How Will Russia’s G8 Presidency Affect Africa?

As Russia assumed the Presidency of the G8, New Era’s Max Hamata approached the Russian Ambassador, Nikolay Gribkov on the essence of Russia’s G-8 Presidency to Africa and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). He spoke on the need for African permanent representation on the United Nations Security Council and Russia’s role in the stabilization of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and how Russia’s G-8 Presidency will affect relations with SADC. MH: Russia has enjoyed sound relations with most African countries. In fact Russia played a crucial role in the emancipation of African countries with Namibia’s independence having largely been a factor of Russian support. What can Africans expect from your G8-Presidency? NG: Let me first first explain Russia’s relations in the context of the G-8 Presidency? Despite major changes in Africa in the past decades, it still remains the most distressed region in the world. Numerous armed conflicts still rage on the continent, resulting in millions of casualties recently. The socioeconomic situation in many African states is quite complex, often having a chronic crisis nature. The region’s real problem is poverty, with a substantial share of the population of African countries being on the edge of physical survival. The unfavorable situation in Africa has obstructed full-scale participation of countries on the continent in global policies and international economic ties, having turned into a factor posing a threat to regional, as well as global, stability. Huge material and human resources have been employed in peacemaking operations in the region, humanitarian aid and post-conflict restoration. In this context, it is very important to make sure that what is happening in Africa should get adequate and increasingly active reaction on the part of the international community, including the G8 group as a club of the world’s most influential countries. MH: When has Africa become a concern to the G-8 and why? NG: Africa has been in the center of attention of the G8 for a rather long period, but it has been given more focus in its agenda since 2001, when during a summit meeting in Genoa, Africans presented to the G8 leaders their New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) program aimed at turning the continent into an area of peace and stability and putting it on the path towards sustainable economic growth and development. The program, the first document of its kind developed by Africans themselves, proclaims own responsibility of countries in the region for their development. At the same time, it states the need for the international community to provide maximum assistance to Africa. G8 leaders hailed the NEPAD program and agreed to support efforts by African countries aimed at dealing with acute problems on the continent. A decision was made to shift to new partnership relations with African states, based on the principle of mutual responsibility: with Africans being responsible for radical economic and democratic restructuring and G8 members providing support for countries showing their readiness to implement reform. In pursuance of those accords and with the purpose of promoting the implementation of the NEPAD program, a long-term action plan for Africa was adopted by the G8 during a summit meeting in Kananaskis in 2002, which is to serve as an instrument for the mobilization of wide international efforts in support of own steps made by countries on the continent. The plan was drawn up by specially appointed personal representatives of the G8 leaders for Africa (the personal representative institute still functions, dealing with the goal of monitoring the performance of the plan). MH: What is your position on Africans demand for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council and will you use your influence during your Presidency to push for a permanent African seat? NG: We support the initiative for Africa to be represented on the Security Council. It is out of respect and dignity that we feel that Africa gets a permanent seat on the Security Council. What is needed is to find consensus on the subject and we hope this does not lead to division of the UN. MH: How does Russia intend dealing with African armed conflicts during your presidency? NG: While favouring the shaping up of a complex approach to dealing with Africa’s acute problems, our country, in line with its UN Security Council status, has made a weighty contribution to peacemaking activities on the continent, including the drawing up, in the Security Council’s framework, of a strategy for the settlement of particular armed conflicts and defining mandates for relevant peacemaking operations. Russian troops and Interior Ministry employees – around 140 at the moment – are employed in all UN peacekeeping operations in Africa – in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Western Sahara, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia and Sudan. Russia is training peacemakers for Africa. Opportunities are being considered for wider cooperation with African states in that sphere. Our country intends to continue to do everything possible to promote the strengthening of stability in Africa, promote the development of African countries’ own anti-crisis potential. Practical aspects are being elaborated for Russian organizations’ participation in the realization of relevant international programs. MH: Are issues of trade deficit with G-8 countries, education and health on your agenda ? NG: Our assistance to Africa is certainly not limited to that. Large-scale trade preferences have been granted to countries in the region. Russian legislation stipulates that traditionally exported goods of the least developed countries, including African countries, shall be exempt from import customs tariffs. The preferential treatment regime applies to the bulk of African imports into Russia. Our assistance to Africa is certainly not limited to that. Large-scale trade preferences have been granted to countries in the region. Russian legislation stipulates that traditional exported goods of the least developed countries, including African nations, shall be exempt from import customs tariffs. The preferential treatment regime applies to the bulk of African imports into Russia. Substantial assistance has been provided to the continent in the sphere of personnel training. More than 700 scholarships a year have been provided from the federal budget to African countries. Since 2004, cooperation in that sphere has widened to include personnel training for subregional organizations, in particular, the Southern African Development Community (SADC). A substantial number of African citizens study in our country on a compensation basis. A new form of cooperation is the creation of joint educational institutions in Africa. Preparations are underway for the opening of Russia-Egypt University in Cairo. Substantial assistance has been provided in the health sphere. In line with Russia’s previous commitments to contribute $20 million to the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, from 2002 through 2006, $15 million has been transferred into the Fund. A decision has been made to contribute an additional $20 million between 2005 and 2008. Besides, $8 million was transferred to the Global Poliomyelitis Eradication Initiative between 2003 and 2005. Joint “field” projects with G8 partners look very promising, in particular, plans to send Russian specialists in laboratory HIV/AIDS diagnostics, in line with the Russian-US accords reached at the top level, to Ethiopia and Namibia to train local medical personnel. MH: Will your Presidency adversely affect your relations with Africa? NG: The overall direction of our efforts, joint activities of the G8 with Africa will not change in the future, in particular, in 2006, when our country chairs the G8. During the period of Russia’s presidency, plans call for ensuring succession in Africa-related activities of the G8 by integrating African problems in the general context of priorities such as energy security, education, combating infectious diseases, and the holding of a meeting of the Africa Partnership Forum in Moscow in October next year. During the APF event in October, plans call for adopting the first report on the headway of realization of the APF joint action plan mentioned above. It is to be prepared by the APF Secretariat now being created at OECD headquarters. Besides, we are ready to consider providing assistance in the holding of an APF meeting in Africa in April. Plans call for organizing, in the APF framework, separates events for personal representatives of the G8 leaders for Africa and holding in Moscow two meetings of experts on peacemaking on the continent. Russia intends to continue to energetically promote finding comprehensive solutions to problems facing the continent. It is open for constructive interaction with the G8 partners, other concerned countries and African states with the purpose of attaining the goals. It is very important to make sure that what is happening in Africa should get adequate and increasingly active reaction on the part of the international community, including the G8 group as a club of the world’s most influential countries. MH: Moving to SADC what is Russia’s involvement in stabilizing the DRC? NG: Russia is also training peacemakers for Africa. Opportunities are being considered for wider cooperation with African states in that sphere. Our country intends to continue to do everything possible to promote the strengthening of stability in Africa, promote the development of African countries’ own anti-crisis potential. Practical aspects are being elaborated for Russian organizations’ participation in the implementation of relevant international programmes. MH: Can your elaborate on the Russian-SADC partnership in the context of your Presidency? NG: We should primordially mention that the positions of Moscow and SADC nations are essentially congruent in the multilateral approach to the main problems of the modern time, emphasizing international law and the UN central coordinating role. SADC welcomes Russia’s growing political and economic presence in Southern Africa, considering this to strengthen regional and global stability and balance. It also enables the SADC nations – and most of them maintain friendly relations with Russia since long ago – to be more autonomous in their internal and external policy, based on priority of their national interests. Nowadays, the Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of the Russian Federation and SADC, signed in September 2003, is the basis for the development of Russia-SADC relations. That MoU is the first document of this kind in our relations with Africa’s regional organizations. It is a frame agreement. More ones must be signed to specify directions of the cooperation. Those could be e.g. political interaction, trade and economic cooperation, bridging between enterprises and financial structures, culture, science and technologies, health, agriculture, transport and communication, prospecting for mineral and other natural resources, ecology, emergency situations control, energy. Most promising for the nearest future are mining, energy, infrastructure development, and education. Particularly in 2006, the year of Russia’s G8 presidency, brought about a relevant example of G8 joint approach to fighting dangerous infections in SADC region. A group of Russian physicians has recently toured Southern Africa to study the HIV/AIDS and TB situation. And this is only the very beginning. More Russian doctors are to come to the SADC region through bilateral, Russia/SADC, and G8/SADC programmes. The Russian Federation has provided targeted humanitarian aid to African countries for clean-up after natural calamities, has taken part in the financing of the humanitarian activities supervised by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees office and the UN World Food Program. The overall direction of our efforts, joint activities of the G8 with Africa will not change in the future, in particular, in 2006 – the year our country chairs the G8. During the period of Russia’s presidency, plans call for ensuring succession in Africa-related activities of the G8 by integrating African problems in the general context of priorities such as energy security, education, combating infectious diseases, and the holding of a meeting of the Africa Partnership Forum in Moscow in October next year. During the APF event in October, plans call for adopting the first report on the headway of realization of the APF joint action plan mentioned above. It is to be prepared by the APF Secretariat now being created at OECD headquarters. Besides, we are ready to consider providing assistance in the holding of an APF meeting in Africa in April. Plans call for organizing, in the APF framework, separate events for personal representatives of the G8 leaders for Africa and holding in Moscow two meetings of experts on peacemaking on the continent. Russia intends to continue to energetically promote finding comprehensive solutions to problems facing the continent. It is open for constructive interaction with the G8 partners, other concerned countries and African States with the purpose of attaining the goals. MH: Thank your for your time. NG: My pleasure.

