Aljazeera: tsunami of Chinese commerce is sparking tension and even violence in some parts of Africa

Earlier this month, Aljazeera screened a movie titled The Colony by Brent Huffman and Xiaoli Zhou. Huffman and Zhou explored the “onslaught of Chinese economic might and its impact on long-standing African traditions.” This economic colonization, hence the title of the film, is not without its pitfalls with minimal assimilation, integration, or perception of mutual benefit. As Huffman notes,

Although there is communication between the two sides at a certain level, it is rather limited. Despite various differences in language, culture, and work ethics, the Chinese are not making enough of an effort to integrate into Senegalese society.

Although the Chinese businesses have brought some benefits to the local low-income consumers, their overall presence is viewed with suspicion and hostility by many Senegalese.

Continue reading “Aljazeera: tsunami of Chinese commerce is sparking tension and even violence in some parts of Africa

Quick reference: GAO report notes State staff shortfall, interagency failures

Some highlights regarding the Department of State from the GAO report “Actions Needed to Address Stakeholder Concerns, Improve Interagency Collaboration, and Determine Full Costs Associated with the U.S. Africa Command” (GAO-09-181, 1.4mb PDF, from February 2009)
Continue reading “Quick reference: GAO report notes State staff shortfall, interagency failures

Broadband hits Africa

From Foreign Policy, a map showing increased connectivity and the importance of investing in Information & Communication Technology for Development (ICT4D) in Africa.

As interconnectivity between African countries increases, economic benefits are expected, especially in Kenya, which has a fast developing IT sector. Other potential impacts include education and access to media.

Increased interconnectivity also means increased importance of online media.

See also this 2007 global map by Alcatel-Lucent (5.6mb PDF).


“The “militarization” of diplomacy exists and is accelerating.” – A Foreign Affairs Budget for the Future: Fixing the Crisis in Diplomatic Readiness from the American Academy of Diplomacy. (see also this post)

“The trends across the board are not going in the right direction. And I would anticipate next year would be a tougher year.” – Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Adm. Mike Mullen, The New York Times.

“The announcement last week that the United States will relocate its London embassy from Grosvenor Square, in the heart of the British capital, to an out-of-the-way spot south of the River Thames may be good news for property developers, but should concern almost everyone else. The London move is the latest and most dramatic example of a worrying trend toward vastly scaling down American public diplomacy abroad, abandoning embassies that were once beacons of American culture and openness in favour of walled suburban fortresses.” – Globe and Mail, 6 October 2008 (h/t KAE)

“The New York Times’ Web site is getting more global, and is going bye-bye.” – Forbes, 7 October 2008 (h/t KAE)

“There was no single silver bullet, but rather a multifaceted strategy crafted and carried out by those in Baghdad — not, despite recent claims, in Washington.” – Linda Robinson in the Washington Post (see also Tom Barnett)

“Whatever the final form it takes, the establishment of Africom is a good idea whose time has come — finally. The command’s emphasis on civil-military integration and a low-key operational profile is appropriate and well suited to its mission. We should wish it well.” – Bob Killebrew, Africom Stands-Up. (see also this post)

Event: AFRICOM and Beyond: The Future of U.S.-African Security and Defense Relations

From the American Enterprise Institute:

The October 1 operational launch of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), on the eve of a new American presidential administration, provides an unprecedented opportunity to reshape U.S. strategy toward Africa. Significant attention has been devoted to the structure and functions of AFRICOM–and to its strategic communications challenges. Less thought, however, has been given to identifying the core security interests that should guide U.S. strategy on the continent or to defining the new kinds of partnership with a more self-assured Africa that are most likely to advance those interests.

With its capacity for political as well as military engagement and for conflict prevention as well as traditional war-fighting, AFRICOM has the potential to serve as a model for future interagency security cooperation efforts abroad. But what AFRICOM does is more important than how the command is structured. What is the strategic rationale for increased U.S. security engagement with African countries? What are the emerging threats and challenges in Africa, and how should they be addressed? AEI’s Mauro De Lorenzo and Thomas Donnelly will host two panel discussions with African security experts to answer these and other questions.

