Editor's Note: 2018 is the fifth year in which the "Belt and Road Initiative" was proposed and implemented. At the same time, this year is also an extraordinary year for China-Africa relations.Under the stimulation of the “Maritime Silk Road,” China’s total investment in Africa has been over 40 billion dollars. On the diplomatic front, with Burkina Faso establishing diplomatic ambassadorship with the People's Republic of China on May 24, 2018, there is only one sovereign state on the African continent that has not established diplomatic relations with China. It seems that with the promotion of the “Belt and Road Initiative”, China-Africa relations have reached one peak after another. In order to further understand the help and influence of the “Belt and Road” for the economic development of Africa, CDSTT held a symposium on “Economic Development in Africa under the ‘Belt and Road Initiative” on November 2nd, 2018.
At the event, we invited the African Union Ambassador to the United States and former US diplomats as special lecturers to teach the knowledge they gained in their work and research. At the same time, we invited many think tank scholars and colleagues from colleges and universities in the DMV area to participate in the final networking session of the event. This networking session provided a great opportunity for us to exchange our thoughts and to know more people. Finally, we also prepared African foods and free mocktails in the networking session so that guests can enjoy food and drinks while relaxing and exchanging thoughts.
Professor David. Shinn - A Unique Perspective from the Former US ambassador
As the former US ambassador to Burkina Faso and Ethiopia, Professor David Shinn has a unique perspective on mutual help and appeal between states. Thus, Professor Shinn gave a speech on China's demands in African countries and China's assistance to Africa.
First, Professor Shinn clearly listed China's five major demands in Africa: raw materials (especially oil and minerals, etc.), maximizing exports to Africa, gaining maximum political support, eliminating Taiwan's diplomatic presence on the African continent, and avoiding a range of potential negative issues (international crimes, money laundering, etc.)
Later, Professor Shinn said that China's demands are essential basic requirements for almost all countries in the process of diplomacy and international trade. The US’s demands in Africa are the same as those in China. The difference is that the United States does not need to eliminate the political influence of Taiwan. The focus of the US’s each demand is also relatively different, and it will add security interests such as “requiring African states to provide military land”.
Professor Shinn believes that today's China treats the Arctic and Latin America as part of the “Belt and Road Initiative.” This means that almost everyone except the United States and Canada is interested in China and the BRI. Therefore, the BRI is completely different from its original state. “Belt and Road Initiative” may lead to more financing projects outside China, and in the process will replace the previous Chinese normative model or Western model. And it also has a part that protects China's interests. Shinn believes that the “Belt and Road Initiative” is more and more like the new name of China's overall foreign policy. “I want to call ‘Belt and Road’ a ‘foreign policy’ because it seems to me that it is approaching this.” Professor Shinn said.
Finally, Professor Shinn mentioned the just-concluded Forum on China-Africa Cooperation. At the forum, China pledged to provide Africa $60 billion financial support in the next three years. Therefore, he believes that even if the amount of transactions between developing countries, like India, and Africa is rising, China will remain Africa's largest trading partner for the foreseeable future. Before 2013, the “Belt and Road Initiative” has not been proposed and implemented, but China was already a “moderate provider and partner” for foreign aid in Africa. After the implementation of the “One Belt, One Road” initiative, China now is still a 'moderate’ Partner'.
If the West invests in Africa with contracts, agreements, or other similar forms, it will be a huge constraint for China. Because China mainly invests in soft loans in Africa, this method is often seen as lacking strong binding force.
Professor Won Kidane - Insights from expert of International trade
Our second speaker Professor Won Kidane is not only an expert in law and international issues, but also an international trade and economist with unique insights. His speech focused on trade, investors, and business relationships in China-Africa exchanges. Professor Kidane believes that there are always economic disputes between foreign investors and African governments. Some foreign investors, companies and project managers even accuse the government of intervening in court.
Then, Professor Kidane made the assumption that China, as the most important source of foreign investment in Africa, is likely to generate more trade frictions with African countries in the future, which requires the establishment of corresponding settlement mechanisms. China-Africa relations in the next decade are likely to revolve around the economic relationship between enterprises and governments on both sides. On the one hand, China hopes to safeguard the interests of investment enterprises and expand the jurisdiction over Chinese-funded enterprises in Africa. On the other hand, the African government hopes to take the right to speak of the domestic infrastructure and other projects invested by foreign companies to prevent the domestic economy from being controlled by other countries.
"But in fact, China's influence in African countries is increasing," Professor Kidane said. The Chinese government and many African countries have signed agreements to expand jurisdiction over African investment projects, giving them the ability to lead the entire African infrastructure and economic construction. At the same time, more and more African countries are beginning to use Chinese currency, which further strengthens China’s economic influence in Africa.
“People shouted loudly and wondered why Africa would be what it is today. It is because the vast land of Africa still has the scar of former colonists.”
Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao - From the Voice of the African Union Ambassador to the United States
As the ambassador of the African Union to the United States and the leader of the African human rights and feminist movement, Dr. Quao’s speech shouldered the mission that the other two lecturers did not have. It was about the history of the African Union (AU) countries and the ambition of the AU as a whole.
At first, Dr. Quan explained the foundation of the birth of the African Union. The first alliance of African countries was established in 1958, when the colonial countries were preparing to leave the African continent. Among these colonial countries, France gave the colonized countries two choices before leaving: first, independence; second, to continue to maintain as French colonies with French governors and the French currency. Two countries, Guinea and Niger, wanted to be independent, which surprised France, and the French wanted the two countries to return everything that France has given to them. While the newly appointed President of Ghana worked hard to help these two countries, he created the African National Economic Union, led by Ghana.
Dr. Quao believes that many of the problems in contemporary Africa stemmed from the French agreement to continue colonization in 1958. She pointed out that as of January 2014, 14 African countries had deposited 85% of their foreign exchange reserves into the Central Bank of France through colonial agreements, and under the control of the French Finance Minister, these countries actually invested 50 billion US dollars in the French Ministry of Finance each year. Although the two major African banks have African names, they do not have their own monetary policies. In fact, France allows the two banks to receive only 15% of the funds in a year. If more is needed, they need to borrow 65% of their own extra funds from the French Ministry of Finance at commercial rates.
"The African economy that is known today is small in scale and is always infinitely developed by other countries. It is always in a position of obedience. African countries can only develop to a certain extent, like the Central African Republic. The colonists divide Africa into many countries. Today, the status quo is still the same. They put the Central African Republic in the same boxing ring as India. They put Burundi and the United States in the same boxing ring. The international community calls it a 'fair' competition. Whether we are willing to accept it, this is what Africa is experiencing every day because African countries are not even lightweight boxers, and they are far away from the level of heavyweight boxers, like muds and clouds. How can they (African countries) compete with other well-off countries? Is this the so-called fairness?" Dr. Quao concluded her speech with this powerful question.
Finally, CDSTT sincerely thank all the guests and audience who joined the event on that rainy day, and CDSTT also hopes everyone to continue to pay attention to us. CDSTT looks forward to seeing you again in the next event!