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Re: [Gabon Discussion] Re: Bongo Banishes Edzombolo

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  • dupont3@juno.com
    Wow That is a big flipside! Imagine being held(tortured) at Guantanamo Bay for 5 years just because you are a journalist covering an illegal war! I support
    Message 1 of 2 , Mar 6, 2007
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      Wow That is a big flipside! Imagine being held(tortured) at Guantanamo
      Bay for 5 years just because you are a journalist covering an illegal war!

      I support President Bongo of Gabon because I really believe that it is
      more important to have stability(peace)in a country. We live in a world
      now where the major problem is the covert attempts to colonialize
      countries thru warmongering and intimidation. The US is the #1
      instrument of this policy right now. If you have the time Wiki
      Operation Gladio to see how western powers try to plant seeds of unrest
      and destabilize governments. After becoming knowledgable about that
      stuff a person might come to better appreciate the 39 years of
      stability that President Bongo has achieved in Gabon.

      Ciao,
      dupont


      -- "bobutne" <bobutne@...> wrote:
      On the other side of that coin-

      http://www.cpj.org/news/2007/americas/usa05mar07na.html







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    • bobutne
      China in Africa: It s (Still) the Governance, Stupid Akwe Amosu | March 9, 2007. Foreign Policy In Focus www.fpif.org Deep inside the tropical forest of Gabon,
      Message 2 of 2 , Mar 9, 2007
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        China in Africa: It's (Still) the Governance, Stupid
        Akwe Amosu | March 9, 2007. Foreign Policy In Focus www.fpif.org

        Deep inside the tropical forest of Gabon, 500 miles from the coast,
        China is going where no other investors dare. A Chinese consortium,
        led by the China National Machinery and Equipment Import and Export
        Corporation, has won the contract to develop Gabon's massive Belinga
        iron ore deposit. In return for purchasing the entire output, Chinese
        operators will build not only the extractive infrastructure at
        Belinga but a hydro-electric dam to power it, a railway to the coast,
        and a deepwater port north of the capital, Libreville, for exporting
        the ore.

        This venture will cost several billion dollars, and China will have
        to wait three years before any ore is actually extracted. Since the
        site was identified in 1955, no Western investors had stepped forward
        to develop it. But with the support of its entire state machine,
        Chinese companies are now taking the risk.

        China's march into Africa has reminded pundits of those two
        proverbial elephants fighting. Evoking the battle between East and
        West, they opine that it will be the grass that suffers.

        But times have changed. Back in the first colonial scramble, only the
        imperialists were at the table to carve up the continent among
        themselves. These days, far from being a victim, Africa is at the
        table too and cutting deals with enthusiasm. China negotiates with
        Gabon's sovereign government over the development of Belinga's iron
        ore, not with the former colonial power, France. The debate is no
        longer about whether East or West is winning the competition.

        The grass may yet suffer, however. Africa's peoples need to be as
        wary of being trampled underfoot by their own governments as they are
        of foreign powers. There are grave doubts about how well African
        governments are representing their stakeholders and whether Africa's
        negotiating capacity is up to scratch. The jury is out on whether
        Africa can convert Chinese cash into development.

        The Scope of Chinese Interest
        Few issues have generated as much heat in recent African affairs as
        China's engagement in the continent. China has been pushing increased
        investment and cheap credit into Africa for at least five years. But
        the astonishing levels of expenditure and the breadth of Chinese
        involvement reached levels in 2006 that focused minds in the West and
        provoked much media hyperbole.

        In 1991, Chinese direct investment in Africa was less than five
        million dollars a year. By 1994, it was around $25 million and by
        1999 just short of $100 million. Just seven years later, He Wenping,
        director of the African Studies division in the Chinese Academy of
        Social Sciences, believes that direct Chinese investment in Africa
        reached $1.25 billion in 2006. The People's Daily and other analysts
        suggest a number over $6 billion. China's trade with Africa has
        followed a similar pattern, rising from only $12 million in the 1980s
        to $10 billion in 2000 and then to as high as $55 billion in 2006. It
        is surely no coincidence that Africa, in turn, has seen economic
        growth. GDP growth was negative on average from 1975 to 1984,
        rollercoastered some more in the 1990s, but is now repeatedly above
        5%.

        China, meanwhile, has been growing at just short of 10% a year for
        the past four years and reached 10.7% in 2006. Such growth, in a
        country and an economy that size, generates a huge appetite for
        inputs. Electricity demand is so high that last year China added new
        power capacity "equal to the entire capacity of the UK and Thailand
        combined, or about twice the generating assets of California." China
        overtook Japan to become the world's second largest oil consumer in
        2003 and now trails only the United States.