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Full text: India has established early contact with Trump’s transition team, says Foreign Secy

By: Express Web Desk | Updated: January 18, 2017 1:54 pm

s-jaishankar-759 Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar at the 2nd edition of the Raisina Dialogue. ( Source: You tube)

I am delighted to welcome you all to the 2nd edition of the Raisina Dialogue. As they will probably be saying at every international gathering this year, the landscape looks dramatically different than it did a year ago. However, the organisers of this conference may have been a bit more perceptive than most. By accident or design, they have selected a theme – the new normal of multilateralism with multipolarity – that certainly fits the bill for the days ahead.

The world we enter in 2017 is marked by unevenness, possibilities, uncertainties, known and unknown unknowns. The United States seems ready to change the terms of its engagement with the world. Relations between US and Russia could undergo a transformation that we may not have seen since 1945. Its dimensions, leave alone implications, are hard to predict. Europe, engrossed in multiple domestic challenges and reconfiguring itself, signals less appetite for more distant politics, even as it watches these developments.

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The picture in Asia, however, looks somewhat different. The economic outlook is more positive, although sentiment is clearly affected by developments in the West. Social and political stability are not in doubt and levels of confidence are somewhat higher. Asia, of course, is not without its challenges, among them maritime disputes that acquired a salience in the last few years. Broadly speaking, the growth in China’s power and its expression abroad remain a dynamic factor in Asia. Japan is another major variable, as it seems to be preparing for more responsibilities. And as for India, as you heard from the Prime Minister yesterday, we see ourselves both as a source of stability and a key contributor to both growth and security in the region.

These different landscapes also give rise to divergent narratives. In the Western world, voices of inter-dependence and globalization have become more muted. Optimism that trade and investment overcome political divides has also faded. More dangers than convenience are perceived from connectivity. And there is a lack of purpose in confronting global challenges like terrorism, though some important exceptions should be acknowledged. The world has not just got flatter. Suddenly, one part of it is also more inward looking; in some ways, more tired.

The narrative in Asia, and I am sure in many other parts of the world, is a less pessimistic one. We undeniably have our sets of issues including emerging multipolarity in Asia, heightened nationalism, disputed boundaries, creating institutions and adhering to norms. But if there is change of mood, it is more from the impact of developments in US and Europe. Globalisation has not stopped – indeed cannot stop, just because someone somewhere has called ‘time out’. From the Asian perspective, it is less a world in disarray than one in flux. We understand that there is a global stock-taking going on and must approach it with empathy, rather than anxiety. We should also recognise that this is not so much global change, as change with global implications.

So, instead of being driven by headlines – or tweets – let’s look at what’s different and what is not. The reality of our business is that much is actually the same. Terrorism remains the most pervasive and serious challenge to international security. Developing a serious global response is of the highest priority, yet hard to do. Climate change is an existential challenge on which some common ground exists, that needs to be consolidated. The implementation of Sustainable Development Goals is a formidable enterprise, but one that holds enormous promise. Humanitarian assistance will be as regular a demand as disaster relief. The danger of epidemics continues as does finding cost effective solutions. In some regions, migration deriving from conflict situations is a serious challenge. WMD security will be a continuing concern, especially as terrorist groups strike deeper roots. And given our lifestyle, cyber security has become a serious threat for every modernising society. And that is just the short list.

The fact is that the challenges – political, economic or social – we face are not all new. But there is frustration in some societies about lack of progress in addressing even the old ones, leave alone meeting the new. They even feel that they have been disproportionately burdened. Others feel that they can craft their narrow response and are paying the price of shorter term calculations. In global politics, self-esteem derives from power differentiation. As that has narrowed, so too has the attitudes of key nations towards global responsibilities and their national welfare. A parallel debate pertains to observing the broad rules of the game. If these are seen to have manifestly worked for some and not others, obviously that too will have its own backlash. Some of this is reality, some perception. At the end of the day, it makes little difference. If key nations in the international system start to initiate changes in its current configuration, then change we will most certainly have.

