The China in Africa Podcast

By SupChina

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Description

Twice-weekly discussion about China's engagement across Africa and the Global South hosted by journalist Eric Olander and Asia-Africa scholar Cobus van Staden in Johannesburg.


Episode Date
Afrobarometer CEO Joseph Asunka on Public Perceptions of the U.S. & China in Africa
01:03:04

When U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken unveiled the White House's new strategy for Sub-Saharan Africa, he referenced Afrobarometer polling data to validate Washington's renewed emphasis on democracy promotion. The following day, in criticizing the new U.S. policy towards Africa, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin also used Afrobarometer data to make the case for Beijing's engagement strategy on the continent.

What's interesting is that they're both right. The Afrobarometer polling data undermines the simple narratives that too often frame the discourse about how Africans view their ties with these two powers.

Afrobarometer CEO Joseph Asunka joins Eric & Cobus to discuss what's behind these seemingly contradictory perspectives and which direction public opinion towards the U.S. and China is trending.

SHOW NOTES:

  • Afrobarometer: Africans welcome China’s influence but maintain democratic aspirations: https://bit.ly/3Ac39Ft
  • Afrobarometer: China has invested deeply in Africa. We checked to see whether that is undermining democracy: https://bit.ly/3vSjNr2


JOIN THE DISCUSSION:

Twitter: @ChinaGSProject@stadenesque | @eric_olander | @joeasunka

Facebook: www.facebook.com/ChinaAfricaProject

FOLLOW CAP IN FRENCH AND ARABIC:

Françaiswww.projetafriquechine.com | @AfrikChine

عربيwww.akhbaralsin-africia.com | @AkhbarAlSinAfr

JOIN US ON PATREON!

Become a CAP Patreon member and get all sorts of cool stuff, including our Week in Review report, an invitation to join monthly Zoom calls with Eric & Cobus, and even an awesome new CAP Podcast mug!

www.patreon.com/chinaafricaproject

See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Aug 10, 2022
Week in Review: Taiwan, Tesla and Antony Blinken's Upcoming Africa Tour
01:01:28

China mounted an intercontinental media response throughout the Global South this week to rage against U.S. Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan. Managing Editor Cobus van Staden and Francophone Editor Geraud Neema break down why developing countries, including several in Africa, who have repeatedly said they want to stay out of the U.S.-China standoff, decided to weigh in on this controversy.

Plus, a preview of U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken's upcoming Africa tour and what a Tesla battery deal with Chinese suppliers reveals the realities facing the U.S. and other governments that want to get China out of their strategic supply chains.

JOIN THE DISCUSSION:

Twitter: @ChinaGSProject| @stadenesque | @eric_olander | @christiangeraud

Facebook: www.facebook.com/ChinaAfricaProject

FOLLOW CAP IN FRENCH AND ARABIC:

Françaiswww.projetafriquechine.com | @AfrikChine

عربيwww.akhbaralsin-africia.com | @AkhbarAlSinAfr

JOIN US ON PATREON!

Become a CAP Patreon member and get all sorts of cool stuff, including our Week in Review report, an invitation to join monthly Zoom calls with Eric & Cobus, and even an awesome new CAP Podcast mug!

www.patreon.com/chinaafricaproject


See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Aug 04, 2022
African Exploitation Videos Are Big Business on Chinese Social Media
00:49:06

The recent BBC documentary "Racism for Sale" pointed a powerful spotlight on the popular Chinese "blessing video" business that is both highly exploitative and very profitable. These videos feature Africans and people from other developing regions, often including children, conveying messages that are often demeaning.

In the weeks following the release of the documentary, most of the attention on this issue was focused on culprit, a 26-year Chinese man by the name of Lu Ke, and people's shock in Malawi and other African countries where these videos were filmed.

But Viola Zhou, a Hong Kong-based reporter for the online technology magazine Rest of World, looked into the business behind these videos and how the social media platforms, advertisers, and content creators are all making huge profits.

SHOW NOTES:


JOIN THE DISCUSSION:

Twitter: @ChinaGSProject@stadenesque | @eric_olander | @violazhouyi

Facebook: www.facebook.com/ChinaAfricaProject

FOLLOW CAP IN FRENCH AND ARABIC:

Françaiswww.projetafriquechine.com | @AfrikChine

عربيwww.akhbaralsin-africia.com | @AkhbarAlSinAfr

JOIN US ON PATREON!

Become a CAP Patreon member and get all sorts of cool stuff, including our Week in Review report, an invitation to join monthly Zoom calls with Eric & Cobus, and even an awesome new CAP Podcast mug!

www.patreon.com/chinaafricaproject

See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Jul 29, 2022
China's Discourse Power in Africa and the Global South
01:00:00

China, like all major governments, uses a variety of tools and methods to influence international public opinion. Some, like CGTN, China Daily, and China Radio International, serve as conventional propaganda that is easy to identify; other tactics are far more subtle yet often very effective in shaping the global conversation about China and its role in the world.

This so-called "discourse power" is now an important field of study. Kenton Thibaut, a China fellow at the Atlantic Council, and Tuvia Gering, also a fellow at the Atlantic Council and a research fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, join us to talk about their latest research on the issue that explores not only how Chinese interests are communicating but also what they're saying.

SHOW NOTES:


JOIN THE DISCUSSION:

Twitter: @ChinaGSProject@stadenesque | @eric_olander | @geringtuvia | 

Facebook: www.facebook.com/ChinaAfricaProject

FOLLOW CAP IN FRENCH AND ARABIC:

Françaiswww.projetafriquechine.com | @AfrikChine

عربيwww.akhbaralsin-africia.com | @AkhbarAlSinAfr

JOIN US ON PATREON!

Become a CAP Patreon member and get all sorts of cool stuff, including our Week in Review report, an invitation to join monthly Zoom calls with Eric & Cobus, and even an awesome new CAP Podcast mug!

www.patreon.com/chinaafricaproject

See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Jul 15, 2022
It Was a Bad, Very Bad Week For Chinese Mining in Africa
00:57:02

Two of China's largest and most important mining ventures in Africa encountered major problems this week. In Guinea, the government shut down the Sino-Australian joint venture to operate the massive Simandou iron ore mine, a major blow to Beijing's ambitions to end its reliance on imported Australian ore.

And then in the DRC, authorities reportedly issued a notice to the Chinese management that runs the massive TFM copper/cobalt mine to halt extraction and production.

Francophone Editor and leading African mining expert Geraud Neema joins Eric & Cobus to discuss the significance of these two events and why the governments in both Conakry and Kinshasa are taking action against the Chinese.

JOIN THE DISCUSSION:

Twitter: @ChinaGSProject@stadenesque | @eric_olander | @christiangeraud

Facebook: www.facebook.com/ChinaAfricaProject

FOLLOW CAP IN FRENCH AND ARABIC:

Françaiswww.projetafriquechine.com | @AfrikChine

عربيwww.akhbaralsin-africia.com | @AkhbarAlSinAfr

JOIN US ON PATREON!

Become a CAP Patreon member and get all sorts of cool stuff including our Week in Review report, an invitation to join monthly Zoom calls with Eric & Cobus, and even an awesome new CAP Podcast mug!

www.patreon.com/chinaafricaproject

See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Jul 08, 2022
A Discussion With the Journalists Behind the BBC Doc "Racism For Sale"
00:48:40

The BBC investigative unit Africa Eye turned a powerful spotlight last month on a multi-million dollar business in China that exploits people in developing regions, including young children in Africa, to produce so-called "blessing videos."

Many of these videos may seem innocuous where Africans hold up signs in Chinese to wish people good luck on a test or sign happy birthday, for example. But many others are highly exploitative and downright demeaning.

Journalists Runako Celina and Henry Mhango led an investigation into the origins of one particularly offensive video that was shot in Malawi that revealed how a Chinese producer took advantage of dozens of poor children in a remote village. Runako and Henry join Eric & Cobus to discuss the investigation and what it took to report this fascinating story.

SHOW NOTES:

  • Watch: Racism for Sale: https://bit.ly/3OBVo0f
  • Read: Racism for Sale: Documentary investigates how language, culture used to exploit children in Africa: https://bit.ly/3I2sK5Y
  • Blacklivity China: https://blacklivitychina.com/
  • Citizen Eye Malawi: https://bit.ly/3a1oDup


JOIN THE DISCUSSION:

Twitter: @ChinaGSProject@stadenesque | @eric_olander | @runakocelina | @henrymhango3

Facebook: www.facebook.com/ChinaAfricaProject

FOLLOW CAP IN FRENCH AND ARABIC:

Françaiswww.projetafriquechine.com | @AfrikChine

عربيwww.akhbaralsin-africia.com | @AkhbarAlSinAfr

JOIN US ON PATREON!

Become a CAP Patreon member and get all sorts of cool stuff including our Week in Review report, an invitation to join monthly Zoom calls with Eric & Cobus, and even an awesome new CAP Podcast mug!

www.patreon.com/chinaafricaproject

See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Jun 30, 2022
How Did China Do in Its First Horn of Africa Peace Conference?
00:33:47

China's Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, Xue Bing, wrapped up a two-day peace conference in Addis Ababa last week, Beijing's first-ever effort to mediate conflicts outside of Asia. Xue personally offered to serve as a broker to help resolve many of the ongoing tensions that currently roil the region.

Superficially, all of the participants responded favorably to China's efforts but the real test will come in the months ahead to see if Beijing can match its promises with tangible results.

Aly Verjee, a non-resident senior advisor at the United States Institute of Peace, is a leading expert in the politics of the Horn of Africa. He joins Cobus to share his impressions of China's performance at the conference and whether he thinks Beijing has what it takes to help mediate the region's various conflicts.

JOIN THE DISCUSSION:

Twitter: @ChinaGSProject@stadenesque | @alyverjee

Facebook: www.facebook.com/ChinaAfricaProject

FOLLOW CAP IN FRENCH AND ARABIC:

Françaiswww.projetafriquechine.com | @AfrikChine

عربيwww.akhbaralsin-africia.com | @AkhbarAlSinAfr

JOIN US ON PATREON!

Become a CAP Patreon member and get all sorts of cool stuff including our Week in Review report, an invitation to join monthly Zoom calls with Eric & Cobus, and even an awesome new CAP Podcast mug!

www.patreon.com/chinaafricaproject

See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Jun 25, 2022
A Conversation With Huang Ping, China's Consul General in New York
00:58:10

China's Consul General in New York City, Huang Ping, is a veteran diplomat with extensive experience in both North America and Africa. Prior to taking on the CG role in NYC, Huang was ambassador to Zimbabwe from 2015 to 2018.

Huang recently sat down with Eric & Cobus for a wide-ranging conversation on the state of U.S.-China relations, human rights issues, and reflections on his time in Harare. Francophone Editor Geraud Neema also joins the discussion for analysis on the key issues raised in this week's discussion.

JOIN THE DISCUSSION:

Twitter: @ChinaGSProject@stadenesque | @eric_olander | @christiangeraud

Facebook: www.facebook.com/ChinaAfricaProject

FOLLOW CAP IN FRENCH AND ARABIC:

Françaiswww.projetafriquechine.com | @AfrikChine

عربيwww.akhbaralsin-africia.com | @AkhbarAlSinAfr

JOIN US ON PATREON!

Become a CAP Patreon member and get all sorts of cool stuff including our Week in Review report, an invitation to join monthly Zoom calls with Eric & Cobus, and even an awesome new CAP Podcast mug!

www.patreon.com/chinaafricaproject

See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Jun 16, 2022
Africa in the Era of Great Power Competition
00:59:53

Policymakers in most African countries are facing unimaginable challenges brought on by the pandemic, economic disruption, climate change, and the impact of the war in Ukraine. As if that wasn't enough, the increasingly contentious U.S.-China conflict adds even more uncertainty.

While these are difficult times, particularly for smaller states on the continent, geopolitical analyst Ronak Golpadas, a director at the South African risk management firm Signal Risk, says there's one thing in particular that African governments can do to bolster themselves in these turbulent times. He joins Eric & Cobus from Johannesburg to discuss the urgent imperative for states to work together and negotiate as blocks.

JOIN THE DISCUSSION:

Twitter: @ChinaGSProject@stadenesque | @eric_olander | @ronakgolpadas

Facebook: www.facebook.com/ChinaAfricaProject

FOLLOW CAP IN FRENCH AND ARABIC:

Françaiswww.projetafriquechine.com | @AfrikChine

عربيwww.akhbaralsin-africia.com | @AkhbarAlSinAfr

JOIN US ON PATREON!

Become a CAP Patreon member and get all sorts of cool stuff including our Week in Review report, an invitation to join monthly Zoom calls with Eric & Cobus, and even an awesome new CAP Podcast mug!

www.patreon.com/chinaafricaproject


See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Jun 10, 2022
The Politics of Chinese-financed Infrastructure Development in East Africa
01:08:36

How African governments negotiate infrastructure deals with Chinese lenders and construction companies is far more complex than many assume. While most focus on the role of the head of state, the reality is that the leader is just one of many actors that has a say in the process.

A trio of scholars recently published an in-depth analysis that explores the internal political dynamics for three high-profile Chinese infrastructure projects in East Africa including the Bagamoyo Port in Tanzania, the Adama wind farm in Ethiopia, and the Port of Lamu expansion in Kenya.

Frangton Chiyemura from The Open University, Elisa Gambino from LSE, and Tim Zajontz from the University of Freiburg in Germany join Eric & Cobus to discuss their research and why it's so important to understand the particular attributes of African agency in this process.

SHOW NOTES:

Chinese Political Science Review: Infrastructure and the Politics of African State Agency: Shaping the Belt and Road Initiative in East Africa: https://bit.ly/3airYF4

JOIN THE DISCUSSION:

Twitter: @ChinaGSProject@stadenesque | @eric_olander | @fchemura | @tzajontz | @drelisagambino

Facebook: www.facebook.com/ChinaAfricaProject

FOLLOW CAP IN FRENCH AND ARABIC:

Françaiswww.projetafriquechine.com | @AfrikChine

عربيwww.akhbaralsin-africia.com | @AkhbarAlSinAfr

JOIN US ON PATREON!

Become a CAP Patreon member and get all sorts of cool stuff including our Week in Review report, an invitation to join monthly Zoom calls with Eric & Cobus, and even an awesome new CAP Podcast mug!

www.patreon.com/chinaafricaproject

See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Jun 03, 2022
U.S.-China Tech Competition in the Middle East
01:01:44

While U.S. President Joe Biden is stepping up his efforts to confront China's dominance in the Asia-Pacific, he might also want to pay attention to what's happening in the Middle East.

Chinese influence in the Mideast and Persian Gulf regions has been steadily rising over the two years, particularly in the tech sector where firms like Huawei, ZTE, and Hikvision among others are rapidly expanding. In fact, China is so far ahead, according to Mohammed Soliman, a non-resident scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C., that unless the U.S. radically changes its policy, it may be too late to catch up.

Mohammed joins Eric & Cobus to discuss his urgent warning for U.S. policymakers about China's growing technology dominance in the Middle East and what they need to do to meet the challenge.

Show Notes:


JOIN THE DISCUSSION:

Twitter: @ChinaGSProject@stadenesque | @thisissoliman

Facebook: www.facebook.com/ChinaAfricaProject

FOLLOW CAP IN FRENCH AND ARABIC:

Françaiswww.projetafriquechine.com | @AfrikChine

عربيwww.akhbaralsin-africia.com | @AkhbarAlSinAfr

JOIN US ON PATREON!

Become a CAP Patreon member and get all sorts of cool stuff including our Week in Review report, an invitation to join monthly Zoom calls with Eric & Cobus, and even an awesome new CAP Podcast mug!

www.patreon.com/chinaafricaproject

See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

May 27, 2022
Magalie Masamba on What It's Going to Take to Resolve Africa's Debt Distress
01:02:35

Until a few years ago, before the pandemic, most African economies were among the world's best performing in terms of debt. Revenues were sufficient and debt-to-GDP levels were largely well below the IMF's 50% threshold.

But today, that is no longer the case. Many of the continent's largest economies are in a desperate struggle to avoid getting sucked into a debt spiral where they're borrowing more and more just to repay loans. That, plus the challenges brought on by surging food prices, weakening currencies and, of course, the effects of the ongoing pandemic all make this a very difficult time.

So what can be done? Two scholars, Daniel Bradlow from the University of Pretoria and Magalie Masamba, a Global China Post-doctoral Research Fellow at the Boston University Global Development Policy Center, have come up with five practical recommendations for what they think governments need to do to tackle the burgeoning debt challenge.

Magalie joins Eric & Cobus to discuss the sovereign crisis in some African countries with a particular focus on China's role.

Show Notes:

  • The China-Global South Project: 5 Recommendations for Tackling the Sovereign Debt Challenge in Southern Africa by Daniel Bradlow  and Magalie Masamba: https://bit.ly/3LwGHZR
  • The Conversation: Debt distress in Africa: biggest problems, and ways forward by Daniel Bradlow and Magalie Masamba: https://bit.ly/3wxKm5D


JOIN THE DISCUSSION:

Twitter: @ChinaGSProject@stadenesque | @magalie_masamba

Facebook: www.facebook.com/ChinaAfricaProject

FOLLOW CAP IN FRENCH AND ARABIC:

Françaiswww.projetafriquechine.com | @AfrikChine

عربيwww.akhbaralsin-africia.com | @AkhbarAlSinAfr

JOIN US ON PATREON!

Become a CAP Patreon member and get all sorts of cool stuff including our Week in Review report, an invitation to join monthly Zoom calls with Eric & Cobus, and even an awesome new CAP Podcast mug!

www.patreon.com/chinaafricaproject

See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

May 20, 2022
Update on the Current State of China-Nigeria Ties With Efem Ubi
00:49:39

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari had envisioned leaving office with vast amounts of shiny new Chinese-financed infrastructure built throughout the country. That's not going to happen. China has lost its appetite for large-scale development projects in Nigeria leaving some $15 billion of rail and other initiatives unfunded.

But that doesn't mean that Nigeria still isn't very important to China's broader Africa agenda. Chinese companies are attracted to the large consumer market, its political heft at the African Union and the fact that Nigeria is home to some of the continent's largest technology hubs.

This week, Efem Ubi from the Nigerian Association of International Affairs joins Eric & Cobus from Lagos to discuss Nigeria's complex relationship with China and where it stands today.

JOIN THE DISCUSSION:

Twitter: @ChinaAfrProject @stadenesque 

Facebook: www.facebook.com/ChinaAfricaProject

FOLLOW CAP IN FRENCH AND ARABIC:

Françaiswww.projetafriquechine.com | @AfrikChine

عربيwww.akhbaralsin-africia.com | @AkhbarAlSinAfr

JOIN US ON PATREON!

Become a CAP Patreon member and get all sorts of cool stuff including our Week in Review report, an invitation to join monthly Zoom calls with Eric & Cobus, and even an awesome new CAP Podcast mug!

www.patreon.com/chinaafricaproject

See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

May 17, 2022
Lightning Round: U.S. Summits, Huawei and Chinese Mining in the DRC
00:53:49

In this Lightning Round edition of the show, CAP Managing Editor Cobus van Staden and CAP Francophone Editor Geraud Neema break down three of the week's big stories.

First, Cobus explains why African leaders would be well advised to closely follow the events at this week's U.S.-ASEAN summit in Washington, D.C. Then, the State Department's #2 official, Wendy Sherman, restated longstanding warnings about the risks African countries face when they use Huawei equipment. Finally, Geraud breakdown a complex mining dispute between a Chinese and an Australian company over which one will control a massive new lithium mine in the DRC.

JOIN THE DISCUSSION:

Twitter: @ChinaAfrProject @stadenesque | @christiangeraud

Facebook: www.facebook.com/ChinaAfricaProject

FOLLOW CAP IN FRENCH AND ARABIC:

Françaiswww.projetafriquechine.com | @AfrikChine

عربيwww.akhbaralsin-africia.com | @AkhbarAlSinAfr

JOIN US ON PATREON!

Become a CAP Patreon member and get all sorts of cool stuff including our Week in Review report, an invitation to join monthly Zoom calls with Eric & Cobus, and even an awesome new CAP Podcast mug!

www.patreon.com/chinaafricaproject


See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

May 13, 2022
China and the Future of Environmental Governance in Ghana
00:48:34

Ghana's worsening economic crisis is prompting concerns it will further erode the country's already weak environmental governance system that Chinese actors have profited from in the mining, fishing, and timber sectors. Meantime, local communities across the country suffer amid declining fish stocks, polluted waterways, and unregulated deforestation.

Francis Xavier Tuokuu, a leading environmental scholar and a research fellow at the Ghana-based Afro-Sino Centre of International Relations contends that until there is new and better leadership that is actually willing to crack down on the corruption that Chinese and others use to their advantage, there is little hope the situation will improve.

Francis joins Eric & Cobus from Keene, New Hampshire to discuss what, if anything, can be done.

JOIN THE DISCUSSION:

Twitter: @ChinaAfrProject @stadenesque

Facebook: www.facebook.com/ChinaAfricaProject

FOLLOW CAP IN FRENCH AND ARABIC:

Françaiswww.projetafriquechine.com | @AfrikChine

عربيwww.akhbaralsin-africia.com | @AkhbarAlSinAfr

JOIN US ON PATREON!

Become a CAP Patreon member and get all sorts of cool stuff including our Week in Review report, an invitation to join monthly Zoom calls with Eric & Cobus, and even an awesome new CAP Podcast mug!

www.patreon.com/chinaafricaproject

See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

May 10, 2022
Huawei in North Africa: Lots of Good PR, Not a Lot of Tech Transfer
01:02:16

Huawei's success in Africa is undeniable. It's built large swathes of the continent's telecom network and is an indispensable player at almost every layer of the African technology stack. But when it comes to transferring skills and technology, the company's record is a bit more checkered.

Tin Hinane El Kadi, a doctoral student at the London School of Economics and an associate fellow at Chatham House, contends in a new report published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace that in both Algeria and Egypt Huawei, Huawei generates a lot of good press about tech transfers but in reality does very little. Tin joins Eric & Cobus from London to discuss her findings and what's behind this apparent discrepancy.

JOIN THE DISCUSSION:

Twitter: @ChinaAfrProject @stadenesque | @tinhinanel

Facebook: www.facebook.com/ChinaAfricaProject

FOLLOW CAP IN FRENCH AND ARABIC:

Françaiswww.projetafriquechine.com | @AfrikChine

عربيwww.akhbaralsin-africia.com | @AkhbarAlSinAfr

JOIN US ON PATREON!

Become a CAP Patreon member and get all sorts of cool stuff including our Week in Review report, an invitation to join monthly Zoom calls with Eric & Cobus, and even an awesome new CAP Podcast mug!

www.patreon.com/chinaafricaproject

See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

May 06, 2022
State of the BRI and the Messy Politics of a "Just Climate Transition"
00:47:58

China's Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is undergoing some dramatic changes as Beijing pulls back on the massive loans that once defined it as the government is now forced to channel more funds domestically to bolster the country's slowing economy.

Nowhere is that more evident than in Africa where we learned this week that lending in 2020 plunged 77% from the previous year to just $1.9 billion, a 16-year low.

