Friday, 18 May 2018

The Political Economy of the South Sudan Conflict

A section of rebels in South Sudan.
Image: Courtesy. 

It is close to five years since civil war began in South Sudan with negotiations failing to broker a peace deal between the warring groups. The unending conflict that started in December 2013 has resulted in destitution with thousands murdered and millions displaced.

The Council on Foreign Relations estimates that 50,000 South Sudanese have died since December 2013 when the war began. The Human Rights Watch approximates that 2 million South Sudanese have been internally displaced due to the conflict, while a further 2 million have sought for refuge in the neighboring countries.

Of the 2 million refugees beyond the borders of South Sudan, 1 million are in Uganda. Of the 2 million people that are internally displaced, 230,000 are camping at various United Nations’ bases across the country.

As war ravages Africa’s youngest state, the country’s economy has collapsed. As highlighted by the African Development Bank, the economic growth of the South Sudanese economy is on a freefall with the country’s real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contracting. For instance, the country’s GDP shrank by 5.3% in 2015, contracted by 13.1% in 2016 and it is estimated to have declined by 6.1% in 2017.

Additionally, the country’s inflation rate reveals the ebbing of the economy’s fortunes with the latest figures indicating that the rate of inflation is 161%.

Following the economic hardship experienced in South Sudan, President Salva Kiir recently fired the Governor of the Central Bank and his deputy over the failure to deal with inflation. This was a symptomatic gesture bearing in mind that the country’s sinking economy is only reacting to the volatile political situation, and the sacking of the two officials is a scapegoat of the structural challenges that bedevil South Sudan.

Structurally, the primary reason why the conflict in South Sudan will not be ending anytime soon regards the distribution of wealth and the proceeds generated from the wealth. Internally and externally, conflicting interests among various groups have stalled the peace process and in any case, these groups continue to fuel the civil strife.

Internally, the desire to amass wealth is driving more entities into the war. Recently, Paul Malong, a former chief of staff of the army formed a rebel movement with the intention of fighting against the current administration which he considers to have failed in regards to restoring peace in the country.

Each of the existing militia groups seeks to impose some form of territorial control over the regions which are considered to be highly endowed with natural resources. The corrupt nature of the Salva Kiir led administration prompted the onset of the crisis with his family members and cronies looting the country’s national wealth at the expense of the ordinary South Sudanese citizens.

Transparency International ranks South Sudan at position 179 out of 180 countries as per the 2017 Corruption Perception Index report. This implies that South Sudan is an excessively corrupt state.

The question of who controls what in view of the natural resources is fundamental in understanding the genesis and nature of the conflict. From the exploration of oil, to gold mining activities as well as poaching and trafficking of wildlife, few individuals have strategically positioned themselves to benefit from the country’s natural resources.

With the economy grounded, oil exploration activities seem to be on a lull. But illicit trading of fuel is vibrant in the country an act that occasioned President Salva Kiir to issue a stern warning to the illegal fuel traders in July 2017.

However, the warning by the incompetent president can be regarded as a sideshow if the information documented in the Sentry Report is factual. The Sentry Report, titled “Fueling Atrocities: Oil and War in South Sudan”, outlines how funds from the oil exploration activities are used to fund militia groups and in due course aggravate the conflict.

According to the report, several militia groups exist among the Dinka community (Salva Kiir’s ethnic group) and they are tasked with protecting the oil reserves, an act that has led them to be widely known as the “Oil Protection Force.” The report further highlights on how the government finances the activities of the militia groups allied to the government.

Externally, geopolitical and geoeconomic factors continue to exacerbate the conflict in South Sudan. Both regional and foreign states have a hand in the unending crisis. The scramble for the natural resources in South Sudan and the benefits derived from the war occasion a number of states to hatch strategies intended to prolong the war.

In as much as the USA is vocal in pushing for the South Sudanese president to restore peace mainly through the use of sanctions and other threats, it cannot be denied that the American government is also responsible for the chaos.

With hindsight, the USA government played a primary role in the creation of the South Sudanese state. In fact, as highlighted by the Foreign Policy magazine, George W. Bush prioritized the creation of South Sudan in his foreign policy agenda.

