Tuesday, January 19, 2016

China-Africa Post-Doctoral Fellowship Opportunity



The China-Africa Research Initiative at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS-CARI), directed by Professor Deborah Brautigam, will offer one post-doctoral research fellow position for a twelve-month period between July 2016 and June 2017.


Fellows will spend approximately half of their time on their own research projects, and half providing support to other CARI research projects. This support could include leading CARI research assistants in cleaning and analyzing data on Chinese finance and investment in Africa, organizing and implementing desk and field studies, drafting research papers and policy briefs, presenting at conferences, and assisting with outreach activities and communications as necessary.


An understanding of China’s overseas economic engagement (trade, investment, aid, loans, other forms of cooperation) is essential for this position.  Our preference is for candidates who have skills in econometrics but who have also conducted field research, preferably in Africa although we are open to comparative perspectives. Ability to read and do research in Chinese is essential. 


We seek a creative individual with the skills of a detective or an investigative journalist, an organized and cheerful perfectionist, a quick learner, and a diligent and tenacious worker who enjoys tracking down information and working in teams.


Candidates must have completed all Ph.D. training and have defended their dissertations or be scheduled to defend by the summer of 2016. They may not be more than five years beyond receipt of the Ph.D. at the start of the fellowship.


To apply, please provide the following to sais-cari@jhu.edu

  • Cover letter explaining your scholarly interest in China’s African engagement, and prospective or actual doctoral defense date;
  • Current C.V. including publications;
  • 2000-word description of the research project you would work on at SAIS, including its specific objectives, importance, and research design;
  • One writing sample;
  • Contact information for three references. Referees will be contacted directly by email with instructions for submitting a confidential recommendation on your behalf. Please ensure that you have requested permission in advance.

The deadline for this application is February 26, 2016We will contact your referees after that date. Rank and salary will be contingent on qualifications. Candidates will be notified by March 30, 2016 of the results of their application, while a formal offer will be made in April 2016. 


Please contact sais-cari@jhu.edu with any questions.

Monday, January 4, 2016

China in Africa: Five Myths

My (gated) op-ed published in Foreign Policy on December 4, 2015: 
Xi Jinping just announced billions of dollars worth of aid and financing for Africa. Here’s why the Chinese president is sure to be misunderstood.


JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — Santa Claus arrived early in South Africa — on a Chinese jet. This week, Chinese President Xi Jinping signed multiple business deals and brought offers of billions in new grants, loans, export credits, and investment funds as African leaders met for the sixth Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, a triennial extravaganza that showcases development and security issues of concern to Chinese and African leaders.
Not surprisingly, Xi’s second presidential visit to Africa, which also included a stop in Zimbabwe, has refocused attention on China’s expanded role on the continent. The story has dominated the airwaves and has been splashed across broadsheets around the world. But as is so often the case with China-in-Africa coverage, much of it should come with a warning label: Consume with a grain of salt. Here are five of the most dangerous — and persistent — myths about Chinese engagement in Africa that are reliably recycled by the press. first — and most damaging — myth is that China is in Africa only to extract natural resources. There is no question that the continent’s vast natural resource endowments are a big draw for Chinese firms — just as they are for Western oil and minerals giants like Shell, ExxonMobil, and Glencore. Yet even in oil-rich countries like Nigeria, this is far from the whole story. In 2014 alone, Chinese companies signed over $70 billion in construction contracts in Africa that will yield vital infrastructure, provide jobs, and boost the skill set of the local workforce.
Technology companies have also done much to accelerate local development. More than a decade ago, the Chinese telecom firm Huawei established its West African training school in the Nigerian capital, Abuja. Ever since, it has been honing the skills of local engineers who are rolling out the cell phone networks that underpin Africa’s telecommunications revolution. The story is the same in other sectors: Our China Africa Research Initiative team at Johns Hopkins University, which has sought to map Chinese engagement and analyze its impact, found Chinese factories in Nigeria employing Nigerians and producing building materials, light bulbs, ceramics, and steel from salvaged ships. As one Nigerian official told me in a 2009 interview, “The Chinese are trying to get involved in every sector of our economy.”