Cynthia Liao, a Schwarzman Academy Fellow in the Africa program at the London think tank Chatham House, has been closely following BRI developments in Africa and joins Eric & Cobus for a wide-ranging discussion on debt, climate change, and geopolitics.

SHOW NOTES:


JOIN THE DISCUSSION:

Twitter: @ChinaAfrProject @stadenesque | @_CynthiaLiao

Facebook: www.facebook.com/ChinaAfricaProject

FOLLOW CAP IN FRENCH AND ARABIC:

Françaiswww.projetafriquechine.com | @AfrikChine

عربيwww.akhbaralsin-africia.com | @AkhbarAlSinAfr

JOIN US ON PATREON!

Become a CAP Patreon member and get all sorts of cool stuff including our Week in Review report, an invitation to join monthly Zoom calls with Eric & Cobus, and even an awesome new CAP Podcast mug!

www.patreon.com/chinaafricaproject

See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Apr 29, 2022
The Port of Mombasa Was Never at Risk of Being Seized by China
00:56:59

A 2018 leaked report from Kenya's Auditor General sparked a years-long frenzy over whether the Port of Mombasa was put up as collateral against the loans from the China Exim Bank for the Standard Gauge Railway and could be seized in the event of a default.

The story is now a foundational part of the "debt trap" lending narrative that continues to cloud Chinese infrastructure financing in Africa.

A team led by Professor Deborah Brautigam, director of the China-Africa Research Initiative at Johns Hopkins University, spent the past two years researching the issue and concluded in a new report that the Auditor General was wrong in his assessment. Neither the Port of Mombasa nor any Kenyan asset was ever at risk of forfeiture to the Chinese.

Deborah and two of her research colleagues, Vijay Bhalaki from Athena Infonomics and Paris-based attorney Laure Deron, join Eric & Cobus to discuss their findings.

SHOW NOTES:

  • The East African: Mombasa Port at risk as audit finds it was used to secure SGR loan: https://bit.ly/3Lgz76w
  • The China-Africa Research Initiative: How Africa Borrows From China: And Why Mombasa Port is Not Collateral for Kenya's Standard Gauge: https://bit.ly/37D6i5H


JOIN THE DISCUSSION:

Twitter: @ChinaAfrProject @stadenesque 

Facebook: www.facebook.com/ChinaAfricaProject

FOLLOW CAP IN FRENCH AND ARABIC:

Françaiswww.projetafriquechine.com | @AfrikChine

عربيwww.akhbaralsin-africia.com | @AkhbarAlSinAfr

JOIN US ON PATREON!

Become a CAP Patreon member and get all sorts of cool stuff including our Week in Review report, an invitation to join monthly Zoom calls with Eric & Cobus, and even an awesome new CAP Podcast mug!

www.patreon.com/chinaafricaproject

See Privacy Policy at https://art19.com/privacy and California Privacy Notice at https://art19.com/privacy#do-not-sell-my-info.

Apr 26, 2022
Lessons For South Africa From China's Tech Hub in Shenzhen
00:43:54

As South African policymakers plot their country's economic revival from the past several years of worsening economic crisis, boosting the country's tech industry is going to play a pivotal role in their plans. Grace Yuehan Wang, a researcher at the South African National Research Foundation and a postdoctoral scholar at Stellenbosch University says China's mega technology hub Shenzhen could offer some valuable insights.

Plus, CAP's Francophone Editor Geraud Neema joins us to discuss the 20-year prison sentence that was handed down to a Chinese national for brutally beating a Rwandan employee last year.

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Apr 22, 2022
Is It Time for a New Non-Aligned Movement?
00:57:58

This week marks the 67th anniversary of the Bandung Conference in Indonesia which brought together 29 Asian and African countries at the height of the Cold War and marked the beginning of what would later become the Non-Aligned Movement. Back then, more than a hundred countries were a part of this movement to avoid being drawn into the U.S.-Soviet dual and to foster greater ties within the so-called "Third World."

Today, as Russia's ties with the U.S. revert to their Cold War chilliness and the U.S. standoff with China intensifies, there are new calls to revive the Non-Aligned Movement among developing countries. Former Chilean Ambassador and Boston University Research Professor Jorge Heine is among the most vocal proponents of creating what he calls "Non-Aligned 2.0."

Ambassador Heine joins Eric & Cobus to explain why the time is right for countries in the Global South to start working more closely together with one another.

SHOW NOTES:


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Apr 20, 2022
A Discussion With Elizabeth Economy About the World According to China
00:56:52

Acclaimed China scholar Elizabeth Economy join Eric & Cobus this week to discuss her new book for 2022 "The World According to China." It's important to note the interview with Elizabeth was recorded before Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the expanded outbreak of COVID-19 in China but it's nonetheless fascinating to see how prescient many of her comments were in the context of the current situation.

Also, Cobus and Eric provide an update on the latest Chinese trade figures and how the severe flooding in South Africa's KwaZulu-Natal province may impact China's trade with Africa in the weeks ahead. Finally, CAP's Francophone Editor Geraud Neema joins the guys for an update on the new challenges facing Chinese mining companies in Guinea.

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Apr 15, 2022
China, Africa and a New Alternative International Order
01:00:39

There's an emerging consensus among many leading international relations scholars that Russia's invasion of Ukraine marked the official end of the post-Cold War era and the beginning of, well... actually... no one's actually sure what's coming next but whatever it is China is definitely going to play a central role.

China's framing of this emerging alternative international order is happening right now in Africa and the Middle East, according to a new book by Dawn Murphy, an associate professor at the U.S. Air War College. She joins Eric & Cobus from Alabama to discuss why these two regions, in particular, are so important to China's long-term geopolitical agenda.

SHOW NOTES:

  • Sandboxx: China Wants a Navy Base in Africa That Would Put America’s East Coast in Reach by Alex Hollings: https://bit.ly/37MnxkI


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Apr 13, 2022
Can the "Shanghai Model" Solve the Global South Debt Crisis?
00:53:46

During the last major Global South debt crisis in the late 1980s, the United States pioneered an initiative that bundled together all of these countries' debts into a bond that would then be re-packaged and sold to investors. These so-called "Brady Bonds" were very effective in giving many of the poorest, most indebted countries the breathing room they needed to recover.

Now, as developing countries are confronting yet another debilitating debt crisis, an update to the Brady Bond idea is now circulating but this time it's coming from China, not the U.S.

Just like a Brady Bond, the so-called Shanghai Model would roll up poor countries' debt into a bond asset and then sell it to investors. But there's a catch: rather than price it in dollars, the Shanghai Model would use Chinese yuan.

Economists Ying Qian and Yan Wang from Boston University's Global Development Policy Center have been writing a lot lately about the Shanghai Model and exploring its viability. Ying joins Eric & Cobus from Washington, D.C. to discuss whether it really can replicate the success of the Brand Bond.

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Apr 08, 2022
The Ukraine War and Great Power Politics in the Global South
00:58:13

While the war in Ukraine has done a lot to repair the West's once frayed alliance, it's also brought together a disparate group of countries throughout the Global South who have resisted condemning Russia for the invasion and Moscow's brutal assault on civilian populations.

To those small and mid-sized countries, picking a side in this conflict is a luxury many feel they simply cannot afford given the powerful geopolitical currents that are now in motion. Nowhere is this more evident than in Africa where around half the continent sought to abstain from the two UN votes to condemn Russia and many more have sought to stay out of the fray among the competing power centers in Moscow, Beijing, Washington, and Brussels.

Sam Ramani, an associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London, is one of the world's foremost experts on Russia's ties with Africa and other Global South regions. He joins Eric & Cobus from Oxford to discuss the dramatic impact that the war is having on the geopolitical landscape in Africa.

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Apr 01, 2022
New Trends in Chinese Overseas Development Finance
01:11:22

In less than six years, China's financing of overseas energy projects in the Global South plunged from $35 billion to zero, according to new data released this week from Boston University's Global Development Policy Center. BU's findings mirror a broader pullback in official Chinese lending in other sectors as well, indicating a profound change in Chinese international development finance.

To be sure, China is still extending loans to developing countries but they're smaller and require much more rigorous feasibility studies.

Kevin Gallagher and Cecilia Han Springer from the Global Development Policy Center join Eric & Cobus this week to discuss their new dataset on Chinese energy financing and share some of their insights published in an accompanying policy brief on the latest trends in Chinese development finance.

SHOW NOTES:

  • China's Energy Finance Database: https://bit.ly/3ukFlLi
  • Outlier or New Normal? Trends in China’s Global Energy Finance : https://bit.ly/35cR1r0


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Mar 25, 2022
China, Europe and the Geopolitics of African Renewable Energy
00:58:36

Both China and the European Union have identified renewable energy as a key part of their engagement strategies with Africa. At FOCAC last year, the Chinese vowed to increase investment in solar, hydro, and other green technologies while the EU made sustainability a centerpiece of its new Global Gateway development initiative.

With both sides pursuing similar objectives, it's not surprising renewable energy is now being seen as yet another front in the larger great power rivalry dynamic with African countries stuck in the middle.

But a trio of authors at the European Center for Development Policy Management (ECDPM), a Brussels-based think tank, argues in a new report that it would be a huge mistake for EU leaders to frame green energy transition initiatives in Africa in competition with China. One of the authors of that report, Alfsono Medinilla, ECDPM's Head of Climate and Green Transition, joins Eric & Cobus to explain why.

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Mar 18, 2022
An Update on China-Kenya Ties With Journalist Eliud Kibii
00:53:34

China's ambassador to Kenya Zhou Pingjian sat down with a local reporter Eliud Kibii from The Star newspaper earlier this month for a rare one-on-one interview. Chinese diplomats tend to be quite media shy so it's news whenever they do speak in unscripted environments with the press.

Eliud joins Eric & Cobus from Nairobi to discuss his exchange with the ambassador and to get an update on the current state of Sino-Kenyan ties.

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Mar 11, 2022
China Exim Bank's Controversial Loan to Expand Uganda's Entebbe Airport
01:11:15

New research from AidData at the College of William & Mary in the United States provides the first insight into the loan contract between China Exim Bank and the Ugandan government for the expansion of the Entebbe International Airport. This is the same airport at the center of an almost year-long controversy over whether China would seize the facility due to a loan default.

That allegation is, of course, not true and the contract confirms that the airport was never in jeopardy of being surrendered to China Exim Bank. But what researchers did find is a deal that was heavily weighted in favor of the lender with some very intrusive clauses.

AidData Executive Director Brad Park joins Eric & Cobus from Williamsburg, Virginia in the U.S. to discuss his team's findings after carefully reviewing an unredacted version of the loan contract.

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AidData Report on the Chinese Loan Contract for the Entebbe Airport Expansion Project: https://bit.ly/35BQiiE

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Mar 04, 2022
U.S., European Tech Competition With China in Africa
01:09:06

Challenging China's dominance in Africa's tech sector was one of the key takeaways from this month's Europe-Africa summit and a key component of the EU's Global Gateway infrastructure agenda. But it's not going to be easy given the enormous breadth of Chinese technology engagement in Africa that goes back decades.

Western governments are going to find it even more difficult to compete in this market given the rapid expansion of Chinese corporate activity in Africa's digital sector. University of Tampere researcher Motolani Agbebi mapped out the scope of that challenge in a new paper published in February on the Council on Foreign Relations website that details Africa's role in China's Digital Silk Road agenda.

She joins Eric & Cobus to discuss her findings and explain what she thinks African stakeholders need to do to best take advantage of the brewing geopolitical tech rivalry.

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Motolani's Paper: China’s Digital Silk Road and Africa’s Technological Future -- https://on.cfr.org/36FJvoU

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Feb 25, 2022
Chinese Demand for Illegal Rosewood Leads to Deforestation in Cameroon
00:43:20

Cameroon is just one of a growing number of African countries that is facing a deforestation crisis due in part to the trade in illegal Rosewood. Large organized crime syndicates are felling vast numbers of these prized trees, smuggling them across the border to Nigeria where they are laundered and sent mostly to buyers in China.

It's widely known in the industry that most African Rosewood is illegally harvested yet that doesn't discourage Chinese buyers as they look the other way -- which is a blatant violation of the 2019 forestry law.

Investigative journalist Christian Locka went into the bush to report how Rosewood timber makes its way from Cameroon's forests, over the border to Nigeria, and is then laundered for export to China. Christian joins Eric & Cobus from Douala in Cameroon to explain more about this lucrative trade and why so little is being done to stop it.

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Contact The Museba Project: www.themusebaproject.org

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Feb 18, 2022
Chinese Corporate Communications in Africa
00:40:44

Over the years, Chinese companies in Africa have earned a reputation for not very being good in how they communicate with local stakeholders, particularly with local media and civil society groups. While that remains true for the large state-owned construction and mining companies, it's definitely not the case for a growing number of consumer-facing private companies that now employ sophisticated corporate messaging strategies.

The Paris-based, Africa-focused strategic communications agency 35° Nord works with Chinese corporate clients on the continent, both private and SOEs, on public relations, social media outreach as well as crisis communications. Claire Xue, head of the China desk at 35° Nord and consultant Anna An join Eric & Cobus to discuss how Chinese corporate communications in Africa are evolving.

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Feb 11, 2022
The Future of Chinese Infrastructure Finance in Africa
01:17:37

Nigerian Transportation Minister Rotimi Amaechi acknowledged this week that he will no longer rely on China to fund two major railways and will have now have to look elsewhere for the money. The minister's comments shouldn't come as a big surprise, though, given the plunge in overseas development lending by China's two major policy banks in recent years.

China is now largely out of the business of loaning large amounts of money to build major infrastructure projects in Africa and is instead focusing on smaller, more targeted initiatives in the health, digital, power and green energy sectors that have clearer path to profitability.

Abuja-based Development Reimagined Policy Analyst Ovigwe Eguegu closely follows Chinese development finance trends in Africa and joins Eric & Cobus from Addis Ababa to discuss what appears to be a new era of China's economic engagement on the continent.

SHOW NOTES:

  • The China Africa Project: Q&A: Nigerian Representative Ben Igbakpa Explains Why He Wants to Investigate 20 Years of Chinese Loans by Ovigwe Eguegu -- https://bit.ly/3L9hMMV
  • The Hoover Institution at Stanford University: Comments by Jendayi Fraser and Reuben Lifuka on China's sharp rise in Africa -- https://youtu.be/HfWEMM1eLMc
  • Network 20/20: Comments by Gyude Moore and Jennifer Hillman on Beijing’s Expanding Economic Orbit: Evaluating China’s Belt and Road Initiative -- https://youtu.be/5aMxyz9mULc
  • Spice FM: Comments by Kenya ICT Minister Joe Mucheru on the SGR contract: https://youtu.be/94-E_kVixwU


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Feb 04, 2022
An Update on Chinese Diplomacy in the Middle East With Jonathan Fulton
01:02:30

It's been a frenetic start of the year in Chinese diplomacy in the Middle East. Right after he returned from a five-nation tour of Indian Ocean states, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi hosted half a dozen foreign ministers from Persian Gulf states, Turkey, and the Secretary-General of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Separately, China is also playing an active role in the ongoing Iran nuclear talks.

Now that China is the Persian Gulf's largest energy customer, Beijing has a lot at stake an ensuring the region remains stable.

Jonathan Fulton is one of the world's foremost scholars on Sino-Mideast affairs and has been closely Beijing's presence in the region for more than a decade. He joins Eric & Cobus from Abu Dhabi where he's an assistant professor at Zayed University to discuss the latest diplomatic developments and his new book on the topic.

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Jan 28, 2022
How China's Economic and Security Interests Converge in Africa
00:59:23

China-Africa trade smashed a new record in 2021 and surpassed $250 billion. This was a dramatic increase over the $187 billion that the two sides the previous year.

But those enhanced trade ties come as security conditions worsen for Chinese stakeholders in a growing number of Africa countries, namely Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Paul Nantulya, a research associate at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies in Washington, D.C. is closely following both trends and joins Eric & Cobus to discuss how China's security and economic interests in Africa are now converging in new ways.

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Jan 21, 2022
Investigating Chinese Corruption in the DRC Linked to the "Deal of the Century"
01:07:14

China's role in the landmark Congo-Hold Up corruption scandal was relatively small compared to those of other actors that were found to have funneled millions of dollars to former Congolese president Joseph Kabila and his associates. Nonetheless, investigators found that Chinese entities were responsible for at least $55 million in illicit payments connected to the $6 billion Sicomines resource-for-infrastructure deal back in 2007.

The Washington, D.C.-based NGO The Sentry was among the lead organizations in the Congo Hold-Up investigation that was based on an unprecedented leak of 3.5 million documents from BGFIBank in Gabon. Two of The Sentry's lead investigators involved with the project, John Dell'Osso and Douglas Gillison join Eric & Cobus to discuss how Chinese companies were implicated in the scandal and the specific role of one man in particular.

SHOW NOTES:

  • Read The Sentry's full report: State Capture and Bribery in Congo's Deal of the Century -- https://bit.ly/31W74Ys
  • Photo of Sun Ruiwen, president of China Molybdenum, meeting together with DR Congo President Félix Tshisekedi on December 23, 2021: https://bit.ly/3GvQ9eg


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Jan 14, 2022
Taking Stock of Wang Yi's Tour of East Africa & Indian Ocean States
01:00:43

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi is back in Beijing after wrapping up the customary first overseas trip of the year that always begins in Africa. Wang spent almost a week visiting five nations in East Africa and throughout the Indian Ocean where debt, infrastructure and great power rivalry with the U.S. were among the key issues on the agenda.

University of Nairobi political science lecturer Oscar Otele closely followed Wang's tour and joins Eric & Cobus to discuss the key highlights, particularly during the Foreign Minister's stop in Kenya.

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Jan 11, 2022
Why South Africa Remains China's Most Important Relationship in Africa
00:56:50

There was a flurry of Chinese diplomatic activity in Africa this week with Foreign Minister Wang Yi's first overseas trip of the year who went to Eritrea, Kenya, and the Comoros Islands. While eastern Africa and the Indian Ocean are becoming increasingly strategic theaters for Chinese engagement on the continent, in many ways they're still secondary to South Africa's overall importance.

South Africa is the main gateway for the bulk of Chinese mineral imports from Africa, it's home to the largest ethnic Chinese population on the continent and serves as an important ideological ally through close ties between the Chinese Communist Party and the ruling African National Congress.

Howard University Africa Studies Lecturer Phiwokuhle Mnyandu is among the foremost experts on Sino-SA ties and the author of a recently published book on the topic. Phiowkuhle joins Eric & Cobus from Washington, D.C. to explain why South Africa remains firmly atop Beijing's strategic priorities in Africa.

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Jan 07, 2022
The 2021 Africa-China Year in Review
01:05:35

Join Eric & Cobus for the annual Year in Review/Year Ahead Preview special episode where they each three stories that shaped Africa-China relations in 2021 and one story to watch in the year ahead.

Plus, they also discuss the Trevor Noah controversy where the host of the popular Comedy Central program The Daily Show published a riff on China-Africa relations that was riddled with inaccuracies and misinformation.

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Dec 24, 2021
Chinese Involvement in the "Congo Hold-Up" Corruption Scandal
01:02:47

19 media outlets together with five NGOs in the U.S. and Europe pored through 3.5 million leaked documents from a Gabonese bank to produce Congo Hold-Up, a landmark report that detailed breathtaking corruption in the DR Congo during the presidency of Joseph Kabila in the early 2000s.

Chinese entities, including the joint venture mining company Sicomines, were implicated in the findings (although Sicomines denies any allegation of corruption), specifically relating to the dealings of one man, Du Wei.

William Clowes and Michael Kavanagh, two senior journalists at Bloomberg News with extensive experience reporting in the DR Congo, were among the journalists who participated in the investigation. They spent six months working on the project and traced the activities of Du and the role he played as a middleman between Chinese corporate actors and power brokers in Kinshasa.

William and Michael join Eric & Cobus to discuss their reporting as part of the Congo Hold-Up investigation and the small role that Chinese entities played in this multimillion-dollar corruption scandal.

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Dec 17, 2021
DOUBLE EPISODE: Andy Mok Reflects on FOCAC Plus a Discussion About Bad China-Africa Journalism
01:29:49

With the end of the year fast approaching and time running out to get everything into the last remaining shows of the season, we're bringing you a special double episode this week.

First, join us for an in-depth discussion with Andy Mok, a senior research fellow at the Center for China and Globalization in Beijing for a Chinese perspective on the recent FOCAC conference plus his insights on how African countries should best manage the increasingly acrimonious great power rivalry between the U.S. and China.

Then, we'll delve into the recent stories related to the supposed Chinese seizure of Uganda's international airport, UK allegations of Chinese debt traps, and the Pentagon's assertion the PLA wants to build an Atlantic base in Africa and why all of these stories have been so poorly reported by so many international news organizations.

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Dec 15, 2021
With China on the Sidelines, What's Next for African Infrastructure Financing?
00:48:23

For much of the past two decades, China was among the largest sources of African infrastructure financing. But that is no longer the case. In his recent keynote address at the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation conference in Senegal, Chinese President Xi Jinping never mentioned the world infrastructure and the topic was largely absent from the final declaration.

The timing of China's withdrawal from the space couldn't be worse as the demand for new roads, power, and railways across the continent steadily rise. But Johnson Kilangi, founder and CEO of the infrastructure consultancy Lean Africa Consultants Limited, is nonetheless optimistic that new financing models will help to fill the gap. Johsnon joins Eric & Cobus from Nairobi to discuss why he thinks more private sector participation is going to make the difference.

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Dec 10, 2021
Why the Era of Low-Cost Imports From China May be Coming to an End in Africa
00:50:12

The ongoing supply chain disruptions are having a profound impact on the types of goods that consumers in Africa and other Global South countries can access. It used to cost just $1,000 a container to ship low-cost socks, shoes, electronics, and other goods that once flooded African markets. Today, the shipping cost for that same container is now $8,000 and rising -- making it possible to send only high-value goods from China that can offset those surging shipping costs.

Walter Ruigu, managing director of CAMAL Group Ltd, says once the supply chain goes back to normal those costs will come down again but no one knows for sure when that will happen. And in the meantime, he warns, the consumer will pay the price.

Walter joins Eric & Cobus from Beijing to discuss the latest trends in China-Africa trade and he also shares his take on the latest FOCAC conference that recently wrapped up in Senegal.

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SHOW NOTES:

  • Contact Walter Ruigi at CAMAL Group Ltd.: https://camaltd.com/contact-us/
  • Business Daily: How I built Kenya’s first phone USB cable firm: https://bit.ly/3pCA5jN


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Dec 08, 2021
FOCAC 8 Recap & Review
00:48:28

The eighth Forum on China-Africa Cooperation conference wrapped up this week in Senegal. The event itself generated a lot of news but it was far from the only thing going on this week. The Europeans sought to try and upstage FOCAC with their new Global Gateway infrastructure initiative that they revealed on the last day of the Dakar forum, plus Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi made an unannounced trip to Ethiopia and a controversy over the Entebbe International Airport in Uganda hung over FOCAC.

Eric & Cobus try to make sense of what was an incredibly busy and important week.