        In its engagement with Africa, China certainly aims to build a
        political constituency for its much-touted "peaceful development."
        But its primary interest is petroleum and raw materials. If Beijing's
        goal of quadrupling the size of the economy by 2020 is to be met,
        energy consumption, and therefore demand, will climb even higher.
        Africa has resources in abundance but almost no capacity to process
        those resources: a perfect opportunity for a rising economy like
        China. Africa can supply its raw inputs and also provide a market for
        China's manufactured products.

        Over 800 Chinese companies, the vast majority of them state-owned,
        are operating in 49 African countries. These companies are the
        forward edge of China's operations, although they are backed up by
        frequent visits by top-level officials to seal deals and smooth their
        path. China is either drilling or exploring for oil in Nigeria,
        Sudan, Angola, Algeria, Chad, Gabon, Mauritania, Kenya, Congo
        Brazzaville, Equatorial Guinea, and Ethiopia - and this list is not
        exhaustive. China purchases 64% of Sudan's production, which accounts
        for around 6% of its oil imports. Angola contributes half of the oil
        China buys from Africa. Beyond oil, China is extracting copper and
        cobalt from Zambia and Congo. It is buying timber in Gabon, Cameroon,
        Mozambique, Equatorial Guinea, and Liberia. It buys platinum and
        chrome from Zimbabwe and iron ore, coal, nickel, and aluminum from
        several other locations.

        In each of these countries, the Chinese and the government in
        question will sign a broad-spectrum "package deal" that gives the
        African partner a number of rewards, featuring a mix of cash,
        investment, cheap credit, technical expertise and training, and in-
        kind benefits such as new presidential palaces and stadiums, or cheap
        infrastructure such as roads, dams, and railways. The Chinese agreed
        to such an aid package involving major infrastructural investment for
        Angola, which is Africa's second largest oil producer and the
        continent's lead supplier to China. A $2 billion line of credit was
        announced in 2004, but since then available finance has risen to a
        reported $6 billion, over several years, to finance a raft of
        different projects such as hospitals, schools, roads, bridges,
        housing, office buildings, training programs, and the laying of
        fiberoptic cable. China's diplomatic support in international fora
        has also proved notoriously handy, for example, for President Bashir
        of Sudan. Other, less contentious elements include contributing to
        Africa's peacekeeping missions, sending medical aid teams to
        supplement struggling health services, and training and education
        opportunities for African students in China.

        China is effectively making Africa an integral part of its economic
        development for decades to come. Africa has not seen inward flows of
        this volume in all the post-independence years. This is not only a
        matter of cash but also the linkages, backward and forward, into
        Chinese and African markets and into government policy and planning.
        To continue arguing about the desirability of the relationship no
        longer makes any sense. China's deep penetration in, and increasing
        integration with Africa is an established fact. Much has been made of
        Washington's decision to announce its new African Command while
        Chinese President Hu Jintao was on his latest tour of Africa -- as if
        to warn China that the United States will protect its African
        interests. But even if China's rivals in the West wanted to roll back
        this expansion, there seems little chance that they could do so.

        A New Development Model?
        For Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, the inflow of investment
        from China is a concrete demonstration that the Western model of
        development has failed. He spoke in February 2007 of the need to
        build "a strong developmental state" complaining that "neo-liberal
        reforms" advocated by the World Bank and others have failed
        to "generate the kind of growth they sought." The only kind of good
        governance that takes root, he suggested, is home grown, not imposed
        from outside. The implication is that African leaders should worry
        less about meeting demands for transparency, accountability, rule of
        law, and other such "neo-liberal" objectives and focus instead on
        economic growth. With China in the picture, they will find the
        resources they need.

        It is true that Africa seems to be bucking conventional Western
        assumptions on investment. In a recent review of the determinants of
        FDI in Africa, Elizabeth Asiedu claims that "large local markets,
        natural resource endowments, good infrastructure, low inflation, an
        efficient legal system and a good investment framework promote FDI.
        In contrast, corruption and political instability have the opposite
        effect." Yet China does not seem to have been deterred from investing
        in African countries despite large-scale "corruption and political
        instability" on the continent.

        Indeed, some of China's investments go hand in hand with supporting
        such corruption and instability. Chinese negotiators and businesses
        routinely pay bribes to secure deals. Transparency International's
        International Bribe Payers Index, published in October 2006, found
        that China was second most likely, after India, to pay bribes abroad.
        Civil society activists have argued that Chinese assistance has saved
        countries such as Angola and Kenya from having to comply with
        pressure from other international partners to improve performance on
        transparency and accountability.