When: Wednesday, October 1, 2008  10:30 AM – 1:30 PM

Where: Wohlstetter Conference Center, Twelfth Floor, AEI
1150 Seventeenth Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20036

Register here.

See also:

AFRICOM: DOA or in Need of Better Marketing? No and Yes. (Updated)

image Like Mark Twain’s "death" in 1897 (he died in 1910), reports of AFRICOM’s demise may be exaggerated.  Concerns that AFRICOM hasn’t been thought out or is unnecessary aren’t supported by the actions and statements of those charged with building this entity.  However, based on the poor marketing of AFRICOM, these concerns are not surprising.

I attended USC’s AFRICOM conference earlier this month and between panel discussions and offline conversations, I came away with a new appreciation (and hope) for the newest, and very different, command. 

This is not like the other Combatant Commands (one DOD representative said they dropped "Combatant" from the title, but depending on where you look, either all the commands include "Combatant" or none of the commands do).  Also unlike other commands, AFRICOM is "focused on prevention and not containment or fighting wars."  This is, as one speaker continued, is a "risk-laden experiment" that is like an Ironman with multidisciplinary requirements and always different demands (note: thank you for not saying it’s a marathon… once you’ve done one marathon, they’re easy, you can "fake" a marathon… Ironman triathlons are always unpredictable.).  The goal, he continued, was to "keep combat troops off the continent for 50 years" because the consensus was, once troops landed on Africa, it would be extremely difficult to take them off. 

Continue reading “AFRICOM: DOA or in Need of Better Marketing? No and Yes. (Updated)

Upcoming events on Africa

Heads up on two upcoming events on Africa. The first is titled AFRICOM: The American Military and Public Diplomacy in Africa and will be at the University of Southern California February 8, 2008:

The USC Center on Public Diplomacy at the Annenberg School and the USC Center for International Studies are pleased to announce the upcoming conference, AFRICOM: The American Military and Public Diplomacy in Africa. The first of a series of conferences on public diplomacy, this conference will be held on Friday, February 8, 2008 at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

This conference will feature panel sessions addressing U.S.-African relations, the State Department and Department of Defense concepts of public diplomacy in Africa, and African perspectives on the issue. Some questions to be discussed include how AFRICOM should be presented to African publics, to what extent African nations and regional organizations will be involved in shaping AFRICOM’s role, and how AFRICOM will work with other developmental and humanitarian projects on the continent. The conference hopes to provide AFRICOM as a case study for a discussion of public diplomacy in a broader sense, considering who should conduct public diplomacy and how it can be better integrated into government policy.

Confirmed panelists include: Jendayi Frazer, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs; Ryan Henry, Principal Deputy Undersecretary of Defense; Nicole Lee, Executive Director of the TransAfrica Forum; Amb. Brian Carlson, State-DoD Liaison in the Office of the Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs; Mark Malan, Peacebuilding Program Officer at Refugees International; and H.E. Peter N.R.O Ogego, Kenyan Ambassador to the United States. The conference will be recorded and followed by the publication of the transcript and briefing papers. All sessions will be open to the USC community, the news media, the Los Angeles consular corps, and the general public.

For further information, please contact Lisa Larsen, Assistant Director for Programming and Events, at (213) 821-0768 or

The second event is a 1.5 day event, February 28-29, 2008: Countering Terrorism in Africa through Human Security Solutions at The Fletcher School at Tufts University.

The Jebsen Center for Counter-Terrorism Studies—with support from the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation and co-sponsorship from the Conflict and Human Security Studies Program at the U.S. Military Academy, West Point; the Fletcher Institute for Human Security; the Feinstein International Center at Tufts University; and Synexxus, Inc.—presents a two-day conference, “Countering Terrorism in Africa Through Human Security Solutions” on Thursday, February 28 and Friday, February 20 at The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.