Monday, December 7, 2015

Chinese Investment in Africa: How Not To Mix Apples and ... Elephants

INFOGRAPHIC: China's total investment in AfricaToday the South China Morning Post published an "Infographic" with the title Chinese Investment in Africa (below). A colleague sent me a link, noting that the numbers looked odd, so I took a look. The data is mainly drawn from the American Enterprise Institute's China Investment Tracker. 

Two points about this data:

(1) It is NOT all FDI. Note the small print which says "Chinese investment and contracts in Africa. What these people have done, bless their souls, is to add the CIT's database on Chinese FDI projects with the database on Chinese engineering contracts. This is like adding apples with elephants. In 2014, Chinese companies signed engineering contracts in Africa valued at $70 billion. These are for things that they will build, like bridges or railways or airports. But this has no relationship with the FDI numbers. 

(2) The China Investment Tracker collects the projected value of FDI projects. This is OK for an acquisition, which is paid upfront, but for other FDI projects, which often begin on a pilot project basis, and may never get bigger, this can grossly overvalue the figures.

(3) The China Investment Tracker only collects information on projects valued at $100 million and above. This is going to skew toward natural resource investments which are more expensive, and is unlikely to pick up much if any manufacturing, which is usually less than this. So the sectoral breakdown will be distorted.

(4) It's also not the case that there is no Chinese FDI (or engineering contracts) in 8 African countries. There is a lot of Chinese manufacturing investment in Lesotho, for instance, and FDI also shows up in The Gambia and the Central African Republic. BTW: Somaliland may work better than the rest of Somalia, but as far as I know, it is not a country ...

h/t to Heiwai Tang

Friday, December 4, 2015

Highlights of Xi Jinping's Pledges at the Johannesburg China Africa Summit

Here in Johannesburg, on a stunning summer day, Chinese president Xi Jinping must be enjoying waves of warm feelings (and the relatively clean African air) following his "pledges" speech this morning. 

Here are some of my initial* reactions:

China will continue to support capacity building in Africa. This includes construction of an unspecified number of regional vocational training centers and "capacity-building colleges" that will offer vocational training and education to 200,000 Africans. The time frame for this was not stated but we can expect that this will be rolled out over the next six years: three years to get the construction started, and at least another three years to make them operational and establish programs. Shipping Chinese trainers to Africa has not gone over all that well in the past. Ethiopia had to bring in Germans to replace the Chinese instructors at its Chinese-built vo-tech college. Let's hope that someone in Beijing is thinking strategically about how to build up the African expertise for teaching all these students "how to fish."

China will support the construction of five "Jiao Tong" ("Jiao Tong" means "Communications") universities in Africa. Hmmmm. Will these be like the prestigious Shanghai Jiao Tong University, known for its quality research across a number of disciplines? At first I thought these might be efforts to steer the training of journalists in more China-friendly directions, but it seems that Jiao Tong is better translated as "transportation" -- as a reader pointed out below, in China Jiao Tong universities "are elite schools in training technicians, engineers, and scientists" ... not journalists. This will fit nicely with bringing the "One Belt, One Road" Initiative to Africa, training Africans in the higher technical skills (see my Foreign Policy piece for more on this).

China is continuing to emphasize a more "green" approach to Africa. One of the ten pledges states that "China will support Africa in bolstering its capacity for green, low-carbon and sustainable development and support Africa in launching 100 projects to develop clean energy, protect wildlife, promote environment-friendly agriculture and build smart cities." This follows on from the pledge made at the 2009 FOCAC in Egypt, that proposed "to establish a China-Africa partnership in addressing climate change ... enhance cooperation on satellite weather monitoring, development and utilization of new energy sources, prevention and control of desertification and urban environmental protection. We have decided to build 100 clean energy projects for Africa covering solar power, bio-gas and small hydro-power." As far as I know, no one outside of the Chinese government knows where those clean energy projects are located. I came across one proposal by accident: a Chinese sisal farm I visited in Tanzania was applying to this program to get funding for a biogas project out of its sisal waste. 