It may be worth a moment to reflect on a somewhat different situation eight years ago. If there is an immediate precursor to the current global situation, it was in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. In many ways, this laid the basis for a more multipolar world. Ironically, while the Western-led G8 gave way to the more representative G20, the more diverse UNSC remained as resistant to change as before. The redistribution of power that happened in the aftermath of that crisis extended beyond symbolisms to developments on the ground. They opened up spaces for economic activity and political collaboration that were not there earlier. Certainly, for a number of emerging powers, the period from 2008 onwards has been one of opportunity. A country like India, for example, has not only loomed larger in the consciousness of more distant regions. It has actually broadened its footprint and intensified its investment, trade and technical activities in an unprecedented manner. Interestingly, this is also a period when we have become more sensitive to regional cooperation ourselves, collaborating with other regional groupings and making growing commitments to broader connectivity efforts.

After 2008, the world largely went back to its business. The concern at that time was more the resilience of the economies of the developed world. There was a great desire to return to normalcy as represented by the status quo. Today, we are looking at a very different prospect. It is not a looming crisis but a deep dissatisfaction that pervades many developed societies. Each case is unique and yet, they seem to reinforce each other. In the case of the United States, maintaining its global standing while simultaneously rebuilding its economy are the declared goals. But this time around, unlike 2009, it is sought to be achieved in a very different manner. This promises some upheaval in relations among states. While every country has some stake in the stability and the contribution of the United States, many would also watch these changes with anxiety. One thing is clear; few of us will be unaffected.

Where Europe is concerned, the consequences are very different. It would undeniably be a key partner for much of the world, including India, on issues of economy, technology, standards and development. But, it might be worthwhile for European speakers at this conference to spend some time explaining their strategic outlook to an Indian/Asian audience. That could help address concerns – misplaced or otherwise – of shrinking horizons. No significant part of the world is self-contained or unaffected by forces beyond it. It was never so; even less now. Asia is no exception. Of course, its primary drivers are its national, sub-regional and regional constituents. While trade and other economic activities has led the resurgence of the continent, progress on connectivity and security have lagged behind. In the absence of an agreed security architecture and the continuation of significant territorial disputes, the Asian landscape has been more than a little uncertain. The ASEAN has long functioned as an anchor of stability at its eastern end and its continuance in that role is critical.

Its centrality and unity is an asset for the entire continent. The rapid growth of Chinese power, the strengthening of India’s position, the sharper role of Russia, the activity of Japan, the divisions in the Gulf, the interests of Europe, and the entrenched position of the United States have not made this calculus an easy one. How major powers relate to each other is a complex interplay. This is not a competition of absolute or even relative strength. It is more a function of their inter se relations and who gets to occupy the pole position. The impact of major changes in major global relationships will, therefore, be felt as strongly in Asia as in Europe, even if differently.

So how does India approach this period of recalculation and recalibration? Overall, we are well placed and certainly no worse than many others. Our ties with the United States have been steadily growing and today cover vast areas of collaboration. We established early contact with the Trump transition team and see a strong convergence of interests and concerns. With Russia, India’s relationship has actually grown very substantially in the last two years, as has the bonding between our leaders. An improvement in US-Russia ties is therefore not against Indian interests. With China, the overall broadening of ties, especially in business and people-to-people contacts, has been overshadowed by differences on certain political issues.

But it is important for the two countries not to lose sight of the strategic nature of their engagement, or falter in their conviction that their rise can be mutually supportive. We will continue to invest more energy into this account in 2017. With Japan, there is really a transformation underway in the relationship that would make it a key player in India’s modernization. European countries, big and small, remain valued partners across a broad range of sectors and activities, including defence and security. Given the progress we have already made, India is confident that its net relationships would position it favourably in the dynamic environment that I spoke about earlier.

But it stands to reason that India should steadily build up its influence and capabilities, keeping pace with the unfolding scenario. To that end, India can draw on broad support from many nations, regions and groupings with whom it has developed an impressive record of partnering. These relationships naturally make their demands of Indian diplomacy. But more than in the past, we have nurtured bonds of friendship and constituencies of support across the world. In our immediate region, we have worked relentlessly to encourage and promote a stronger sense of connectivity, cooperation and contacts. At times, we may encounter obstacles but that has not stopped us persevering. As a result, ties with neighbours like Bangladesh stand truly transformed.

To the extended neighbourhood in the East and the West, our diplomacy has focused on restoring linkages broken in the past. While the East was more an exercise of consolidation with ASEAN, the reaching out to the GCC and Iran have been among one of the hallmark initiatives of the current Government. As a result, India is today involved in the Middle East in a manner in which it has not been for many decades. Our Africa engagement has also acquired a very different quality and content. What we have seen recently is the conscious broadening of India’s diplomatic footprint, whether it is from sub-Saharan and Western Africa to the South Pacific and Latin America and the Caribbean. As a business partner, an executor of projects or a provider of assistance, India’s economic reach has grown in parallel with its domestic capacities.