The conference will explore the mutual concerns of development, human rights, and security professionals working in a region that, due to poverty, civil violence, and mismanaged security interventions, may be susceptible to: influence and activity carried out by global terrorist networks such as al Qaeda and affiliated movements (AQAM); radicalization and the formation of independent violent terrorist cells; and the use of violent, civilian-focused terrorist tactics. Through three panels and two keynote addresses, the aim of this conference is to explore collaborative efforts to improve human security in Africa by addressing both development and security issues, which could help to improve conditions on the continent and, by extension, prevent terrorist networks from exploiting grievances and garnering support.

Both look interesting and worthwhile.

See also:

China Blogging for September 14, 2007

Some catch-up on China blogging included here to clear my China queue

China is upset, claiming foreign nations are causing “massive and shocking” damage by hacking into computers to “ferret out political, military and scientific secrets.” Some might say that turnaround is fair play. Another thought is someone might be showing off for DHS that it’s worthwhile to revisit a denied application?

Continue reading “China Blogging for September 14, 2007

China leads a peacekeeping op

The UN announced the first-ever Chinese led peacekeeping operation.

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appointed Major-General Zhao Jingmin as the new Force Commander for the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Western Sahara (MINURSO), the first time that the world body has had a Chinese national head one of its missions.

This syncs with Chinese public statements to use peacekeeping as a way of increasing its profile with governments and people directly (like with a hospital). The public diplomacy angle has been stated repeatedly, perhaps most clearly when they voiced their intent to up their contribution to the Lebanese PKO to increase their profile in the Middles East (as well as in Europe).

As China builds its expeditionary capability and while building prestige and influence, how exactly is the US improving its image by forcing democracy at the barrel of a gun?

Armut Bekämpfen mit “Blackface” (updated)

sondernuberhauptnicht Fighting poverty and illiteracy in Africa with blackfaced kids. Brilliant! Why I didn’t think of that? Right, I know why…

Looking at this as a Barnettian (does it sound like “Martian” or “bar-net-ian”?), this is another example of how elements in the Core don’t get the Gap. And like Pink Floyd’s lament that you can’t eat your pudding if you don’t eat your meat, you can’t really help if you don’t understand who you’re helping. (See Brea’s posts on Bono and for real fun consider the requirements of counterinsurgency and the requirements of understanding who, what, and why.)

(BTW- if you have any interest in Africa, read Jen Brea)


AFRICOM gets a commander

From the DOD, yesterday General William E. Ward, current deputy commander EUCOM, was nominated for re-appointment to the rank of general with assignment as commander, U.S. Africa Command, Stuttgart, Germany. Noteworthy is Gen. Ward is the US’s only black four-star, and the fifth to achieve that rank (he was promoted to it May 2006).

His new gig won’t be a full command until September 2008. Until then, he’ll probably keep his house in Stuttgart, Germany.

EUCOM, the majority “owner” of Africa for now, may have tapped the right man for the job. Let’s hope so. It’s at least good potential diplomacy with the publics of Africa.

Chinese Tuesday

It’s Tuesday and time for news on China

Preeti Aroon writes at Foreign Policy about Chinese becoming the language of choice for Sudanese students. It’s one thing to provide English-language training, it’s another to provide a viable and immediate use for the acquired language. (See previous post on Chinese policy in Africa)

Sudan sells around 60 percent of its oil to China, and Chinese companies, products, and restaurants have made inroads into the African country. Sudanese university students who learn Chinese can get jobs as translators and work for Chinese oil and telecommunications companies. Recently, Khartoum University had a Chinese speech competition, and a Chinese professor there said, “… nearly 100% of students who graduate from the department get jobs with Chinese companies.” In a troubled country like Sudan, that prospect is a great motivator to learn the language.

More than a billion people speak Mandarin Chinese, and the Chinese government actively promotes the language as a way of extending its influence. The country has sent hundreds of teachers to Africa, and it has established “Confucius Institutes” around the globe to encourage speaking the language.

