Re: India-Africa News and Discussion
Posted: 26 Nov 2013 02:30
Any blowback in India?
Consortium of Indian Defence Websites
This is the world of horrors that the Central African Republic (CAR) has become. Thousands of people are dying at the hands of soldiers and militia gangs or from untreated diseases such as malaria. Boys and girls as young as eight are pressganged into fighting between Christians and Muslims. There are reports of beheadings and public execution-style killings. Villages are razed to the ground.
Never much more than a phantom state, the CAR has sucked in thousands of mercenaries from neighbouring countries and, France warned on Thursday, now stands "on the verge of genocide".
The latest eruption began in March when the unpopular president, François Bozizé, fled by helicopter with five suitcases after being overthrown by a loose coalition of rebels, bandits and guns for hire known as the Seleka, meaning "alliance" in the local language. One of its leaders, Michel Djotodia, declared himself president — the first Muslim to rule this majority Christian nation of 4.6 million people. What Médecins sans Frontières termed "a crisis on top of a crisis" for the population accelerated considerably in September when Djotodia officially disbanded the Seleka. Many of the rebels refused to disarm and leave the militias as ordered but veered further out of control, killing, looting and burning villages. They also systematically stripped administrative offices down to the light fittings and destroyed public records.
What started as a political movement against the corrupt and autocratic Bozizé is now taking on an ominously religious character. Nearly all the Seleka are Muslim, including mercenaries from neighbouring Chad and the notorious Janjaweed from Sudan's Darfur region. An "us and them" mentality of mutual distrust and paranoia is taking root, with some Christians taking up arms in vigilante militias known as "anti-balaka" — meaning anti-sword or anti-machete — and committing atrocities of their own, giving the Seleka a pretext for yet more aggression. The spiral of violence has become a recruiting sergeant for thousands of child soldiers.
Everyone at the Catholic mission in Bossangoa is Christian; internally displaced Muslims are gathered in a part of town including about 450 at a school, where wood desks and benches lie abandoned under trees and the blackboards are frozen at 2 August 2013. It is a stark physical separation. Romeo adds: "We have never seen religions tensions like this in the CAR before. The CAR is not a Muslim country; it is a Christian country. We have never seen so many Muslims in the country before. They have come from other countries."
Agnimitra wrote:Africa is becoming a battleground.
X-post from Islamism & Islamophobia thread:
Angola 'Bans Islam', Dismantles Mosques, According To News Reports
Angola became a hot topic in the international media over the weekend, as news outlets around the world wrote about reports that the Southwest African nation had banned Islam and had begun to dismantle mosques.
But an official at the Angolan Embassy in Washington, D.C., who did not want to be identified while discussing the sensitive matter, said that there is no such ban, and that the reports are erroneous.
“The Republic of Angola … it’s a country that does not interfere in religion,” the official said via telephone Monday afternoon. “We have a lot of religions there. It is freedom of religion. We have Catholic, Protestants, Baptists, Muslims and evangelical people.”
News of Angola’s supposed ban on Islam originated in the African press, which went so far as to quote the nation’s president and minister of culture offering statements that suggested the premise of the reports was accurate.
A second official at the Angolan Embassy in the U.S. reiterated that the diplomatic seat has not been made aware of any ban on Islam in the country.
“At the moment we don’t have any information about that,” the official told IBTimes via phone on Monday. “We’re reading about it just like you on the Internet. We don’t have any notice that what you’re reading on the Internet is true.”
A close examination of some of the initial reports about the supposed ban and dismantling of mosques reveals some suspect findings. One such discrepancy is that a Google Images search shows that a photograph published by numerous news outlets this month that purportedly depicts the minaret of an Angolan mosque being dismantled in October 2012 had been used at least as early Jan. 23, 2008, when the Housing & Land Rights Network posted it to illustrate an article about the destruction of Bedouin homes in Israel.
The officials at the Angolan Embassy in Washington could not attest to the veracity of the comments attributed to officials in Angola seemingly affirming the Islam ban, which outlets including IBTimes had referenced in initial stories on the reports published over the weekend.
Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos reportedly weighed in on the controversy, as he was quoted in Nigeria's Osun Defender newspaper on Sunday as saying, "This is the final end of Islamic influence in our country," according to a report by the website OnIslam.net, which was accompanied by the suspect photo supposedly depicting the Angolan mosque’s minaret being dismantled in October of last year.
“The president has been out of the country for a week,” the first Angolan Embassy official mentioned above said, contending that as such he could not have made the remarks as they were reported.
Weekly French-language Moroccan newspaper La Nouvelle Tribune published an article on Friday sourcing "several" Angolan officials, including the minister of Culture, Rosa Cruz, who reportedly offered the following remarks, which have been translated from French: "The process of legalization of Islam has not been approved by the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights. Their mosques would be closed until further notice."
OnIslam.net reports that the African economic news agency Agence Ecofin wrote that Cruz made the statement at an appearance last week before the 6th Commission of the National Assembly. The website goes on to note that, "According to several Angolan newspapers, Angola has become the first country in the world to ban Islam and Muslims, taking first measures by destroying mosques in the country."