It is also important that as new equations are being worked out, India does its part in contributing to global development, progress and security.

It is already doing this through a variety of policies and initiatives and I highlight some of them for your consideration:

i. We are now a significant provider of official development assistance to other developing countries and a major hub for training and education. Grants and loans extended to our immediate neighbours, even excluding Bhutan and Afghanistan, currently total $ 10.4 billion while our commitments to Africa have tripled over their initial $ 5 billion.

ii. As India’s capacities have grown, we have taken on the role of first responders to HADR situations. Our recent relief operations include the earthquake in Nepal, evacuation in Yemen and South Sudan, hurricane in Fiji, landslide in Sri Lanka and the water crisis in the Maldives.

iii. Afghanistan continues to deserve the special attention of the international community. After completing the Parliament building and the dam in Herat as part of our $ 2 billion assistance programme, India has made an additional $ 1 billion commitment at the Brussels conference for housing and rehabilitation, irrigation works and training.

iv. Conscious of our particular responsibility to the safety and security of the Indian Ocean, we have been active in promoting maritime domain awareness, concluding White Shipping Agreements, ensuring coastal surveillance and conducting hydrographic services.

v. We are positive about promoting connectivity and support initiatives including the trilateral one with Iran and Afghanistan, the International North-South Transit Corridor through Iran, as well as the Trilateral Highway and the BCIM Corridor to our East. This was a subject of our deliberations last year.

Regional groupings are today one of the building blocks of the global order. Their driving force and commonality are perhaps the most obvious of all. India is a founder member of SAARC, an organization that has been made ineffective due to the insecurity of one member. We hope to partially remedy this through the BBIN sub-regional grouping. It is also our expectation that the current level of enthusiasm among members of BIMSTEC can be channelled towards more far-reaching initiatives. We have been members of ASEAN-based groupings, including EAS, ARF and ADMM. BRICS and SCO represent a very different facet of our interest and engagement. In recent years, we have sought to engage other regional groupings collectively, among them GCC, FIPIC and CELAC.

The role of plurilaterals in our foreign policy has grown steadily. One of the oldest is that with Russia and China, as indeed with Brazil and South Africa. Together, they of course now constitute BRICS. But we have always been open to these possibilities. And recent years have added to our repertoire. The India-Japan-US trilateral now has many dimensions. The Japan-Australia-India one has gotten off to a good start. The one with Iran and Afghanistan is actually seized of our practical cooperation as well as our strategic coordination. Working with Sri Lanka and Maldives together on maritime issues is sensible. And there could be more….

India is a natural exponent of multilateralism. To an extent, this reflects our own domestic traditions of pluralism and diversity. Well before a multipolar world actually came into being, we believed in its desirability and even its inevitability. It was inconceivable for us that a world as vast and diverse as ours could be run by a small set of powers through alliances. Over the years, other countries including China came around to this point of view. We were confident that with the passage of time and the economic revival of Asia, Africa and Latin America, the dispersal of power in the world would become more equitable. A lot of our diplomacy over the years has been dedicated to making that happen. When it was much more difficult, we have helped put together groupings of developing countries in different formats to make their voices heard on critical issues of the day. Our commitment to that approach remains firm. Today, as India’s capabilities and influence grow, they are naturally on offer to this longstanding endeavour. In critical deliberations, whether it is on climate change or SDG, we are even willing to play a larger bridging role to develop international consensus.

The democratization of the international order is a particularly complex challenge and the emergence of multipolarity is just a first step. Entrenched powers rarely give up privileges easily, even if they pay lip service to the deserving. Such tasks require patience, perseverance and determination and I can say with some assurance that we have them in full measure. The absurdity of the main multilateral decision-making body being more than 70 years old – and due for retirement anywhere in the world – is obvious to all except those with a vested interest. There can be no getting away from the myriad of global challenges that will eventually require a credible multilateral response. The pressures to reform the UN will only grow with each passing day.

Contemporary multilateral institutions have been devised on multipolar principles, even if they were not taken seriously in practice. Reality could well catch up one day. Accepting the limitations and constraints in international relations in an inter-dependent world will surely promote both multilateralism and multipolarity. Indeed, the two could well feed on each other as greater players need agreed formats to reach common outcomes. The big dangers confronting the world can only be addressed through multilateralism. Not all leading powers may willingly acknowledge this reality. But at the end of the day, there are real problems that wait for us out there in the world and serious expectations that we will do something about them.

Yesterday, PM Rudd reminded us that after decades of American internationalism, we are finally face to face with its nationalism. Now, it is true that Russia and Europe too became less internationalist in their outlook. Emerging powers, including regional ones, have shown little inclinations in that direction. India is actually an exception. So, is nationalism the new normal and can India make a difference – by being different?