And the trend to learn Mandarin Chinese isn’t limited to Sudan. In Britain, the number of university students studying Chinese more than doubled from 2002 to 2005. Other Western countries have had similar increases.

From Howard French in the International Herald Tribune, China is displacing France in Chad.

Less than a decade ago, the French claim on this region was still so strong, and Africa’s importance to France’s view of its own place in the world correspondingly so, that the French were paranoid about expanding American influence on the continent…

Imagine my surprise then, arriving in Ndjamena late at night on a visit from China, when I turned on my television at the French-run Sofitel Hotel to find that the program blaring from Channel 1 was a starchy variety show in Chinese, courtesy of that country’s state broadcaster CCTV…

Fast forward to the present, and here in Chad what one finds is a U.S.-based oil multinational, Exxon, running the country’s biggest and most lucrative business, with Chinese companies investing heavily to match or surpass it…

From oil to telecommunications, all the big new investments seem to be Chinese. And to the extent there is any construction going on, as in so much of the continent today, it is Chinese companies landing the contracts…

FranceAfrique has lessons for China, too, however: no durable interests can be secured on African soil where institutions are neglected and profit and flattery are the only considerations.

Sam duPont at Foreign Policy writes about China’s silver-plated bullet. How deep is the economic shot in the arm provided by China? Not as deep as China promotes it to be.

But it seems naive to suggest, as the [Fitch] report’s authors do, that China’s involvement in sub-Saharan Africa will do much to “reduce poverty and promote development and the region’s global integration.” The success of Chinese oil firms at securing investment contracts in the region is largely attributable to the “no-strings-attached” loans they provide to the governments. Considering the weak, authoritarian nature of many of these states, it should come as no surprise that this money is rarely spent to benefit the African poor…

Some unsolicited advice to the purchasers of this Fitch report: Be wary of loaning money where mobs of angry young men are likely to arrive soon.

U.S. Africa Command has a website


The new US Africa Command, USAFRICOM, put up a website. Actually it’s the transition team who put it up. Not only are they physically located in EUCOM, but virtually (note the URL for AFRICOM).

MountainRunner’s been watching developments AFRICOM for a while, even if not posting on it recently. The shape of AFRICOM is important to not only its success but also in our global security needs.

Some links to share for now:

  • CounterTerrorism: “African countries including Algeria and Libya are negotiating tooth and nail with the US to prevent the installation of American military bases in Africa.”
  • Enterprise Resilience: “…understand that African nations view this latest initiative with some skepticism. Attention for Africa has come in fits and starts, but with little lasting commitment. The Americans also are working hard to gain Africans’ confidence that the new effort represents a long-term commitment.”
  • Thomas Barnett: “…franchise Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, replicating it north, south, west and central. I would not locate any HQ in Africa, but set it down in northern VA to attract both the necessary talent and to encourage super interagency development…”
  • Washington Post article Barnett commented on, as well as CRS report (pdf) WaPo commented on.
  • See also Vanity Fair’s July 07 issue dedicated to Africa (h/t SWC

Monday Mash-Up

A day late but not a dollar short (remember you get what you pay for). Here’s the Monday Mash-Up, delivered on Tuesday.

  • Another kind of AMC
  • Animating the Bayeaux Tapestry (h/t A&I)
  • If you’re reading this you probably won’t be surprised that a recent Pew Survey Finds Most Knowledgeable Americans Watch ‘Daily Show’ and ‘Colbert’– and Visit Newspaper Sites

    A new survey of 1,502 adults released Sunday by Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found that despite the mass appeal of the Internet and cable news since a previous poll in 1989, Americans’ knowledge of national affairs has slipped a little. For example, only 69% know that Dick Cheney is vice president, while 74% could identify Dan Quayle in that post in 1989.
    Other details are equally eye-opening. Pew judged the levels of knowledgeability (correct answers) among those surveyed and found that those who scored the highest were regular watchers of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show and Colbert Report. They tied with regular readers of major newspapers in the top spot — with 54% of them getting 2 out of 3 questions correct. Watchers of the Lehrer News Hour on PBS followed just behind.
    Virtually bringing up the rear were regular watchers of Fox News. Only 1 in 3 could answer 2 out of 3 questions correctly. Fox topped only network morning show viewers.
    Told that Shia was one group of Muslims struggling in Iraq, only 32% of the total sample could name “Sunni” as the other key group.