Historically, the USA has greatly been involved in countries that are rich in oil and South Sudan is not an exception. The USA has a penchant of creating chaos and instability in order to profit economically from natural resources in states perceived as fragile. With Chinese presence in South Sudan being visible, USA may be using the chaos as a counter-strategy of China’s commercial interests in the country.

It is on record that the USA government declared President Salva Kiir as “an unfit partner.” Later on speaking before the United Nations Security Council, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley warned that “words are no longer sufficient” in regards to the ongoing civil war. Such sentiments are an indication of a gloomy situation perhaps involving the violent removal of Salva Kiir from power.

But the forceful removal of Salva Kiir as president will be recipe for more chaos and the state building process will be even harder than it is at the moment. History shows that USA’s violent interventions result in the formation of puppet governments working for the interest of USA rather than for the collective interest of the citizens.

Though China has actively intervened in the conflict contrary to the fundamental ideals of its hands-off foreign policy, it cannot be ruled out that Beijing supports the Kiir administration with weapons to fight the various rebel groups.

Furthermore, Ukraine was accused in May last year for supplying arms to the South Sudanese government. It cannot be ruled out at the moment that such a similar activity is going on.

Regionally, various states are responsible for the civil strife in South Sudan. For instance, Sudan has a hand in the chaos rocking the world’s youngest state. Before gaining independence, the south battled with the north for a record 22 years between 1983 and 2005 in what has come to be referred to as the Second Sudan Civil War.

Origin of the Second Sudan Civil War can be traced to the attempt by former Sudanese president, Gaafar Mohamed el-Nimeiri to create an Islamic state, a move which forced the southerners under the leadership of John Garang de Mabior to put up an armed struggle.

With the independence of the southerners, however, Khartoum’s nosiness in the affairs of Juba is a fundamental factor that has prolonged the conflict. This follows the disagreement between the north and the south over the oil-rich region of Abyei.

Abyei belongs to South Sudan but since it is endowed with a lot of oil, the north keeps preying on the oil with total disregard of the Abyei Protocol which required that the region holds a referendum to decide whether it belongs to the south or the north.

Currently, Khartoum continues to run the affairs of Abyei with President Omar al-Bashir declaring in February last year that the region was part of the north and ordered the residents to apply for identification documents as per the laws of Sudan.

Khartoum offers support, financially and militarily, to some of the rebel groups in South Sudan in order to prolong the conflict and in due course profit from the oil in Abyei.

Uganda’s interests in South Sudan play a major role in the conflict. Uganda is South Sudan’s largest trading partner with various Ugandan entities engaged in the trading of oil, agricultural produce like maize among other commodities. As reported in February last year, Uganda was set to import gold from South Sudan.

Military interventions of the Ugandan army serve to protect the interests of Kampala in South Sudan. Additionally, driven by the paranoia of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), President Yoweri Museveni finds a justification to stir the waters in South Sudan. The Ugandan government collectively supports the South Sudanese government and various militias so that Uganda can continue profiteering from the civil strife. Uganda is home to 1 million South Sudanese refugees and this means money from the West to the government and its cronies.

In January 2018, Adama Dieng, the U. N secretary general’s special adviser for the prevention of genocide, accused Kenya and Uganda of fueling the conflict by allowing weapons and ammunitions destined for South Sudan to pass through their territories.

The corrupt nature of the Kenyan and Ugandan governments is a precipitating factor for the shipment and transportation of large quantities of weapons and ammunitions to South Sudan.

Kenya and Uganda host a large number of South Sudanese nationals. Majority of the South Sudanese government officials and their families lead opulent lifestyles in Nairobi and Kampala. The rich government officials and their cronies as well as the wealthy individuals financing the militias profit from the civil war as the average and poor South Sudanese languish in destitution.

Resolving the conflict calls for setting up mechanisms to look into the distribution of the natural resources and/or wealth in the country. Until the question of “who profits from the natural resources” is effectively answered, chaos will continue rocking South Sudan.

This post was first published on The Africa Vigil

Friday, 11 May 2018

Let’s Address Electoral Injustice & Stop the Pretence

Embattled Chairman of IEBC.
Photo: Courtesy. 