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The New Scramble for Africa’s Resources

Henning Melber presents a “state of the continent” report and comments on the “new African order” as designed by the global power structures of the World Economic Forum.

Almost 50,000 people from social movements all over this world gathered in Nairobi during the second half of January at the World Social Forum (WSF). Originally initiated in the Brazilian city of Porto Allegre a few years ago, it is organised as a counter meeting to the annual World Economic Forum (WEF) during this time of the year in the Swiss town Davos. The WEF brings together those in command of politics and economy in this world and those “celebrities” who like to be close to them. They represent a world in which Africa remains at the receiving end of the global power structures and increasingly again the object of external interests. This article summarises and comments upon recent developments on the continent.

Old wine in new bottles

It is anything but new that the African continent’s human and other natural resources are the object of more or less systematic looting from the outside world. Who still believes that “globalisation” is a very recent phenomenon simply needs to look in an African perspective on the devastating impact of the slave trade to understand, “how Europe underdeveloped Africa” (so the title of a seminal book published by the late Walter Rodney during the early 1970s). Already Karl Marx had observed (though in a rather insensitive language) in his Critique of the Political Economy that the hunt for black skins signalled the dawn of capitalism.

Since the days of the Trans Atlantic human resource transfer various subsequent forms of brutal exploitation through colonialism and imperialism were ultimately by means of formal decolonisation processes at least modified. But the “winds of change” created sovereign African states, whose societies remain to a large extent characterised by the structural legacy of an externally oriented dependency. Beneficiaries of such limited socio-economic development are still mainly externally based, with the limited participation of – all too often parasitic – small local elites, who exploit their political control over national wealth for their own gains.

They collaborate with those operating from the outside offering them the most convenient (and unashamed) access to the small slice of the cake they are able to keep for themselves in such sell out deals. Seen in this light, some (if not most) of the recent critical accounts of the aggressive expansion of Chinese interests into African countries and societies and their collaboration with local autocratic elites and despots has a hypocritical taste or at least bears traces of amnesia. After all, the Chinese penetration only rears the ugly face of predatory capitalism, which for far too long has already abused the dependency of the majority on the continent. One therefore is tempted to wonder, if the concern expressed is actually not more about the Western interests than about the welfare of the African people, given that what we witness today is anything but new with regard to its forms and effects. While this critical observation does not exonerate the at times appallingly imperialist nature of the Chinese expansion into Africa, it does undermine the credibility of those critics, who find no similar words for the other forms of imperialism, which for far too long had (and continue to have) crucial responsibilities for contributing to the state of misery many of the African people are in.

Africa since the end of the bipolar world order

The collapse of the Soviet empire and the end of a more than forty year period of bloc confrontation was by no means “the end of history” (as suggested by Francis Fukuyama). It was the beginning of a new global order for hegemonic rule with far reaching consequences also for African governments. Gone were the days, where in midst of a Cold War some manoeuvring space for limited opportunistic bargaining existed, which allowed for a bit of strategic positioning. Not that this was necessarily to the best of the African people: all too often, this constellation encouraged and protected self-enrichment schemes for dictators and/or small local elites through forms of rent seeking or sinecure capitalism, as examples from A (like Angola) to Z (like Zaire) document. The bi-polar world order was in no ways a suitable breeding ground for development “from below”, but offered parasitic agents the opportunity to position themselves as satellites in return for their own gains within the East-West polarisation.

The consolidation of the US-American dominance during the 1990s and its impact on the global order resulted in several changes also for the African continent. A regionally inter-linked “appeasement” strategy (with the Russian retreat from Afghanistan and the Cuban withdrawal from Angola) secured in Southern Africa the final decolonisation of Namibia (1990) and paved the way for an end to Apartheid and democratic elections in South Africa (1994). During this period the economic paradigms represented by the international financial institutions (World Bank and IMF) resumed the only power of definition. The World Trade Organisation (WTO) emerged as the broker to regulate comprehensively binding the global exchange relations of goods. The most to say in these regulating processes with far reaching implications for not only “classical” trade relations but wider defined exchanges has the club of the G8 members, which defines the rather one-sided rules of “global governance”.

Towards a new African order: NEPAD and AU

Significant inner-African dynamics complemented at the beginning of this century the global re-arrangements. With the democratically elected and legitimised new governments in South Africa and Nigeria the two economic powerhouses on the continent South of the Sahara left behind their pariah status. Based on internal and international acceptance, they resumed leadership roles in international policy arenas. At the turn of the millennium presidents Thabo Mbeki and Olusegun Obasanjo emerged (with active support by Senegal, Algeria and Egypt) as new figureheads representing the collective interests of the South and in particular Africa vis-à-vis the industrialised Western countries. Originally tasked to negotiate debt cancellation arrangements in direct communication with them they moved on to seek new forms of interaction under the premises of the acknowledged socio-economic premises as defined by the WTO. As kind of junior partners in the global market they became the architects of what was finally termed the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).