The first Angolan Embassy official denied knowledge that Cruz had made such comments.
“I cannot confirm if the Minister of Culture said that. I cannot find that in our press,” the official said.
La Nouvelle Tribune also reported that a minaret of an Angolan mosque was dismantled last October, and that the city of Zango "has gone further by destroying the only mosque in the city." The Embassy officials could not authenticate either of these claims.
Angola is a majority-Christian nation of about 16 million people, of whom an estimated 55 percent are Catholic, 25 percent belong to African Christian denominations, 10 percent follow major Protestant traditions and 5 percent belong to Brazilian Evangelical churches. Only 80,000 to 90,000 Angolans are Muslim, according to the U.S. State Department.
Agnimitra wrote:Though the news from Angola may have been a plant, it is an indicator of sentiments on the ground. The news from CAR is not manufactured.
Here is an "Update on Islam in East Africa" from a popular Crusader speaker:
Auz wrote:Why would you even post this idiot?
Auz wrote:NO systematic obstacle in the practice and further spread of Islam can be tolerated. Period.
Agnimitra wrote:To draw attention to the EJ versus Jihadi currents as they play out across various regions of the world. In Africa, its predominantly tooth and claw.
Auz wrote:What is EJ?
Auz wrote:PS, most of these anti-Islamic evangelical Christian missionaries are nothing but pure pack of lies.
Agnimitra wrote:Auz wrote:What is EJ?
EvanJihadi. The Christian equivalent of the Islamist Jihadi.
Auz wrote:PS, most of these anti-Islamic evangelical Christian missionaries are nothing but pure pack of lies.
Auz wrote:Agnimitra wrote:And I suppose you think the pro-Islamic missionaries are truth-tellers?
Exactly. They aren't truthtellers, too.
But you won't see me posting videos of Islamist Jihadis telling stuff about how christians are savages. So why then you post lies of EvanJihadis?
ARMED men killed at least 12 civilians and wounded 30, including children, northwest of the Central African Republic capital, United Nations officials said on Tuesday ahead of a Security Council move to end anarchy in the country.
The Council is to vote on Thursday on dispatching French reinforcements to restore order in Central African Republic, which has slipped into chaos since mainly Muslim rebels seized power, leading to tit-for-tat sectarian violence.
America's first black president paid tribute to Nelson Mandela in a sombre statement delivered from the White House, in which Barack Obama described the personal inspiration he had drawn from the man he called Madiba.
"I am one of the countless millions who drew inspiration from Nelson Mandela's life," said a visibly moved Obama.
"And like so many around the globe, I cannot fully imagine my own life without the example that Nelson Mandela set, and so long as I live I will do what I can to learn from him."
The US president, who met Mandela once as a senator and was prevented from visiting him during a trip to South Africa in June by the latter's illness, has been reluctant to overemphasise the comparisons, but revealed how much his own political career had been influenced by the anti-apartheid struggle.
"My very first political action, the first thing I ever did that involved an issue or a policy or politics, was a protest against apartheid," said Obama. "I studied his words and his writings. The day that he was released from prison gave me a sense of what human beings can do when they're guided by their hopes and not by their fears."
Obama did not say when his first protest took place, but he is known to have become involved in anti-apartheid politics at Occidental College in Los Angeles, between 1979 and 1981.
In London, David Cameron said Mandela was a towering figure: "A great light has gone out in the world. Nelson Mandela was a towering figure in our time; a legend in life and now in death – a true global hero. Across the country he loved they will be mourning a man who was the embodiment of grace. Meeting him was one of the great honours of my life."
Link to video: David Cameron pays tribute to Nelson Mandela
Former US president George W Bush said: "President Mandela was one of the great forces for freedom and equality of our time. He bore his burdens with dignity and grace, and our world is better off because of his example. This good man will be missed, but his contributions will live on for ever."
Former US president Bill Clinton said: "Today the world has lost one of its most important leaders and one of its finest human beings. History will remember Nelson Mandela as a champion for human dignity and freedom, for peace and reconciliation.
"We will remember him as a man of uncommon grace and compassion, for whom abandoning bitterness and embracing adversaries was not just a political strategy but a way of life. All of us are living in a better world because of the life that Madiba lived. He proved that there is freedom in forgiving, that a big heart is better than a closed mind, and that life's real victories must be shared."
Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, said Mandela was a "great man" who had made racism "not just immoral but stupid". "I worked with him closely and remember well his visits to Downing Street. He was a wonderful man to be around, with a sharp wit, extraordinary political savvy and a lovely way of charming everyone in a building.
"He would delight in making sure that the person on the door or serving the tea would feel at home with him and be greeted by him with the same kindness and respect he would show a leader. So the warmth of his personality was equal to the magnitude of his contribution to the world."
In New York, Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary general, said he wanted to express his deep admiration and respect for Mandela and the people of South Africa. "Africa has suffered from colonial rule and abuse of human rights and human dignity and it's only because of such a great man like Mandela that it is possible for people to live in human dignity. We have to learn from his determination and wisdom to make the world a better world."
In Dublin, Enda Kenny, the taoiseach, described the death as "a great light extinguished". "The name Mandela stirred our conscience and our hearts. It became synonymous with the pursuit of dignity and freedom across the globe," Kenny said.
The archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said: "South Africa has lost its greatest citizen and its father. Nelson Mandela, fighting to the end, is freed to be with his God in joy and reward for his great service and sacrifice. We are challenged to show the same degree of humanity, of courage and of generosity."
Former prime minister Gordon Brown said: "Nelson Mandela was the greatest leader of our generation. A leader of magnanimity, fortitude, unshakeable optimism and, most of all, the most courageous man I ever met.
"True courage requires not only strength of will but strength of belief. What motivated Nelson Mandela and drove him to risk his life for freedom was a burning passion that, irrespective of colour, race and background, all people are created equal – and his list of historic achievements starts with a multiracial South Africa.
"Every accolade in the world was awarded to him, but the one he prized most was Children's Champion. As he said in his book, he had climbed one mountain, but there is another still to climb – dignity for every child. He was the greatest of Africans. He had greatness as vast as the continent he loved. He had within him the greatness of the human soul."
Labour leader Ed Miliband said that the world had lost the inspirational figure of our age. "Nelson Mandela taught people across the globe the true meaning of courage, strength, hope and reconciliation. From campaigner to prisoner to president to global hero, Nelson Mandela will always be remembered for his dignity, integrity and his values of equality and justice.
"He was an activist who became president and a president who always remained an activist. Right to the end of his life he reminded the richest nations of the world of their responsibilities to the poorest. Above all, he showed us the power of people, in the cause of justice, to overcome the mightiest obstacles."
The former US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice said: "Throughout history, a few special people have been able to transcend differences and change the world for the better. Nelson Mandela was one of those people who had a vision for human rights and equality.
"Those beliefs made him the father of multi-ethnic democracy in South Africa. All freedom-loving people will miss him, but we will never forget his sacrifice and his achievements."
Reverend Al Sharpton, the US civil rights leader who acted as an official observer in the first free elections in South Africa, said Mandela was a "universal symbol of tolerance and hope" and a figure who "resonated with Americans of all colours".
"He eternalised the greatness of the struggle for human beings to be free," said Sharpton. "He was not only able to break the shackles of bigotry and bias and hate, but he did it without internalising the battles he was fighting."
Sharpton said many US civil rights leaders were involved in the anti-apartheid movement and regarded Mandela as an inspirational figure.
"Even though we have been watching for over a year, it still comes a great loss," he added on MSNBC.
"Not only was he the first black president of South Africa, he led the democratic liberation struggle. Just being around him, you had a sense you were in the presence of greatness; a gravity and humility that was unmatched. The world has lost someone who literally changed history."
France's president, François Hollande, said: "Nelson Mandela made history, that of South Africa and that of the whole world. A tireless fighter against apartheid, he defeated it with his courage, his obstinacy and his perseverance.
"Throughout all these years, Nelson Mandela has incarnated the South African nation, the cement of its unity and the pride of Africa. He mobilised all his strength to put his country in its rightful place among the main world powers … right to the end of his life he served peace. Nelson Mandela's message will not disappear.
"He will continue to inspire those who fight for freedom and give confidence to people who defend just causes and universal rights. He showed that human will could not only break chains of subjugation, but free the energy to succeed in building a common destiny. France shares the infinite sadness of the South African people."
Manmohan Singh, the Indian prime minister, referenced his country's own independence leader Gandhi. "A giant among men has passed away. This is as much India's loss as South Africa's. He was a true Gandhian. His life and work will remain a source of eternal inspiration for generations to come. I join all those who are praying for his soul." Gandhi spent formative years as a political activist in South Africa and Mandela knew Gandhi's son Manilal, historians pointed out.
Japan's prime minister, Shinzo Abe, described Mandela as a "great leader" who "fought with a strong will to eliminate apartheid and achieved a great deal by putting national reconciliation at the centre of his nation-building". The foreign minister, Fumio Kishida, said: "I wish to express my heartfelt respect for the achievements of the former South African president and hope that the government and people of South Africa will overcome their grief and go on to further develop their country."
The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, said Mandela "was never haughty. He worked to heal rifts within South African society and succeeded in preventing outbreaks of racial hatred." Shimon Peres, president of Israel, praised Mandela as "a builder of bridges of peace and dialogue who paid a heavy personal price for his struggle in the years he spent in prison and fighting for his people".
The ambush on Muslim neighbourhoods of Bangui came as the United Nations voted to send a contingent of French troops to try to stabilize the country, and French President Francois Hollande announced plans to double the force. The daylong gunbattle touched even the most protected parts of the capital, including the residence of the prime minister, underscoring the volatile mix of arms and ideology facing the arriving French force.
Scores died in Thursday’s attack, including 48 people whose bodies were laid out at a mosque in a northern suburb of Bangui. Separately, a Doctors Without Borders spokeswoman, Amelie Ketoff, said another 50 deaths had been confirmed, bringing the toll to 98.
Some died of bullet wounds, others from what appeared to be machete blows using a weapon known in the local language as a “balaka.” The Christian militia, whose members are believed to have led the attack Thursday, call themselves the “anti-balaka,” reminiscent of the horrific violence once seen in Rwanda.