Several weeks after the ‘handshake’ between Raila Odinga and Uhuru Kenyatta, political temperatures seem to have cooled down. The opinion shared by a significant majority of the Kenyan citizenry is the need to focus on development and not the political ballyhoo that was the norm during the electioneering period.

It is common for Kenyan politicians occupying various political offices to insist on the need to forget about what they term in their own words as unnecessary politicking.

Well, they might have invoked the thought of using commonsense whose rarity in Kenya’s political sphere is legendary.

One of the striking features of Kenya’s politics is the unnecessary politicking that has attained remarkable standards and grand notoriety. But sentiments laden with phrases such as unnecessary politicking often serve as statements of convenience to put off the politically incorrect folks calling for reforms or individuals keen to wrestle power from the incumbents.

Proponents of the notion that selectively encourages sections of the electorate to ignorantly embrace the development mantra and pretentiously forget about politics are, to say the least, an uninformed bunch of irresponsible politicians.

I cannot fail to express my displeasure and disappointment in regards to the false narration on the notion of promoting development regarded as the ultimate trade-off for the so-called unnecessary politicking. This is political brainwashing at its best.

Unbeknownst to many, development is a multidimensional concept and its narrow interpretation is a question of subjectivity.

The cunning and conniving Kenyan politicians religiously spin the misinformation that development is all about economic growth. They wouldn’t prioritize social and political development that are elemental in the structural transformation of a country.

And even as they pretentiously champion for economic growth and development, they tend to forget that economic reforms meant to address income inequalities, unemployment and the high cost of living are fundamentally important.

Unfortunately, the kind of development that is the politician’s best bet and metric for performance is that based on physical infrastructural projects such as roads and buildings most of which tend to be under-utilized and constructed based on voting patterns in a given constituency, nationally or locally.

Kenya’s political class has never been committed in promoting the country’s political development. The culture of impunity is deeply entrenched in the country’s political system, and worst of all, the electoral process is compromised with the electoral body’s independence jeopardized by the antics of the invisible political hand.

Vision 2030, whose attainment will be the greatest miracle of the 21st century, categorically outlines that Kenya’s development is to be propelled by three pillars namely the social pillar, economic pillar and political pillar.

The political pillar is to facilitate the entrenchment of democracy. A notable milestone under this pillar was the drafting and ratifying of a new constitution that replaced the old, tattered colonial legal relic that had been punctured for 47 years between 1963 and 2010.

But close to eight years after abandoning the fossilized colonial constitutional dispensation, whose observance was a matter of political correctness and convenience, nothing much has changed. The full implementation of the current constitution seems to be an option and not a duty for the government of the day.

For instance, the electoral process is still subject to manipulation with the independence of the electoral body only existing in name. With the benefit of hindsight, the conduct of the Independent Electoral & Boundaries Commission (IEBC) in the 2013 and 2017 general elections leaves a lot to be desired.

The two general elections reveal the total lack of seriousness to get over the electoral hangovers of Zacchaeus Chesoni and Samuel Kivuitu during the era of the defunct Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK).

After Kivuitu’s first class arrogance and unrivaled dalliance with the netherworld, following his cat-and-mouse games of releasing fabricated presidential results in 2007, majority of Kenyans believed that with the recommendations of the Kriegler Commission, electoral injustice would be addressed once and for all.

We were wrong. The power hungry political gods would hatch a conspiracy with the ghosts of Chesoni and Kivuitu to wreck IEBC’s intentions to deliver a credible election. The first IEBC team has an egg-faced history of siphoning taxpayers’ money through the procurement of fake kits meant for biometric voter registration at a cost of over Kshs. 9 billion.

The discredited and disgraced IEBC team under the wobbly leadership of Wanyonyi Chebukati is not in any way better than Issack Hassan’s team. Chebukati’s team is a true manifestation of world class incompetence.

Chebukati was set to fail from the onset. His dismal performance during the interviews to fill up vacant positions at the commission was a signal of the flippant leadership he brought to the electoral body. His wonky leadership created opportunities for manipulation of the electoral system set up by IEBC, and allowed commissioners to be compromised resulting in the annulment of the August 8th presidential election results.