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Dec 03, 2021
China's Growing Role in Multilateral Development Banks
00:45:34

While China has dramatically curtailed its bilateral development financing in Africa and other regions around the world, Beijing is increasing its engagement in multilateral and regional development banks around the world, including the African Development Bank among others.

This points to an important, yet little understood trend about China's growing influence in international financial institutions.

Two reports have come out recently, one from the Center for Global Development and the other from the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), that explore China's role in these multilateral institutions. Yunnan Chen, a senior research officer at ODI and a co-author of the ODI analysis on the issue, joins Eric & Cobus to discuss how Beijing is turning to these institutions "to pursue its geopolitical agenda and to promote alternate norms of global governance."

SHOW NOTES:

  • Overseas Development Institute: China in the multilateral development banks: evolving strategies of a new power by Yunnan Chen and Chris Humphrey: https://bit.ly/3CR6AiD
  • Center for Global Development: Mapping China’s Rise in the Multilateral System by Scott Morris, Rowan Rockafellow and Sarah Rose: https://bit.ly/3nSogWX


WEBINAR: TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 30TH AT 14:00GMT: China's role in the multilateral development banks -- RSVP: https://bit.ly/3nSosp9

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Nov 26, 2021
FOCAC 8 Preview: The Trade Agenda
00:58:07

Trade issues are widely expected to top the agenda at next week's Forum on China-Africa Cooperation ministerial conference in Dakar. African countries will be looking for China to further widen its market to agricultural and processed raw materials and China is seeking ways to reduce the gaping trade surpluses that it currently maintains with most countries across the continent.

Yike Fu, a research and policy analyst at Development Reimagined based in Hangzhou, and Patrick Anam, a trade lawyer and also a policy analyst at Development Reimagined, both closely follow the latest China-Africa trade trends and join Eric & Cobus to share their outlook for what to expect at FOCAC.

SHOW NOTES:


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Nov 23, 2021
FOCAC 8 Preview: The Economic Agenda
00:55:52

This year's Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) conference will take place amid considerable uncertainty in the global economy and profound economic changes underway in China. As such, it's widely expected that the outputs from the upcoming forum will be very different from previous FOCACs.

Gone will be the large mega-loans to build massive infrastructure projects across the continent and instead, observers expect a series of smaller, more targeted initiatives centered on new priorities in digital, health, and green energy development.

Many of those forecasts of what to expect in Dakar were outlined in a recent collection of articles published by the LSE IDEAS China Foresight team at the London School of Economics "FOCAC at 21: Future Trajectories of China-Africa Relations." Stephen Paduano, executive director of the LSE Economic Diplomacy Commission, and Mzukisi Qobo, head of the Wits School of Governance at the University of the Witwatersrand in South Africa, both contributed to the LSE report and join Eric & Cobus to discuss the key economic issues that will frame this year's FOCAC conference.

SHOW NOTES:

  • LSE IDEAS China Foresight: FOCAC at 21: Future Trajectories of China-Africa Relations: https://bit.ly/3m04jg2
  • PALGRAVE MACMILLAN: The Political Economy of China-US Relations - Digital Futures and African Agency by Mzukisi Qobo: https://bit.ly/3p0uPGz


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Nov 19, 2021
Why Pragmatism, Not Ideology Drives Chinese Economic Engagement in Africa
01:11:52

In these contentious times, China is often accused of exporting its statist economic model to Africa and other developing regions as part of a broader ideological agenda to create a new Sinocentric international order. But Tsinghua University Professor Tang Xiaoyang argues in his new book published earlier this year that interpretation is a gross misunderstanding of what actually motivates Chinese economic engagement on the continent.

Professor Tang joins Eric & Cobus from Beijing to make the case why pragmatism, not ideology is the driving force behind China's economic agenda in Africa.

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Nov 16, 2021
What Does the U.S. Need To Do to Effectively Compete With China’s Digital Silk Road?
00:46:14

Technology is expected to be one of the main pillars of discussion at the upcoming Forum on China-Africa Cooperation conference that will take place in Dakar at the end of the month. And the stakes for both sides are very high.

With its access to markets in the Global North contracting as more governments impose barriers on Chinese technology products and services, Beijing will need to lean more on its already sizable presence in developing regions like Africa. Similarly, African governments are also looking to China to continue to provide affordable technology that can be quickly installed using low-interest state-backed loans.

Jonathan Hillman, a senior fellow in the economics program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. outlined the key forces behind these trends in his new book about China's Digital Silk Road and what he thinks the U.S. government needs to do to respond to the challenge.

SHOW NOTES:

  • Amazon.com: purchase a Kindle or audio version of The Digital Silk Road: China's Quest to Wire the World and Win the Future by Jonathan E. Hillman: https://amzn.to/3C2Ry9e
  • Foreign Affairs: Huawei Strikes Back - To Beat China on Tech, America Must Invest in the Developing World by Jonathan Hillman: https://fam.ag/3Calws3
  • Field Notes: subscribe to Jonathan Hillman's monthly email newsletter about Chinese projects and geoeconomics: https://hillman.substack.com/


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Nov 12, 2021
Why Perceptions of China Vary So Much Depending on Where You Live
00:51:17

[PLEASE NOTE THAT FROM TIME TO TIME THERE IS SOME AUDIO STATIC THAT APPEARS INTERMITTENTLY DURING SOME OF JOANNA'S ANSWERS. IT DOESN'T LAST LONG AND WE TRIED TO MINIMIZE IT AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. OUR APOLOGIES FOR THE INCONVENIENCE.]

Public perceptions of China vary markedly depending on where you live in the world. In wealthy advanced economies in the Global North, negative sentiment towards China is now at all-time highs and getting worse. But it's a very different story in many developing countries in the Global South, particularly in Africa, where public opinion surveys continually report more favorable views towards the Chinese.

Of course, this is a complex issue where China provokes a diversity of opinions, making it nearly impossible to get a definitive sense of what people feel about Beijing's growing influence in their countries.

Veteran journalist Joanna Chiu set out on a trans-continental odyssey to try and find out more about how people in Western countries perceive China for her new book "China Unbound: A New World Disorder." Joanna joins Eric & Cobus to share some of her findings and to discuss why she feels there's such a huge discrepancy between how people in the Global North view China compared to sentiments in the Global South.

SHOW NOTES:


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Nov 05, 2021
A Left Perspective on China-Africa Relations
00:50:21

In the run-up to Forum on China-Africa Cooperation conference that will take place later this month in Dakar, CAP is speaking with a wide spectrum of activists, analysts, and other thought leaders about what they think should be on the agenda when Chinese and African ministers convene.

This week, Mikaela Nhondo Erskog, a researcher at the Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research joins Eric & Cobus from Johannesburg to share a leftist, socialist perspective on Sino-Africa engagement and why China's arrival in Africa in the early 2000s helped to break the continent's historical dependence on U.S. and European powers.

RELATED READING:


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Nov 03, 2021
Week in Review: Sudan Coup, Glasgow Climate Summit & G20 Debt Relief
00:47:40

This week Eric & Cobus discuss the Chinese response to the military coup in Sudan and how it differs from Beijing's reaction to September's coup in Guinea. Plus, Cobus explains why he's not optimistic about the outcomes for developing countries from the upcoming Glasgow climate summit and should African countries expect much regarding debt relief from this weekend's G20 leaders summit in Rome.

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Oct 29, 2021
Anzetse Were on the Current State of China-Africa Economic Relations
00:56:52

China-Africa trade figures for the first eight months of the year are in and they look solid. So good, in fact, that the two sides appear on track to surpass last year's $187 billion in two-way trade. But those big numbers conceal some deeper problems, everything ranging from the large trade deficits in most African countries to high levels of debt in other states.

Anzetse Were, a Nairobi-based development economist who's been closely following China-Africa economic ties for more than a decade, is nonetheless optimistic. She joins Eric & Cobus to explain why the growth in Chinese corporate engagement on the continent is going to be the critical factor.

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Oct 26, 2021
Folashadé Soulé on West Africa's Priorities at FOCAC 8
01:04:08

The triennial Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) summit is just weeks away now and speculation is now starting to build as to what will be on the agenda. As of now, very little is known as to what's going to happen, not even the specific dates when the event will take place in Dakar, Senegal.

Nonetheless, expectations are high that the forum will produce tangible outcomes for Africa on issues related to debt relief, infrastructure financing, and public health among others.

Folashadé Soulé, a senior research associate at Oxford University, spoke with diplomats, policymakers and civil society stakeholders in several West African countries to find out what they're hoping to achieve at FOCAC. Folashadé joins Eric & Cobus to discuss what they said and to her predictions of what she thinks will be on the agenda.

SHOW NOTES:

SAIIA: Mapping the Future of Africa–China Relations: Insights from West Africa: https://bit.ly/3Bj6VL2

LSE IDEAS: FOCAC at 21: Future Trajectories of China-Africa Relations: https://bit.ly/3m04jg2

AFRICA CENTER FOR STRATEGIC STUDIES: The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation at 21: Where to Next?: https://bit.ly/2Zh8YSc

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Oct 22, 2021
The Messy Politics of Building a Railway in Kenya With Chinese Money
00:46:33

Kenya's Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) is the showcase in Africa for China's debt-led infrastructure development drive. While critics accuse China of saddling Nairobi with unsustainable levels of debt to build the rail line that goes from the port of Mombasa to the capital Nairobi and then on to Naivasha in the Rift Valley, the reality is actually a lot more complicated.

It turns out that Kenya lawmakers worked hard to circumvent their own laws, conceal the terms of the deal and, most likely, pocketed millions for themselves along the way.

Oscar Otele, a political science lecturer at the University of Nairobi, has been studying the complex, messy politics surrounding the SGR for the past eight years and summarized some of his research's key findings in a recent article published on the Council on Foreign Relations website. Oscar joins Eric & Cobus from Nairobi to discuss why the simple narratives about the SGR are not even remotely accurate.

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Oct 20, 2021
Lightning Round: Africa-France Summit, FOCAC & UK Port Deal
00:55:49

An often contentious leaderless summit took place last in Montepellier where African youth activists did not hold back in telling French President Emmanuel Macron what they thought needed to be done to improve ties between the two regions. Eric & Cobus look at what lessons China, the U.S., and others can take away from the heated exchanges that took place.

Plus, a preview of what might be on the agenda at the upcoming Forum on China-Africa Cooperation summit that is expected to take place next month in the Senegalese capital Dakar and the guys dive into a billion port development deal led by the UK and the United Arab Emirates.

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Oct 15, 2021
China's Role in Zambia's Unfolding Debt Crisis
00:54:27

Zambia owes at least 18 Chinese creditors $6.6 billion, nearly twice as much as previously stated, according to a new report published by the China-Africa Research Initiative (CARI) at Johns Hopkins University. And that figure may be even higher as it doesn't account for penalties accrued by various Zambian borrowers who've fallen behind in their payments.

While these latest findings confirm Zambia indeed has a very serious Chinese debt problem, the CARI report, however, details why the situation there is actually very different from that of other African countries that are also struggling to repay Chinese loans.

The report's two authors, CARI Director Deborah Brautigam and Senior Research Assistant Yinxuan Wang join Eric & Cobus from Washington to discuss their findings and explain why Zambia is an outlier when it comes to Chinese debt in Africa.

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Oct 13, 2021
China's Love-Hate Relationship With Coal
00:52:06

If you're confused about China's stance on the use of coal, well, you're definitely not alone. This week, China went on a global coal buying binge in a frantic effort to put a stop to rolling blackouts that have afflicted millions of residents, factories, and businesses in at least nine provinces over the past several weeks.

But just two weeks earlier, President Xi Jinping told everyone at the United Nations General Assembly that Beijing planned to phase out the use of dirty fuels as part of an ambitious effort to reach peak carbon dioxide emissions before 2030. And the President also said his government would halt the building of new coal-fired power plants abroad.

So, China is doubling down on coal at home while abandoning the dirty fuel abroad?

Rishikesh Ram Bhandary, assistant director of Boston University's Global Economic Governance Initiative and a leading expert on renewable energy in BRI countries joins Eric & Cobus to discuss the complex, confusing role that coal plays in Chinese energy policy.

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Oct 08, 2021
China's Role in Ghana's Unfolding Fishing Catastrophe
00:50:55

While the Ghanaian government took decisive action earlier this year to crack down on illegal mining known as Galamsey where Chinese illegal mining interests have been active for years, Accra has done absolutely nothing to combat persistent illegal fishing in its waters.

Foreign fishing companies, predominantly from China, operate with impunity in full view of the government who together are contributing to an ecological and humanitarian catastrophe, according to the findings from a recent report by the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF). In fact, EJF asserts that years of over-fishing by industrial fleets have decimated local fish stocks to the point where the small-scale fishing boats too often return empty.

Socrates Segbor, the Ghana fisheries program manager at EJF, and Professor Wisdom Akpalu, dean of the school of research and graduate studies at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration both contributed to the report and join Eric & Cobus to explain China's role in this crisis and what, if anything, they think can be done to avert a full-blown disaster.

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Oct 04, 2021
Key Takeaways From AidData's New Report on How China's Finances the BRI
01:07:59

AidData, the development research lab at William & Mary College in Virginia, published a landmark report this week that provides the most comprehensive overview to date of Chinese financing of projects along the Belt and Road. Researchers pored through 13,247 projects in 165 countries worth $843 billion from 2000 through 2017.

The report sparked a torrent of media coverage this week, mostly on the news about $385 billion of so-called "hidden debts."

But the data in this report tells a much more nuanced story about Chinese overseas development finance than what was portrayed in the news. AidData's Executive Director Brad Parks joins Eric & Cobus to walk through the report's key findings and explain why Chinese debt financing is incredibly complicated.

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Oct 01, 2021
Lightning Round: US-Africa, DRC-China and China-Africa Trade
00:43:35

This week's scheduled guest didn't show, so Eric & Cobus went back to their roots by producing a Lightning Round Podcast where they hashed out three of the hottest topics in the news this week.

Join the guys for a fast-paced discussion on U.S. President Joe Biden's decision to not meet with any African leader last week, the latest in the China-DRC mining saga and why the opening of the four day China-Africa Trade Expo in the central Chinese province of Hunan is kind of a big deal.

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Sep 28, 2021
Is China Exporting Authoritarianism Around the World?
01:06:50

The Chinese and U.S. Presidents spoke on the same day this week at the United Nations General Assembly with each offering a different vision for the future. Joe Biden challenged critics who contend that democracy is in retreat while Xi Jinping warned "the world is once again at a historical crossroads" and pushed back on a U.S.-led international order.

And there's a lot at stake for developing countries in Africa and elsewhere in this debate as both major powers seek to align others to their worldview. In Washington, D.C., there's a widespread perception that Beijing is increasingly using technology, money, and ideological influence to spread authoritarianism around the world to better strengthen its geopolitical position.

Charles Edel and David Shullman, two leading U.S. China analysts laid out the challenge in an article published in the current edition of Foreign Affairs where they detail "China's international efforts to subvert democracy." Charles and David join Eric & Cobus from Washington to discuss the threat they think China presents and how policymakers should respond.

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Sep 24, 2021
Update on the China-DR Congo Mining Contracts Dispute
01:01:16

After months of negative media coverage, Chinese mining companies in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are pushing back against the perception they aren't fulfilling their contractual obligations to provide social services and build infrastructure for the local communities where they operate.

There's been a recent flurry of news coverage, social media posts, and even ministerial visits to mining sites to bolster their position.

DRC mining and policy analyst Christian-Geraud Neema Byamungu has been closely following the Chinese response to the government's moves to review foreign mining contracts and how this increasingly contentious issue is unfolding.

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Sep 21, 2021
The Complicated, Confusing Nature of China's Ties With Israel
01:04:31

China has deftly managed its relations in the Middle East across sensitive sectarian and geopolitical landscapes but now that Beijing is moving to become more engaged in the region, it risks falling into many of the same pitfalls that have bedeviled other major powers.

Nowhere is this more on display than in Israel where Beijing has enjoyed steadily improving relations with the Jewish State over the past thirty years but now confronts unprecedented new geopolitical challenges.

Tuvia Gering, a China research fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security, closely follows Sino-Israeli ties and joins Eric & Cobus to discuss the current state of relations between the world's two oldest continuous civilizations.

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Sep 17, 2021
Why Food Security & Agriculture Issues Need to Be Atop the China-Africa Agenda
00:53:43

A growing number of people in Africa are facing acute shortages of food due in part to disruptions brought on by COVID, climate change, and, in some countries, conflict. Solving the problem today is not going to be easy given how much of the continent depends on imported food supplies.

China at once is both a contributor to the problem, especially given its role as the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases, and a key part of the solution.

Ama Brandford-Arthur, a senior partnerships officer in the South-South and Triangular Cooperation Unit at the International Fund for Agricultural Development, a specialized UN agency, joins Eric & Cobus from Rome to discuss what she thinks China can do to help alleviate the growing problem of food insecurity in Africa.

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Sep 14, 2021
China's Role in the Burgeoning Debt Challenge in Africa
00:58:07

The debt situation in Africa is changing very quickly as some countries race to negotiate urgent bailouts with the IMF while others are struggling to service their debts amid the ongoing pandemic. Pretty much every country across the continent is struggling right now.

And China is a key player in every part of this story, whether it's as a major player in the G20's Debt Service Suspension Initiative (DSSI) or as the primary bilateral creditor to at least ten countries that are now confronting rising levels of debt distress.

Greg Smith, a former World Bank economist who's now an emerging markets fund manager at M&G Investment in London, chronicles Africa's debt challenges in a new book coming out soon that provides critical context to the current financial crisis that's now unfolding in many African countries and the role that China's played over the years. Greg joins Eric & Cobus to talk about his new book and to share his insights on the current debt situation on the continent.

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Amazon: Pre-order a paperback copy of Greg's book "Where Credit is Due: How Africa's Debt Can Be a Benefit, Not a Burden"

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Sep 10, 2021
Gauging the Effectiveness of Chinese Soft Power in Africa
01:02:02

It is very difficult, if not impossible, right now to accurately public opinion perceptions of China in a region as large and diverse as Africa. There are strong indications that point in opposite directions. African leaders one after another shower China with praise for its ongoing support of infrastructure development and COVID-19 vaccine distribution among other activities.

Meantime, civil society views of China in many African countries are seemingly becoming increasingly negative amid a steady stream of violent videos appearing on social media show abuse of local workers along with reports of illegal immigration and widespread environmental violations by Chinese companies.

Maria Repnikova, an assistant professor at Georgia State University, closely follows these trends and has conducted extensive field research on the issue in Ethiopia and elsewhere. She joins Eric & Cobus from Atlanta to discuss current trends in Chinese soft power in Africa and why Chinese training junkets for African elites are proving to be especially effective.

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Sep 07, 2021
A Conversation With Wu Peng, China's Top Diplomat For Africa
01:07:20

This week Eric & Cobus sit down with Wu Peng, the director-general of the department of African affairs in the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, for his perspective on a wide range of issues that are impacting relations between the two regions.

The conversation also features questions from a trio of experts in China-Africa relations including:

  • Gyude Moore, a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development (@gyude_moore)
  • Zainab Usman, director of the Africa program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (@MissZeeUsman)
  • Aggrey Mutambo, senior diplomatic affairs writer for the Daily Nation and The East African newspaper (@agmutambo)


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Sep 03, 2021
Can Africa Learn Anything From How China Runs Its State Companies?
00:47:34

As African countries work to rebuild their economies from the wreckage caused by the ongoing COVID pandemic, policymakers will be looking at what they can do to bolster their countries' state-owned enterprises (SOE). That may prompt them to examine China's model of SOE governance for some inspiration.

Although China's SOE system is largely unique to China and would be impossible to replicate in African countries, Luke Jordan, a practitioner in resident at the MIT Governance Lab, recently suggested in a new paper published by SAIIA that are, in fact, certain attributes that African stakeholders should consider.

Luke joins Eric & Cobus from Belin to discuss his paper and what specific lessons about China's SOE experience he thinks would be applicable in an African context.

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LinkedIn: Luke Jordan https://bit.ly/3mQfPvc

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Aug 31, 2021
New Trends in Chinese Energy & Development Finance
00:59:05

U.S. special climate envoy John Kerry will be in China next week to pressure the government to renounce all future financing of coal power plants around the world. Although China generally does not respond well to foreign demands like this, Beijing may have already acceded to Kerry's request.

So far this year, China hasn't financed a single overseas coal project. This is the first time that's happened in more than a decade and appears to be part of a growing trend to focus its development finance initiatives on greener, cleaner projects that are smaller and less risky financially.

Christoph Nedopil, director of the Green Finance and Development Center at Fudan University, is among the world's leading experts in tracking Chinese sustainable energy finance, particularly in Belt and Road countries. He joins Eric & Cobus from Shanghai to discuss the findings from his latest BRI investment report for H1 2021.

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Aug 27, 2021
Gyude Moore Reflects on a Week of Democracy, Debt & Despair
00:51:57

A lot of major developments this week in the China-Africa space following Zambia's landslide election victory for opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema and new debt repayment challenges in Kenya for the embattled Standard Gauge Railway.

Gyude Moore, a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development, has been closely following these events and joins Eric & Cobus from Washington to also reflect on how what happened in Kabul might impact U.S. foreign policy towards Africa.

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Aug 18, 2021
Assessing the Impact of Anti-China Sentiment in the Global South
01:06:49

In many countries in Africa, Asia, and throughout the Global South there's often a large discrepancy between perceptions of China in civil society and among governing elites. This phenomenon has been on full display recently in the Democratic Republic of the Congo where public anger surged in response to numerous videos circulating on social media that show the maltreatment of local mine workers by Chinese managers and reveal evidence of environmental violations by Chinese mining companies. Meantime, the President and Prime Minister studiously avoid these controversies as they work to attract more Chinese investment to the DRC.

But does civil society hostility towards China have any measurable impact on a country's policies towards Beijing? Charles Dunst, an associate in the global macro practice at the Eurasia Group, argues that it might and leaders in Global South countries should be concerned. Charles joins Eric & Cobus from Washington to discuss his new article in World Politics Review on the subject.

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Aug 13, 2021
An Update on the Current State of China-Zimbabwe Economic Relations
00:47:58

China's ties with Zimbabwe are either going off the rails or are among the strongest most dynamic in Africa depending on who you listen to. Mounting civil society anger towards Chinese companies and their apparent disregard for local labor and environmental standards is becoming a huge problem. But at the same time, Chinese banks and enterprises are making huge investments in Zim's energy, mining and telecommunications infrastructure that's bringing badly needed jobs to this embattled country.

Prolific Mataruse, a political science lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe, closely follows Chinese economic trends in Zimbabwe. He recently contributed two chapters on the subject to a new China-Zim Economic Handbook published by the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association and joins Eric & Cobus to discuss his findings.

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Aug 11, 2021
A Peek Into the Mysterious World of Chinese Diplomacy
01:03:30

Chinese diplomats around the world are comprised of a mix of reclusive bureaucrats who strenuously avoid public engagement and a new generation of assertive, sometimes even downright aggressive so-called "Wolf Warriors" who wage combat with Beijing's critics.

Why they behave the way they do is a mystery to most outsiders.