After some incubation period and assumingly intensive political negotiations behind closed doors this blue print was upgraded to the status of an official economic programme and institution of the African Union (AU). The AU itself was a parallel transformation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). In the course of its change it undertook some significant corrections to the hitherto established continental policy pillars. Most importantly it moved away from the erstwhile almost holy principle of non-intervention into internal affairs of member states.

With a lot of confidence and trust and substantive political support offered by the G8 since its 2001 summit in Genoa the NEPAD-architects could bring back home the reassuring message that the industrial West is on board and willing to support the initiative. This contributed to the acceptance both in Africa as well as by the United Nations system, which in a General Assembly resolution officially recognised NEPAD as the economic programme for Africa. While this looks like a success story, the critical policy issues were to some extent at the same time aborted or at best watered down. The good governance discourse in line with the new uni-polar world system and to some extent imposed by the Western-capitalist hegemony was after all not only cosmetic rhetoric, but in some parts indeed a meaningful deviation from past practices of unquestioned autocratic rule by African despots and oligarchies.

The AU Constitution was adopted at the same summit in Durban when NEPAD was incorporated. It introduced a collective responsibility so far absent, justifying joint intervention for specified reasons. This has in the meantime provided several results, as cases like Darfur, the DRC, the Ivory Coast, Liberia and Togo have among others shown in different ways (and varying degrees of success), all seeking to contribute to conflict reduction or enhanced legitimacy of the political systems. In contrast to this new responsibility, the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), conceptualised by NEPAD as a cornerstone for enhancing the notion of good governance, did not meet the expectations. The disappointment over non-delivery was maybe biggest when it came to the absence of any determined policy action by the NEPAD initiators in the case of Zimbabwe (where the South African president preferred his so-called silent diplomacy to any meaningful political intervention). Nonetheless, the demand for democracy, human rights and respect for constitutional principles articulated by the NEPAD blue print as a prerequisite for sustainable socio-economic development might have been a contributing factor to the new phenomenon of an increasing number of African heads of state more or less voluntarily (and peacefully) vacating their offices (which does not mean that the rotten apples have been eliminated, as Museveni, and even – though less successfully – Obasanjo as well as some others have shown in their recent efforts to extend their stay in office beyond the originally stipulated period of time).

New multi-polar tendencies and the competition for securing African resources

Systematic new efforts to access African markets and tap into the local resources became visible with the adoption of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) by the out-going Clinton administration. Through this initiative the USA openly underlined the relevance of the African dimension for its external trade relations (Africa ranks higher than Eastern Europe in the US trade balance). The break down of the AGOA trade volume, however, also discloses that with the exception of a few smaller niches (e.g. the temporary opportunities created for a locally based – though not owned – African textile industry with preferential access to the US market) the trade volume is mainly composed by exporting US-manufactured high tech goods and machinery and importing oil, strategic minerals and other natural resources for meeting demands of US-based industries.

Soon after AGOA was enacted, the trade department of the EU headquarters in Brussels initiated negotiations for a re-arrangement of its relations with the ACP countries of Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific through so-called Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs). The declared aim was to enter a post-Cotonou agreement phase meeting the demands for WTO compatibility. The EPA negotiations have since then entered critical stages meeting the resistance of many among the ACP countries. They are afraid of losing out on trade preferences and feel that Brussels seeks to impose a one-sided trade regime in its own interests, which also denies the declared partners the right to autonomous negotiations by re-drawing the map of regional configurations in Africa to comply with EU expectations.

Both initiatives, AGOA and the EPA negotiations, seem to reflect less so the genuine desire in fairer trade than securing access to relevant markets not least in the own interest of the USA and the EU. The competition for preferential trade agreements with South Africa (successfully negotiated by the EU during the late 1990s and currently facing an impasse with regard to the USA) are illustrating at the same time the point, that the industrialised states are anything but sharing the same interest when it comes to securing their individual links with other countries.

The new offensive pursued by China, which expands aggressively into African markets and seeks access to the fossil energy resources and other minerals and metals it urgently needs to fuel its own further rapid industrialisation process, adds to the rivalry and conflicting interests. In a matter of time, India, Brazil and Russia (as well as a number of other actors such as Malaysia and Mexico) are likely to add further pressure on the scramble for limited markets and resources. This new stage of competing forces on the continent has resulted in a plethora of recent analyses dealing mainly if not exclusively with the Chinese impact and practices. Interestingly enough, the EU and US-policies and practices seem to almost fade away from the picture. The current type of Cassandra-prophecies presents at times a rather one-sided story. Such selected narrative tends to downplay if not ignore the damaging external effects, which the existing socio-economic imbalances and power structures have created and consolidated. It appears at times, that the criticism raised towards China is more so an indicator of an increasing fear for losing own interests than for being motivated by a genuine concern for the African people.