Your’s truly holds a record, never mind whether it is a dubious or distinguished one, in deprecating Chebukati’s leadership from when he was interviewed for the country’s most difficult job. One of his colleagues, Roselyn Akombe, resigned last year, and recently the electoral body has witnessed the exodus of three other commissioners.

Apart from the intrigues facing the dishonoured electoral body, the country is now awash with the debate on the much hyped ‘Big Four’ policy agenda and the ‘handshake’. The ‘Big Four’ agenda degrades the relevance of political justice and democracy in development, and promotes the notion that economic development is more important.

Any sane economist would make a submission that democracy is elemental in the development process. However, authoritarian political regimes have also shown that economic growth and development can also be attained without the entrenchment of democracy.

But then democratic countries prosper economically when compared to authoritarian states whose economies falter when they disregard the need for political reforms. This is the path that the current administration has embraced; economics matters more than politics. This is a warped perception.

Conventional folks are banking on the unity office created as a result of the ‘handshake’ to address fundamental issues such as electoral injustice. Methinks that this won’t happen as the ‘handshake’ was an event born out of political interests.

If the Uhuru Kenyatta led administration was genuinely indebted to Kenya’s prosperity then at least political justice and electoral reforms should have featured in the much publicized ‘Big Four’ agenda.

To guarantee the country prosperity it is imperative that political justice, and in particular far-reaching electoral reforms, should be prioritized. Self-inflicted ignorance and arrogance livened through the “it is time for development” phrase is a denial of the challenges facing the Republic.


Wednesday, 11 April 2018

On Africa’s Free Trade Initiative: Grand Illusion or Breakthrough?

African leaders during the AfCFTA Summit.
Image: Courtesy

On 21st of March 2018 in the city of Kigali, 44 member states of the African Union (AU) ratified the establishment of the Continental Free Trade Area (CFTA). Ratification of the CFTA was the main agenda during the Extraordinary Summit on the African Continental Free Trade Area.

The Extraordinary Summit was a culmination of a series of meetings seeking to boost the intra-African trade which, according to the 2017 African Economic Outlook report, is estimated to be at 15% of Africa’s total trade. Comparatively, Africa’s trade with China and the European Union is at 15% and 30% respectively of the continent’s total trade.

Countless efforts have been made in the past to boost the intra-African trade, but it was during the 18th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the AU held in Addis Ababa in January 2012, that a definite plan was formulated to increase trade among African countries.

For instance, the Action Plan on Boosting Intra-Africa Trade (BIAT) was launched during the 18th Ordinary Session, and it highlights seven key clusters to promote trade among African countries. The pillars include trade policy, trade facilitation, productive capacity, trade-related infrastructure, trade finance, trade information and factor market integration.

Basis of CFTA Establishment
The overarching objective of the CFTA is the creation of a single continental market for commodities through the free movement of people and investments across Africa. CFTA is deemed as the precursor of the yet to be established Continental Customs Union and the African Customs Union.

With hindsight, approval of the Lagos Plan of Action in 1980 signaled the intention of African countries to promote economic development with the major highlight of the blueprint being the proposal to establish the African Common Market by the year 2000.

Furthermore, the foundation of the CFTA can also be traced to the Abuja Treaty of 1991 on establishing the African Economic Community (AEC), ratified by 51 heads of governments and states under the auspices of the then Organization of African Unity (OAU).

The Abuja Treaty envisages the establishment of the AEC by strengthening the regional economic blocs in the continent. As such, the Treaty outlines the establishment of the AEC within a period not exceeding 34 years from 1991, through a series of six stages.

Thus, as per this policy document, the AEC should be fully established by 2025 which is impossible bearing in mind the current realities.

More categorically, the sixth stage of the Abuja Treaty outlines that the establishment of the AEC will involve setting up of: the African Common Market, the African Monetary Union, the African Central Bank, and a single African currency among other integration activities.

Additionally, CFTA also has its foundations in the Tripartite Free Trade Area Agreement (TFTA) consented to on 10th June 2015 by 26 member states of the Common Market for Eastern & Southern Africa (COMESA), the East African Community (EAC), and the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

TFTA is expected to hasten trade activities between the ratifying states through elimination and harmonization of tariffs and non-tariff barriers.