But a new book by Bloomberg journalist Peter Martin, "China's Civilian Army: The Making of Wolf Warrior Diplomacy," provides some fascinating insights on the people and principles that have shaped Chinese diplomacy since the 1950s. Peter joins Eric & Cobus from Washington, D.C. to discuss how current Chinese diplomatic practices are firmly rooted in the past.

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Amazon: purchase a Kindle edition of Peter's book: China's Civilian Army: The Making of Wolf Warrior Diplomacy

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Aug 06, 2021
China to Kenya: It's Payback Time
00:58:01

Kenya's National Treasury has resumed debt repayments to China after a 6-month debt deferral period expired in June. The Kenyan government had hoped to be able to extend that through the end of the year but Chinese creditors, namely the China Exim Bank, did not like that idea at all.

Apparently, things got so bad that Chinese creditors halted disbursements for projects that are underway right now in Kenya.... bringing construction to a halt in some cases.

Kenya's Foreign exchange reserves dropped by $249 million dollars between July 15 and the 21st. No one has explained where that money went but it's presumed that was the first debt payment sent to China this year. And this is only the beginning. For the 2021-2022 fiscal year that just started, Kenya is scheduled to transfer $1.1 billion to meet its debt servicing obligations with China.

The China Africa Project's new Africa Editor, Cliff Mboya, joins Eric & Cobus this week from Nairobi to discuss the resumption of Kenya debt payments to China and what it says about the current state of China-Africa relations more broadly.

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Purchase a copy of Lina's book: Shaping the Future of Power: Knowledge Production and Network-Building in China-Africa Relations

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Aug 04, 2021
China's Role in Re-Energizing the South Sudan Peace Process
01:14:06

South Sudan marked its tenth anniversary this month as an independent country. Regrettably, though, after a decade of civil war and divided government that has left at least 400,000 people dead and displaced a third of the population, there isn't much to celebrate.

From the beginning, China's played an important role in South Sudan, from the creation of the country to playing a lead mediation role in the peace process to being the only major power with combat troops on the ground operating under UN command.

With the peace process now largely stalled, a lot of people are now looking to Beijing to see what China can do to get the rival parties back to the table to bring about an end to the fighting.

Wake Forest University Assistant Professor Lina Benabdallah recently moderated an invite-only workshop among leading Chinese and African scholars, activists, and former diplomats that examined what China can do to help revitalize the South Sudan peace process. Lina joins Eric & Cobus to share some of the highlights from that forum.

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Purchase a copy of Lina's book: Shaping the Future of Power: Knowledge Production and Network-Building in China-Africa Relations

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Jul 30, 2021
Welcome to the New Era of China-Africa Relations
01:06:30

China's apparent decision to bail on financing the $2.8 billion AKK pipeline in Nigeria is the latest evidence that Beijing's strategy to engage the continent has changed, a lot. This pipeline is now the third major project in Nigeria this year that Chinese financiers have walked away from. And it's happening elsewhere too. In Zimbabwe, China's largest bank, ICBC, bailed on the $3 billion Sengwa coal-fired power plant.

This is a trend that's been underway for quite some time as Chinese infrastructure financing fell last year from $11 billion to just $3.3 billion.

The fact is, Africa can no longer count on China to finance its massive infrastructure deficit.

So, the key question now is what comes next?

Sanusha Naidu and Arina Muresan, both researchers at the Pretoria-based foreign policy think tank Institute for Global Dialogue, are asking that same question in their research about the future of Chinese engagement on the continent. Both join Eric & Cobus from Johannesburg to discuss the implications of this new era in China-Africa relations.

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Jul 23, 2021
Tanzania Resumes Talks With China Over the Bagamoyo Port Deal. But Is It Too Late?
00:48:44

Tanzanian President Samia Hassan surprised a lot of people last month when she announced that talks with China had resumed over the controversial Bagamoyo port deal. This is the deal that President Hassan's predecessor, the late John Magufuli, famously halted back in 2019 when he said only a "drunkard" would accept the terms put forth by China Merchant Holdings International.

Things have changed a lot since then and apparently, even Chinese President Xi Jinping is now open to the idea of restarting negotiations over the multibillion-dollar port expansion project.

But President Hassan faces a tough challenge. First, the Chinese aren't spending the kind of money on big infrastructure projects as they used to in Africa. Secondly, there's a lot of port capacity now in East Africa, from Djibouti to Durban, so the economic feasibility of a big project like this remains an open question.

Thabit Jacob, a post-doctoral researcher in the department of political science at the University of Gothenberg, and Muhidin Shangwe, a lecturer in the political science department at the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania, join Eric & Cobus to discuss the politics and economics surrounding the Sino-Tanzanian Bagamoyo port deal.

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Jul 14, 2021
When It Comes to China, Africa and Central Asia Have Quite a Bit in Common
00:54:38

It's not obvious, but when it comes to managing ties with China, countries in Central Asia and Africa have a lot more in common with one another than many would first assume. 

Both are among China's smallest trading partners that rely primarily on oil and other commodity exports. Countries in both regions have taken on quite a bit of Chinese debt to build infrastructure and both areas have complex civil society ties with China. And both Africa and Central are now important outposts along China's Belt and Road Initiative.

Nargis Kassenova is a leading China-Central Asia expert at the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University. She joins Eric & Cobus to discuss the current dynamics surrounding China's engagement in the region and what lessons can be applied to countries in Africa and beyond.

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Jul 02, 2021
The Diplomat's Shannon Tiezzi on China and the Global South
01:05:52

While China's ties with Europe, the U.S., Japan, and other wealthy northern countries steadily worsen, Beijing is leaning harder on its relations with states in the Global South. The importance of those ties was on full display over the past week on a range of issues, everything from Xinjiang to online governance to infrastructure.

Shannon Tiezzi, editor in chief of the Asia-Pacific news website The Diplomat and a well-known China-watcher, joins Eric & Cobus for a wide-ranging discussion on current trends in Chinese international relations with a focus on Beijing's engagement in Africa and other developing regions.

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Jun 30, 2021
DRC Wants to Renegotiate Chinese Mining Deals. It Won't Be Easy.
00:58:06

DR Congo President Félix Tshisekedi last month traveled to the country's mining heartland in Upper Katanga to personally tell everyone that he's had enough of business as usual and that he plans to renegotiate unfair foreign mining contracts. While he didn't call out the Chinese by name, everyone knew that's precisely who was referring to given that 30 out of the 40 foreign mining companies operating in mineral-rich province are Chinese-affiliated.

But it's not going to be easy for the President to follow through on that promise. After all, he doesn't have a lot of leverage against the Chinese given there isn't a lot of international competition to take their place if should they leave. He will also need their support for his upcoming re-election campaign in 2023.

So, who's the President actually targeting with his new get-tough populist tone? Domestic stakeholders? The United States? Christian Géraud Neema Byamungu is an independent Congolese mining and policy analyst who's been closely following Tshisekedi's announcements and the rapidly shifting politics involving the Chinese in the DRC. He joins Eric & Cobus from Tokyo to explain what he thinks the President wants to achieve with the call to renegotiate the mining deals.

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Jun 23, 2021
An Update on Chinese Lending in Africa (It's Not Good News)
01:09:56

This week's launch of the new Lagos to Ibadan Standard Gauge Railway may be the last time for a long while that a big multibillion dollars infrastructure project like this is built in Africa using Chinese loans. Chinese development finance lending in Africa and elsewhere throughout the Global South has cratered in recent years and it appears that Beijing has, at least for now, lost interest in loaning vast sums of money to poor countries to build infrastructure.

To be sure, Chinese creditors are still making loans, just that they're a lot smaller, less risky, and demand air-tight feasibility studies that almost guarantee they'll get their money back.

Zainab Usman, Africa program director at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, is closely following Chinese overseas finance trends to study the impact on the continent. She joins Eric & Cobus from Washington to discuss her latest analysis that explores "five key takeaways on Chinese lending in Africa."

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Jun 18, 2021
Chinese Entertainment is Finding New Audiences in Africa
00:50:41

Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee kung fu movies have long been popular in Africa. Now, however, Chinese entertainment content is expanding beyond martial arts to include sports and even soap operas.

Chinese television dramas are now starting to find audiences in Africa and the Middle East thanks in part to the growing popularity of the pay-TV service StarTimes that dubs programs into dozens of African languages and tech companies like iQiyi that now Arabic language packages.

Even the nascent Chinese Super League is starting to build a following on the continent. More African soccer players are competing in the Chinese professional league with games broadcast twice a day during the season to millions of homes across the continent on StarTimes.

Freelance tech and digital culture journalist Chu Yang recently co-authored an article with journalist Soila Kenya published on the Chinese news and lifestyle website Sixth Tone that explores how Chinese digital trends are finding their way to Africa and other emerging markets. Chu joins Eric & Cobus from Denmark to discuss her latest report about whether Chinese so-called “C-Dramas” are gaining popularity in Africa.

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Jun 16, 2021
Chinese Cyber Sovereignty & Nigeria's #Twitterban
00:43:54

The Nigerian government justified the banning of Twitter on the basis of protecting the country's national interest, security, and sovereignty. Although the move was done for purely domestic political reasons, the government's defense is strikingly similar to the language that China pioneered more than a decade ago when it first introduced its "Cyber Sovereignty" model for internet governance.

It shouldn't come as a surprise, though, that Nigeria may be following China's example by making the state a central actor in determining what its constituents can see and do online. Senior Nigerian officials for years have openly expressed admiration for China's rigid system of internet censorship and control.

Emeka Umejei, a lecturer at the University of Ghana and an expert in Chinese media and communications, said the fact that China has been able to impose its will on the internet while at the same time fostering digital innovation presents a very appealing model for some African leaders. He joins Eric & Cobus to discuss the Nigerian Twitter ban and what connection, if any, it has with China's approach to online sovereignty.

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Jun 11, 2021
Why Huawei's Much Ridiculed New OS Could Still Have a Big Impact in Africa
00:43:19

Huawei officially launched HarmonyOS this week, its new mobile operating system. The company was forced to build its own in-house OS after the Trump administration banned it from accessing key U.S. technologies including Alphabet's Android.

While Harmony is widely derided, even ridiculed among the U.S. and European tech press (described as the "fake it till you make it" OS), there may be a market for it in Global South countries. First, it'll allow Huawei to get back in the mobile phone market in developing countries where it's lost a lot of ground. This means Huawei's going to sell phones for cheap. Very cheap. Secondly, Huawei is promoting HarmonyOS less as an Android replacement and more as a platform for the Internet of Things (IoT) which could allow the Chinese tech giant to leverage its already sizable network infrastructure presence in Africa to develop new connectivity initiatives.

Henry Tugendhat, a senior China policy analyst at the United States Institute of Peace in Washington, D.C., acknowledges that it's going to be tough going for HarmonyOS to gain traction in the market (remember PalmOS, Symbian, and Windows Mobile?) but he also thinks it would be unwise to write it off entirely. Henry joins Eric & Cobus to discuss the geopolitical dimensions of Huawei's new operating system and why he thinks it's important.

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Jun 04, 2021
China Moves Ahead With Vaccine Distribution While COVAX, U.S. Efforts Falter
00:57:27

By now, COVAX, the global vaccine alliance should have shipped almost a quarter of a billion doses to the world's poorest countries. That hasn't happened. In fact, the alliance has distributed just 72 million jabs, a tiny fraction of what's needed. Similarly, the United States has faltered in its efforts to send excess vaccines overseas now that inoculation rates at home are beginning to slow.

This is leaving a huge opening for China to expand its already sizable vaccine distribution drive to places like Africa and elsewhere throughout the Global South. As of this week, according to the latest data from Bridge Consulting in Beijing, China has confirmed sales of 732 million doses and has actually delivered 256 million to countries in Asia, the Americas, and Africa among others. And those numbers are expected to rise quickly in the weeks ahead now that the Chinese-made Sinopharm has received the seal of approval from both the World Health Organization and Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Bridge Consulting Policy and Advocacy Associate Zhou Zixiang is on the team that tabulates the weekly Chinese COVID-19 vaccine tracker report. He joins Eric & Cobus from Beijing to discuss which Chinese vaccines are going where.

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Jun 01, 2021
Uganda Wants to Make It Big in China's Booming Coffee Market
00:42:37

Uganda, like many African countries, suffers from an enormous trade deficit with China. Last year, according to UN figures, Uganda exported just $40 million worth of goods to China but imported more than $1.3 billion in return. The government in Kampala knows this is not sustainable in the long run and is now taking measures to address the problem by leveraging one of its most valuable exports: coffee.

Uganda is looking to China to help quintuple the volume of coffee exports over the next five years. While that may sound ambitious, it may actually be achievable thanks to the surging demand for coffee in China's largest and wealthiest cities.

Dr. Emmanuel Iyamulemye, managing director of the Uganda Coffee Development Authority, and Frandan Tumukunde, a farmer and coffee marketing expert with extensive experience in China, are part of the team that's leading the effort to break into the Chinese market. Both join Eric & Cobus from Kampala to discuss how it's going so far and what kind of challenges they're up against.

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Read Frandan Tumkunde's article: Can Ugandan Coffee Be the Next “Coffee Success” Story in China?: https://bit.ly/3uPb4CM

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May 28, 2021
Understanding China's Outlook on Global Aid & Development
00:59:10

The Chinese approach to global aid and development is very different than that of traditional donors in the U.S., Europe, and Japan. While Beijing is leveraging much of the existing global development infrastructure, including organizations like the IMF, the WHO, and the UN among others, they're bringing a very different philosophy in how aid is administered in developing countries.

And just as in other areas of China's geopolitical engagement with the international community, their approach to aid and development is also creating points of friction, both with the legacy powers and even with stakeholders in a number of recipient countries. China's dedication to its non-interference doctrine and refusal to be fully transparent in aid delivery often leads to misunderstanding and tension.

Peking University Professor Yao Yang, dean of the university's national school of development, joins Eric & Cobus from Beijing to discuss the Chinese outlook on global development and specifically how it differs from established Western norms.

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May 26, 2021
China's Role in the African Infrastructure Financing Crisis
00:55:30

African infrastructure financing is facing a crisis. Financing levels have plunged from $100 billion a year in 2014 to just $31 billion last year, according to a new report published by the international law firm Baker McKenzie.

This is a massive setback for the continent that's been working hard to fill a gaping infrastructure deficit the AfDB conservatively estimates is valued somewhere around a trillion dollars over ten years. And the situation has been made worse by the dramatic pullback in overseas development financing from China's two largest policy banks that have been the dominant funders of African infrastructure over the past 5-6 years.

Wildu du Plessis, head of Baker McKenzie's Global Africa Practice and a co-author of the report, joins Eric & Cobus to discuss the current state of African infrastructure financing and why, despite the current challenges, he nonetheless remains optimistic about the future.

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May 21, 2021
What Should Be on the China-Africa Environmental Agenda?
00:55:55

Environmental issues once featured prominently on the China-Africa agenda where leaders on both sides focused on the wildlife trade, conservation, and a wide range of sustainability issues. Not any more.

Today, it's all about access to COVID-19, trade, and the U.S.-China face-off. African leaders, for their part, are not prioritizing critical environmental issues in talks with their Chinese counterparts and, once again, it looks like sustainability will not be a key focus of the upcoming Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) Summit that's scheduled to take place in Senegal later this year.

That's too bad because there's a lot to discuss. Two journalists, Zhang Zhizhu, a freelance environmental reporter in Beijing, and Terna Gyuse, a Cape Town-based contributing editor for the environmental news site Mongabay, join Eric & Cobus to discuss the top China-Africa environmental stories and why they feel these issues should be on the FOCAC agenda.

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May 14, 2021
Why the New China-Iran Agreement Isn't a Big Deal
00:58:41

Depending on who you speak with, the 25-year Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP) agreement between China and Iran either marks the emergence of a new "axis of evil" that's going to overturn the balance of power in the Middle East or it's just a lot of vague promises that are largely aspirational with no firm commitments.

The truth is that no one outside of the participants themselves actually knows what it's in the agreement because it hasn't been made public and probably will never be published. Regardless of what's in the deal, or not, it nonetheless symbolizes shifting geopolitical trends in the Persian Gulf that's allowing China to take on a much more prominent role.

Bill Figueroa, a leading China-Iran scholar based in the United States, contends that of people, especially in Washington, are misreading the situation. He joins Eric & Cobus to explain why he thinks the CSP isn't a big deal both "literally or figuratively."

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May 07, 2021
China and the Rapidly Changing Security Dynamics in the Mideast & North Africa
01:05:47

A pair of recent Congressional hearings revealed the heightened anxiety in Washington about China's expanding presence in the Middle East and North Africa. Both lawmakers and Pentagon officials appear increasingly concerned that China's rapidly expanding economic, security, and diplomatic presence in the region will all come at the expense of the United States.

Fudan University international relations scholar Andrea Ghiselli agrees... well, sort of. In a new paper published in the journal Rusi and a new book that just came out from Oxford University Press, Ghiselli argues that China does, in fact, want to erode U.S. influence in MENA as part of a broader campaign to transition from a unipolar world to multi-polar. But contrary to the perception among many in Washington, Andrea contends that the Chinese have no plans to challenge the U.S. militarily in MENA but will instead rely on economic and diplomatic initiatives.

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The China Meditteranean Project: www.chinamed.it

Amazon: Protecting China's Interests Overseas: Securitization and Foreign Policy

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May 04, 2021
The Pushback Against China's Coercive Diplomacy
01:00:45

Although China has successfully leveraged its strengths in COVID-19 vaccine production to replenish its reservoir of goodwill in many developing countries, elsewhere Beijing is facing growing resistance to its increasingly assertive foreign policy agenda.

The U.S. is mobilizing friends and allies to build large coalitions designed to confront China. In Asia, Beijing's territorial claims in the South China Sea polarize many of its neighbors and in Africa and the Americas civil society groups are furious over the destructive impact of Chinese engagement in their regions.

Luke Patey, a well-known China-Africa scholar and a senior researcher at the Danish Institute for International Studies, chronicles the growing resistance to China in many parts of the world in a new book "How China Loses: The Pushback Against Chinese Global Ambitions." He joins Eric & Cobus from Copenhagen to discuss why so many people are now more frustrated with China and what he recommends Beijing can do to remedy the situation.

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Amazon: purchase the Kindle edition of "How China Loses: The Pushback Against Chinese Global Ambitions"

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Apr 30, 2021
Debunking Myths About Chinese Labor in Africa
01:01:53

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken's comments this week that suggested China imports labor to work on infrastructure projects highlights the incredible durability of one of the oldest myths about Chinese engagement. The reality is there's been a steady decline in the number of Chinese workers over the years and that the overwhelming majority of laborers on Chinese-run construction projects are locally hired.

Ding Fei, a postdoctoral research associate at the Arizona State University, is among a growing number of scholars who have published research that challenges many of the misperceptions about Chinese employment and labor practices in Africa. She joins Eric & Cobus to discuss her recent column in the Washington Post that focuses on Chinese management practices in Africa and why she thinks people like Secretary Blinken and so many others hold on to outdated perceptions on this issue.

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Apr 28, 2021
A New China-Africa Think Tank Aims to Fill a Big Void
00:46:56

While Africa is home to a number of world-class think tanks, very few have deep expertise in China and Asian affairs more broadly. This week, a group of young scholars launched the Afro-Sino Centre for International Relations in Ghana in an effort to help fill that void and provide China-Africa analysis from a distinctly African perspective.

AfSCIR Co-Founder and Executive Director Pamela Carslake joins Eric & Cobus from Accra to discuss her new organization and how it plans to go about getting its analysis into the hands of African stakeholders across the continent.

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Apr 23, 2021
The U.S.'s Blue Dot Network vs. China's Belt & Road Initiative
01:09:07

In the run-up to last Friday's U.S.-Japan summit at the White House, there had been a lot of talk that President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga would announce a new initiative to challenge China's Belt and Road Initiative.

In the end, it turned out that the two leaders did not address infrastructure development in their summit's joint statement but that doesn't mean there isn't a lot of enthusiasm in both Washington and Tokyo to come up with a way to stem China's lead in building infrastructure throughout the Global South.

Elizabeth Losos, a senior fellow at Duke University's Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions thinks that reviving the failed Blue Dot Network from 2019 might be the answer. She joins Eric & Cobus from Chapel Hill, North Carolina to talk about why it's critical to simultaneously tackle the climate crisis and confront the Chinese on infrastructure.

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Apr 20, 2021
How Chinese Business Practices Are Disrupting the Kenyan Fishing Industry
00:50:37

Chinese seafood buyers are reportedly cutting out Kenyan middlemen and working directly with local fishermen for lobsters and other fish products, according to a report in the East African newspaper. Fishermen, for their part, aren't complaining. They're getting to work directly with customers wh provide access to an enormous consumer market back in Asia.

But those agents and other middlemen who for years sat in between Chinese buyers and the local fishing communities are now being pushed aside.

The Nation Media Group's Regional Editor for East Africa, Allan Olingo, has spent years covering China's role in the Kenyan fishing sector. He joins Eric & Cobus to discuss his recent report on the middlemen and how, for better or worse, Chinese business practices are disrupting an entire industry.

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Apr 16, 2021
Deals, Deals & More Deals. China's Tech Giants Expand in Africa & MENA
01:06:47

2021 has been a busy year so far for China's technology giants as they look to expand their international operations and appear to have their sites set on expanding in both the African and Arabian markets. JD, Didi, iQiyi, and Tencent are among those who've all made announcements in the past few weeks.

Tech journalist Alexandria Williams closely follows Chinese e-commerce and technology companies from Nairobi where she's now writing a weekly Tech Digest column for The China Africa Project. Alexandria recently to move to Kenya from China where she worked wrote about tech. She joins Eric & Cobus to give an update on what's new in the Chinese tech space in Africa.

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Apr 13, 2021
India, Africa and the U.S.-China Rivalry
00:50:31

The United States government is stepping up its effort to mobilize its friends and allies to challenge China's growing influence across large swathes of the Global South. While Southeast Asia is the primary front in this burgeoning rivalry, Africa and the Americas are also emerging as important regional theaters.

India is playing a central role in all of this. As a founding member of the Quad, the four-country coalition that also includes the U.S., Japan and Australia, New Delhi aims to challenge China's in vaccine distribution, hegemony in the Indian Ocean and in portions of East Africa.

Veda Vaidyanathan closely follows the power intersection among China, India and Africa as a visiting associate fellow at the Institute of Chinese Studies in New Delhi. She's worked as a consultant for the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association in Harare and the Sino-Africa Centre of Excellence in Nairobi. Veda joins Eric & Cobus to discuss what role India is playing in the burgeoning great power rivalry between the United States and China and how that's playing out in Africa.

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Apr 09, 2021
How China Lends: A Landmark Report on Chinese Loan Contracts
01:19:18

A groundbreaking new analysis by researchers in the United States and Germany provides an unprecedented look inside the contracts that China uses to lend billions of dollars to developing countries around the world.

The new report, "How China Lends," was joint effort by scholars at AidData at William & Mary College, the Kiel Institute for the World Economy in Germany, the Center for Global Development and the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington, D.C.