To fund these and other programs, China will provide $5 billion in grants and zero-interest loans, and $35 billion in a combination of preferential loans and [non-preferential] export credits and concessional foreign aid loans.  He also pledged to add another $5 billion to the China-Africa Development Fund (so it will now be expected to eventually reach $10 billion) and increase the China Development Bank-funded African Development Special SME (small and medium enterprise) Loans by another $5 billion (this was originally set up at $1 billion). Finally, he seemed to pledge to set up a new China-Africa Industrial Cooperation Fund with $10 billion. This emphasis on manufacturing is very welcome and something I expected, given all the discussion about Chinese offshoring lower cost manufacturing to Africa over the past several years.

China will cancel the overdue portion of interest-free loans provided to low income African countries. I expect a lot of reporters are going to get this wrong. I'm already seeing people calling this a broad debt cancellation for all Chinese loans to low-income countries. No, no, no! This refers only to a special category of "zero-interest" foreign aid loans. Since 2000, the Chinese have regularly cancelled overdue zero-interest loans that countries are unable (or simply unwilling) to pay.
  
The bottom line here is a pledge of $60 billion in various kinds of support (NOT ALL "AID"): $5 billion that is clearly official development assistance, $35 billion that is a mix of export credits (which may be commercial or subsidized) and concessional (subsidized foreign aid loans), and what seems to be an additional $5 billion in a credit line for SME finance. The CAD-Fund finance will be different: it's for equity investment. And although reports suggest that new China-Africa Cooperation Fund will be focused on manufacturing, it's not clear if it will provide grants, loans, or investment -- or merely be drawn on, by the Chinese, to pay for a variety of activities, like the Human Resources Development Fund for Africa established in 2000, which pays for training programs in China.

We can compare this with the specific 2006 pledges of $5 billion in preferential/ concessional loans, and a further $5 billion for the CAD-Fund: from $10 billion in financial commitments to $60 billion over just nine years.

Frankly, I did not expect to see this level of serious loan funding ($35 billion) -- although I don't think Xi Jinping put a specific timeline on any of these pledges, so it could take a while to roll them out. My sense is that a lot of countries are having trouble absorbing the Chinese loans on offer over the past three years. With lower prices for their exports, these loans will be harder to repay. Perhaps Chinese commodity forecasters see rosier numbers starting five years down the line, when the grace periods for the first loans will start to expire?

*revised slightly after seeing English copies of the speech.


Thursday, November 5, 2015

FT story on Chinese aid: bias or ignorance?

On October 29, Shawn Donnan at the Financial Times wrote a story, "China's aid splurge fails to bridge credibility gap in Africa," that betrayed a significant lack of understanding of how China’s overseas development finance operates.

The FT story summarized "Listening to Leaders," a new report from AidData that purported to measure the usefulness of policy advice offered by development partners in low and middle income countries (ahem: not just Africa).

Few policymakers … trust China’s advice,” Donnan writes. The press release from AidData seemed to seems to back this up:
The Listening to Leaders report also provides evidence that the popular narrative about China’s expanding soft power – in particular, the notion that the “Beijing Consensus” is rapidly eclipsing Western sources of influence in the developing world – is probably overblown. When asked to rate the usefulness of China’s policy advice, developing country leaders ranked China Development Bank, China Ex-IM Bank, and Chinese Embassies 75th, 59th, and 70th, respectively, out of 86 bilateral and multilateral development finance institutions
Whoa, Nelly! What did the AidData researchers really find? Actually reading the report and the appendices provides a different spin on this research.

China’s policy of non-interference makes Chinese officials reluctant to dispense any policy advice at all. Not providing advice is quite different from providing untrustworthy advice.

The survey included 6731 respondents.  Only 326 (less than 5%) were able to comment on the usefulness of any policy advice from the Chinese embassy, while only 102 (1.5%) had an opinion on the usefulness of any policy advice from China Ex-Im Bank, and 56 (less than 1 %) gave a grade to any policy advice from China Development Bank. This suggests that very little advice was being given. Compare this with 1486 who were able to rate advice from the World Bank, 1227 from UNDP, and 984 from USAID.