African countries hope to achieve socio-economic development through cross-border trade enhanced by the CFTA framework.

Possible Opportunities?
For decades, Africa has been referred to as the continent with a very high potential in regards to socio-economic prosperity. Afro-optimists have even taken the game of potentiality to another level, a higher one of course, by coining the term ‘Africa Rising.’

A disturbing fact is that Africa has only lived to be defined on the basis of the aforementioned description. It is a subtle affirmation of why the ‘Africa Rising’ narrative is an amorphous view of the purported progress that Africa is making.

I do not endorse the general perception that Africa is rising. Africa cannot be rising as a whole when civil strife is the order of the day in a number of African states. Africa cannot be rising when poverty levels are on the increase. Africa cannot be rising when neo-colonialism is on an upward trajectory. It is that simple.

Far from that, African countries are set to unlock their high economic potential through the CFTA. With a population of 1.2 billion people it is expected that such a population will be a catalyst for the continent’s structural transformation - at this juncture it sounds as if the CFTA is the continent’s magic moment for socio-economic prosperity.

A high population can be advantageous as well as disadvantageous. It is advantageous in the sense that it offers a ready market for commodities and the European Union (EU), China and lately India have shown us that. However, this has to be reinforced with other factors critical in promoting economic growth and development such as innovation among others.

A high population is only disadvantageous when rates of economic growth and development registered are poor. And this has been the challenge facing African countries for decades.

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) estimates that operationalization of CFTA first by cutting the intra-African tariffs could generate $3.6 billion in welfare gains to Africa majorly through increased production and cheaper goods.

Africa’s economic potential will be unleashed by the CFTA primarily if free movement of people and commodities will take place. But during the launch of the CFTA in Kigali only 30 states signed the free movement protocol. This restricts the movement of people from one African country to another, with the mobility regarded as beneficial at least to some extent.

Challenges to CFTA
Establishment of the CFTA has been lauded as a crucial step towards the economic transformation of Africa, but there are challenges which threaten its take-off.

One of the challenges is neo-colonialism advanced by foreign powers. With China’s heightened global ambitions and take-over of Africa, in addition to the geo-political activities of nations such as USA and others, the expected rollout of the CFTA is set to falter.

An ambitious Africa is a threat to the global ambitions of the foreign states that control political and economic activities in the continent.

It will only take a few Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) conferences and the United States-Africa Leaders Summit meetings to change the CFTA equation, with Beijing and Washington organizing these conferences on the basis of “renewed interest in Africa” theme.

In addition, the flippant nature of majority of Africa’s political leaders is a challenge to the success of the CFTA. On several occasions, Africa leaders have gracefully appended their signatures to a number of declarations seeking to promote social, economic and political development of the continent.

But amid all the fanfare witnessed during such declarations, implementation of the approved policy proposals is done in an erratic manner and dubious fashion. Take the case of the Malabo Declaration and the Maputo Declaration meant to address Africa’s food insecurity and food production levels.

Political leaders in Africa have to endear themselves to the ideals of the CFTA and show unrivalled commitment. CFTA is bound to fail with subpar political goodwill.

The notion of open borders is not only a threat to the success of the CFTA but also to the unity of Africans. There are various research studies in support for open borders with one such study being a working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research.  

A common argument for open borders is the increase in productivity for a country where immigrants settle with such people remitting a significant proportion of their earnings or transferring essential skills and technology to their mother countries.

However, various dynamics must be taken into consideration regarding the notion of open borders in view of free movement of people among African countries. African countries have higher rates of unemployment and this is dangerous with the idea of open borders.

Africa’s largest economies by GDP, the most advanced economies, and generally economically stable countries are naturally bound to attract immigrants. But such countries including Nigeria, South Africa, Botswana, Kenya and others have high rates of unemployment.

So, an influx of immigrants to such countries will create tensions with the citizens who will harbor perceptions of their jobs being taken away by non-citizens. The xenophobic attacks in South Africa over the years offer insight into this matter, and perhaps it informed the decision by the governments of South Africa, Nigeria and others not to sign the free movement protocol.

Nationalist sentiments centred on immigration spawned by open borders may occasion some of the African countries to withdraw from the CFTA arrangement or maybe the AEC in the event that the envisaged transition takes place. Brexit and USA’s imminent exit from NAFTA offer insightful lessons.