What they found is that Chinese lenders are "hard-nosed negotiators" who often structure loan deals that weigh heavily in Beijing's favor and include numerous clauses that shroud the agreements in secrecy. But they also acknowledge that many of the methods the Chinese employ are "neither unique nor unprecedented."

One of the report's authors, AidData Executive Director Bradley Parks, joins Eric & Cobus to discuss what their survey of 100 Chinese loan contracts revealed about China's approach to international development finance and how it differs from that of traditional lenders.

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Apr 07, 2021
China Wants to Be a Big Player in the Middle East
00:58:44

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi's latest six-nation tour of the Middle East and Turkey revealed that Beijing now aims to play a much larger role in the region.

During his trip, Wang signed a high-profile strategic cooperation agreement with Iran, announced a major vaccine production deal with the United Arab Emirates, and brought China's message on Xinjiang to Saudi Arabia, home of Islam's two holiest sites in Mecca and Medina.

Zayed University Assistant Professor and Atlantic Council Senior Fellow Jonathan Fulton is among the world's foremost China-Mideast scholars and closely followed Wang's trip. He joins Eric & Cobus from Abu Dhabi to discuss the outcomes of the recent tour and China's broader ambitions in the Middle East.

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Apr 02, 2021
China's Rapidly Evolving Lending Practices in Africa and the Americas
01:03:17

It wasn't that long ago when China lent tens of billions of dollars to developing countries in Africa and the Americas to build vast amounts of badly-needed infrastructure. Now, it appears, those days are over. 

Concerns over debt sustainability, corruption, and poor planning have all led to a dramatic fall-off in Chinese lending in those regions.

Deborah Brautigam, director of the China-Africa Research Initiative at Johns Hopkins University, and Kevin Gallager, head of the Global Development Policy Center at Boston University join Eric & Cobus this week to talk about what the latest data on Chinese lending reveals and how Chinese development finance is rapidly evolving.

SHOW NOTES:

  • CARI Report: Twenty Years of Data on China's Africa Lending: https://bit.ly/3rzgksu
  • Chinese Interactive Loan Database at Boston University: https://chinaafricaloandata.org/


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Mar 30, 2021
Chinese Perspectives on Anti-Black Racism in China
01:06:34

A series of high-profile recent incidents including the use of blackface on Chinese TV, discrimination against Black residents in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, and widespread racial insensitivity on Chinese social media sites like Weibo have sparked a vibrant discussion about anti-Black racism in China.

While these conversations have done a lot to advance our collective understanding of the complexities of this issue, too often, though, Chinese voices are under-represented in the conversation.

A group of young Chinese scholars is hoping to change that by engaging both domestic and international stakeholders in a far more nuanced discourse on race and identity in China. Last August, they published a controversial analysis on the prevalence of anti-Black racism on Weibo. Later, they translated some of their findings into English and published it on The China Africa Project.

The scholars have chosen to remain anonymous out of concern that the sensitive nature of the topic will provoke a dangerous backlash from online trolls. Two of those researchers join Eric & Cobus to explain what they feel is missing from the debate about Chinese-Black race relations in China. They also invited five of their academic colleagues to share their perspectives on the issue as well.

SHOW NOTES:

  • Anti-Black Racism on the Chinese Social Media Network Weibo by Anonymous: https://bit.ly/2Quv66L
  • 我们分析了五万条种族歧视账号微博,发现了这些: https://bit.ly/3jQIkph


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Mar 26, 2021
The Politics of Chinese Vaccine Distribution in Africa
00:54:10

The Chinese government insists that politics play no part in its rapidly expanding global vaccine distribution campaign. But when you look at the maps as to where Chinese vaccine sales and donations are heaviest, it just so happens to be in regions that are among the most strategically important to Beijing: Southeast Asia, the Persian Gulf, and South America.

Rosie Wigmore in Beijing and Ovigwe Eguegu in Abuja, both policy analysts for the Beijing-based consultancy Development Reimagined, have been closely tracking the increasingly fraught politics related to vaccine distribution. They join Eric & Cobus to talk about their latest commentaries on the issue and what the key issues are in the months ahead.

SHOW NOTES:

  • 5 Reasons to Worry About the ‘Chinese Vaccine Diplomacy’ Narrative by Rosie Wigmore: https://bit.ly/3lMXoVW
  • Will Chinese-Made COVID-19 Vaccines Find Acceptance in Nigeria? by Ovigwe Eguegu: https://bit.ly/3bFjtlS


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Mar 24, 2021
Update on the Current State of China-Zambia Relations
00:55:48

The recent visit to Zambia by China's top foreign policy official Yang Jiechi highlights the outsized importance Lusaka plays in Beijing's broader Africa strategy. Relations between the countries are among China's oldest on the continent, dating back to the anti-colonial struggles of the 1960s.

Today, ideology has given way to economics. Zambia is a key supplier of copper and iron ore while China is Lusaka's largest bilateral creditor.

Emmanuel Matambo, a native-Zambian and research director at the Centre for Africa-China Studies at the University of Johannesburg, joins Eric & Cobus to discuss how debt, xenophobia, and geopolitics are together placing unprecedented strains on the Sino-Zambian relationship.

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YouTube: The Impact of Zambia-China Relations on Zambia's Democracy

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Mar 19, 2021
How Smaller Countries Can Negotiate More Effectively With China
00:59:38

China's enormous size affords it tremendous advantages in its relations with smaller countries, particularly developing states in the global south. Beijing regularly leverages its huge economy, growing military power, and diplomatic muscle in international organizations to both cajole and even coerce other countries in pursuit of its own interests.

China's behavior towards smaller states is by no means exceptional. In fact, it's quite standard among the world's major powers. The more pressing question, though, is how do these smaller countries respond to a more assertive China? In many instances, there is no response. Many developing countries have been slow to shift their focus from traditional power centers in Washington, London and Brussels to Beijing and, as such, have not built up the internal competencies within their governments to effectively negotiate with China.

But in Argentina, that's starting to change. Santiago Bustelo is a China advisor in the Ministry of Development who brings almost a decade of experience in Chinese politics and economics to help the government in Buenos Aires form a more effective engagement strategy with Beijing.

Santiago joins Eric & Cobus to discuss the particular challenges that smaller states like Argentina face in crafting a China policy.

SHOW NOTES:

Tips for African Negotiators Doing Deals with China: Rebalancing Asymmetries by Hervé Lado and Folashadé Soulé: https://bit.ly/3cLeijE

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Mar 17, 2021
Diversity and Inclusive Representation in the China Watching Space
00:55:06

This month marks the one-year anniversary of the Black China Caucus (BCC), an organization set up to foster a more inclusive discussion about China. BCC was founded by a group of Black China professionals in the United States with a range of backgrounds in academia, politics, and business who all saw it as an urgent imperative that traditionally marginalized voices now become a part of the broader conversation on China.

BCC Co-Founder, Dr. Keisha Brown, an assistant professor at Tennessee State University in Nashville, and Executive Vice President Avonda Fogan, an education executive in Washington, D.C. join Eric & Cobus to discuss why diversifying the predominantly white China watching community in the U.S. and Europe is so important.

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The Black China Caucus and NüVoices:

Web: blackchinacaucus.org & nuvoices.com.

Twitter: @BLKChinaCaucus & @nuvoices

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Mar 12, 2021
Tibor Nagy Reflects on U.S.-China Competition in Africa
01:09:16

The Chinese "are kicking our tails everywhere" warned Tibor Nagy in a recent column published in the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal newspaper in Texas. The former top U.S. diplomat for Africa called on the new Biden administration to do more to confront Beijing's "unrestrained and aggressive tactics" on the continent.

Nagy's comments come as both Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken held press conferences last week where both castigated the other country, providing yet another indication of rapidly deteriorating relations between the two powers.

After more than 30 years in the State Department, including ambassadorial appointments in both Guinea and Ethiopia and then named in 2018 to be Assistant Secretary of State, Nagy is among America's most experienced Africa-focused diplomats. He joins Eric & Cobus from Washington, D.C. to discuss what he thinks the U.S. needs to do to respond to China's surging influence in Africa and why it's so important that Washington take immediate action.

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Mar 09, 2021
Kenya's Delicate Balancing Act Between the U.S. and China
01:04:12

Kenya has done far better than many countries in fostering robust ties with both the United States and China, particularly in economic relations. Just last week, President Uhuru Kenyatta spoke by phone with his American counterpart Joe Biden and among the issues they discussed was the revival of talks to finalize a free trade agreement between the two countries.

On the Chinese side, the Kenyatta administration is negotiating with its creditors in Beijing to restructure billions of dollars of outstanding loans. Already, China's policy banks have deferred just under a quarter-billion dollars of debt repayments and the two sides are now also working to handover key infrastructure projects like the Standard Gauge Railway to local control ahead of schedule as a way to reduce the loan repayment burden.

But none of this may be enough to avert severe economic distress, according to Elijah Munyi, an assistant professor at the United States International University-Africa in Nairobi. Professor Munyi, who's an expert in Kenyan international relations, joins Eric to discuss why he sees a very difficult road ahead.

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Mar 05, 2021
Africa's Role In the Current India-China Rivalry
00:40:53

Africa is emerging as a front in two great power rivalries, one between China and the U.S. and the other between China and India. The increasingly bitter feud between Asia's two largest countries now extends beyond the sub-continent into the Indian Ocean and all the way to Africa.

Abishek Mishra, a junior fellow at the New Delhi-based think tank Observer Research Foundation, closely follows China-India-Africa relations, particularly in the maritime sector. He joins Eric & Cobus to discuss how the feud between Asia's two largest countries impacts Africa.

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Mar 02, 2021
Update on the Chinese Debt Situation in Africa
00:57:05

Chinese debt relief talks are underway in a number of African countries including Angola, Zambia, Kenya, and Ethiopia among others but you wouldn't really know it. Officials on all sides aren't saying much and there's relatively little press coverage on the issue.

Meantime, a growing number of African countries are signing on to the G20's common framework while at the same time negotiating debt deferral deals with the IMF and other multilateral creditors. In terms of private creditors, there's been little to no progress on any meaningful restructuring of the billions of Eurobond obligations owed by African borrowers.

Mark Bohlund, a senior credit research analyst at REDD Intelligence in London, closely follows everything going on in the African debt market. He joins Eric & Cobus to provide an update on China's role in the debt situation confronting many of Africa's largest economies.

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Feb 26, 2021
Change in Guangzhou's African Diaspora Community
00:56:26

April 11th will mark the one-year anniversary of what's become known as "the Guangzhou Incident" when dozens, possibly hundreds of African residents in the southern Chinese city were evicted from their homes and hotels. Chinese officials denied that Black and African residents were singled out as part of a broader crackdown to enforce stringent COVID-19 health regulations, but much of the rest of the world didn't buy it after they saw countless social videos depicting blatant maltreatment.

Although many people today associate Guangzhou with what happened last April, the fact is that the African diaspora community there had been under intense pressure for years. Tougher Chinese immigration laws, higher livings costs, and new zoning ordinances all made life increasingly difficult for African transnational migrants -- especially those whose immigration status wasn't always fully legal. And this was BEFORE the pandemic.

Roberto Castillo, an assistant professor at Lingnan University in Hong Kong, has been closely following those changes in southern China's African diaspora communities for more than a decade. He's just come out with a new book on the subject and joins Eric & Cobus to discuss how Asia's largest overseas African population is undergoing profound change.

SHOW NOTES:

Amazon.com: purchase the Kindle edition of African Transnational Mobility in China: Africans on the Move by Roberto Castillo

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Feb 23, 2021
China's Low Profile Diplomacy in the Caribbean
00:45:06

China is steadily, albeit quietly, deepening its ties in the Caribbean region using many of the same techniques that it did in the early 2000s when it ramped up its engagement in Africa. The Chinese are buying more agriculture, building infrastructure, and integrating a growing number of Caribbean states into its Belt and Road global trade agenda.

But Rasheed Griffith, host of the China in the Caribbean Podcast, cautions that while Beijing's engagement in the Caribbean may look a lot like what it's doing in Africa and other developing regions, there are some important differences.

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Feb 19, 2021
The Future of Chinese-Financed Infrastructure in Kenya
01:01:25

The China Road and Bridge Corporation is building a massive new half-a-billion dollar expressway right through the Kenyan capital of Nairobi. But this project is very different than previous Chinese-financed infrastructure initiatives in Kenya, like the ailing Standard Gauge Railway for example, where the government borrowed billions from the China Exim Bank.

Instead, the new Nairobi Expressway is a public-private-partnership (PPP) where CRBC is putting up the money and in turn, will receive a long-term concession to recoup its investment before handing the road back to the Kenyan government. It's easy to see why a lot of people like this model given that the host country doesn't incur any debt and the contractor has a chance to earn a sizable return on its investment. But in Kenya, as in many countries, PPPs are complicated and very risky.

Nairobi-based journalist Ismail Einashe is closely following the development of the new Nairobi Expressway and shared some of his reflections of the project in a "Letter From Africa" that was recently published on BBC News. Ismail joins Eric & Cobus from Nairobi to discuss why this particular road could tell us a lot about the future of infrastructure financing in Africa.

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Feb 17, 2021
China & The Geopolitics of COVID Vaccines in Africa
00:55:08

COVID-19 vaccines are finally starting to make their way to the world's poorest countries as production of Chinese, Russian and Indian jabs ramps up. But it's the large-scale distribution of Chinese vaccines that's causing a lot of people around the world, particularly in U.S. and European countries, to become increasingly worried about the geopolitical ramifications.

In Africa, the Chinese have exported vaccines to half a dozen countries and are in talks with dozens more to make jabs available in the coming months. Similarly, a new air bridge between the two regions is now operational that will facilitate the transportation and distribution of vaccines throughout Africa.

Nwachukwu Egbunike, the Sub-Saharan Community Manager for the independent journalism website Global Voices, says the West isn't in a good position to complain about China's "vaccine diplomacy" given how little they're doing to help the situation. Nwachukwu joins Eric & Cobus to discuss a two-part series he wrote on the geopolitical ramifications of COVID-19 vaccine distribution for China, Africa and Western countries.

SHOW NOTES:

Read Nwachukwu Egbunike's two-part series: COVID-19 vaccine in Africa - Caught between China’s soft-power diplomacy and the West’s vaccine nationalism


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Feb 09, 2021
China's Cutting Back on BRI Financing, But Not For Renewable Energy
00:44:00

China has dramatically cut back financing overseas infrastructure development initiatives, especially for carbon-intensive energy projects involving oil, gas, and coal. From 2016 to 2019, China's two major policy banks slashed lending by a stunning 85%.

However, renewables are the exception, according to a new report by the Green Belt and Road Initiative Center at the Central University of Finance and Economics in Beijing. For the first time ever last year, financing for renewable energy projects using solar, wind, or hydropower accounted for more than half of all of Chinese investment in energy infrastructure around the world, said the report.

And BRI countries benefitted significantly more than those not a part of Beijing's global trade agenda.

Two of the report's authors, Christoph Nedopil, founding director of the Green BRI Center, and Mengdi Yue, a researcher at the center, join Eric & Cobus from Beijing to discuss the report's findings and why financing renewable energy is now a more important policy priority for Beijing.

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Feb 05, 2021
Lessons From ASEAN on How Africa Can Better Manage Ties With China
01:05:58

While Chinese engagement in Africa is a relatively new phenomenon, dating back around 20 years now, countries in Southeast Asia have millennia of experience in managing ties with Beijing. Today, the 10 countries that make up the Association of Southeast Asian Nations or ASEAN, are on the frontlines of the Belt and Road Initiative and China's rapidly escalating rivalry with the United States.

And given that most of Southeast Asia is very similar to Africa in terms of demographics (both young regions), agriculture (both are predominantly agrarian), and development (average per capita incomes are similar at around $4,000-$5,000), there are a number of applicable lessons that African stakeholders can takeaway from ASEAN's experience in managing ties with China.

Sebastian Strangio, Southeast Asia Editor at the Asia-Pacific news site The Diplomat, is among the world's leading journalists covering the region and also the author of a new book that chronicles ASEAN's complex, often contentious relationship with its powerful neighbor to the north. Sebastian joins Eric & Cobus to discuss how countries in this part of the world have learned to live "in the dragon's shadow."


AMAZON.COM: In The Dragon's Shadow: Southeast Asia in the Chinese Century by Sebastian Strangio

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Feb 02, 2021
Tanzania's Relationship Status With China: It's Complicated
00:50:28

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi's January visit to Tanzania highlighted the East African country's growing importance to Beijing. It's a strategically located Belt and Road country that has the potential to serve as a major gateway to inland regional markets along with easy access to some of Africa's largest ports on the Indian Ocean.

But relations between the two countries have been quite bumpy over the past couple of years. President John Magufuli famously and quite publicly rejected a Chinese deal to re-build the Port of Bagamoyo and there was widespread outrage in Tanzania in response to the poor treatment of African residents in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou.

University of Dar es Salaam political science lecturer Shangwe Muhidin is among the world's leading Sino-Tanzanian affairs scholars and joins Eric & Cobus to discuss why Wang chose to visit Tanzania now and how Beijing's ties there are quite different from those in other East African countries.

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Jan 29, 2021
China Wants to Become a Major Player in International Aid
01:03:12

In January, China published a blueprint for how it plans to become one of the world's leading countries in international and development. The white paper on "China's International's Development Cooperation in the New Era" released by the State Council updates two previous strategy documents and outlines Beijing's ambitious plans to overhaul its current, rather limited, aid and development initiatives around the world.

But the paper also makes it clear that the Chinese don't have any plans to conform their new aid agenda to those of Western-led international organizations and donor states. Instead, the new strategy talks about new "diverse forms" of aid and the integration of China's development policies with other initiatives like the Belt and Road.

The timing of this new aid plan is also critical as many of those traditional donors are under mounting pressure to cut their foreign aid budgets -- the implications of what the Chinese say they want to do could be significant for Africa and other developing regions.

Stella Hong Zhang, a PhD candidate at George Mason University in the United States, is among the world's leading experts on Chinese international aid and development. She described the new white paper as a "landmark document" and joins Eric & Cobus to discuss why she feels it's so important.

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Jan 26, 2021
The Plunge in China's Overseas Lending
00:57:05

Getting a loan from one of China's two largest policy banks is significantly more difficult than it was just a couple of years ago. According to data from Boston University's Global Development Policy Center, lending by the China Development Bank and the China Exim Bank plunged 94% from $75 billion in 2016 to just $4 billion in 2019.

This is a dramatic shift given that these two banks alone over the past 20 years have lent nearly as much as the World Bank.

BU's findings have generated quite a bit of discussion and while other analysts may disagree with some of their results, most share their conclusion that Chinese policy bank lending has indeed fallen precipitously with no indication as to if or when it'll rebound.

Kevin Gallagher, director of the Global Development Policy Center, and Rebecca Ray, a senior academic researcher there were among the leads who helped to build the new interactive database that tracks Chinese policy bank lending around the world. They both join Eric & Cobus from Boston to discuss their research and why Beijing is now far more judicious with its loans.

SHOW NOTES:


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Jan 22, 2021
China's Rapidly Evolving Relations in the DR Congo
00:45:06

Foreign Minister Wang Yi's stopover in Kinshasa on his latest Africa tour highlights the growing importance of the DR Congo in Chinese foreign policy. During his visit, Wang announced a modest debt relief package and that the DRC would become the 45th African country to join the Belt and Road Initiative.

But those initiatives belie the DR Congo's larger importance to China. The Chinese are now in the midst of a major cobalt buying binge, a critical metal found largely in the DRC. Similarly, Kinshasa has been a reliable supporter of Beijing's controversial positions at the United Nations, including its stance on Xinjiang.

Stockholm-based independent researcher Johanna Malm is one of the world's leading scholars on Sino-DRC relations and has been closely watching the rapid evolution of Chinese engagement in the DRC from the mid-2000s to the present. She joins Eric & Cobus to provide some perspective on how China's current moves there are part of a trajectory that began with an enormous mining deal in 2007.

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Jan 15, 2021
Will China Ever Look to Africa as a Manufacturing Destination?
00:51:16

"Made in China" once represented the lowest-cost manufacturing in the world. Not anymore. Labor costs have been steadily rising, environmental regulations are much stricter now, and, as of last year, Chinese products exported to the U.S. come with expensive tariffs.

In response, Chinese manufacturers have been moving their operations overseas, sparking an intense global competition among many of the world's poorest countries to see who can attract that investment. Southeast Asia, at least so far, appears to be the big winner. But other regions, including Africa, aren't giving up -- countries such Ethiopia are aggressively positioning themselves as an ideal gateway for Chinese producers to access the European, U.S., and even the Chinese market itself.

Jia Yu from the Institute of New Structural Economics at Peking University, one of Beijing's most prestigious international development think tanks, closely follows the Chinese offshoring trends and has conducted extensive research on Chinese Special Economic Zone development in Ethiopia and in various Asian countries. She joins Eric & Cobus to explain where Chinese manufacturers are going and whether African countries are well-positioned now to pick up some of that business.

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Jan 12, 2021
China's Growing Influence in the Mideast & Persian Gulf
00:57:20

China is steadily reducing its dependence on African oil suppliers who once accounted for a third of Chinese crude imports. Today, China buys more oil from Saudia Arabia than any other country in the world. From 2019 to 2020, Chinese oil buys from the Kingdom surged 47%. The Chinese are also buying more oil from Iraq and leveraging its close ties with the United Arab Emirates to establish sophisticated trading logistics hubs in Dubai as part of the Belt and Road Initiative.

And China's presence in the Middle East, the Persian Gulf, and North Africa isn't confined to just the commercial realm. Beijing is also rapidly expanding its diplomatic and security engagement in those regions. Now, some are beginning to wonder if China has hegemonic ambitions that will challenge incumbent powers like the United States.

Afshin Molavi doesn't think so, at least not now. Molavi closely follows Middle East North Africa (MENA) politics as a senior fellow at the Johns Hopkins SAIS Foreign Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., and regularly travels to the region to meet with senior stakeholders. He joins Eric & Cobus to discuss his new paper, Enter The Dragon: China’s Growing Influence In The Middle East And North Africa and explains policymakers need a more refined view of China's ambitions in MENA.

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Jan 08, 2021
Special Edition: The Year Ahead in China-Africa Relations
01:01:53

With the COVID-19 pandemic still raging, the debt crisis unresolved, and preparations underway for the triennial China-Africa leaders' summit now underway, 2021 is shaping up to be another pivotal year. In this special edition, analysts and scholars from China, the U.S., and several African countries share their perspectives on how they think these critical issues are going to play out in the months ahead.

This week's show features analysis from the following experts:

  • Zhou Zixiang, Policy & Advocacy Associate at Bridge Consulting in Beijing | @BridgeBeijing
  • Gyude Moore, Senior Policy Fellow at the Center for Global Development in Washington, D.C. | @gyude_moore
  • Kaiser Kuo, Host of the Sinica Podcast | @KaiserKuo
  • Judd Devermont, Africa Program Director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. | @JDevermont
  • Rasheed Griffith, Host of the China in the Caribbean Podcast | @rasheedguo
  • Andrea Ghiselli, Assistant Professor of International Relations at Fudan University in Shanghai | @AGhiselliChina
  • Hangwei Li, China-Africa Scholar at the University of London | @Hangwei_Li
  • Ovigwe Eguegu, Lagos-based Policy Analyst at Development Reimagined | @OvigweEguegu


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Jan 04, 2021
2020 in Review: The Impact of the "Guangzhou Incidents"
01:12:19

This April's outburst of discrimination against Black and African residents in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou marked a seminal event in China-Africa relations this year. Dozens, possibly hundreds of Black and African residents were evicted from their homes and hotels in mid-April in response to a COVID-19 inspired crackdown by municipal authorities.