Djotodia, the country’s current ruler, who is Muslim, managed to unify several rebel groups in the country’s mostly Muslim north, where resentment of the federal government and a sense of disenfranchisement has been rife for years. Once those rebels — known as Seleka, the local word for coalition — were unleashed upon the capital, though, he wielded very little control over the melange of bush fighters, child soldiers and foreign mercenaries he had recruited along the way.
Before long, human rights groups were documenting cases of Seleka rebels going door to door with machetes, bludgeoning their victims and burning down scores of homes. Supporters of the ousted president began rising up in opposition to the lawless and ruthless rebels, forming self-defence militias. Thursday’s attack demonstrates that these fighters are more than vengeance-seeking civilians with artisanal hunting rifles.
“This is not a war between an army and a rebel group. It’s really become a conflict between communities where people are being targeted based on their religion,” said Peter Bouckaert of Human Rights Watch, who has documented scores of attacks in Central African Republic.
We have now had a week of unrelenting beatification of Nelson Mandela by exactly the kind of people who stood behind his jailers under apartheid. Mandela was without question a towering historical figure and an outstanding hero of South Africa's liberation struggle. So it would be tempting to imagine they had been won over by the scale of his achievement, courage and endurance.
For some, that may be true. For many others, in the western world in particular, it reeks of the rankest hypocrisy. It is after all Mandela's global moral authority, and the manifest depravity of the system he and the African National Congress brought to an end, that now makes the hostility of an earlier time impossible to defend.
So history has had to be comprehensively rewritten, Mandela and the ANC appropriated and sanitised, and inconvenient facts minimised or ignored. The whitewashed narrative has been such a success that the former ANC leader has been reinvented and embraced as an all-purpose Kumbaya figure by politicians across the spectrum and ageing celebrities alike.
But it's a fiction that turns the world on its head and obscures the reality of global power then and now. In this fantasy, the racist apartheid tyranny was a weird aberration that came from nowhere, unconnected to the colonial system it grew out of or the world powers that kept it in place for decades.
In real life, it wasn't just Margaret Thatcher who branded Mandela a terrorist and resisted sanctions, or David Cameron who went on pro-apartheid lobby junkets. Almost the entire western establishment effectively backed the South African regime until the bitter end. Ronald Reagan described it as "essential to the free world". The CIA gave South African security the tipoff that led to Mandela's arrest and imprisonment for 27 years. Harold Wilson's government was still selling arms to the racist regime in the 1960s, and Mandela wasn't removed from the US terrorism watch list until 2008.
Airbrushed out of the Mandela media story has been the man who launched a three-decade-long armed struggle after non-violent avenues had been closed; who declared in his 1964 speech from the dock that the only social system he was tied to was socialism; who was reported by the ANC-allied South African Communist party this week to have been a member of its central committee at the time of his arrest; and whose main international supporters for 30 years were the Soviet Union and Cuba.
It has barely been mentioned in the past few days, but Mandela supported the ANC's armed campaign of sabotage, bombings and attacks on police and military targets throughout his time in prison. Veterans of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the ANC's armed wing, emphasise that the military campaign was always subordinate to the political struggle and that civilians were never targeted (though there were civilian casualties).
But as Ronnie Kasrils, MK's former intelligence chief, told me on Wednesday, Mandela continued to back it after his release in 1990 when Kasrils was running arms into South Africa to defend ANC supporters against violent attacks. And there's no doubt that under today's US and British law, he and other ANC leaders would have been jailed as terrorists for supporting such a campaign.
One of the lessons of Mandela and the ANC's real history is that the cold war wasn't just about capitalism and communism – or freedom and dictatorship, as is now often claimed – but also about colonialism and national liberation, in which the west was unmistakably on the wrong side.
South Africa wasn't an anomaly. The brutal truth is that the US and its allies backed dictatorships from Argentina and Greece to Saudi Arabia, while Soviet support allowed peoples from Vietnam to Angola to win national independence. Cuban military action against South African and US-backed forces at Cuito Cuanavale in Angola in 1988 gave a vital impetus to the fall of the racist regime in Pretoria.
That's one reason why Mandela was a progressive nationalist, and Raul Castro, the Cuban president, spoke at Tuesday's celebration of Mandela's life in Soweto, not David Cameron. And why the man Barack Obama called the "last great liberator of the 20th century" was outspoken in his opposition to US and British wars of intervention and occupation, from Kosovo to Iraq – damning the US as a "threat to world peace", guilty of "unspeakable atrocities".
Such statements have barely figured in media tributes to Mandela this week, of course. The enthusiasm with which Mandela has been embraced in the western world is not only about the racial reconciliation he led, which was a remarkable achievement, but the extent of the ANC's accommodation with corporate South Africa and global finance, which has held back development and deepened inequality.
There have been important social advances since the democratic transformation of the early 1990s, from water and power supply to housing and education. And in the global climate of the early 90s, it's perhaps not surprising that the ANC bent to the neoliberal flood tide, putting its Freedom Charter calls for public ownership and redistribution of land on the back burner. But the price has been to entrench racial economic division, unemployment and corruption, while failing to attract the expected direct foreign investment.