These are very small numbers on which to say "few policymakers ... trust China's advice." Rather, we should be reading: "few policymakers get advice from China."

Deep in the appendices of the study, we read that the Chinese appear to be giving substantive advice in just one policy domain:  trade -- which is not primarily an internal affair.

Here, the Chinese embassy was rated as #2 among development partners in the usefulness of its policy advice. And this advice helps explain why China-Africa trade rose from $10 billion in 2000 to $220 billion in 2014.

So why didn't we get a headline with this spin: policymakers give high ratings to Chinese advice on trade?

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Don't Get Excited: China is not the new aid superpower

My op-ed at The Guardian Global Development Professionals Network: What does recent news that China is increasing support for developing countries mean for international aid?

Xi Jinping at the United Nations, September 2015
The international development community keeps rediscovering – and misunderstanding – China. The latest episode came in September, when Chinese president Xi Jinping gave a speech at the UN after the launch of the new sustainable development goals (SDGs).

Xi pledged to support the SDGs. Specifically, China would set up a $2bn fund to support south-south cooperation. China would also try to increase its investment in the least developed countries to $12bn by 2030. Finally, his government would cancel some of the developing country debt owed to China.

The flush of media attention around these pledges suggested that they were something new and unprecedented. By giving assistance on this scale and forgiving debt, a BBC reporter wrote, China was (at last) willing to take on “more of the responsibilities that go with its status as an emerging superpower”. Others simply got it wrong. Many newspapers, including the New York Times and the Guardian wrote that China would “seek to increase the fund to $12bn by 2030”, which confused the assistance fund with the investment.

Seeing Xi Jinping’s pledges in historical context helps us to see what is actually new, and what this means for our understanding of China’s rise.

Click here to read more.


Monday, October 26, 2015

RSVP Now: Oct. 29 Book Launch in DC


My new book, Will Africa Feed China?, is now available on Amazon or at Oxford University Press. You can read excerpts in All China Review and on Quartz.  

On Thursday, October 29th, 2015 I will be speaking about the book in a roundtable discussion at Johns Hopkins SAIS in Washington DC. Professor David Lampton, Director of the SAIS China Studies Program, will be moderating, and Dr. Amadou Sy, Director of the Africa Growth Initiative at the Brookings Institution, and Professor Ling Chen, Assistant Professor of International Political Economy at SAIS, will be discussants. RSVP here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/will-africa-feed-china-tickets-18985231338
 
A Complete List of Scheduled Book Talks:
  • October 13 -- Princeton University 4:30-6pm
  • October 27 -- Harvard Club of New York 7:00-9pm (members only)
  • October 29 – Johns Hopkins SAIS 4:30-6pm
  • November 3 – Yale University, 4:30-6pm
  • November 13 – SOAS, London, 6-7:30pm
  • November 16 – Institute of Development Studies (IDS), Sussex, UK 1-2:30pm
  • December 9 – Harvard University Asia Center, 12:30pm-1:50pm
  • February 23 – Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Tokyo, TBD


Will Africa Feed China?
Is China building a new empire in rural Africa? It seems a perfect match: the country with the largest population and the continent with the largest remaining reserves of arable land. Few topics are as emotionally charged as the belief that China is aggressively buying up huge tracts of prime African land to grow food to ship home. Will Africa Feed China? probes the myths and surprising realities behind the headlines. 

Friday, October 23, 2015

China in Africa's Fragile States: Exploitative or Developmental


A new policy brief by China Africa researcher Jing Gu and R. McCluskey at IDS Sussex asks "Is China’s Role in African Fragile States Exploitative or Developmental?" 
The abstract notes:"China’s increasing engagement in Africa has generated heated debates over the extent to which its activities are exploitative or developmental. There is particular concern over China’s impact on governance in fragile states. However, these debates often make generalisations and leave out African agency.This Policy Briefing takes a closer look at Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and finds that there is a large gap between China’s policy and practice. It finds that the ways in which African actors promote, respond to and negotiate its engagement is crucial in shaping the extent to which China contributes to development."