Images and videos of mostly young African men sleeping on the streets of Guangzhou, being accosted by police, and refused entry to local businesses, most notably at a McDonald's, filled African social media and enraged people across the continent.

Those events, now known as "Guangzhou Incidents," drew worldwide attention -- both about what happened in southern China and the Chinese government's response that combined a mix of denial, contrition, and accusations that the U.S. was somehow complicit.

While the story made international headlines, few outlets covered it with the depth and nuance than Blacklivity China, an online community dedicated to all aspects of the African diaspora in China. Two of Blacklivity China's managers, Saron Tamerat and Co-Founder Runako Celina join Eric & Cobus to share their reflections on the "Guangzhou Incidents" and what impact it had on the larger China-Africa relationship.

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Dec 21, 2020
Why China's Cutting Back on Overseas Lending
00:44:12

It's going to be much more difficult for countries in Africa and other developing regions to borrow money from China. New research from Boston University's Global Development Policy Center reveals a sharp drop in overseas lending by the country's two largest policy banks, from $75 billion in 2016 to just $4 billion last year.

After years of sometimes profligate lending, Chinese creditors are showing newfound discipline on what they finance.

Dr. Yan Wang, a senior visiting fellow at the Institute of New Structural Economics at Peking University, is among the world's leading experts in Chinese overseas development finance. She joins Eric & Cobus to discuss her latest research on the issue and why she thinks Beijing is now pulling back the reins on lending.

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Dec 18, 2020
The Bondholders' View of the African Debt Crisis
00:46:15

The ongoing debt crisis in Zambia and several other African countries is proving to be much more difficult to resolve than in previous years because of the expanded role of both Chinese lenders and bondholders. Both of these creditors have starkly different approaches in how they're handling the situation when countries find themselves unable to meet their obligations.

In Zambia, in particular, critics accuse the Chinese of not being forthcoming about the size and nature of their loan portfolio in the country. Similarly, private creditors face equal scorn for appearing to be inflexible.

But private creditors, for their part, say those critiques are not fair as they don't take into the legal obligations that asset managers, hedge funds, and other investors face as part of their fiduciary responsibility. Furthermore, given that many of the institutions that manage Eurobond holdings in Africa represent hundreds, even thousands of individual investors, getting them all to agree to a debt relief package would be difficult if not impossible.

The Emerging Markets Investors Alliance (EMIA), a U.S.-based non-profit industry group, represents many of those institutional investors that own Zambian debt. EMIA Research Analyst Ken Colangelo joins Eric & Cobus from New York to discuss the perspective of investors in the ongoing debt crisis in Zambia and elsewhere on the continent.

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Dec 11, 2020
The Back Rooms in Johannesburg's Chinatown
00:59:10

South Africa is home to the largest and one of the oldest Chinese diaspora populations in Africa, dating back hundreds of years. Although there are no precise figures, the ethnic Chinese population in the country is estimated to be at least 300,000.

And during that long history, the Chinese community has often struggled to find a place within South Africa's complicated racial matrix. Even today, long after the end of apartheid, and despite South Africa's full embrace of multiculturalism, a sense of "otherness" hangs over the country's diverse ethnic Chinese communities.

Dartmouth College Assistant Professor Mingwei Huang has spent years studying Chinese migration and assimilation patterns in South Africa, particularly in Johannesburg. She recently contributed a chapter to the new book "Anxious Joburg" where she explored how architecture in Johannesburg's Chinatown is a manifestation of the Chinese community's complex history in South Africa.

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Dec 04, 2020
David Monyae Reflects on the Current State of China-Africa Relations
00:56:26

2020's been a turbulent year for China's relations with African countries amid the ongoing pandemic, a worsening debt crisis and an eruption of racial tensions. While those are no doubt difficult challenges, it's also important to note that a lot of good things also happened this year.

Trade volumes remain surprisingly strong, Chinese tech investment on the continent is booming and people-to-people ties, especially among students, media and government officials, are all doing relatively well all things considered.

Dr. David Monyae, director of the Africa-China Centre at the University of Johannesburg and co-director of the school's Confucius Institute is optimistic about the future of China-Africa relations despite many of the current difficulties. He joins Eric & Cobus to look back on the some of the key issues that arose in 2020 and shares a few insights about what to look for in the year ahead.

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Dec 01, 2020
China's Role in Africa's Economic Transformation
00:59:44

Over the past 20 years China has played a pivotal, arguably indispensable role in Africa's economic development. China is by far Africa's largest bilateral trading partner, a major source of foreign investment and a vital player in helping Africa to close its huge infrastructure deficit. But in recent years, since around 2015, the economic relationship between these two regions has been steadily evolving. Now, with the rise of the Belt and Road, China is no longer as dependent on Africa for the oil, timber and minerals that make up the bulk of Chinese trade and investment on the continent.

Tsinghua University professor Tang Xiaoyang and Overseas Development Institute Research Fellow Linda Calabrese recently published a new paper that explores China's role in Africa's economic transformation. They join Eric & Cobus to discuss their findings and share their insights on the current state of China-Africa economic ties amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Also, this week, we feature a short interview with Ghana Business News Managing Editor Emmanuel Dogbeviabout his determination to continue publishing after a fire destroyed almost all of the company's equipment.

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Nov 27, 2020
Russian and Chinese Propaganda in Africa
00:43:50

Combatting fake news, misinformation and outright propaganda is one of the foremost challenges confronting policymakers in Africa and elsewhere around the world. Some of that misleading information is distributed organically while other memes are intentionally deployed by governments to influence local populations.

Two researchers in South Africa are exploring the role of Russian misinformation campaigns and Chinese propaganda on the continent. Dzvinka Kachur, a researcher at The Centre for Complex Systems in Transition at Stellenbosch University in Cape Town, and Jean Le Roux, research associate for the Sub-Saharan Africa region at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab) based in South Africa, joins Eric & Cobus to discuss their findings and what can be done to combat the spread of fake news.

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Nov 24, 2020
China's Role in East Africa's Technology Stack
00:51:25

The technology stack, either in a company or a country, is comprised of the different technology layers that together form a digital communications ecosystem. And in places like East Africa, Chinese technology is indispensable up and down the stack -- everything from the internet cables that deliver connectivity to the networks that route all of the data and, most visibly, all those Chinese-made mobile phones that are ubiquitous.

So, when the U.S. government focuses a disproportionate amount of attention on Huawei, and ZTE to some extent, they're missing the much bigger picture where Chinese technology is pervasive throughout East Africa's digital ecosystem.

And Chinese tech companies aren't just playing in the hardware space, they're also becoming increasingly active in the African app market, e-commerce and laying the ground work for emerging technologies including blockchain and cryptocurrencies. Michael Kimani is closely following all of this from Nairobi where he's an independent blockchain advisor to companies and governments in the region.

He joins Eric & Cobus to share his insights on the latest Chinese tech trends in East Africa and why he thinks companies like Huawei are well-positioned in the market.

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Michael Kimani's blog: kioneki.com

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Nov 20, 2020
View From Washington on the Future of U.S.-Africa-China Relations
00:59:13

There's an emerging consensus in Washington, D.C. that a future Biden foreign policy towards Africa is probably going to look a lot like the policies enacted by the Obama administration. Two aspects of this new/old approach stand out from what the U.S. is currently doing on the continent:

  • LESS FOCUS ON CHINA: While confronting China around the world will remain a top priority for the White House, it's widely expected that the focus on Beijing will be reduced in places like Africa.
  • RETURN TO VALUES-BASED DIPLOMACY: The U.S. will move to rejoin multilateral organizations as part of a broader effort to put democracy promotion, governance and transparency as key foreign policy pillars.


But with the election still unresolved at home, it's not going to be easy for the incoming president to quickly implement these changes as he'll be confronted with a number of other, more pressing challenges.

Aubrey Hruby, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council's Africa Center, and Landry Singé, a senior fellow at The Brookings Institution, are among Washington's leading analysts who frequently advise high-level government officials. They join Eric & Cobus to share a few insights on what they're hearing about what's to come and how the U.S. should best re-position itself against China and other international actors in Africa.

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Nov 18, 2020
What Role Will China Play in Joe Biden's Africa Policy?
00:58:27

After a tumultuous 3.5 years, a wide array of African stakeholders are hoping for a "reset" in Washington's ties with the continent following the election of President-elect Joe Biden. Specifically, they're hoping the United States will re-engage multilateral institutions like the WHO and the WTO, resume its traditional leadership role in international finance and do more to help countries battle the spread of COVID-19.

But more than anything, there's a desire for the United States to dial down the rhetoric against China. African leaders have become increasingly anxious in recent months that they're going to once again get swept up in a great power duel. Memories of the last Cold War are still fresh and how Africa suffered disproportionately. Furthermore, heightened U.S.-China tensions unnerve global markets that brings down prices of oil and other key commodities that generate the bulk of the continent's income.

Josh Eisenman, an associate professor at the University of Notre Dame who specializes in Chinese global politics has been closely following the political maneuverings between the U.S. and China following the election. He joins Eric & Cobus to discuss the role that China may play in the incoming administration's future Africa policy.

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BOOK: China and Africa: A Century of Engagement by Joshua Eisenman and David Shinn


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Nov 13, 2020
The Black Expat Experience in Hong Kong
00:52:33

African residents living in China today are either students or traders, according to widely-held perceptions. With more than 80,000 African students studying in China every year and tens of thousands of people from across the continent doing business in port cities like Guangzhou and Yiwu, it's not surprising that a lot of people see it that way.

But it's a gross over-simplification of what's a very diverse population and those perceptions also don't account for the growing number of black professionals who now live in many of China's largest cities, especially in places like Hong Kong.

Adedamola Sowole, aka the "Fantastic Fo" and Louisa Awolaja, aka "Lou," want to change that with a new podcast they co-host together about the black expat experience in Hong Kong. Both Fo and Lou are Nigerian British expats who work in the territory in professional jobs and interview other black expatriates about daily life in one of Asia's largest cities. The two join Eric & Cobus to talk about the show and the sensitive issues they tackle in each episode.

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Nov 10, 2020
Weaponizing China's Belt and Road Initiative
00:57:56

Since its inception in 2013, Chinese government officials have insisted that the Belt and Road is solely an economic initiative and does not have any military motivations. But the BRI's civil-military distinction is no longer as clear cut as it used to be. President Xi Jinping himself called for a strong BRI security system to protect China's overseas interests, people and property.

One little-known aspect of the BRI is that much of the overseas construction, particularly ports, must conform to standards that conform to the People's Liberation Army's requirements. So, while today there's little evidence that China is leveraging the BRI for security or military purposes, there are concerns that it is positioning to be able to do so in the future should the need arise.

Daniel Russel, vice president for international security and diplomacy at the New York-based Asia Society Policy Institute, examined the security dimensions of the BRI in a recent paper. Daniel joins Eric & Cobus to discuss what he calls the Belt and Road's "civil-military fusion" in maritime, terrestrial and space environments.

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Watch a discussion with the authors of ASPI's report Weaponizing the Belt and Road Initiative: https://youtu.be/PX5PnnnYrFw

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Nov 06, 2020
Why the "Professional Pessimists" Are Wrong About Africa's Economic Future
00:59:29

Africa's economic landscape today looks bleak. Debt levels, unemployment rates and bankruptcies are all on the rise across much of the continent. And it doesn't look like there's going to be much help from the international community to weather the worst financial crisis in a generation. Both Chinese and private creditors aren't giving borrowers a whole lot of flexibility and traditional donors in the U.S., Europe and Japan are preoccupied with their own crises.

Given how difficult times are for so many people, it's easy to lose perspective and see only the negative side of things.

But Djoudie Etoundi-Essomba thinks that would be a serious mistake. More importantly, the Washington, D.C.-based founder and CEO of the investment advisory firm Emerging Africa Partners argues that while things are indeed challenging now, there are still a lot of reasons to be optimistic about the continent's economic future.

Djoudie joins Eric & Cobus to challenge some of the prevailing negative narratives about Africa and explain why he thinks the so-called "professional pessimists" are wrong.

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Oct 30, 2020
How COVID-19 is Impacting the Africa-Asia Wildlife Trade
00:39:37

Amid the shutdowns in both Asia and Africa due to the COVID-19 outbreak there've been serious disruptions to the illegal wildlife trade between the two continents. But even though it's been harder to get African wildlife products to markets in China, Vietnam and elsewhere in Asia, the pace of killing has actually gone up by some estimates.

Park rangers who've been on the front lines battling against poachers have been forced to remain in the barracks due to the pandemic, providing organized crime syndicates with unfettered access to pangolins, rhinos and elephant populations among other animals.

James Compton, senior director for Asia-Pacific for the international wildlife conservation group TRAFFIC, closely follows the trade from Southeast Asia. He joins Eric & Cobus from Vietnam to discuss why the pandemic provides critical motivation for Asian governments to finally crackdown on illicit trafficking of both animals and animal parts.

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Oct 27, 2020
Deciphering China's Belt & Road Initiative
00:56:04

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a central theme of China's foreign policy, particularly in developing regions like Africa where it's linked to billions of dollars of infrastructure development. But when you ask Chinese officials "what exactly is the BRI?" no one really seems to have a definitive answer.

It's a development agenda, a foreign policy initiative, a security strategy... and much more all mixed together.

While it may seem counterintuitive, but that ambiguity/confusion is actually intentional, according to Jonathan Hillman, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International and author of the new book "The Emperor’s New Road: China and the Project of the Century." Jonathan joins Eric & Cobus to discuss his journey along the BRI and why it embodies China's push for "incremental imperialism."

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Oct 23, 2020
Laos and the Chinese Debt Crisis in Africa
00:47:52

The small, impoverished land-locked Southeast Asian nation of Laos is a focal point of China's ambitious Belt and Road Initiative and also emerging a case study in how Beijing is handling a burgeoning debt crisis in the country. Just as in a number of African countries, Laos is increasingly unable to repay the massive infrastructure loans that it borrowed from China to build badly-needed infrastructure including railways and power transmission.

But there are some interesting experiments going on in Laos that might shed some light on how China plans to handle some of its debts in Africa. Specifically, a debt-for-equity swap with the country's state-owned power company could be an option that is employed in places like Kenya where the government is already behind on some of its loan payments.

Hong Kong University of Science and Technology Research Assistant Professor Kelly Wanjing Chen has been closely following the debt crisis in Laos and published a paper on the topic this fall. She's also an expert on Chinese debt financing in the global South. Kelly joins Eric & Cobus to discuss the Chinese debt crisis in Laos and whether there are any lessons that can be applied to what's happening in Africa.

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Oct 20, 2020
Venezuela and the Chinese Debt Crisis in Africa
00:47:19

Even before the current economic crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic there were widespread concerns about Chinese lending practices in Africa. The U.S. and other critics contend that Beijing is employing a predatory lending strategy where it intentionally loads up poor countries with unsustainable amounts of debt. When they invariably can't repay those loans, China swoops in to seize assets.

While this so-called "debt trap" theory remains very popular, there's simply no evidence to support the assertion according to scholars who've looked into thousands of Chinese loan deals around the world.

So, if it's not a "debt trap" then what are the Chinese doing?

This is a particularly pertinent question now as Angola, Zambia and Kenya are all confronting severe challenges in their abilities to repay Chinese loans. Since this is the first time that African borrowers have encountered this dilemma with the Chinese, no one's really sure what's going to happen.

But a similar situation's been playing out for almost two decades in Venezuela and what's happened there might help inform how the Chinese will handle their ailing loan portfolios in Africa. Matt Ferchen, head of global China research at the Dutch-based Mercator Institute for China Studies, is one of the world's leading scholars on Sino-South American relations and has closely followed the Chinese debt crisis in Venezuela.

Matt joins Eric & Cobus to discuss the fate of $20+ billion of outstanding Chinese loans to Venezuela and what African stakeholders can take away from this experience.

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Download Matt Ferchen's latest paper: China-Venezuela Relations in the Twenty-First Century: From Overconfidence to Uncertainty from the U.S. Institute of Peace website.

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Oct 16, 2020
China's High-Risk, High-Reward C19 Vaccine Diplomacy in Africa
00:49:55

Last May, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced that Beijing would make any future COVID-19 vaccine available to Africa and other developing regions as a "global public good." He didn't explain, though, what that actually meant. Since that speech to the World Health Assembly, there've been very few details as to how China plans to distribute a C19 vaccine in Africa, how much it will cost and which countries will have to pay for it.

But last week we got our first clue as to what the Chinese may be planning to do. After months of hesitation, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunyin delivered a surprise announcement last Friday that the government will join the COVID-19 global vaccine alliance known as Covax. This is the same organization that the U.S. has refused to support due to its close relationship with the World Health Organization that Washington recently withdrew from and that it contends is unduly influenced by China.

George Zixiang Zhou closely follows China's vaccine development in his role as policy and advocacy association at the Beijing-based consultancy Bridge Consulting. He joins Eric & Cobus from the Chinese capital to discuss what the Covax decision means for Beijing's COVID-19 vaccine strategy in Africa and why this is such a high-risk, high-reward undertaking.

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Oct 13, 2020
Chinese UN Peacekeeping in Africa
00:51:51

Last month, China released its first-ever white paper on its participation in United Nations Peacekeeping Operations (PKOs) around the world. The lengthy document provided an overview of China's 30-year history in contributing to PKOs and featured some new insights on Beijing's ambitions to become an even larger player in the UN's Department of Peace Operations.

As of August, China currently 2,531 soldiers under UN command, the world's ninth largest contributor overall and largest among the five permanent members of the Security Council. Most of those blue helmeted soldiers are now working in Africa, largely in medical, engineering, logistics and various other support roles. However, in recent years, Chinese UN troops have moved to the frontlines in some active conflict zones including South Sudan, Mali and in anti-piracy operations off the coast of Somalia.

The new white paper and China's more robust presence in UN post-conflict stabilization efforts in Africa and elsewhere reflects the heightened importance that Beijing attaches to peacekeeping within its broader foreign policy agenda, according to Hong Kong University Assistant Professor Courtney Fung. She joins Eric & Cobus to discuss the new white paper and the future of Chinese UN peacekeeping efforts.

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Oct 09, 2020
Combatting Malaria in the Comoros Islands: How China Almost Got it Right
00:48:05

Back in 2007, China led an ambitious program to eradicate malaria in the Comoros Islands, a small island nation off the coast of Mozambique in southeastern Africa. And, for the most part, they were successful but it wasn't easy and, not surprisingly, the Chinese medical teams leading the effort encountered a lot of challenges. Experts today are now studying the Chinese program there to see if there are lessons that can be applied to the broader anti-malaria effort on the African mainland.

Malaria continues to be one of the leading causes of death in Africa where the mosquito borne disease claims at least 400,000 lives a year, mostly children under the age of five. Now, amid the COVID-19 outbreak, public health stakeholders are becoming increasingly concerned that the fight against malaria will suffer given how much of the attention and funding have been shifted to combat the ongoing pandemic.

Esther Ajari, founder and director of The TriHealthon, a Nigeria-based youth-led nonprofit that conducts research and promotes health equity in Africa, detailed some of those take aways from the Chinese malaria effort in the Comoros Islands in a recent article that was published on The China Africa Project. She joins Eric & Cobus from her home in Nigeria's southern Delta state to discuss her findings and what lessons can be applied from the fight against malaria to COVID-19.

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Oct 07, 2020
China, Bondholders and the Worsening African Debt Crisis
00:49:26

The debt crisis in Zambia got a lot worse this week after bondholders refused the government's request for a 6-month repayment delay. Those private creditors said they're frustrated by the government's lack of transparency about the total amount of debt and how much is truly owed to China.

In Angola, investors are equally worried about the government's ability to service its debts given, $20.5 billion to China, given that the state-owned oil company Sonangol revealed that last year it generated no profits since all of the money went to pay for debt servicing costs. If Sonangol can't earn enough money to repay the country's loans, then it's effectively impossible for the country to get out of the financial hole it's in.

Analysts predict that Zambia and Angola are just the first of a number of African countries that are facing either an outright default or an extended period of uncertainty that risks crippling their economies. Mark Bohlund is closely following the unfolding debt crisis as a senior credit research analyst for REDD Intelligence, a risk assessment service for asset managers. He joins Eric & Cobus from London to talk about the pivotal role that private creditors, specifically bondholders, now occupy in this increasingly grave situation.

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Mark Bohlund: LinkedIn | Twitter

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Oct 02, 2020
QZ Africa Editor Yinka Adegoke on the Current State of China-Africa Relations
00:56:38

There've been major developments over the past week in the African debt crisis. It appears that Angola and China reached a consensus on how to restructure the estimated $20 billion of loans that Luanda owes Beijing. This deal then paved the way for the IMF to come in with its own financial package for Angola. Meantime, Zambia announced that it will default on three Eurobond notes totaling around $3 billion, prompting an immediate downgrade of its credit rating.

Finally, it appears that Kenya's embattled standard gauge railway (SGR) is reaching a breaking point. Kenya Railways is losing almost ten million dollars a month and it looks increasingly likely that the company will not be able to repay the Chinese creditors who financed and built the SGR.

Yinka Adegoke, Africa editor of the online financial news site Quartz, is closely following the unfolding debt crisis in Africa and China's role in the situation. He joins Eric & Cobus from the Quartz newsroom in New York to discuss the financial crisis and how it's impacting the broader China-Africa relationship.

SHOW NOTES:

Join Yinka and Eric on October 8th from 9:30am-10:30am EST for a free Quartz online conference: "What China's Influence in Africa Means for the Global Economy."


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Sep 29, 2020
Reporter's Notebook: China's Controversial Distant Fishing Fleet
00:50:10

The presence of China's distant fishing fleet in African waters is increasingly becoming a contentious domestic political issues in a number of countries, particularly in West Africa. At a campaign rally in September, Ghanaian vice presidential candidate Naana Jane Opoku-Agyemang told supporters that if elected this December her administration ban illegal Chinese fishing.

Similarly, the permitting process for Chinese trawlers has evolved into extended political struggles in Senegal, Liberia and Ghana among other countries that are becoming increasingly concerned about the role that China's distant fleet is playing in illegal and unsustainable fishing activities.

While environmentalists, fishing lobbies and politicians have all made their positions on the matter very clear, rarely do we hear a Chinese perspective on the issue. Lulu Ning Hui, a Brussels-based journalist for the Hong Kong news site The Initium, spent time aboard two Chinese fishing trawlers in the South Atlantic off the coast of Argentina. She wrote about her experience in a story published last fall and joins Eric & Cobus to discuss what life is like aboard these controversial vessels.