The baleful grip of neoliberal capitalism, and the growing pressure to break with it, is a challenge that goes far beyond South Africa, of course. But along with the struggle for social justice and national liberation, the right to resist tyranny and occupation, and profound opposition to racism and imperial power, that is part of the real legacy of Nelson Mandela.
But the vote only increased the maximum permitted size of the force.
Member states must still commit more troops to UN command, and Ban warned this "will not happen overnight".
In the meantime, Council members demanded an end to hostilities between forces loyal to South Sudan's President Salva Kiir and to his rival deposed vice president Riek Machar.
ramana wrote:So what is happening in South Sudan? Wasnt the area to be independent? Is this a KSA Sunni backlash for losing Syria?
The Bright Continent: Breaking Rules and Making Change in Modern Africa by Dayo Olopade
English | 2014 | ISBN: 0547678312 | ISBN-13: 9780547678313 | 288 pages |
The path to progress in Africa lies in the surprising and innovative solutions Africans are finding for themselves.
Africa is a continent on the move. It’s often hard to notice, though—the western focus on governance and foreign aid obscures the individual dynamism and informal social adaptation driving the last decade of African development.
Dayo Olopade set out across sub-Saharan Africa to find out how ordinary people are dealing with the challenges they face every day. She found an unexpected Africa: resilient, joyful, and innovative, a continent of DIY changemakers and impassioned community leaders.
Everywhere Olopade went, she witnessed the specific creativity born from African difficulty—a trait she began calling kanju. It’s embodied by bootstrapping innovators like Kenneth Nnebue, who turned his low-budget, straight-to-VHS movies into a multi-million dollar film industry known as Nollywood. Or Soyapi Mumba, who helped transform cast-off American computers into touchscreen databases that allow hospitals across Malawi to process patients in seconds. Or Ushahidi, the Kenyan technology collective that crowdsources citizen activism and disaster relief.
The Bright Continent calls for a necessary shift in our thinking about Africa. Olopade shows us that the increasingly globalized challenges Africa faces can and must be addressed with the tools Africans are already using to solve these problems themselves. Africa’s ability to do more with less—to transform bad aid and bad government into an opportunity to innovate—is a clear ray of hope amidst the dire headlines and a powerful model for the rest of the world.
Our news media’s constant focus on the United States notwithstanding, it seems to have completely missed a historic move earlier this month by President Barack Obama with potentially serious implications. From August 4 to 6, he hosted the first ever ‘U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit’ in which over 45 of Africa’s heads of states participated. In his welcome address, President Obama leveraged his own African lineage by telling them that apart from being a proud American, he also stood before them “as the son of a man from Africa.”
The summit had an unambiguous economic focus. During its three days of deliberations, U.S. ‘commitments to Africa’ worth $33 billion were announced. These included: $14 billion in investment by U.S. companies; $7 billion to finance U.S. exports; and $12 billion for a ‘Power Africa’ initiative to boost electricity availability. Over 90 American companies participated in the summit.
Cynosure of many eyes
Because of its vast natural resources, acute infrastructure deficit, high population growth and growing middle class, Africa has long been a cynosure of many eyes. Countries such as China, India, Japan, Brazil, Turkey and South Korea, as well as organisations such as the European Union (EU), the Commonwealth and La Francophonie, have been regularly hosting Africa-focussed summits. The U.S. is the latest to join this Africa rush.
It would, however, be incorrect to consider Washington a latecomer to the ‘Africa Party.’ Historically, the slave trade provided an umbilical cord between the U.S. and Africa. Bilateral landmarks include American Friendship Treaty with Tunisia in 1799 and establishment of Liberia in 1821. They also include American support for Apartheid regime in South Africa and for right wing dictatorships in countries from Morocco to Congo to Angola during the Cold War. Subsequently, the U.S. did help in the dismantling of Apartheid and getting Namibia its freedom.
In 2007, the U.S. Army created the Africa Command (Africom), which has been steadily expanding its presence in the continent. Lately, however, Pentagon has been alarmed, in the aftermath of the Arab Spring, at the spread of Islamic terrorism across large swathes of Africa: Maghreb, Sahel, Nigeria, the Central African Republic and Somalia.
Economically, the American presence in Africa has been large but is currently declining. Till 2008, the U.S. was Africa’s largest trading partner. This was spurred by import of African oil worth over $100 billion — part of U.S.’ strategy to reduce dependence on the Gulf. However, thanks to a shale revolution, the U.S. has become the world’s largest oil producer and its oil imports from Africa are set to plummet to a mere $15 billion for the year 2014. This has dramatically reduced U.S.-Africa trade to around $60 billion in 2013, nearly a third of China’s trade with Africa. If this trend continues, India may well overtake the U.S. as Africa’s second-largest trading partner this year. However, the U.S. still remains Africa’s largest aid provider and a major investor.
Against this backdrop, many observers see the Washington Summit as a U.S. bid to find new economic paradigms for its Africa profile to catch up with China and other stakeholders on Africa. The sceptics, however, point out that with U.S. economy still in recovery mode, no early surge in American demand for African raw materials is likely.