CFTA will create economic prosperity in Africa, but its success depends on institutional factors such as eradication of corruption, peace, economic and political rights, and generally, competent political leadership.

And depending on what happens next, CFTA can either be a grand illusion or a breakthrough for Africa’s economic prosperity.

This article first appeared on theafricavigil.wordpress.com. 

Friday, 23 March 2018

How Will Recent Political Events in China Affect Africa?

Image: Courtesy.
On Saturday March 17th 2018, China’s legislature – the National People’s Congress - approved the reappointment of Xi Jinping as the nation’s president with no term limits. This political event was a follow up to the 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China  (CPC) held in October 2017 during which Xi was confirmed as the General Secretary of the CPC for a second five-year term.

Apart from Jinping’s confirmation as CPC’s General Secretary for another term, the 19th National Congress also immortalized the Chinese president by indoctrinating his ideologies – the Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era - into the party’s Constitution.

Lately, there are grand intentions to also incorporate the Xi Jinping Thought into the national Constitution of the People’s Republic of China.

Xi Jinping’s speech delivered to the 19th National Congress of the CPC highlighted key principles which his administration seeks to pursue and strengthen.

The immortalization of Xi Jinping’s ideologies, the Xi Jinping Thought, follows a precedence set by the CPC to indoctrinate the policy agenda of the party’s revered leaders as the ultimate guiding principles/ideologies of the ruling party.

Previously, the CPC adopted the Mao Ze Dong Thought as the guiding ideology in 1945 during the party’s 7th Congress though its ‘leftist mistakes’, as documented in the Educational Philosophy & Theory Journal, were corrected during the 12th Congress in 1982.

At the party’s 15th National Congress in 1997, the Deng Xiaoping Theory of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics was established as CPC’s guiding theory. This had been preceded by the indoctrination of the Deng Xiaoping Theory into the party’s constitution during the 14th Congress held in 1992.

Additionally, Jiang Zemin’s Theory of Three Represents was incorporated into CPC’s constitution in 2002, and Hu Jintao’s theory, the Scientific Outlook on Development was ratified into the party’s constitution in 2012.

It can be observed that Mao’s and Xi’s policy agenda are classified as “thoughts” while Jiang’s and Hu’s policy frameworks are described as “theories.” As noted by Zoe Jordan, a Thought, in view of CPC’s constitutional doctrine, “incorporates a body of related ideas into a shared worldview whereas a Theory reflects a mandate relevant to a specific era or relative state of thinking”.

Thence, it follows that Xi Jinping is considered the second most powerful leader of the People’s Republic of China after Mao Ze Dong.

Generally, Xi’s Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era endeavors to strengthen the Deng Xiaoping Theory that has guided China’s development, internally and externally, for close to four decades.

Externally, in terms of foreign policy and strategy, Deng’s ideology fronted a China that focuses on self-advancement without exhibiting aggressive tendencies to shape international affairs. As written by Son Daekwon, Deng Xiaoping stated that, “keep a low profile and bide your time”, and also remarked at one time that, “By no means should China take the lead.”

But with the New Era premised on the Xi Jinping Thought, China is poised to rejuvenate her ambitions as a global power and leader based on Xi’s speech at the 19th Congress as quoted by Daekwon; China will actively pursue a more nuanced global role as “constructor of global peace, a contributor to development of global governance, and a protector of international order.”

Therefore, what does this mean for Africa?

Africa in Context of China’s New Era Ambitions
For Africa, Xi’s intention of a globally powerful and rejuvenated China is not as threatening as it is to the West. The West for a long time discredited China’s model of economic development and political system but China has consistently proven that democracy and market fundamentalism, as known to the West, are not prerequisites for structural transformation and development.

However, as Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson argue out in the book “Why Nations Fail”, democracy is not a necessary condition for kick-starting the process of development, but it helps in sustaining the virtuous circle of economic prosperity for eternity.

With the inroads that China has made in Africa over the past decade having been based on “development” and “non-interference” with the political affairs of African states, that perhaps is bound to change with the re-invention of Xi Jinping’s global politico-economic ambitions.