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Sep 25, 2020
Episode #500! Reflections on Ten Years of Covering China-Africa Relations
01:10:10

On this special 500th episode of the China in Africa Podcast, Eric & Cobus join Kaiser Kuo and Jeremy Goldkorn on the popular Sinica podcast to reflect on the past ten years of China-Africa relations.

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Sep 18, 2020
Chinese Agricultural Engagement in Africa in the Post C19-Era
00:45:58

China's importing a lot more African agricultural products these days. Zambian blueberries were recently approved to enter the China market, Namibian beef shipments started this year, Ghanaian cocoa is now traded through a new exchange in Hunan province and, after more than a year of delays, the first shipments of Kenyan avocados to China has arrived.

While enhanced trade ties between the two regions is obviously important, the volume is still way too low to have a meaningful impact on the lives of farmers and millions of others in Africa's agricultural sector.

Furthermore, the worsening economic crisis across the continent only adds to food insecurity that now haunts at least 70 million people across the continent.

Two analysts, one from Kenya and the other from China, have been thinking about what can be done now to address these daunting challenges and how China's agricultural engagement should evolve in the post-COVID-19 era. Duncan Chando, a Nairobi-based international development consultant, and Cathy Cao, a policy and partnerships analyst at the International Fund for Agricultural Development in Beijing, joins Eric & Cobus to discuss their new article that lays out five recommendations for what needs to be done.

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Sep 15, 2020
China-Africa Trade Update with Walter Ruigu
00:42:00

Two-way China-Africa trade fell sharply in the first half of the year to $82 billion, down 20% from the same time last year. Trade between the two regions has been severely disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing lockdowns.

But now that the Chinese economy is getting back up to speed and a growing number of African countries are re-opening their markets, trade volumes in the second half of the year are widely expected to improve.

But it's not going to be easy warns Walter Ruigu, managing director of CAMAL Group, a Beijing-based shipping and logistics company that does a lot of import/export between China and Africa. Walter joins Eric & Cobus to talk about what he's hearing from his clients about what they want to ship and to where.

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Sep 11, 2020
Chinese Energy Engagement in Africa
00:50:25

China plays an indispensable role in Africa's burgeoning energy market as a financier and contractor for much of the new electrical capacity across the continent. China's building large new coal plants in Zimbabwe, solar power facilities in Kenya and Zambia and massive hydroelectric dams in Guinea.

While there's no dispute that African countries need the additional electrical capacity and distribution that Chinese stakeholders facilitate, China's presence in the market is quite contentious. There are widespread concerns over debt sustainability, environmental destruction and a general lack of transparency in the deals that the Chinese government and state-owned enterprises do with African countries.

Wei Shen closely follows China's energy activities in Africa as a research fellow at the Institute of Development Studies in Brighton, England. Wei recently published a new paper on Beijing's impact on the African energy sector and joins Eric & Cobus to discuss his findings.

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Sep 08, 2020
How China's Evolving Energy Mix Will Impact Its Foreign Policy in Africa
00:46:15

Since 2008, China has been gradually shifting its oil procurement strategy away from Africa towards producers in the Middle East and Persian Gulf. Today, Angola is the only African country in China's list of top ten suppliers. Security is one reason for the downturn in African oil exports to China. Beijing would much rather bring oil and gas overland from Russia rather than as it currently does through the Straits of Malacca where its sea lanes are vulnerable in the event of a conflict with the United States.

Ultimately, China, like many countries, would like to reduce its dependence on imported energy and rely more on renewable sources like hydroelectric, solar and wind. And in terms of electrification, they're well on their way. Last year, China generated about a quarter of its total output using renewables.

Ye Ruiqi closely follows the Chinese energy market as a Beijing-based climate and energy campaigner for Greenpeace East Asia. Ruiqi joins Eric & Cobus to discuss the country's rapidly evolving energy landscape.

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Sep 04, 2020
China-Africa Relations in 2020: Perceptions and Realities
00:58:07

Just by looking at social media and news coverage in countries like Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, it would be safe to assume that China-Africa ties are in serious trouble. The prevailing narrative in many countries is one where Africa is increasingly victimized by China through debt, labor abuse and outright discrimination among other problems.

But that's only part of the story.

A different narrative showcases how China's political ties with African governments have never been stronger. The Chinese are providing desperately needed relief to struggling African states through debt relief, COVID-19 supplies and the promise of being among the first to access a C19 vaccine when it's available.

The fact is that significant portions of both these are true, making it very difficult to understand the current state of China-Africa relations.

Hangwei Li, an award-winning journalist and PhD candidate at the University of London, and Johannesburg-based attorney and China-Africa analyst Jacqueline Muna Musiitwa tackled this challenge in a new article published by the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies. Hangwei an Jacqueline join Eric and Cobus to discuss the competing agendas that complicate public perceptions of the Chinese in Africa.

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Sep 01, 2020
Chinese High School Students Reflect on Anti-African Discrimination in Guangzhou
00:30:13

It's been almost five months since a spate of anti-African discrimination erupted in Guangzhou, home to the largest overseas African population in Asia. Back in April, amid mounting fears of a COVID-19 outbreak in the southern Chinese, dozens, possibly hundreds of African residents were evicted from their homes and hotels and forced onto the streets with nowhere to go.

Videos, photos and other accounts of the events filled social media feeds in Africa and sparked widespread outrage that still lingers today.

In July, a group of five Chinese high school students, most from the eastern city of Suzhou near Shanghai, traveled to Guangzhou to find out what, if anything, has changed since April in terms of relations between African residents and the local population.

They recorded their experience for a short-form documentary "Africans in Guangzhou: Misunderstanding, Discrimination and Communication" that they published in August on YouTube and the Chinese video sharing platform Bilibili.

Two of the film's producers, Chen Xingbei and Xiao Kaiyuan who are both rising seniors at the The Overseas Chinese Academy of Chiway Suzhou, join Eric & Cobus to discuss their new film and to share their impressions of the current state of Chinese-African community relations in Guangzhou.

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Aug 28, 2020
A Primer in How Chinese Development Finance Works in Africa
00:48:03

Today, China is the world's largest official creditor, more twice as large as the World and the International Monetary Fund combined. Nowhere is this more evident than in Africa where Beijing has lent an estimated $143 billion between 2000-2017.

But how China lends money is still poorly understood. Many observers often oversimplify the issue by characterizing it as "Chinese loans" or "Chinese finance." The reality is that the Chinese development finance model is extremely complicated and includes a lot of competing actors who each pursue their own agendas.

Kanyi Lui is a Beijing-based project finance lawyer who's spent almost two decades working in the overseas Chinese development finance sector. He's worked closely with China's powerful policy banks, commercial creditors and in the private capital market as well. Kanyi joins Eric & Cobus to provide some badly-needed background as to who are the key players in this space and how they operate.

SHOW NOTES:


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Aug 25, 2020
Chinese Soft Power in Africa in the COVID-19 Era
01:03:40

2020 has been a tough year for China's soft power engagement in Africa. A furious backlash to anti-African discrimination in Guangzhou in April, growing public hostility to Chinese debt and, of course, questions about Chinese accountability for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic have all presented formidable challenges to Beijing's reputation management on the continent.

While, there's no doubt that China's popularity has taken a hit among large swathes of African civil society, that is not the case among the continent's governing elites where state-to-state remain as strong and stable as ever.

Paul Nantulya, a research associate at the Africa Strategic Studies Center in Washington, D.C., closely follows Chinese soft power trends in Africa. Paul joins Eric & Cobus to discuss the Chinese soft power strategy in Africa and how, in many ways, it's fundamentally different than those of U.S. and European governments.

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Aug 21, 2020
Africa Debt Relief Update With Bloomberg's Alonso Soto
00:58:52

Seven months in to the worsening African debt crisis and still there's no prospect for any meaningful relief in sight. The situation grows even more dire by the day as more countries struggle to pay for rising healthcare costs brought on by the COVID019 outbreak while at the same continue to service their loans.

All of the continent's major creditors including China, G20 countries, bondholders, the Paris Club and multilateral lenders like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund all have programs intended to help resolve the situation but none, so far, have done very much to ease the crisis.

Alonso Soto is covering the African debt story for Bloomberg News where he's an Abuja-based correspondent. Alonso joins Eric & Cobus to provide an update on the debt relief situation and insights from his conversations with dozens of sources on what to expect through the end of the year.


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Aug 18, 2020
A Critical Look at Chinese Agricultural Engagement in Africa
00:41:48

The Chinese take a very different approach to their agricultural development programs in Africa compared to those of traditional donors. Rather a conventional aid model, China instead built dozens of centers in countries across the continent that bring together Chinese technical expertise, private sector partners and government funding to work with mostly small scale farmers.

Isaac Lawther, a PhD student in international relations at the University of Toronto, wrote a research paper that was published in the prestigious academic journal Third World Quarterly that examined the effectiveness of these Chinese agricultural centers in Rwanda and Uganda.

Isaac joins Eric & Cobus to reflect on his findings and provide a critical assessment as to whether China's approach to agricultural assistance in Africa is actually effective.

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Aug 14, 2020
Africa in the New Era of U.S.-China Relations
01:07:08

African leaders have said repeatedly that they want to stay clear from the escalating conflict between the United States and China. But despite their best efforts, a growing number of African countries are nonetheless being drawn in to disputes over Huawei, COVID-19 and debt relief among other issues.

While most African governments have opted to take a low profile in this burgeoning dispute, Kenya appears to be articulating clear policy positions that push back on both powers. Last week, ICT Minister Joe Mucheru rebuffed U.S. efforts to boycott the Chinese telecom company Huawei. Then, over the week, Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe issued a devastating blow to China's "donation diplomacy" initiative when he confirmed that Kenya had stopped buying Chinese PPE due to poor quality.

But Kenya appears to be the exception in Africa as most other countries have, so far, resisted articulating equallyclear policy positions to frame their ties with the United States and China in this new, more combustible era.

W. Gyude Moore, a former Liberian public works minister and currently a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development, and Judd Devermont, the Africa program director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, have both been writing a lot lately on the new geopolitical landscape. They both join Eric & Cobus from Washington to discuss the current state of U.S.-China-Africa relations.

SHOW NOTES:

JUDD DEVERMONT:


W. GYUDE MOORE:


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Aug 11, 2020
What Is Chinese "Constructive Journalism" and Will It Work in Africa?
00:39:18

The Chinese definition of journalism is significantly different than that in most of Africa and for much of the rest of the world. Most importantly, the news media in China is tightly controlled by the communist party and, as such, is not afforded the kind of editorial independence that newspapers, radio and other news outlets enjoy in other countries. 

But beyond the obvious political censorship, the Chinese have a different understanding of journalism’s role in society. Rather than serve in an investigative or adversarial role, the media in China is expected to be solutions oriented in its reporting. The concept, known as “constructive journalism,” is not unique to China as it’s also practiced in some European countries as well but it’s more pervasive there than anywhere else in the world.

Professor Zhang Yanqiu, director of the Africa Communication Research Center at the Communication University of China, is one of China’s foremost scholars in “constructive journalism” and joins Eric & Cobus to discuss whether or not she feels the model is applicable in Africa.

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Aug 07, 2020
A European Perspective on China's Expanding Military Ties in West Africa
00:47:46

Tom Bayes, a researcher at the Konrad-Adenauer Foundation in Berlin joins Eric & Cobus to discuss his new paper that explores the implications for Europe of China's expanding military role in West Africa.

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Aug 04, 2020
Nigeria Cracks Down on Illegal Chinese Mining
00:28:33

Last year the Nigerian government announced that it would no longer tolerate rampant illegal mining and would begin enforcement actions to crack down on the practice. To make sure that everyone knew how serious they were, the Federal Government set up special courts just to prosecute illegal mining cases and then the states deployed heavily armed patrols to go into remote areas to apprehend offenders.

Dozens of Chinese nationals were arrested in a number of raids this spring, mostly in southwestern Osun state.

In addition to curtailing illegal mining activities, the Federal Government is also going after Chinese companies that violate environmental regulations. Authorities took action against the Hongao Mining Company that ran a gold mine near the capital Abuja for polluting the local water table.

Officials were tipped off to Hongao's misdeeds from an investigative report produced by Chinedu Asadu, a journalist at the Nigerian online news site The Cable. Chinedu joins Eric & Cobus to discuss the Hongao case and the government's broader efforts to rein in illegal Chinese gold mining.

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Jul 31, 2020
Chinese Tech in Africa: What Happened to OPay & What Will Happen to Huawei?
00:48:54

Chinese-owned Nigerian tech company OPay started 2020 with $170 million of cash bursting from its pockets but even that much money wasn't enough to save the company from the dramatic economic downturn brought on by the COVID-19 outbreak and new regulations in Lagos that effectively killed its ride-sharing business. Sensing there was no way to quickly revive the OPay's ailing logistics businesses (ride sharing, food delivery, etc...), the company's Beijing-based owner Zhou Yahui restructured the business by shutting down pretty much everything except its still profitable mobile payments unit OPay.

Abubakar Idris, a Lagos-based journalist at the Nigerian tech news website TechCabal, has been following the dramatic events at OPay. He joins Eric & Cobus to share the backstory of what happened at one of Africa's once most-promising tech start-ups and also discusses his view on what's next for Huawei in Africa after the company was effectively banned from two of Europe's largest markets due to intense U.S. pressure.

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Jul 28, 2020
U.S.-China Rivalry in the Red Sea
00:36:45

The Red Sea is emerging as a key theater of contention in the emerging duel between the United States and China. Both countries have military outposts in the tiny country of Djibouti and expanding geopolitical interests in one of the world's most volatile regions.

Brookings Institution Non-resident Fellow Zach Vertin joins Eric & Cobus this week to discuss his recently published paper on the "Great power rivalry in the Red Sea" and how he thinks U.S. policymakers should respond to the burgeoning political and military challenge from China.

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Jul 23, 2020
Relationships: China's Competitive Advantage in Africa
00:56:37

To many outside observers, Chinese engagement in Africa is often evaluated based on hard metrics like the amount of trade, number of immigrants, investment figures. While those data points are no doubt important, Wake Forest University Assistant Professor Lina Benabdallah argues in her new book that those tangible, hard figures don't the whole story about this complex geopolitical relationship. Instead, she contends that "it is important to start looking at less visible and less material types of investment" to really understand the depth of China's ties on the continent.

Specifically, Professor Benabdallah focuses on how the Chinese spend a lot of time and resources to foster social relations with African counterparts through professional trainings, skills transfer and personal networking. While these factors are all difficult to quantify, she readily admits, there's nonetheless a growing body of evidence that indicates this investment in knowledge sharing is providing Beijing with a distinct competitive advantage in Africa.

Professor Benabdallah joins Eric & Cobus to talk about the findings in her new book, Shaping the Future of Power: Knowledge Production and Network-Building in China-Africa Relations, and why it's so important for stakeholders on all sides "to see beyond what meets the eye" with regards to Chinese engagement on the continent.

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INFORMATION ABOUT LINA BENABDALLAH'S NEW BOOK:


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Jul 22, 2020
Africa Week 2020 in Beijing
00:49:41

The fourth annual Africa Week event will take place in Beijing from July 20 to July 25. Africa Week is a unique series of seminars, excursions, and film screenings, and it always concludes with a start-up competition for local African entrepreneurs in China.

Normally, this event is entirely local, which means that you have to be in Beijing to participate. But this year, due to the COVID-19 outbreak, organizers have moved some of the activities online, which provides a wonderful opportunity for people everywhere to either take part live via Zoom or watch the discussions online later.

It's important to note that Africa Week is very different from the countless other webinars that now regularly take place. First of all, this one actually takes place in China, which is different from most other conferences. But more importantly, Africa Week is all about young professionals who are mostly from Africa and China, a constituency that is often underrepresented within the broader discourse.

Africa Week organizer Miatta Momoh, co-founder of the Beijing-based social enterprise Kente & Silk, and Nairobi-based technology executive Stephany Zoo, who will be moderating some of the panels, join Eric and Cobus to discuss the upcoming event and why this kind of gathering is so important, especially now.

Show Notes:


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Jul 17, 2020
Out of Control: China's Distant Fishing Fleet in West Africa
00:56:34

The recent arrival of six Chinese super trawlers in Liberia, capable of capturing 12,000 tons of fish -- more than twice the country's sustainable catch -- highlights the growing problem of what to do about the growing presence of China's distant fishing fleet operating off the coast of West Africa.

For years, Chinese trawlers in Ghana, Nigeria and elsewhere in the region have taken advantage of poor governance, corruption and the inability of these governments to enforce fishing regulations. Today, the Chinese vessels largely operate beyond government control, prompting an increasingly serious environmental crisis brought on from over-fishing that also endangers local coastal communities who depend on these waters for their livelihoods.

What, if anything, can be done to rein in China's distant fishing fleet operating off the coast of West Africa?

Two guests join Eric & Cobus this week to explore that question: Mark Godfrey closely follows China's distant fishing fleet as a contributing editor for the industry publication Seafood Source and explains how Chinese government subsidies play a critical role in this crisis. Then, the Executive Director of the Accra-based sustainable fisheries NGO Hen Mpoano, Kofi Agbogah, joins the discussion to talk about how the Chinese fleet benefits from the lack of any meaningful enforcement of Ghana's fishing laws.


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Jul 15, 2020
Nigeria's Future Railway Engineers Are Being Trained in China
00:37:37

While China's new railways in Africa are generating a lot excitement there's also an equal amount of concern over who will maintain this new infrastructure once Chinese contractors handover the project to local stakeholders. In Nigeria, it's going to be someone like Atolagbe Shakirudeen Olabanji.

Atolagbe just graduated a few weeks ago with an undergraduate degree in civil engineering from Central South University in Changsha, China. He and 45 classmates from Ahmadu Bello University in Nigeria's Kaduna state all received full scholarships from the state-owned China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) to study topics related to railway engineering.

Once their studies are complete (some, including Atolagbe, are going on to pursue master's degrees) and they can safely travel back to Nigeria, these young graduates will start work with CCECC to take over responsibility for the country's new Standard Gauge Railways that are now coming online.

Atolagbe joins Eric & Cobus from Changhsa to discuss what it was like to study in China and also to explain what he hopes to do in the future as a part of a new generation of Nigerian railway engineers.

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Jul 10, 2020
COVID-19 is changing the China-Africa wildlife trade
00:34:13

The COVID-19 pandemic is having a significant impact on the China-Africa wildlife trade. In response to the outbreak that was first detected at a wet market that sold live animals in Wuhan, the Chinese government has introduced a number of new laws that will significantly restrict the trade of live and endangered animals.

In February, the National People's Congress unveiled new updates to the country's Wildlife Protection Law that will outlaw the sale of certain live animals and bans the consumption of bushmeat. Two months later, the government took action to limit the trade and sale of pangolins by removing pangolin scales from the list of official ingredients approved for use in traditional Chinese medicine and upgraded the endangered animal to Class 1 protected status, the highest level of legal protection available.

Linda Chou closely follows these regulatory changes as a Beijing-based policy adviser for the international wildlife conservation group TRAFFIC. She joins Eric and Cobus this week to discuss the future of the China-Africa wildlife trade and how all of these new Chinese laws will impact illicit animal trafficking.

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Jul 07, 2020
China and the Future of Energy in Africa
00:43:07

China's played a pivotal role in financing a sizable portion of African energy infrastructure in recent years. But now amid the economic crisis brought on by COVID-19 and a sharp downturn in Chinese support for energy projects in Africa and elsewhere around the world, how will the continent build the badly-needed power in the post-pandemic era.

The Executive Director of Botswana's Shumba Energy, Thapelo Mokhathi, joins Eric & Cobus to discuss where he sees the African power market going and the tensions over whether investments should be made in coal or renewable energy.

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Jun 26, 2020
Chinese Immigrants in Africa Assimilate Far More Than You May Think
00:38:10

It's often widely assumed that Chinese immigrants in Africa prefer to isolate themselves from local communities and generally resist assimilation. That perception, though, is incorrect according to the findings of two leading scholars from Hong Kong, Yan Hairong and Barry Sautman, who've recently completed research that explored Chinese self-segregation in five African countries.

The two professors join Eric & Cobus to discuss their findings and to dispel some of the myths surrounding Chinese immigration in Africa.

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Jun 22, 2020
China's Unconventional Agricultural Assistance in Zambia
00:46:23

Daisy Kambandu, the country program manager for the Chinese-run Agricultural Technology Demonstration Center (ATDC) in Zambia, joins Eric & Cobus to discuss China's unconventional approach to agricultural assistance. In contrast to most traditional aid programs, ATDCs like the one near Lusaka have a very strong corporate and commercial focus.

And with Zambia's food security now jeopardized by the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, massive flooding in some regions and severe drought in other areas, Daisy explains that agricultural innovation is critically important.


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Jun 18, 2020
Debunking fake China-Africa news
00:44:09

Agence France-Presse fact-checking journalist Mayowa Tijani joins Eric and Cobus from Lagos to discuss his reporting that debunks fake news, particularly videos and other stories related to the China-Africa relationship. Misleading and downright false information has long been a hallmark of the China-Africa story, but it’s become more prevalent in recent months in response to events like the maltreatment of Africans in Guangzhou.

Tijani explains how he and the team at AFP Fact Check authenticate China-Africa-related stories that are misleading. He also provides some practical, actionable tips for what news consumers can do themselves to verify that the information they’re consuming is accurate.

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FACT CHECKING WEBSITES:

AFP Fact Check: factcheck.afp.com

Africa Check: africacheck.org

Daily Nation Newsplex: nation.co.ke/kenya/newsplex

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Jun 16, 2020
China’s ties with Nigeria are a lot better than they seem
00:54:48

Lagos State University political science lecturer Abdul-Gafar Tobi Oshodi joins Eric and Cobus this week to discuss the current state of China-Nigeria relations. After a turbulent past few months following the events in Guangzhou back in April, and now calls from the Nigerian House of Representatives to check the immigration status of every Chinese national and business in the country (plus a separate effort to review every Chinese loan dating back 20 years), it would be safe to assume that diplomatic ties are strained.

But Tobi Oshodi says that beneath the surface, relations between these two countries are far more stable than they may seem.

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Jun 11, 2020
Africa's Private Debt: What to do About Those Vulture Funds Circling Overhead?
00:49:39

University of Pretoria international development law professor Daniel Bradlow joins Eric & Cobus to discuss his proposals for how Africa can better manage the $117 billion it owes to private creditors and what can be done to prevent so-called vulture funds from walking away with excessive profits.


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Jun 05, 2020
A conversation with Joshua Meservey about alleged Chinese spying in Africa
01:04:22

The Heritage Foundation's senior policy analyst for Africa and the Middle East, Joshua Meservey, joins Eric and Cobus this week to talk about his latest report. It alleges that China is well positioned to spy on Africans thanks to the hundreds of government buildings the Chinese have constructed across the continent in recent years.

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Jun 02, 2020
Debt Relief in Africa: A Conversation With Renaissance Capital's Charlie Robertson
00:40:35

Renaissance Capital's Global Chief Economist Charlie Robertson joins Eric & Cobus to discuss the prospects for debt relief in Africa amid the worsening economic crisis brought on by the COVID-19 epidemic.

