Sino-Africa Skepticism and “Debt Trap” Talk Lack Facts: Critics Are Wrong.

By Allawi Ssemanda

China’s funded Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – a project that will bring easy connections to countries of East-Asia, Africa, Europe, Middle East, China and the America’s has been viewed by critics of Sino-Africa relations with geopolitical lenses with frames insinuating that China imitated the project with hidden agenda. However, analysis and figures from credible international organizations such as World Bank and African Development bank underscores that BRI project – the first of it’s in the world’s history will provide African countries with greater opportunities which will enable these countries develop industrial capacity and infrastructure which are all key in the continent’s body (African Union) 2063 Vision.

Currently, about 29 international organizations and over 65 countries which represents 62% of the global population have either signed to join BRI or have shown interest in the project. This means that upon completion, the project will make the world’s largest market easy to access and traverse on road which is key in transportation and mobility of goods and services. Indeed, World Bank forecast suggest that as a result of BRI project, infrastructure, trade and investments links with China and several countries in BRI project will see improvement in trade and investments.

In Africa, over 20 countries including the continent’s largest and growing economies such as Nigeria, Ethiopia and Kenya have all joined the project. In East African Region, locals are already enjoying fruits of BRI project. For example, Djibouti-Addis Ababa Railway line which is part of silk road reduced the 759 kilometres journey from three days on road to just 12 hours a great breakthrough in mobility of goods and services.

Current figures indicate that Chinese investments in countries are estimated at over $200 billion, while China’s trade with countries that fall in the corridors of BRI have registered growth figures at $6 trillion for years 2014-2019 while the trade between China and BRI countries was worth $6,975 billion.

China’s declaration during 2018 Beijing Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) where China announced that African countries are key partners in the project proves BRI’s Strategic Rationale which emphasizes that Belt and Road Initiative is meant to build a “community of Common Destiney for Mankind” and easy mobility as well as connectivity of the world.

China’s commitment to invest and support African countries investments in industrial capacity which resonates well with AU’s 2063 vision makes the project an opportunity for the continent to realise her vision. Indeed, 2019-2021 FACOC Beijing Action Plan aims at using industrial capacity cooperation mechanism to ensure both China and African countries realise their objectives. Consequently, BRI project will in the long run undoubtedly result into aiding African countries to develop in in aspects of technological advancements.

Though critics of Sino-Africa Relations claim that China’s development assistance is a debt trap and unfounded claims that China is is hiding ambitions of neo-colonialism Africa, or to seize the African Countries’ properties in instances African countries fail to pay back, these claims seem far-fetched and African countries should really deny ‘Sino-Africa Skepticism’ listening ears for this will slow down the much-needed development cooperation between China and African countries. There are more opportunities BRI project is bringing and African countries should focus more on seizing these opportunities.

According to African Development Bank (ADB), African countries are faced with shortfalls in infrastructural funding budgets. ADB adds that to meet their infrastructure needs that will allow African Countries sustain their growing population and replace their ageing infrastructure, African countries need between $130-170 billion annually. Therefore, African countries need allies who can help them raise such funding and Chinese efforts should be supported rather than attaching it with all negativities.

  Aerial-photo-shows-the-Mazeras-Bridge-of-the-Mombasa-Nairobi-standard-gauge-railway-in-Kenya-May-12-2017.-Xinhua

It is worth noting that talks of “debt trap” are unfounded and based on speculations rather than facts. A recent study by Rhodium Group; BRI project has the best agreements with all those assessed having provisions that China can renegotiate, forgive or write off debts on countries under BRI project opposed to ‘Sino-Africa Skepticism’ who claim China will seize such projects.

Indeed, there are facts centrally to claims of the so-called debt trap. In 2015, China wrote off $40 million loans to Zimbabwe, in 2018, China announced it hard forgiven Botswana a loan totalling to $7 million in 2019, Addis Ababa announced China had written their debt which was incurred in BRI project.

Allawi Ssemanda is a senior Research Fellow at DWC. The views expressed in the this article are his own and not necessarily those of DWC.

Has COVID-19 Pushed Women in Politics off Kenya’s Agenda?

By Miriam Gathigah

In 2013, Alice Wahome ran in her third attempt to win the hotly-contested Kandara constituency parliamentary seat in Murang’a County, Central Kenya. As is typical of rural politics, the field was male-dominated, with the stakes being high for all candidates but more especially so for Wahome — no woman had ever occupied the Kandara constituency parliamentary seat.

“It was a very brutal campaign. I was harassed, verbally abused, threatened with physical violence and many unprintable things were [said to me] even in public,” Wahome tells IPS.

She says that attributes that are considered admirable and desirable in male politicians were weaponised against her and other women in politics.

“When we vocalised our opinions they said we talk too much and the underlying message is that decent women do not talk too much. When you have a stand, and are firm in your political beliefs and values, they say you are combative, intolerant and aggressive. The same qualities in men are acceptable,” Wahome says.

So vicious was the contest for the hearts of Kandara’s voters that on the morning of the 2013 general elections, the community woke to find packets of condoms branded with Wahome’s name. On the packets were messages, purportedly from Wahome, encouraging voters to embrace family planning.

“This was a smear campaign to show my people that I was not fit to be their leader. There are many things that politicians give to voters, such as food items. Distributing condoms in a rural, conservative society on the day of the elections is political suicide,” Wahome, a lawyer, says.

Fortunately, she had spent years interacting with the community, promoting health initiatives, education and the empowerment of women and girls. So despite the smear campaign, Wahome became the first woman to win the Kandara seat and is currently serving her second term in the national assembly after her 2017 re-election.

Propaganda, threats of violence and especially sexual and physical violence, public humiliation and unrelenting vicious social media smear campaigns are a few of the challenges that women in politics, like Wahome, have to overcome to win and sustain political leadership.

This is in addition to overall campaign challenges such as limited financial and human resources and vicious internal politics. But even at the political party level, the system is still skewed in favour of men who own and finance these parties.

“The political arena is very hostile towards women. The campaign trail is littered with lived experiences of women who have been brutalised for seeking leadership,” Wangechi Wachira, the executive director of the Centre for Rights, Education and Awareness (CREAW), tells IPS.

CREAW is a local partner for Deliver For Good global campaign that applies a gender lens to the Sustainable Development Goals and is powered by global advocacy organisation Women Deliver. The Deliver For Good campaign partners advocate to drive action in 12 critical investment areas, including strengthening women’s political participation and decision-making power.

Wangechi has been at the forefront of holding the government accountable for gender equality and equity, as provided for by Kenya’s 2010 gender-progressive constitution, which demands that all appointed and elected bodies constitute one-third women.

Source: Read this article on IPSNEWS 

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