        China has also exploited Africa's propensity to engage in civil
        conflict. The Congressional Research Service in Washington estimates
        that between 2001 and 2004, China was the continent's third largest
        arms supplier (after Russia and Germany), supplying nearly 7% of
        Africa's military purchases. The impact outweighs the volume,
        particularly because of China's willingness to sell weapons to some
        of the continent's most repressive rulers, including Bashir of Sudan
        and Mugabe of Zimbabwe, and to buyers who then feed them into active
        conflicts. Light weapons from China have flooded into the Great Lakes
        area, where millions have died as a result of civil conflict.

        In short, corruption and conflict do not seem to deter China; it is
        hungry enough for oil and minerals to overlook these factors when
        making investment decisions. Still, China's indifference does not
        mean that governance and related factors are not important for
        Africa's economic development. Unsurprisingly, the top recipients of
        FDI in Africa are oil- and mineral-producing nations, with poor
        governance and stability records. But also among them is South
        Africa, which is not a major producer of petroleum and whose mineral
        sector is already intensively operated. South Africa makes it into
        the top rank of FDI winners because its economy is well run. The
        country's governance is of a high standard. There is accountability
        and rule of law, corruption is relatively low, and stability is
        guaranteed, notwithstanding a serious crime problem. While the bulk
        of FDI flows into other African nations are mostly concentrated in
        the extractive industries, in South Africa they fuel a diverse array
        of sectors. Thus if we remove oil and China's appetite from the
        picture, we find South Africa's competitive advantage is supreme and
        the reforms Prime Minister Meles rejects are indeed critical to
        capturing foreign investment.

        But Asiedu - with other economists - makes another point equally
        significant for Africa's development. She notes that the supply of
        FDI does not necessarily trigger the growth that leads to
        development. Countries with significant oil and mineral deposits
        winning high volumes of FDI – such as Equatorial Guinea and Angola –
        frequently fail to spread the benefits. The purchase of goods and
        services may expand inside particular enclaves without stimulating
        employment and services in the broader economy. Several factors
        prevent sustainable growth, including high unemployment and high
        rates of corruption, low educational levels, low rates of domestic
        savings, and low citizen confidence in government; all may persist
        despite intense investment in specific resources. Conversely,
        countries that invest the windfall profits from petroleum or minerals
        in the broader economy, while respecting the rule of law and
        maintaining healthy legal and financial systems, do better at
        promoting equitable development, even if they attract investment
        largely into the extractive sector. Botswana, with its effective use
        of diamond revenues, is a case in point.

        Some African leaders, such as the ruling party in Angola and perhaps
        Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles as well, have seized on the idea of a
        Chinese model of development - involving an autocratic and
        unaccountable commandist political economy – as an effective
        alternative to Western-style reform. Yet the idea that there is no
        accountability in China's development model is wrong, even if the
        lines of accountability do not look much like the ones advocated by
        the World Bank. It is not autocracy in China that has brought
        development – quite the reverse. China's transition, while it still
        relies on its legacy of a commandist system, is advancing because it
        is incrementally reducing autocracy and opening space for choice and
        diverse approaches.

        The truth is that the barriers to Africa's development are to be
        found at home not abroad. Africa's fundamental challenge remains – to
        find a homegrown model to overcome centuries of lost human and
        material assets and build value at home. Indeed, China's investment
        puts the ball firmly in Africa's court. Time and again African
        governments complain that they cannot deliver development due either
        to a lack of support or to interference from the West. But the
        resources, as Beijing likes to say, now come with "no strings
        attached." Any failure to share growth and put Chinese earnings to
        work will not be China's fault but that of the African recipient
        government.

        Some countries are aiming high. Last year, for example, Ghana's
        establishment of institutions and conditions favorable to national
        and international trade aroused China's interest and led to an
        increase in Chinese trade. The Ghanaian government encouraged its
        private sector to lead in conducting economic activities with Chinese
        entrepreneurs.

        Ultimately the greatest challenge is not to persuade China to
        practice responsible global governance – though this is very
        important – but to prevent African leaders from squandering the
        tremendous opportunities offered by Chinese capital. To take full
        advantage, African leaders need to address two questions; how to cut
        deals with China that leave lasting value in Africa and how to
        empower constituencies at home.