Interesting points in the policy brief:
  • The $6 bn (originally $9 bn) Sicomines copper-secured infrastructure loan deal in the DRC has apparently "resulted in the closure of local civil engineering companies." I'd like to learn more about this, given that there has been relatively little infrastructure built yet under the deal.
  • "Rwanda has proactively facilitated investment and trade with China by including Rwandan business people in its official delegations to China and establishing a Rwanda Development Board office in Shenzhen."
  • "Rwanda has particularly targeted information and communication technology (ICT) as a sector where China can help it become a regional leader." 

A h/t to Winslow Robertson, via Twitter @Winslow_R 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Whatever Happened to the $9 Billion China-Congo Deal?

Sicomines photo credit: http://www.forumdesas.org
Bloomberg has a story today that updates the China-DR Congo Sicomines Tale -- the long-running story of an investment and resource-backed loan deal first mooted around 2004, and still not in production. This is the formerly $9 billion+ 2007 deal that had the World Bank and the IMF in an uproar, concerned about the DRC's taking on additional sovereign debt just when it was asking to have its World Bank/IMF loans cancelled under the HIPC program. Under pressure from the IFIs, the deal was eventually scaled back (in 2009) from two to one $3 billion line of China Eximbank credit, backed by future copper exports, plus a complicated financing deal to bring the abandoned copper mine back on line. (This was estimated to cost at least an additional $3 billion). The sovereign guarantee was also dropped. And what is the status today?

Moise Ekanga, executive secretary of the Office for the Coordination and Monitoring of the Sino-Congolese Programme, announced that the DRC had received "$1.5 billion for Sicomines and infrastructure projects including road construction and hospitals, but funding and implementation have been more difficult than expected ... with projects having faced long delays."

A long-mooted hydropower project, Busanga, is now to be financed out of the copper-backed credit line (50%), with the Chinese partners in Sicomines providing the rest. And Sicomines is expected to produce its first copper cathodes by the end of October. Only seven years after the deal was signed.

h/t to China Africa Project

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

FOCAC is Coming to South Africa: Are You Ready?

The Forum on China Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) will meet for the sixth time December 4-5, in Johannesburg, South Africa. If you've always wondered: what is FOCAC? now is the time to learn.
One great resource is the 2010 book, The Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) by Professor Ian Taylor (right), available in a Kindle version.
Or, you can visit the new website Reporting FOCAC co-sponsored by those two great groups, the Wits China-Africa Reporting Project at Witwatersrand University in Jo'burg, and the China Africa Project hosted by journalists  Eric Olander and Cobus van Staden.

The new website is a work in progress, so visit frequently to see what updates they're delivering.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Guest Post: Should you worry about China's investments in Africa?



AP/Alexander F. Yuan
In a recent Washington Post article, Hilary Matfess, a research analyst at the Center for Complex Operations at the National Defense University and member of the Nigeria Social Violence Project at Johns Hopkins SAIS, explores what recent news of China’s $20 million worth of arms sales to South Sudan’s People’s Liberation Army last year might mean for our understanding of Chinese engagement in Africa.  Her review of three recent econometric studies concludes that  “China’s investment in Africa is much like that of the United States and Europe,” except that “China spends more in corrupt countries, and its aid is more easily diverted for political ends.” You can read her article here.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Trailblazers from the China Africa Reporting Project

The intrepid China Africa Reporting Project overseen by veteran journalist Anton Harber at South Africa's Witwatersrand University has published a volume of 17 articles penned by some of the 50 recipients of their reporting grants. The entire book, Trailblazers 2015 – Best of the China-Africa Reporting Project can be downloaded here, and individual articles are also available here.

I read a number of these when they were originally published, and was impressed by their quality. The project was launched in 2009 to improve and deepen the quality of reporting on China-Africa topics, which was then polarized between sugar-coated positive stories coming from the Chinese side and pessimistic recycled tropes about neo-colonialism and resource hunger coming from the West.

