The West is out to kill Africa’s development agenda

The Equatorial Land  Bridge.
Will cut Travel time between East
and West Africa to two days

 According to the Africa Development Bank’s Africa Economic Outlook for 2018, Africa needs to invest a total of US$1.2 trillion over the next seven years on productive and profitable infrastructure projects.  This works to an average spend of US$170 billion a year at the top end.

Of this, the continent, through budgetary allocations and donor support, can manage $65 billion a year, leaving a yawning gap of US$105 billion or a total of $735 billion over the seven-year period. The AEO breaks down the sectoral needs as follows in order of priority: US$ 35-50 billion on energy, $35-47 billion on transport, and $55-66 billion on water and sanitation

That is Africa’s development agenda: Building US$1.7 trillion worth of infrastructure in the next seven years. The question is how to fund the large gap.  To its credit, AfDB has created a vehicle, Africa50, to help craft projects to be funded by the private sector, but that does not stop Africa from seeking finance elsewhere. So far, projects in green energy have gained traction. The logistics sector and health sectors are not attractive for obvious reasons.

The reality is stark. We must choose either development or underdevelopment; to bequeath future generations of Africans prosperity or poverty.

Fast and high capacity trains
lower delivery time and costs

 If we choose underdevelopment, the future generation will never forgive us for our selfishness, because they shall have to pay higher prices to invest in the same infrastructure to prosper. The need for the same infrastructure will not go away because we choose not to see it.

If on the other hand, we choose development, we must pay for it and if we cannot afford it, we borrow from somewhere. That is the stark reality. 

This brings me to the anti-Chinese debt rhetoric swirling around.  The rhetoric demonizes Chinese loans to Africa as detrimental to the continent. They are “predatory, expensive--- unnecessary?” Some critics even suggest that China imposes the debt on Africa in pursuit of the Belt and Road Initiative.

 If the Chinese loans are so benign, one may ask, who is the beneficent creditor and why has Africa not gone there? 

Africa’s demand for investments funds in infrastructure- Seaports, Railroads, Roads, Airports, electricity plants, you name them- far exceeds its capacity. That means she has to borrow from somewhere. 

A Solar Power Farm: Green energy
is cheap and Climate-friendly

Available data shows that in Africa, apart from the Governments, there are three other key infrastructure financiers. These are- in alphabetical order- Africa Development Bank, China, and Japan. The irony is China’s funding is vexatious, even in Africa. Why is China being singled out for demonization?

There is a growing body of evidence showing that the anti-Chinese sentiment is engineered in the West, especially the US in the advancement of its economic war with China.  The West, which is losing its grip on Africa due to the entry of the dragon, is afraid that Africa, which sustains prosperity in the West, could also grow rich and assertive and thus drive the West into poverty. Go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7KEp9wuFShE.

It is, therefore, necessary to suppress Africa’s development agenda, by all means, particularly propaganda. The growth of China into the second-largest economy in the world is a threat to the West in two ways: Firsts introduces competition for African raw materials bidding up prices; and two, investment in infrastructure makes manufacturing in Africa competitive.  Both are a threat to prosperity in the West. The war against China is thus an existential one for the West, especially the US.

Infrastructure development, experts say, is a catalyst to economic growth, which in turn eliminates poverty and dependence. China itself is a living example of the socio-economic benefits of investing in infrastructure.

Apart from job creation, logistics infrastructure eases access to both domestic and international markets. Increased power generation lowers the cost of energy and thus the cost of doing business. These two are a recipe for rapid industrialization. China’s investments could, it is feared, drive Africa to economic prosperity and independence. That is the elephant in the room!

The West learned this bitter lesson in China itself. In the 1980s, in a bid to weaken labor Unions, lower wages, and raise profits, Conglomerates in the West set up shop in China. Unwittingly, they also transferred know-how to China. The Chinese quickly learned and improved on the knowledge, industrialized, and dominated the export market. Africans are not dumb, they can quickly learn to exploit their own assets for their benefit.

If in doubt, consider this: China is way ahead of the West in high speed, railroads, boasting 37,900km of high-speed railway, built in the last 12 years.  That is more than 67 percent of the world's total. Today China is exporting IT technology to the developed West. A large proportion of Computer and Phone Chips is made in China. This dominance has the West behaving stupidly, such as Donald Trump asking China to stop being innovative.  Go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iaw4n9IZDdc&t=537s. This is the root of the toxic anti-Chinese rhetoric.

In Africa, China is investing in transformative infrastructure that the West rejected as either too expensive or unnecessary in Africa. Three examples suffice; one, the Tanzania–Zambia Railway (TAZARA) built by China in the early 1970s. Sources say that Tanzania and Zambia approached China as the last resort as the West had rejected the project.

 In Kenya, China financed the Southern By-pass in Nairobi after the World Bank pulled out in 2010, effectively killing it. The World Bank also attempted to kill the 310 MW Lake Turkana Windpower Project in Kenya. It also tried to kill the Bujjagali hydro project in Uganda in 2006. In all instances, the projects were said to be too large for the host country.

Apart from finance, Chinese Engineering and Construction firms have elbowed the West out of business in Africa. So diffuse is the presence of Chinese contractors that the other large financier in Africa, AfDB,  is often swamped. A large proportion of AfDB funded projects in Africa are built by Chinese contractors. Among these is the Thika Superhighway, the Namanga-Athi River road, and the outer ring road in Kenya.  Popular opinion has it that the projects are Chinese funded Since Chinese contractors built them. So why are Chinese Engineering firms popular in Africa? Is it graft, as the propaganda has it?

 Lamu Port: Africa lags in
Seaport development
 Explaining the popularity of Chinese contractors in Africa, Gyude Moore, a former Public Works minister in Liberia cites two factors; stiff competition among Chinese contractors and efficient execution. He cites an $80 million road project in Liberia funded by the African Development Bank. Seventeen Chinese firms bid. There was only one bid from the West. The Chinese bid ranged between $62- $75 million while the Western firm bid for $86 million.  He asked his audience to figure out the winner. Go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=belm4kDAHgM

 This competition is also a major factor in the efficiency of Chinese firms in project execution. They complete their projects within budget and in most instances, ahead of schedule. Kenya’s SGR from Mombasa to Nairobi was completed 18 months ahead of schedule and so was TAZARA.  The idea is to qualify themselves for the next contract by completing the first efficiently. Vimal Shah, the Chairman of BIDCO Africa based in Kenya, in an interview with Bloomberg News bluntly told the West that it is no match to the Chinese in project execution. He accused the West of wasting its 50-60 year head start in Africa. The West saw Africa as an aid destination while China saw business opportunities in Africa and pursued them. Go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?app=desktop&v=SYeT25sYBoI

This is the source of all the anti-Chinese bile in the US and the West; abid to stall China’s influence. In Africa, the idea is to kill its development agenda. Will Africa be scared into abandoning it?  Should it? Figure it out for yourself, apologies to James Hadley Chase!

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