Further, the U.S. products, services and technology are often either unsuitable or too expensive for Africans. Its Asian competitors have an edge here, in industries ranging from mobiles to medicines. The U.S. niche areas for Africa include: export of commodities (foodstuff, refined products); supply of equipment (for power, aviation, construction etc); and projects for mineral exploitation, hotels and hospitals.
Following the Chinese strategy
A closer look at the Washington Summit’s outcome also reveals that the U.S. intends to follow the Chinese strategy of long-term soft funding for Africa. Beijing has for long provided concessional loans to African countries to cushion them from the lower quality (and higher costs) of its products and projects; the U.S. and American MNCs would possibly do the same. For most African governments facing a serious capital crunch, such long-term soft loans are often irresistible. Second, with many African states facing serious security challenges, the U.S. may also leverage its Africom umbrella to gain an economic advantage.
As New Delhi plans to host the third India-Africa Forum Summit (IAFS-3) in December 2014, what are the implications of the Washington event for us? First, forceful re-entry of the U.S. and its deep-pocketed MNCs may lead to a more intense and potentially unfair competition in Africa. Second, greater U.S. engagement in infrastructure building may release synergies in Africa that we can leverage. For example, better roads can mean more Indian vehicles being sold. Third, if American MNCs increase production of primary commodities in Africa, it may benefit India as their end-user. Fourth, Indian subsidiaries of the U.S. MNCs stand to gain. Finally, over the past 15 years, India has successfully created some key interfaces in Africa in areas such as power, Information and Communications Technology, and healthcare. A U.S. entry into these may affect market access for us. Africans, who have often played the China card with us, could now play the U.S. card as well.
India would do well to prepare IAFS-3 with a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) review of the past six years of the IAFS process. The following domains suggest themselves:
(i) Being a developing country with income level comparable to most African nations, India cannot sustain the IAFS process on the basis of freebies alone. Instead, African countries should be invited to become co-stakeholders in the process.
(ii) While the African Union Commission can be a political umbrella for the IAFS process, India should, on its own, choose both the recipients for our developmental cooperation and the manner in which we plan to extend it. We must not abdicate this important task to the African Union (AU) bureaucracy.
(iii) There is a need to revamp the Line of Credit approach to projects as it has rarely delivered the intended results. Instead, greater support should be given to private sector-driven projects through initiatives like lower interest rates, risk mitigation, etc.
(iv) We should harness our assets in Africa, such as the Indian diaspora there; a growing acceptance of the quality of our healthcare and educational facilities; relevance of our developmental model; and the greater willingness of our private sector to engage the continent.
(Mahesh Sachdev retired last year as India’s High Commissioner to Nigeria. His book Nigeria: A Business Manual was published last week.)
The Chinese government has been on something of a tear lately in its effort to compel governments to shun the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader. In recent years, pressure from Beijing has convinced political leaders in countries like Norway and Britain to snub him, at least in venues associated with visiting dignitaries.
But a decision by South Africa to deny the Dalai Lama a visa to attend a gathering of former Nobel laureates in Cape Town appears to have backfired in a way that is drawing increased scrutiny to China’s heavy-handed tactics.
Last week, South Africa was forced to cancel the 14th World Peace Summit, which had been scheduled to start Oct. 13, after nine former peace prize winners and 11 affiliated organizations announced they would boycott the conference. The event was billed as the largest gathering of Nobel laureates and was to be dedicated to Nelson Mandela, the late South African leader who was also a Nobel Peace Prize recipient. South Africa would have been the first African country to host the event.
Although there has been no announcement of an alternative location, an official with the summit meeting said on Friday that the event would probably be relocated to Rome.
On Thursday, the Dalai Lama, during a speech in India, criticized the snub, likening it to “bullying a simple person.”
BBC Africa @BBCAfrica 2h2 hours ago
Kenya's government dismisses allegations by Catholic Church that tetanus vaccine can cause sterility. http://bbc.in/1v3zR3z
Zimbabwe's central bank Wednesday said it would add the Indian Rupee to the basket of currencies to be circulated in the country.
The decision has been taken keeping in view the growing trade and investment ties between the two countries, said the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe no longer has its own currency. The southern African country abandoned its local currency, the Zimbabwean dollar, in 2009 after it had been ravaged by hyperinflation, and introduced a basket of foreign currencies dominated by the US dollar.
"We wish to advise exporters and the general transacting public that in addition to opening of accounts denominated in Botswana Pula, British Sterling Pound, Euro, South African Rand or United States Dollar, individuals and corporates can also open accounts denominated in the Australian Dollar (AUD), Chinese Yuan (CYN), Indian Rupee (INR) and Japanese Yen," said the Bank.
India-Zimbabwe trade was $177 million, with balance of trade heavily in favour of India.In a statement, Acting Governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Charity Dhliwayo also said Wednesday's decision should put to rest the widespread speculation surrounding a re-introduction of the Zim-dollar.
"As such, the Reserve Bank, in close collaboration with the Government, has no plans to re-introduce the Zim-dollar as widely speculated," said the central bank.
In his annual budget statement last December, Zimbabwe's Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa said the multiple currency system is to stay for the foreseeable future.