        Let's Make a Better Deal
        Despite Chinese rhetoric about the "win-win" nature of the
        relationship with Africa, the African side of the table could drive a
        harder bargain. It is a common complaint that when China contracts to
        deliver infrastructure projects in return for raw materials, it
        insists on the use of mostly Chinese labor, even in situations where
        African labor is abundant and desperate for opportunities to acquire
        new skills. The practice continues, despite the criticism. In another
        example, the Nigerian government did not foresee or seek to limit the
        damage done by cheap Chinese imports drowning its fledgling plastics
        and textile industries. And the Zambian government's failure to
        require of Chinese employers reasonable employment standards has
        resulted in violent confrontation and political disaffection in the
        Copperbelt.

        An African Union meeting of experts and diplomats in September 2006
        warned that the China-Africa relationship should not follow the
        pattern of relations with the West. Participants certainly
        appreciated that Chinese investment gave Africa new leverage. But
        there was also criticism that China was making "no serious effort"
        to "transfer skills and knowledge to Africa" and relied excessively
        on labor from home. In a list of challenges for both sides,
        presenters at the meeting stressed the importance of
        industrialization and ending Africa's seeming perpetual reliance on
        export of raw, unprocessed materials; on improving structure of trade
        deals, and preventing an increase in Africa's debt, finding
        mechanisms to ensure China pays more attention to environmental
        damage. China, it was said, should be encouraged to relocate some of
        its industries to Africa "as a reflection of a true spirit of
        partnership."

        The report from this meeting concluded that "the African Union should
        be the fulcrum of the emerging Strategic Partnership and should be
        able to define the continent's interest more coherently and clearly."
        Africa needs a strategy for China just as China has a strategy for
        Africa.

        To succeed, that strategy might rely on collective bargaining. All
        China's deals on the continent have been negotiated with governments
        bilaterally, and the details are not made public. But at a pan-
        African level, China is perceived to have acquired too much power and
        leverage in its bilateral deals to the extent that disadvantageous
        agreements are being concluded. It is hard to imagine China accepting
        the target proposed in the report of 70% of all Africa's raw
        materials to be processed on African soil, or even that joint
        ventures should use 80% African labor. But even progress toward such
        targets is hard to achieve without increasing leverage. Several
        commentators, notably economist Chris Alden, have outlined new,
        potentially fruitful approaches for African negotiators; such inputs
        are likely to be pushed to the fore as the pan-African leadership
        advocates its strategies.

        So far, China has proved ready to adjust as Africa begins to flex its
        muscle. South Africa's president Mbeki warned late in 2006 of the
        risk that Africa could fall into a colonial relationship with China.
        In February 2007, during his eight-nation African tour, President Hu
        Jintao went out of his way to promise that China would work to make
        the trade relationship more balanced. He also said Chinese companies
        would be encouraged "to increase investment, provide technical and
        management training and help Africa develop processing and
        manufacturing industries so as to ease employment pressure and
        enhance competitiveness of its exports." The key vehicle for that
        encouragement, the China-Africa Development Fund will direct $5
        billion toward encouraging Chinese companies to invest in Africa.

        China may lose some negotiating advantage if African countries can
        start to collaborate and cut better deals, but there could be
        benefits as well; Beijing might find it easier to deal with
        Africa "in bulk." Chinese policy analysts in Beijing in November 2006
        told a visiting delegation from Washington, D.C. that managing
        relations and obligations with dozens of countries bilaterally was
        proving cumbersome. They were looking to the Africans to establish a
        joint body that might coordinate and bundle African needs and
        concerns.

        Holding China and Africa Accountable
        To maximize the benefits of the Chinese windfall, as argued above,
        Africa needs to deepen its commitment to better governance and cut a
        more advantageous deal with Beijing. But there is a third major shift
        in attitude that is critical for Africa's future. Non-governmental
        stakeholders need to be empowered and encouraged to hold both the
        Chinese and their own governments to account. Ultimately this will
        improve both the quality of governance and of the relationship with
        China.

        This is critical for African governments but it could help China too.
        China is most comfortable dealing state-to-state with Africa. Its
        engagement in Africa has been remarkable for its focus on government
        officials and avoidance of less formal contacts. As a result, Chinese
        diplomats and officials in Africa have missed out on learning from
        two key constituencies: business and civil society. They too need to
        pay more attention to non-governmental voices.

        Many African businesspeople have good reason to rue China's impact on
        their lives While the benefits of Chinese investment have spread only
        partially to the rest of the economy, trade has brought Chinese
        manufactures into the markets at prices too low for African
        manufacturers to beat. Nascent African industry making plasticware
        and textiles, for example, face competition from a player with deeper
        pockets than they and no aversion to producing counterfeit goods.
        Similarly, Chinese firms are able to bid for building contracts and
        other service provision at lower prices than African competitors can
        manage. African trade unions and others have collected extensive
        evidence that hundreds of thousands of African jobs have been lost as
        a result. And in South Africa, it was protests by these same trade
        unions that galvanized President Mbeki to warn China, late in 2006,
        that dumping of goods had to stop. In a similar vein, protests from
        Zambia's civil society, given powerful voice by opposition party
        leader Michael Sata, have exposed Chinese labor practices in its
        extractive sector businesses.