I wonder if this topic, the rise of China and how this plays out in and for Africa, attracts a certain type of reporter? Nearly a third of the new breed of journalists honored in this collection are themselves part of a diaspora:  the European diaspora in South Africa, Hong Kong, and Namibia and the Chinese diaspora in Mauritius.




Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Excerpt from Will Africa Feed China?


Photo: World Bank Photo Collection
All China Review​ recently published an excerpt from my upcoming book, Will Africa Feed China?, to be published in October 2015. The excerpt is a profile of Yang Haomin, former chairman of Shaanxi province's State Farm Agribusiness Corporation, and his team's efforts to grow rice, maize, soybeans, and cassava in Cameroon​. His story is one of many Chinese agricultural investment cases in Africa that I cover in the book. 

You can find the link to the excerpt on the SAIS China Africa Research Initiative (SAIS-CARI) website.


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Guest Post: It Takes More Than a Million Migrants to Build a Continental Empire

Dunia P. Zongwe, lecturer at the University of Namibia, recently wrote a review essay of China’s Second Continent: How a Million Migrants Are Building an Empire in Africa by Howard French. A summary of the review is below; the full version can be found here.

Edited Excerpt from "It Takes More Than a Million Migrants to Build a Continental Empire"

by Dunia P. Zongwe[1]

Rich in facts, poor in logic. This phrase perhaps most tellingly describes China’s Second Continent, a book authored by Howard French on Chinese migrants in Africa. In it, the author argues that Chinese migration to Africa exhibits imperial patterns of the past and that it is likely to repeat those patterns in the future. Written in a limpid and elegant style, graced with interesting interviews, fascinating stories, vivid descriptions and profound insights, China’s Second Continent is quite an informative book, which is in itself a good reason to read it. No doubt the book would have been much better if it had done away with its main thesis and the author’s attempts to prove it. This review essay examines the way that the author built his argument.

Howard French’s thesis is flawed on two levels. On a general level, the evidence presented by the author of China’s Second Continent does not prove his thesis. It has failed to establish that Chinese migrants dominate local populations, or that Africans have lost or are losing the ability to resist. It has also failed to provide clear historical precedents for the author’s prediction that the ‘unquestionably peaceful’ migration of Chinese nationals to Africa will, without militarism, be the cause of imperialism. On the contrary, several counterexamples defy this prediction. The evidence is neither internally consistent nor broadly representative of the multifaceted relationships between Africans and Chinese migrants. In essence, the book’s methodology is ill-suited to its own purposes while the hearsay and the anecdotes on which it heavily relies are not generalizable to a wider, future universe.

On a basic level, the problem with French’s thesis is definitional. His notion of ‘migration’ is undefined and erroneously based on race; his definition of ‘imperialism’ is ambiguous and unscientific. Despite the absence of a common understanding of who is a ‘migrant’, the author does not define this vital notion; instead, his definition is based (contrary to normal practice) on race, not nationality. Furthermore, since – in French’s vision of things – ‘imperialism’ can happen in any way, it will happen, anyway. Since French’s definition of ‘imperialism’ is not grounded, it can be implied that his ‘prediction’ is not scientific. It cannot be empirically tested (or refuted, for that matter) and, consequently, people should not regret that the Chinese migrants in Africa will become ‘imperialists’ in the world imagined by French.



[1] Lecturer, University of Namibia. J.S.D. (Cornell); LL.M. (Cornell); Cert. (Univ. Montréal); LL.B., B.Juris (Univ. Namibia). I am grateful to the participants at the mini US-Africa Summit held on Nov. 6, 2014 at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University. Their questions, comments and criticisms informed this review essay’s final substantive section ‘It takes billions to build African economies’. In particular, I thank Horace G. Campbell for suggesting that I write a review of China’s Second Continent. I am also indebted to Joëlle Bergeron, Deborah Bräutigam, Horace Campbell and Mamoudou Gazibo for their critical and constructive comments on earlier drafts of the essay. The views expressed in this review essay do not necessarily reflect those of the people who commented on the essay and the participants at the Summit. I am solely responsible for the contents of this review essay and its failings, if any.