As the Chinese economy slows, reducing its appetite for African commodities, Africa re-awakes to the advantages of partnership with India. India’s inclusive development model appears much closer to the African ubuntu ethos. India funds projects with substantial “bread and butter” impact in Africa
In December 2014 women ululated and men cheered as President Boni Yayi of Benin inaugurated an Indian-built tractor plant. We do not need white elephants, an official commented, our need is basic. He marvelled at the cost-effectiveness of the plant, remarking that a similar European factory would have cost three times as much.
With a $15 million soft loan from India, the plant was built in record time by the $300 mn Angelique International Ltd, India’s leading EPC (Engineering, Procurement and Construction) Company in Africa with a footprint across 27 African countries. What does this represent in India’s intensifying engagement with a resurgent Africa?
Dark Continent’s Indian diaspora
According to the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, written in the first Century AD, and other writings, intrepid Indian sailors were in regular touch with the East coast of Africa for centuries. The formal end of slavery in 1833, marked the beginning of the Indian diaspora in the “Dark Continent” through the “indentured” labour system. Within a few years, over 3.5 million Indians had been transported to build the Kenya-Uganda Railway and to work on plantations.
The first mention of Africa in Chinese sources is in the ninth century. The redoubtable Chinese admiral Zheng He of the Ming dynasty rounded the coast of Somalia in his massive warships in the early 15th century and sailed to Mozambique, calling at ports to demonstrate Chinese naval strength, looking for tributary states.
The Chinese connection
Modern Chinese relations with Africa date to the 1950s, when it supported liberation movements as part of an ideological thrust. In the collective African consciousness, India is an ancient friend, a reliable trading partner and a welcoming nation where thousands of Africans went. China appears as a Johnny-come-lately, flexing its muscles (somewhat like 19th-century Europe).
In the 1980s, African nations, in severe economic distress, adopted the so-called Washington consensus of open markets, political and trade liberalisation and privatisation. Hardly any succeeded by copying Western developmental models. The World Bank/IMF gave advice aplenty, but there are still few roads or schools or hospitals.
The long-serving highly respected President of the Republic of Congo speaks about the disastrous impact of dismantling the state agency for agricultural products under World Bank insistence. His country, once known for its magnificent coffee, now imports it! Honour and self-respect are powerful determinants of the African personality. Tired of Western arrogance and hectoring, African leaders rushed to embrace Indian and Chinese money. They show up in large numbers at the triennial China-Africa summits. The Chinese trade-off between spectacular growth and political freedoms seemed attractive to a Continent where the “Big Man” is a historical figure.
Over 2,000 Chinese companies do business in Africa, most are state-backed “private” firms in the infrastructure, energy and banking sectors. Almost two million Chinese work there, happy to have more space in an underpopulated continent.Unconditional low-rate credit lines (at 1.5 per cent over 15-20 years) have replaced restrictive Western loans. But China’s huge profile in Africa brings intensified scrutiny.
China vs West
Peeved Western officials criticise China’s no-questions-asked cheque-book diplomacy for ignoring human rights, good governance and environmental issues. Even supporters of free markets cite studies to show that low-cost Chinese-made products damage local African industries. Many Africans see Chinese-owned shops, restaurants and small businesses threatening indigenous entrepreneurs. And the Chinese do not intermingle. Faced with rising anti-Chinese sentiments in Africa, in May 2014 Premier Li Keqiang advised Chinese workers to “abide by local laws and respect local traditions”, strangely recalling Jawaharlal Nehru’s 1950s advice to the Indian diaspora to integrate with local communities.
Seeing them as rapacious and insular, ordinary Africans prefer to keep Chinese at arm’s length. The romance is fading.
Unfair business practices
In the 2006 Zambian presidential election, the losing candidate (he won later and died in office) lambasted Chinese business practices. In 2010, Chinese executives at a coal mine shot and injured several Zambian workers protesting low wages, long hours and poor safety. Similar protests have taken place in Sudan, South Sudan, Angola, Lesotho, Guinea and Mozambique. Ghana has expelled dozens of “illegal” Chinese.
In March 2013, Nigeria's central bank chief, Lamido Sanusi, warned Africans to recognize the true nature of their "romance with China” that “takes our primary goods and sells us manufactured ones... the essence of colonialism". Writing in the Financial Times, he criticised Africa for embracing “a new form of imperialism” and said bluntly “we must see China for what it is: a competitor.”
A few weeks ago, South Sudan was full of reports of a letter forged by a Chinese company to extract concessions from the Government. The Chinese Ambassador apologised.
When South Sudan separated in 2011, taking most of the oil, China cancelled a huge oil-backed loan promised to Khartoum for a power project. In 2013, Botswana's president Ian Khama told a South African newspaper that Chinese companies had let down his country, particularly over a power-generation project. Khama added that other African leaders shared his concerns. When economies falter and unemployment rises, the foreigner is the usual scapegoat, especially if sheer numbers, high visibility and economic domination are evident. Idi Amin’s 1972 expulsion of Asians is fresh in African minds.
Senior Africans privately and publicly complain about the condescending attitude of Chinese officials. Some years ago, after listening to a provincial Sudanese Governor, the Chinese Ambassador, in a charming display of Han conceit, commented that even a small-town mayor in China could do better.