Into more dependency or towards enhanced manoeuvring space?

The global initiatives for liberalisation under the WTO regime pose the question, if the markets and producers in the so-called developing countries are able to meet the challenges of a relatively free competition with the industrialised world or instead would require continued protection. At a closer look, it becomes obvious that this is a question wrongly posed. It had been indeed the markets and producers of the industrialised OECD countries, which were one-sided beneficiaries of state protection and distorting subsidisation policies. This turned any form of proclaimed fairness in trade and market relations into an illusion and ideological humbug.

Those advocating a liberalisation of trade relations contribute to the misperception that such steps would be identical or at least similar to a de-regulation of exchange relations with goods. As a matter of fact, the trend is quite the opposite. The so-called liberal global trade structures and networks have never before been to such an extent contractually defined and put into clauses. Numerous additional rules, such as hygienic and sanitary specifications, regulate access to markets even more so at times than tariffs. They are open to abusive control resulting in undue pressure and could turn into a tool for sanctions in cases of disagreement.

The historically-structurally disadvantaged societies should however at least be enabled to gain socio-economic strength based on own initiatives. This requires a framework, which would as a matter of principle allow for a kind of protectionist policy as legitimate survival strategy to empower local producers and foster own markets. This could create preconditions, from which in subsequent exchange relations the people in both the industrial as well as the African societies could benefit (but maybe at the expenses of unhindered profit maximisation for those who earn most).

With new rivals such as China, India, Brazil, Russia and a series of further countries at the threshold to meaningful own industrial production the competition for entering favourable relations with African countries might increase. This is in itself not negative to the interests of the African people. But it requires that the tiny elites benefiting from the currently existing unequal structures put their own interest in trans-nationally linked self-enrichment schemes behind the public interest to create investment and exchange patterns, which provide in the first place benefits for the majority of the people.

Selected Further Reading

Alden Christopher/Daniel Large/Ricardo Soares de Oliveira (eds) (2007), China Returns to Africa: The Politics of Contemporary Relations. London: Hurst
Broadman, Harry G. et. al. (2007), Africa’s Silk Road. China and India’s New Economic Frontier. Washington: World Bank
Brüntrup, Michael/Henning Melber/Ian Taylor (2006), Africa, Regional Cooperation and the World Market. Uppsala: The Nordic Africa Institute (NAI Discussion Paper; 31) (accessible for download at
China in Africa. South African Journal of International Affairs, vol. 13, no. 1, 2006
Fombad, Charles Manga/Zein Kebonang (2006), AU, NEPAD and the APRM. Democratisation Efforts Explored. Uppsala: The Nordic Africa Institute (Current African Issues; 32) (accessible for download at
Manji, Firoze/Stephen Marks (eds) (2007), African Perspectives on China in Africa. Nairobi & Oxford: Fahamu
Melber, Henning (2002), The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) – Old Wine in New Bottles? In: Forum for Development Studies, 29(1), S. 186-209
Melber, Henning (2004), The G8 and NePAD – more than an elite pact? University of Leipzig Papers on African Politics and Economics (ULPA), no. 74
Melber, Henning (ed.) (2005), Trade, Development, Cooperation. What Future for Africa? Uppsala: The Nordic Africa Institute (Current African Issues; 29) (accessible for download at
Melber, Henning (ed.) (2007), China in Africa. Uppsala: The Nordic Africa Institute (forthcoming)
Southall, Roger/Henning Melber (eds) (2006), The Legacies of Power. Leadership Transition and the Role of Former Presidents in African Politics. Cape Town: HSRC Press & Uppsala: Nordic Africa Institute
Taylor, Ian (2005), NEPAD. Towards Africa’s Development or Another False Start? Boulder & London: Lynne Rienner
Taylor, Ian (2006), China and Africa. Engagement and compromise. London & New York: Routledge
Tull, Denis M. (2006), China’s engagement in Africa: scope, significance and consequences. In: Journal of Modern African Studies, 44(3), pp. 459-479

* Dr. Henning Melber is Executive Director of the Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation in Uppsala/Sweden. He has been Research Director of The Nordic Africa Institute (2000-2006) and Director of the Namibian Economic Policy Research Unit (NEPRU) in Windhoek (1992-2000).

* Please send comments to [email protected] or comment online at www.pambazuka.org

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