070130191949
“>BBC opinion section people were asked to write what they thought China’s role in Africa will do. Many people expressed great hope for the involvement of China building infrastructure and also others noted the problem that China presents with their sale of weapons and their potential to ravage Africa. I hold a degree of both opinions. I am of the belief that China is now creating the last exploitation of Africa, sure they are building stadiums, schools, hospitals, and more, but what good is a hospital without investment in a trained staff, or knowledgable teachers in schools. There needs to be investment in people as much as infrastructure. The end game here is that China is after resources and a place to dump theor goods. This is simple and easy business, China is looking for a large market for its goods so they are more than willing to spend a little to win over their potential buyers – and it is working. It is also a great hope of mine that China’s actions will call up the West to start taking a more pro-active and positive step towards the African continent. The West needs to look beyond its history of exploitation and enslavement and neo-colonialism to be able to focus on helping the people in Africa, who, China may not be willing to invest. Whatever the case, by way of Africa, countries become superpowers – exploitation for resources, neo-colonial business practices. By way of Africa we all need to learn what is most important in this world. Capitalism will fall when our lust for profit out-runs our need for people to live to be able to help us make profit. Structures can be used to create good as easily as they create harm – we are all in this together.

ka-boom-ratta-tatta. . . airstrikes in somalia

Now you have a small snapshot of the truth. The US has reportedly carried out two airstrikes in Somalia and has conducted raids on al-Qaeda targets tied to the 1998 bombings of the US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The Pentagon has denied that any of this is happening, however witnesses have seen firsthand and the denials by the Somalian and US government make these events seem undeniably true. The Somalian President, Abdullahi Yusuf, told journalists that the US, “has a right to bombard terrorist suspects who attacked its embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.” The targets were Islamists driven to the wedge between the sea, patrolled by the US Navy and the Kenyan border, which is heavily guarded. The airstrikes were followed by gunships attacking the al-Qaeda targets. This is the first US military offensive in an African country since the 1993 Somalia operation. See the complete NPR article and report from witnesses in Mogadishu here. To try and claim that the US has no hand in this operation or that it never happened is obsurd. There has been an obvious build-up in the region (ie: new Africa Command, live military exercises in Cape Verde and neighbors, tracking Somalian ‘terrorists’). I had written a post last year about the threat of Chinese economic attack to gain natural resources, but now I am even more worried for the US military’s involvement in the name of fighting terror. What will the US do to Africa? Hasn’t the West already done enough military ill from the past? Where is our Africa policy headed now? Unilateralism again?

Update: The Pentagon has claimed the attack, but will not release their success. Somali elders say 19 were killed. White House Spokesman, Tony Snow: “This administration continues to go after al-Qaeda,” he said. “We are interested in going after those who have perpetrated acts of violence against Americans, including bombings of embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.”This is after hte US said it would send only money, no troops or military to help stabilize the Somalian conflict. Check out the BBC Article.

Update 09.10.07: Somali hatred of the US has been rekindled by the recent airstrikes and it is reported that 27 civilians were killed, no al-Qaeda were among the dead. It will be very interesting to see what direction the US government and military takes on African conflicts in the name of fighting terrorism.

Update 09.11.07: Supposedly the US has not claimed the attack. However residents of the two areas attacked saw US gunships involved.