Though Chinese soft loans remain attractive (Beijing’s quick decisions contrast with New Delhi’s more cautious approach), there is awareness of the hidden costs. Indian companies compete furiously for projects funded by Indian credits, often quoting just-above-cost prices. The Chinese system determines the implementing agency in advance and then makes sure that its quotation is the “lowest” among several inflated offers.
The Chinese-funded multi-billion dollar Millennium Dam in Ethiopia is cited as an example: the per-megawatt cost is at least twice that in India or China itself.
And these loans have to be repaid. Several African nations are renegotiating their oil contracts with China, seen by successor governments as one-sided.
As the push back against China’s greed intensifies, African officials openly express their preference for Indian partners. India is respected, China increasingly suspected.
China has overplayed its card. An African Prime Minister said recently: “Africa and China are becoming a bit tired of each other: we want much more of India.” This is good news for India’s trade with Africa, which at $70 bn in 2013 is a third of China’s (the latter is dominated by oil, ores and minerals). Language is not the only issue. “We have interacted with Indian communities in our midst for two centuries”, says a senior official of the African Union, “we understand each other’s ethos perfectly. Indians talk to us, not down to us”. African leaders want more investment in labour-intensive sectors, angry that Chinese companies do not hire locals. Africa’s population is growing faster than anywhere else in the world. Without jobs, a large population of frustrated, unemployed youth beckons. The African spring has begun in Burkina Faso.
India’s role in helping with food security, capacity building and human resource development in Africa remains unparalleled. Since 1964, the Indian Technical and Economic Development (ITEC) programme has trained tens of thousands of Africans. Some have risen to the highest levels in their countries and are well-placed to exploit Africa’s fortuitous combination of demographics, education and communication technologies to break its perennial poverty and underdevelopment.
Private Indian investment in Africa over the last half century has been in telecoms, agriculture, the automotive industry and education. Indian companies hire and train local people.
In at least 17 African countries, the five richest nationals include at least one businessman of Indian origin.
Bharti Airtel Ltd’s $9-billion purchase in 2010 of Kuwait’s Zain Telecom in 15 African countries and ONGC Videsh Ltd’s $5.1-bn acquisitions in Mozambique for deep-water well drilling have reinforced the India connection. The India-funded and implemented pan-African e-network providing tele-education, telemedicine and VIP connectivity is much talked about.
As the Chinese economy slows, reducing its appetite for African commodities, Africa re-awakes to the advantages of partnership with India, whose inclusive developmental model appears much closer to the African ubuntu ethos. India funds projects with substantial “bread-and-butter” impact, not dubious prestige behemoths.
Despite ample land, people and water, 44 of sub-Saharan Africa’s 49 countries are net food importers. Every African leader wants to replicate India’s Green Revolution.
In Lesotho, a tiny mountain kingdom that I am privileged to serve, an Indian-owned company has leased large tracts of land for food-grains and biomass to generate electricity creating hundreds of jobs. The Prime Minister says: “This is just the beginning, let many Indian companies come”.
Reflecting his own insecurities, a senior Western diplomat in South Sudan, resigned to his country’s isolation in Africa, told me that he preferred to see Indians rather than Chinese.
Every flight from Africa to India is packed with ailing Africans. They go back praising our affordable medical care.Thousands of Africans prefer cost-effective education in Indian Universities to their over-priced Western counterparts. China is yet to make a dent in these areas. India is intensifying the political and commercial dialogue with Africa. Several Heads of State are expected at the Summit with India in 2015,
The century of India in Africa has begun again.
The writer, a former Indian Ambassador, has served in several African nations.
China's decision to contribute troops to protect its commercial interests in Africa and committing to link nations in the dark continent with railway, road and regional aviation, has woken India up. India is set to put behind its Ebola fears and host a summit with leaders from Africa's 54 countries in New Delhi in late October. This was originally scheduled for last year in December, where nations were told that New Delhi would not host the India-Africa Forum Summit due to a scare over the Ebola virus, that had hit Africa. Some of these nations had questioned India's wisdom in putting off the summit, observing that the same Ebola scare did not deter the United Nations from hosting the UN General Assembly in New York or the United States hosting African leaders in Washington. Prime minister Narendra Modi is understood to have specifically directed the ministry of external affairs (MEA) to begin preparations for such a summit, to join both the US and China, who are aggressively pumping money into the continent, widely seen as a key future global economic engine.
Officials concede that deferring the summit over Ebola is crude, and only shows disrespect and arrogance. They believe that with the Middle East crisis, the traditional energy bowl for India, African destinations Nigeria, Angola, Algeria, Egypt, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea and Sudan have become all the more important for the supply of crude oil and gas. The third edition of the India-Africa summit is already a year behind schedule after it was postponed in 2014. But there are others in the MEA, who say the summit was postponed after due deliberations and not aimed to show disrespect. Some 1,000 delegates from African countries were supposed to have participated. "Since these countries had reported Ebola cases, there was concern that excessive screening of attending dignitaries at airports could sully the mood and they may find it disrespectful," said an official.