This Week Africa: Unpacking the Chinese Goody Bag

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‘We’ are all back from the summer break in Beijing. It was a wonderful outing, this week, for African presidents and their close allies, or, to be more formal, officials. How they wish FOCAC was a monthly summit.

The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation began on Monday and ended on Tuesday in Beijing -many of the presidents were in China from last week Friday by the way- as the Chinese government and African countries sealed new agreements to enhance their trade relations.

China ‘offered’ the continent another wonderful goodybag of $60 billion.Let us unpack the bag:

  • $15 billion of aid, interest-free loans and concessional loans
  • a credit line of $20 billion
  • a $10 billion special fund for China-Africa development
  • a $5 billion special fund for imports from Africa
  • Chinese companies to invest no less than $10 billion in the continent in the next three years
  • old debts from China’s interest free loans due by the end of 2018 will be written off for indebted poor countries, developing nations in the continent’s interior and small island nations
  • China will carry out 50 projects on green development and environmental protection in Africa, focusing on fighting climate change, desertification and wildlife protection
  • inclusion of Africa in the Belt and Road Initiative to link China by sea and land with Southeast and Central Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Africa through an infrastructure network modelled on the old Silk Road
  • China to set up a peace and security fund and a related forum
  • continuous provision of free military assistance to the African Union
  • a pledge of $126 billion, to help provide more resources and facilities for Africa and expand shared markets.

And President Xi Jinping ends with the statement:

“China’s cooperation with Africa is clearly targeted at the major bottlenecks to development. Resources for our cooperation are not to be spent on any vanity projects but in places where they count the most”.

So, should we say ‘congratulations’ to ourselves for all the wonderful things? This cooperation with China is good if African leaders are people-driven like the Chinese.

While we leak our fingers from the FOCAC candy, DR Congo is boiling in politics on the one hand and battling the hydra-headed ebola on the other. It has been pretty difficult for the health agencies to bring the recent outbreak under control, with death toll above 80. Right now, there are reports that the virus has spread to Butembo, a city that has links with Uganda.

Former Vice President of the country, Jean-Pierre Bemba, is not being allowed to challenge for the presidency in the December elections as the Constitutional Court upheld the earlier decision made by the electoral body, on grounds of his criminal charges by the ICC. Bemba and his supporters are yet to make their opinions known over the matter and one can only hope they go about it peacefully.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Human Rights (UNHR) issued a press statement on Friday to caution the government of man-handling opposition political activists. They gave instances of unwarranted arrests, unaccounted killings and detention of some persons who were involved in protests saying there should be a soft-pedalling so the 23 December election can be peaceful.

Ex-President Robert Mugabe (one would bet he -or his wife- really missed the latest Beijing trip!) has finally conceded ‘defeat’ to the incumbent President Emmerson Mnangagwa, whom he publicly announced he would never support before the July elections.

Mr Mugabe was seen in public during the funeral of his mother-in-law days ago and openly said that the man who ‘tormented him out of the office’, Mnangagwa, was the the rightful winner of the election, without any doubt. The old man must be tired now; he wanted to deal a last blow by helping to install Nelson Chamisa. But it was a weak one; or Chamisa was not the right glove for the blow.

Rwanda has concluded its parliamentary election over the week, without much ado, according to conclusion of the AU Election Observation Mission (AUEOM)  that said it was ‘peaceful, free and fair’.

As expected, the ruling Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) maintained its dominance in the Chamber of Deputies, the lower house, according to preliminary results released by the National Electoral Commission.

The RPF-led coalition, which also includes six smaller parties, garnered 40 seats out of 53 seats in the parliamentary polls.

Good for President Paul Kagame and his party. However, the world is still expecting more from them as regards the treatment of Diane Rwigara, the only woman ‘disturbing’ his government.

From the Horn of Africa, we brought reports of peace talks between Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia. The bloc has had series of crises and other related issues leading to instability and insecurity.

The rise of Abiy Ahmed in the region is however, bringing some cheer to the people there. The re-establishment of ties and relations among the Horn of Africa countries goes a long way in reducing the unrest.

Somalia’s Mogadishu witnessed a explosion on the first day of the week, after a suicide motorist rammed a car full of explosives into a building in the city, leaving several casualties in the end.

Nigeria’s general elections will hold from February 2018, but the political activities going on there make it look as if they are having the elections this year.

President Muhammadu Buhari received a ‘gift’ from a group who are ‘forcing him to run’ for a second term so they ‘bought the nomination form for him’. See that?

That is the same story from the other side where the candidate that may be his arch rival, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar of the opposition party cried heavily when another group also bought him the nomination form. Yea, Atiku wept. Buhari had also wept in 2011.

More so, the battle against the insurgents in Nigeria’s north east is taking a more dangerous dimension as the terrorists have taken it up on the soldiers and their bases.

There were casualties on both sides this week. The insurgents attacked the military men and killed some and in another fight two days ago, the Nigerian soldiers killed many of them in return.

One of the girls that were kidnapped by the insurgents in Dapchi, Borno State, Leah Sharibu, is still in their custody after they released others. The released girls said Leah could not denounce her Christian faith and was therefore not allowed to go until she did.

International organisations, civil society groups and individuals are mounting pressure on the government to negotiate for her release, just as they did for the rest of them.

Within the week, a British Member of Parliament, Tom Brake, joined in the protest outside the Nigerian High Commission in London.

It has remained a wonder to many how the Nigerian government managed to secure the girls’ release through a negotiation with the rebels and left the poor Christian girl out; Christians in Nigeria feel short-changed since the president was a Muslim.

In Ghana, there is a bad market for filling stations from the black market interference. There is a damning projection that about 4,000 jobs in the sub-sector are in the line if their sales continue to go down, no thanks to customers preference for the black market.

But then, black market is still a big economic phenomenon here; only development and mass employment of labour can reduce it’s negative impact.

Libya shut down its Tripoli airport after serious fights erupted among the rebel groups in capital. There was also a declaration of a state of emergency in the city.

Airport was reopened on Friday after the imposed state of emergency allowed the UN to broker a ceasefire among the fighters.

A train crash in Angola claimed 17 lives and injuring 12 others earlier in the week. Rest their souls.

The accident happened in the morning hours of Tuesday near Munhino in Namibe province when a train run by the state rail operator smashed into a stationary maintenance train that was being operated by Chinese engineers.

Workers from South Africa’s mainly white solidarity union started a “go-slow” protest at petrochemicals firm, Sasol, over a share scheme offered exclusively to black staff.

South Africa has a whole lot of problems arising from harmonising the blacks and the whites in terms of employment and other economic opportunities.

Under Black economic empowerment rules, South African companies are required to meet quotas on Black ownership, employment and procurement as part of a drive to reverse decades of exclusion under apartheid.

Coupled with the land expropriation that looks like it is ‘threatening’ the white community, the government has work to do in pacifying all the parties.

Still in South Africa, there is a looming increase in the price of fuel by 4.9c/l. The increase is not to be much however. But then, increase is increase.

The European Union has lent a helping hand to help countries affected by the environmental problem in Lake Chad. The body this week, doled out €138m Development Fund to the countries which are Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Cameroon.

Donor countries had a conference in Berlin where they pledged up to $2.17 billion to the drought-stricken area around Lake Chad, which would be made available “over coming years”. Thanks to them?

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