China’s economic conquest of Africa outfoxed the foreign policy strategy that the West has pretended to champion for ages; promoting the establishment of democratic institutions. But one wonders why the West led by the nosy USA has had a penchant of supporting autocratic regimes in Africa.

That doesn’t mean that China’s foreign policy strategy is the most preferred, unless by majority of African leaders who exhibit autocratic tendencies. China is well known for not prioritizing the rights of individuals and her political history supports this statement.

Formalization of the Xi Jinping Thought and invention of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era imply that Chinese engagement with African states may shift from one anchored on “development” and “political non-interference”, to a foreign policy strategy where the Chinese seek to alter the political architecture of African countries.

What escapes most people’s minds is that China cannot hotly pursue the world’s superpower status through economics alone. It has to tilt the global geo-political and geo-economic scales by influencing the political order of a significant number of countries in the world like what the Soviet Union did during the Cold War.

Africa is likely to witness a resurgent China that will be exporting her political ideologies to the continent. This doesn’t augur well for most Africans who have relentlessly pursued the ideals and values of democracy.

In regards to Africa’s political trajectory, majority of African countries will nonetheless embrace the Chinese political model and ideologies. As a matter of fact, Africa’s political space is marked by a low level of democratic capital and a high level of democratic deficit.

This creates a favourable political environment for the African states to retrogress from establishing democratic institutions, and to embark on building and strengthening a political trajectory that fashions autocratic institutions.

And with majority of African governments being tied to China’s development agenda through the so-called cheap Chinese government loans, the assured long association between Africa and Beijing will certainly create fodder for the latter to export her political ideologies to African states.

It won’t be a surprise that a few years from now majority of African states would have drifted away and departed from the idea of democracy while gladly and blindly embracing the notion of autocracy with the so-called benevolent dictators roaming wild in the continent.

The West Responds, Africa Suffers
Former colonial masters and thereafter passionate neo-colonialists, but nonetheless colonialists, the West continues to influence social, political and economic activities in Africa. Long before China officially bagged Africa as her overseas neo-colony, Western states largely controlled the affairs of African countries though they still do so at the moment.

From granting African states cosmetic independence to shuffling them like cards during the Cold War; to wrecking and crippling their economies through the nefarious and nebulous economic policies known as structural adjustment programmes (SAPs); to orchestrating coupe d’├ętats, and advocating for democratic institutions while at the same time supporting dictators, Africa has seen enough of the West’s experiments.

With China’s emergence as Africa’s new neo-colonial master, the West changed tact in Africa as evidenced by the covers of The Economist magazine in a span of ten years; in 2000, it was “The hopeless continent”, and in 2011 it was “Africa rising.” Was Africa rising because of China?

The Economist’s cover title of “Africa rising” came two years after China surpassed the USA as Africa’s largest trading partner, and so the title was one way of informing the Western governments that they should be more aggressive in Africa as the Chinese had taken over. It wasn’t about Africa rising!

Daggers are drawn! With the invention of the Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era, the West is watching particularly the USA. USA and her allies will intensify their activities in Africa.

China’s entrance into the so-called New Era already began with Xi’s global ambitions; first, through his politico-lingual invention of the Chinese Dream, and secondly through the ambitious One Belt One Road Initiative (OBOR).

Response by USA plus her allies to China’s New Era ambitions may negatively affect majority of African states. USA and the Western league at large will use any means necessary to counter China’s move. They will increase their support for despotic and dictatorial regimes in Africa if need be as long as it proves to be an effective strategy in countering China.

Africa is set to witness an increase in the amount of aid from the West as a counter measure strategy to China’s New Era ambitions. As it has been the norm, whether the aid will be directed to address the fabricated goals or will be embezzled or even unaccounted for won’t bother the West as long as the geo-political objectives are achieved.

So, with China’s bold entrance into the New Era theatre and with USA’s much expected response, Africa will gain in terms of aid and infrastructural development but will also lose; drifting away from the idea of democracy, intensified economic dependence, loss of political independence, proxy wars and economic stagnation.

Will African states find their footing amid China’s renewal of her global ambitions?

This article was first published at theafricavigil.wordpress.com.

The writer can be contacted through sitatiwasilwa13@gmail.com.