        The views of African populations find expression not only through
        government but through their non-governmental representatives.
        Governments like that of Ethiopia's Meles, which brushed away
        criticism over its shooting of 82 defenseless civilians in 2005 for
        protesting in the streets, are apparently puzzled by the suggestion
        that they need to be more accountable. But others less preoccupied
        with keeping themselves in power at all costs will find, if they
        allow non-governmental voices to be heard, that they can be allies in
        the relationship with China.

        Neither business nor civil society takes a rigidly anti-China view.
        The former, rather than rejecting Chinese investment, has mostly
        complained about not having sufficient opportunity to take advantage
        of the capital inflow. African civil society voices who advocate
        better government and civil and political rights at home have
        applauded the Chinese for investing in infrastructure, a no-go area
        for Western donors for decades, and recognized the qualitative
        contrast between the hands-on pragmatism of Chinese expatriates and
        Western development efforts from inside the air-conditioned Land
        cruiser.

        But such groups have also criticized their governments for the lack
        of transparency in deals made with China and asked hard questions
        about the payment of bribes, colonial-style attitudes and the lack of
        jobs for Africans. As Zainab Bangura of Sierra Leone's National
        Accountability Group commented recently: "We've spent 15 years
        working on conventions against corruption and now the Chinese come in
        and they haven't signed any of it. They're secretive and will only
        deal with governments, they don't consult civil society or anyone."
        On a broader agenda, civil society coalitions like the Darfur
        Consortium that represent over 50 organizations have shown leadership
        in protesting the carnage and human rights abuse in Darfur, Sudan,
        and added their voices to international calls on China to use its
        leverage with Khartoum.

        By listening to and acknowledging such critiques, African governments
        and their sub-regional and regional organizations can gain leverage
        in their negotiations with China. Beijing likes to be seen in Africa
        as a "brother" nation, in solidarity with Africans. It will take
        African critiques more seriously than Western complaints. Some
        African governments, particularly those worst affected by the
        resource curse, clearly have no intention or desire to become more
        accountable or push back in their relations with China. These
        arguments will cut no ice with them. But China may choose to seek out
        and get to know African civil society anyway. China's new integration
        into African economies is proving to carry some alarming risks.
        Investment and operation in the Niger Delta have put Chinese oil
        workers in harm's way, making them suddenly vulnerable to militants
        and hostage-takers. In Darfur, Chinese oil installations have been
        attacked. China cannot afford to put all its eggs in government
        baskets.

        Inevitably, regardless of official attitudes, informal non-
        governmental encounters between China and Africa will increase.
        Hundreds of thousands of Chinese citizens have moved, legally or
        illegally, to African countries. Some 24 African countries are now
        approved as destinations for Chinese holidaymakers, not only a good
        source of revenue for African tourism industries but a guarantee of
        an unprecedented level of person-to-person contact. In addition, with
        three Confucius Institutes in South Africa, Kenya, and Rwanda, many
        more Africans will learn about Chinese culture and study Chinese
        language. China's ministry of education believes 8,000 Africans are
        currently learning Chinese. With five more Confucius Institutes
        projected, that number will rise sharply, with a potentially
        lubricant impact on cooperation.

        At some point in the future Chinese citizens too might grow more
        concerned about China's role in Africa. At the recent World Social
        Forum in Nairobi, Chinese groups focused on domestic Chinese issues
        found themselves assailed by Western NGOs and, to a lesser extent,
        African groups, over Chinese government and corporate practices in
        Africa. In a shrinking world, we are only just beginning to see the
        consequences of China's opening up to other cultures and communities.

        For non-governmental Africa in these new times, the choice is not
        between China and the West. The important choice must be made closer
        to home. On one side are the rulers who are too lazy, incompetent, or
        venal to take the necessary steps to share the benefits of investment
        and give Africa's populations the chance to build a viable economic
        future. On the other side is the real leadership of presidents,
        business leaders, and legislatures who have the self-discipline,
        honesty, and commitment to set a new course and use the unprecedented
        benefits of Chinese investment to achieve some real development.

        Don't focus so much on the elephants. The future of Africa lies with
        the grass.


        Akwe Amosu is a senior policy analyst for Africa at the Washington
        Office of the Open Society Institute and a contributor to Foreign
        Policy In Focus (www.fpif.org).
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