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May 29, 2020
China to finance and build a massive new coal power plant in Zimbabwe
00:45:53

The Zimbabwean government announced last month that construction of the new $3 billion Sengwa coal power plant will proceed after years of negotiation.

The new 2,800-megawatt plant will be a joint effort between Zimbabwe’s Rio Energy and a consortium of Chinese state-owned enterprises led by the Wuhan-based infrastructure contracting giant China Gezhouba Group.

Gezhouba will be the lead contractor and will also be responsible for raising additional capital. Separately, Power China will build a 150-mile-long water pipeline for the plant along with transmission lines. The Industrial and Commercial Bank of China will be involved in financing, and Sinosure is already on board to provide risk insurance.

Officials say everything is lined up and ready to go — this could be good news for electricity-starved Zimbabwe, which currently produces just over half of the 2,200 megawatts that the country needs every day.

So it’s understandable why government leaders see an additional 2,800 megawatts of capacity as something very appealing.

But the problem is that a massive plant like this poses extreme environmental and health risks to a population that is already coping with the consequences of climate change.

“Why should Zimbabwe accept a dirty source of energy, which is the biggest single cause of air pollution with devastating environmental impacts, at a time many countries are closing down coal plants?” asked Landry Ninteretse, African managing director for the climate change activist group 350.org.

Ninteretse is part of a burgeoning activist movement in Zimbabwe that opposes the Sengwa plant and says it plans to target China for its involvement with the project.

Melania Chiponda, coordinator for the Centre for Alternative Development in Harare, and Richard Ncube, the Bertha Justice Fellow at the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association, are among those working to raise awareness about the potential dangers of building such a large coal plant and who both contend there are other, more sustainable ways for Zimbabwe to close its current energy deficit. Melania and Richard join Eric and Cobus to discuss the politics of energy, China, and the way forward for Zimbabwe in these uncertain times.

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Centre for Alternative Development on Facebook: www.facebook.com/CentreForAlternativeDevelopment/ 

Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association: www.zela.org

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May 27, 2020
Assessing China's "Corona Diplomacy" in Africa
00:55:34

Even though China spends considerably less than the U.S. and Europeans on public health assistance in Africa, Beijing is seemingly dominating the narrative with its high profile donations of food, PPE, and medical missions.

Lidet Tadesse, a policy officer in the Security and Resilience Program at the European Centre for Development Policy Management, an independent think tank in Brussels, said in a recent blog post that the fact the Chinese aren’t just giving money to aid agencies, as is the case with a lot of EU and U.S. assistance, but are instead delivering badly-needed masks and other materials is critical to understand why Chinese aid is being well-received on the continent. Also, she added, the fact that China is perceived to have brought COVID-19 under control while the U.S. and European countries are still struggling to contain the outbreak is another important factor.

But “it’s not all roses and rainbows,” she cautioned in her article. While the Chinese have certainly generated a lot of positive buzz around their COVID-19 aid and relief efforts, big problems loom on the horizon. 

How Beijing proceeds with African debt relief and the ongoing resentment among large swathes of African civil society in the aftermath of what happened in Guangzhou could easily erase the goodwill built up over the few months from all of those donations.

Lidet joins Eric & Cobus to assess the current state of "China’s corona diplomacy” and to explain why she thinks the Chinese approach to COVID-19 relief efforts on the continent are seen as more successful than those from other countries.


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May 20, 2020
The Complicated Politics of Chinese Dam Construction in Guinea
00:50:28

The 450-megawatt Souapiti hydroelectric dam in Guinea is scheduled to begin operating this fall and will bring badly needed electricity to one of Africa’s poorest countries.

The dam is one of dozens of similar hydroelectric power facilities that China is underwriting and constructing across Africa. The Souapiti dam, in particular, is being financed via the China Eximbank as part of Beijing’s Belt & Road Initiative and is being constructed by the state-owned China International Water and Electric Corporation (CWE). When complete, CWE will jointly own and operate the plant together with the Guinean government.

While no one disagrees that Africa needs energy, especially in a country like Guinea, where only a small minority of people have access to reliable electricity, construction of dams like the one at Souapiti do come at a high environmental and human cost.

In order to fill the dam’s reservoir, 16,000 people from 101 villages will have to be displaced, according to a recent report by Human Rights Watch (HRW). Although this kind of dislocation is common with any kind of large-scale economic development, the issue here is whether or not those displaced are losing not just their homes, but also access to land, food, and their livelihoods. Another issue is what responsibility, if any, do Chinese stakeholders have when these kinds of mass displacements take place.

Yaqiu Wang, a China researcher at Human Rights Watch and Jim Wormington, a senior researcher in HRW’s Africa Division who co-wrote the report join us to discuss their findings and what role they contend that the Chinese government, financiers and contractors play when so many people are losing their homes and livelihoods in Guinea.

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Download the full HRW report: “We’re Leaving Everything Behind” The Impact of Guinea’s Souapiti Dam on Displaced Communities (PDF)


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May 15, 2020
China's Strategy for Agricultural Assistance in Africa is Very Different From Other Donors. Does it Work?
00:43:01

China’s approach to agricultural assistance in Africa differs markedly from those of other donors from Japan, Europe and the United States. While other countries frame their development programs under the larger of “aid,” the Chinese instead go out of their way to insist that what they’re doing in the African agricultural space focuses on technology-oriented market-based solutions. 

In fact, back in 2006 at one of the first Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) summits, when former President Hu Jintao unveiled Beijing’s new agricultural initiative in Africa right up front he said it was part of China’s “Eight Non-Aid Measures.”

It took a few years after that FOCAC Summit for China’s agriculture programs in Africa to take shape but by 2008-2009 the first Agricultural Technology Demonstration Centers, or ATDCs, started to materialize.

Today there are 14 ATDCs across Africa with 11 more in development.

Whereas much of Chinese engagement in Africa is state-led, the ATDCs are actually quite different in that respect given that private companies play a very important. This is, in essence, a public- private partnership.

The idea here is that the Chinese government provides the financial backing, builds the facilities and manages relations with the host government while Chinese companies engage local stakeholders to deliver training programs, assist with business models and develop partnerships local farmers that hopefully become financially sustainable.

That’s the plan. But does it work?

Celso Tamele says even though it’s hard to measure, there are a lot of merits to the commercial-focus of China’s agricultural development strategy in Africa. Celso is a Maputo-based Program Director at the international non-profit TechnoServe who helps run the ATDC in Mozambique.

He joins Eric and Cobus to discuss his experience at an ATDC and whether China’s approach is more or less effective than those of other donor countries.

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May 13, 2020
Why so many Chinese and Africans see what happened in Guangzhou in starkly different ways
01:26:53

Perceptions over what led to the crisis in Guangzhou back in early April remain starkly divided among Chinese and African stakeholders. Chinese officials vehemently deny that Africans were specifically targeted for additional health COVID-19 health screenings (“epidemic prevention” in the Chinese parlance), forcibly evicted from their residences and subject to discrimination. Authorities insist that foreigners, including Africans, are treated just like everyone else and what happened in Guangzhou was the result of “misunderstanding” as part of a broader effort to contain the spread of the deadly virus in the southern Chinese city.

For the most part, Chinese public opinion seems to agree with the government’s explanation of the situation.

But among Africans, many in China and especially across the continent, they see things very differently. 

There’s widespread disbelief about how Chinese authorities can claim that there’s no racism or discrimination in Guangzhou when their social media feeds are filled with videos, photos and countless accounts of the mistreatment of Africans in China. Signs on restaurants, including McDonald’s that explicitly deny entry to black people or videos of African residents being told they have to leave their apartments or hotels cannot simply be dismissed, in their view, by claiming it’s due to a simple misunderstanding.

And those initial images of Africans sleeping on the streets of Guangzhou were very painful to a lot of people and left the impression that what happened there violated a basic sense of dignity and respect.

For many Africans and other observers, what they saw in their social media feeds and on the news was “textbook" discrimination.

So, here we are now where both sides are increasingly talking past one another while each side’s position becomes more polarized.

In this week’s double-edition of the podcast, we attempt to push past the top-line narrative about the Guangzhou crisis and the widening chasm in the China-Africa civil society relationship. First we speak with popular Ghanian vlogger Wode Maya about why this crisis has made him so angry about China’s treatment of Africans and the way that Chinese officials have gone about trying to explain it. Then, we turn to one of China’s leading public opinion experts, Ma Tianjie, founder and editor of the Chublic Opinion blog, to better understand how China perceives immigrant communities like those in Guangzhou and how the government’s actions there are seen by the larger society.

It should go without saying that both Wode Maya and Ma Tianjie don’t represent either Africa or China. No. These are just two individuals' perspectives who we hope will help add a bit of texture and nuance that is lacking in so much of the current conversation about this contentious issue.

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May 08, 2020
The UN's Vera Songwe on the status of African debt relief
00:47:16

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Economic conditions in a number of African countries are worsening by the day. Lockdowns and a plummet in global commodity prices brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic have led to severe economic repercussions across the continent.

At the same, Africa’s estimated $400 billion of debt is weighing on policymakers’ ability to devote more resources to combatting the worsening public health crisis in their countries. 

The Beijing-based consultancy Development Reimagined reports that African governments have already budgeted close to $38 billion to contain the outbreak. And with so much money now allocated for emergency health initiatives that means there are fewer funds available to repay outstanding debts.

African leaders, namely Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, have been very clear that they won’t be able to pay for both at the same time. 

Urgent debt relief is absolutely critical in order to prevent what’s already a devastating crisis from becoming even worse.

The first calls for debt relief came in March ahead of the G20 Summit and since then have been building momentum. Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, is at the center of many of the negotiations between African governments and international creditors to quickly find a way to give policymakers some financial breathing room.

Vera joins Eric & Cobus from her office in Addis Ababa to provide an update on the status of those talks and to discuss why it’s so important for the continent to approach this issue with a single, unified voice.

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Apr 30, 2020
A Discussion with Ambassador Kuang Weilin on Current Issues in China-Africa Relations
01:05:10

For much of the past two decades, China’s engagement in Africa has been steady, rather predictable and largely uneventful. That is, until this year.

The China-Africa relationship is facing an unprecedented mix of challenges today across a wide range of issues including the burgeoning COVID-19 pandemic on the continent to the crisis in Guangzhou to how Beijing will respond to Africa’s calls for debt relief.

Given how quickly events on the ground are changing, it’s really too early to tell how all of this will impact the future course of ties between these two regions.

For some perspective on the Chinese outlook on the current state of Sino-African ties, China’s former ambassador to Sierra Leone and the African Union, Kuang Weilin, joins Eric and Cobus from Shanghai for a wide-ranging discussion on all the key issues confronting policymakers.

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Apr 21, 2020
African Leaders Declare Crisis in Guangzhou is "Sorted Out." What Did We Learn?
00:45:21

Less than one week after alarming videos, photos, and accounts of African migrants being forced out of their homes and hotels in the southern China city of Guangzhou, the story has been “sorted out” in the eyes of many African leaders. 

Femi Gbajabiamila, Speaker of Nigeria’s House of Representatives, declared as much this week in a Twitter post after meeting with Chinese Ambassador Zhōu Píngjiàn 周平剑. Similarly, Nigerian Foreign Minister Geoffrey Onyeama convened a press conference earlier this week, also with Ambassador Zhou, to explain that he was satisfied with the Chinese government’s explanation over what happened.

The African Union and a number of African politicians across the continent echoed similar sentiments: As far as they are concerned, the issue over the purported maltreatment of African migrants in Guangzhou is now settled. 

So what did we learn from this unprecedented crisis that touched so many raw nerves in the China-Africa relationship? There were conflicting narratives based in part on the fact that the Chinese do not consume the same social media diet as the rest of the world. And the Chinese declared repeatedly that contrary to what people saw on Facebook or heard in the media, there is no discrimination in Guangzhou or anywhere in China.

Hannah Ryder was watching all of this unfold from Beijing, where she’s the CEO of the consultancy Development Reimagined and a longtime commentator on China-Africa issues. Hannah joins Eric and Cobus to reflect on the events of the past week and what lessons, if any, were learned from this whole affair.

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Development Reimagined’s COVID-19 Infographic: How are African countries dealing with COVID-19’s economic impact?

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Apr 17, 2020
Initial Reflections on an Unprecedented Crisis in China-Africa Relations
00:37:46

The widespread evictions and mistreatment of African migrants in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou has caused a serious rupture in China-Africa relations. Chinese ambassadors across Africa have been called in to various foreign ministries to explain why so many of their nationals in Guangzhou have been visibly mistreated by authorities and rendered homeless by the evictions from their homes and hotels.

The Chinese government is beginning to mobilize a response that depicts the well-documented evictions and mistreatment as "rumors" according to an article published in the Global Times newspaper. Similarly, the government is blaming western media, namely CNN, AFP and Reuters, for "alleging that Africans are being badly treated."

The situation is rapidly escalating into an unprecedented crisis in China-Africa relations that risks causing serious damage to Beijing's relations with governments across the continent.

Roberto Castillo, an assistant professor at Lingnan University in Hong Kong, is one of the world's foremost scholars on the African diaspora in China where he's done extensive research on the African population in Guangzhou in particular. He joins Eric to share his initial reactions to what's going on in southern China and what he thinks it will take for Beijing to resolve the crisis.

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Apr 12, 2020
How is China Going to Handle Debt Relief in Africa?
01:02:26

With economic conditions across Africa rapidly deteriorating, leaders across the continent are escalating their calls for the international community to provide emergency debt relief. Until this week, though, those appeals have been broadly targeted, not singling out any particular country or creditor. 

But that changed on Monday when Ghanaian Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Atta specifically named China. “African debt to China is $145 billion or so, over $8 billion of payments is required this year,” he said during an online video discussion with the Washington, D.C.–based Center for Global Development. “So that needs to be looked at,” he added.

The following day, Ofori-Atta’s comments were raised at the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s regular press briefing in Beijing, where spokesman Zhao Lijian said discussions are now underway with African governments.

So now the more pressing question is what will Chinese debt relief in Africa look like? Anti-debt campaigners like the Jubilee Debt Campaign and certainly some African governments are advocating for Beijing to cancel the debt in Africa. Experts, though, say if China’s past record is anything to go by, then that is highly unlikely.

Agatha Kratz, associate director at the New York–based independent research firm Rhodium Group, and her colleague Matthew Mingey, a research analyst there, closely follow Chinese lending practices around the world, including in Africa. Both are confident that China will likely enact some form of debt relief for the continent, but, like everyone else, they are unclear as to how far the Chinese plan to go.

Agatha and Matthew join Eric and Cobus to discuss the debt crisis in Africa and possible scenarios for how the Chinese may respond.

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Apr 10, 2020
StarTimes Moves Quickly to Adapt to COVID-19 Crisis in Africa
00:55:57

Fake news and all sorts of misleading information about the COVID-19 pandemic are now rampant on African social media. Reports that Bill Gates wants to test a new vaccine on African people or that the surgical masks donated by Chinese billionaire Jack Ma are infected with COVID-19 are now seemingly everywhere, leaving individuals confused about which sources of information are trustworthy, and which are not. 

The Chinese-owned African pay-TV giant StarTimes sees an opportunity amidst this burgeoning information chaos to position itself as a trusted source of news and information about the virus. The company has moved quickly over the past several weeks to launch a variety of new initiatives connected with the ongoing health crisis. 

The company now offers educational programming in Uganda and Kenya targeted at students who can no longer attend school due to the lockdowns. Similarly, the company launched a new edutainment program called Mindset Learn on its popular ST Kids channel. It has also added new health features on its mobile app that allow users who are not feeling well to determine if they may in fact have COVID-19. Most importantly, it has created a new daily news update, broadcast in multiple languages, which focuses entirely on COVID-19.

This signals an important change for the company’s strategy. Until now, Star Times only carried other channels, such as the BBC and France 24, rather than produce its own editorial programming. And with access to more than 30 million homes in 37 different countries, it has a huge platform and more direct access to African consumers than any other Chinese company.

Dani Madrid-Morales, an assistant professor at the Jack J. Valenti School of Journalism at the University of Houston, is among a handful of scholars around the world who research StarTimes and is carefully monitoring the company’s rapidly evolving corporate strategy in this new COVID-19 era.

Dani joins Eric and Cobus to talk about the company’s new COVID-19-focused programming and the potential risk that this news program may get sucked into the bitter dispute between China and the rest of the world over accountability for the COVID-19 outbreak.


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Apr 08, 2020
The Future of Chinese Rail Financing in Africa
00:47:39

China famously lent billions of dollars to countries across Africa to build expensive, new railways. Nigeria, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya all used loans from Beijing to build new lines using a standard gauge (SGR) that will one day make it possible for these various railways to interconnect with one another.

While a number of African countries are still eager to build out railways, it appears that the days of easy access to Chinese financing are coming to an end. Chinese policy banks like the China Exim Bank and the China Development Bank are becoming increasingly reluctant to lend money for African rail projects. Over the past year, these banks have refused to finance part of Kenya’s SGR, Uganda’s new SGR and Tanzania’s hugely ambitious plans to become a rail hub in East Africa.

And all of this happened before the economic crisis in Africa brought on by the COVID-19 outbreak. If it was tough before COVID-19, then it’s no doubt going to be even more difficult now for African policymakers to persuade China’s development bankers that railways are a good investment.

At this point, it’s still too early to tell if the massive investments in African rail are going to pay off, either directly through increased passenger and cargo traffic, or indirectly by enhanced economic activity that the railway facilitate. Ethiopia, though, presents an interesting case study, according to Yunnan Chen, a senior research officer at the Overseas Development Institute in London.

Chen conducted in-depth research on China’s role in developing Ethiopia’s rail network for his dissertation. She spent several months doing fieldwork and interview dozens of stakeholders to carefully examine the strengths and shortcomings of China’s railway development model in Africa.

Yunnan joins Eric and Cobus to discuss her findings and to look ahead at what impact COVID-19 will have on the future of Chinese railway development on the continent.

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Read Yunnan Chen’s recent article: Railpolitik: the strengths and pitfalls of Chinese-financed African Railways

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Apr 03, 2020
It's Time We Talk About All That Chinese Debt in Africa
01:01:16

There are growing calls for international lenders to cancel or at least reschedule significant portions of Africa’s debt as economies one after across the continent another sink into recession as a result of the worsening COVID-19 outbreak. Earlier this month, Ethiopian Prime Minister sounded the alarm when he called on international lenders to forgive African debt. He later received support from Senegalese President Macky Sall, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa and even major creditors including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

What’s interesting though is that neither Prime Minister Abiy nor any of his counterparts directly addressed the Chinese in their appeals. Considering that China owns 20% of the debt in Africa and is the largest bilateral creditor in a number of the continent’s major economies, Beijing’s plays a disproportionately important role in this discussion.

China’s outsized role in the African debt issue highlights the fact that this is now a much more complicated issue than it was back in the day when it was just a small group of Western lenders, known as the Paris Club, that could make these decisions on their own. Today, Africans have borrowed extensively from private capital markets, the Chinese and others making it far more difficult for a small group of U.S. and European leaders to decide what to do on their own.

Tim Jones is following the African debt relief issue closely in his role as the Head of Policy for the Jubilee Debt Campaign, a London-based NGO that advocates for debt relief and fair lending practices in developing countries. He joins Eric & Cobus to discuss the complexities involved in the current debt relief debate in Africa amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

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Mar 31, 2020
African Futurist Jakkie Cilliers Looks Beyond Today's COVID-19 Crisis
00:56:22

“African economies are staring at an abyss,” said Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed earlier this week in a desperate appeal to the international community for aid and debt relief to offset the ruinous effects of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The economic crisis brought on by the COVID-19 is disproportionately impacting African countries where even under normal circumstances often struggle to provide basic services. The emergence of this latest pandemic on the continent comes as African governments were already struggling with the effects of climate change, locusts and a variety of other infectious diseases ranging from Lassa fever to malaria

Although the situation today looks grim, the head of the Africa Futures and Innovations program at the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, Jakkie Cilliers, contends that, COVID-19 aside, a number of key global trends are actually lining up in Africa’s favor.

In his new book, Africa First!: Igniting a Growth Revolution, Jakkie provides a detailed forecast for the next twenty years on how trends in manufacturing, climate change and technology will shape the continent. It’s important to note, though, that his book is not one of those feel good “Africa Rising” narratives that’s been so popular over the past 5-10 years. Jakkie doesn’t have any simple answers to what will be at times a long, difficult journey for a rapidly growing continent.

He joins Eric & Cobus to discuss what he sees ahead for Africa and whether the burgeoning COVID-19 crisis challenges any of the assumptions that underlie his forecast.

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Amazon Kindle EditionAfrica First!: Igniting a Growth Revolution


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Mar 27, 2020
Lin Songtian, China's Brash Former Ambassador to South Africa Returns Home
00:51:30

China’s most outspoken ambassador in Africa, Lin Songtian, abruptly left his post in South Africa yesterday, just a few days after news had broken that he had been ordered back to China.

Lin published a farewell letter on Monday in the South African newspaper Independent, in which he reflected on his two and a half years in Pretoria but didn’t share what he will be doing next. All he said was that he "will assume a new post for a new chapter."

It’s still not entirely clear if Lin had been recalled under duress or if he is being reassigned to a new, higher-profile position within the China Foreign Ministry. 

Word first emerged late last week that Lin would soon be leaving. Journalist Peter Fabricius broke the story on the Daily Maverick website late Thursday and a second story came out the following day on News24.com, written by Carien du Plessis.

Carien joins Eric and Cobus to discuss Lin’s controversial legacy in South Africa and what might be next for one of China’s most brash, charismatic diplomats.

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Mar 24, 2020
Life in Wuhan: An African Student Reflects on Months of Forced Isolation
00:39:54

Just as the rest of world struggles to contain the highly-infectious COVID-19, China is now starting to emerge from its own battle with this deadly virus. Slowly, people are being allowed out of their homes and even returning to work. But not everyone.

In Wuhan, the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, residents are entering their third month of forced confinement in their homes. And even though some now see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, it’s nonetheless been a difficult ordeal for everyone, especially for the thousands of African students who were unable to leave.

Although there’s no precise number, it’s widely believe there are around 4,600 African students in Wuhan, many of who have struggled mightily over the past few months dealing with fear of being infected, the loneliness that comes forced isolation and just being a foreigner in a country far away from friends and family.

Their ordeal and calls for their evacuation have been widely covered in the African media but now with the crisis ebbing in China and escalating back home, it seems increasingly improbable that they will be repatriated by their governments. Instead, they’re just going to have to ride out the remainder of the quarantine period in the hope that the virus truly has retreated in China.

One would think that this difficult experience might have tainted how these students view China given all they’ve had to endure. But Michael Addaney, a doctoral researcher at the Wuhan University School of Law and Vice President of the local chapter of the Ghanaian Students Association, said, actually, it’s the other way around. He’s been impressed with how the Chinese have handled the crisis while at the same time felt abandoned by his own people back home, many of which were fearful of him and the other 82,000 African students returning to Africa potentially infected with the virus.

This left Michael and his peers with a sense they’ve been abandoned by their own people.

Michael joins Eric & Cobus from Wuhan to talk about his experience living under quarantine in the epicenter and what day-to-day life has been like for him and so many other African students there.

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