  • Child Mortality in Iraq 150% worse than in 1990. But it’s more than Saddam starving his people:

    “Some 122,000 Iraqi children died in 2005 before reaching their fifth birthday. More than half of these deaths were among newborn babies in the first month of life,” Save the Children said, listing “armed conflict and social instability” among the principal reasons for Iraq’s child mortality rate.

    Remind me again how we achieve moral legitimacy over a population that is suffering like this?

  • Air Force Fleet Wearing Down

    Compared to 1996, the Air Force now spends 87% more on maintenance for a warplane fleet that is less ready to fly. The average Air Force warplane is 23.5 years old.

  • Trying to bring the fight home to American bases

Chinese Tuesday

As is the trend here, it’s Tuesday and time for news on China.

  • VOA reports on how Chinese are gaining African respect because of their “simple” living:

    …in contrast with Western expatriates, says Brautigam, the Chinese always live at or below “local standards” – even when it’s quite within their means to live lavishly….
    …”The Italian project had a container of food brought in from Italy every two weeks! And the (Italian) experts were living in very comfortable houses that were built (specially) for the project.”…
    …”The United States.had eight experts and they had built ranch-style houses in a little subdivision, with street lights and sidewalks, and everything the way it would be in Texas or someplace like that!”…
    In Nigeria…the Chinese are perceived as being “better able to transfer technology to Nigerian employees than Western expatriates.” …China is popular amongst businesspeople in Africa because of a simple reason: Money. “Africans associate the Chinese with profits,”…

  • China confirms terrorist camps in Pakistan 19 Apr 07:

    China has for the first time publicly acknowledged the existence of terrorist camps within the territory of its “all-weather” ally.
    It said that some East Turkistan separatists, who have been fighting for decades to make oil-rich northwest China’s Xinjiang province an independent state, received training at the terrorist camps in Pakistan.

  • China to Send Military Unit to Darfur 8 May 07. Posting on the article, T P M Barnett asks a question (“What is our military really doing to encourage this? What is our government doing?”) that emphasizes the structural failure in American diplomacy. On the action itself, the Chinese should be expected to do the minimum necessary for appearances while pressuring Bashir behind the scenes to make a show of acceptance.

Is Somalia seeking Chinese protection?

Thanks JS (not the Armchair Generalist, another JS) for sending this story on Somalia a while back (that I’m just getting to now):

U.S. hires military contractor to back peacekeeping mission in Somalia
By Chris Tomlinson
1:20 p.m. March 7, 2007

NAIROBI, Kenya – The State Department has hired a major military contractor to help equip and provide logistical support to international peacekeepers in Somalia, giving the United States a significant role in the critical mission without assigning combat forces.

DynCorp International, which also has U.S. contracts in Iraq, Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq, will be paid $10 million to help the first peacekeeping mission in Somalia in more than 10 years.

The article continues… blah blah blah… but it concludes on an interesting note:

The United States is not the only country seeking to provide private military services in Africa.

In 2005 the Somali government signed a $50 million contract with New York-based TopCat Marine Security to help create a coast guard to protect its coast and shipping from pirates. The State Department blocked TopCat from deploying because of a U.N. arms embargo, Hassan Abshir Farah, Somalia’s marine resources minister said.

Farah said his government was now discussing a deal with the Chinese government and Chinese marine security firms.

Of course the US isn’t the only one offering protection, private or public, to Africa. (why the focus on private military services? Right, it’s the “in topic”.) DynCorp’s involvement isn’t special, spectacular, or really innovative. Not really interesting but noteworthy is the reason given for the death of the TopCat deal, but I won’t waste my time on TopCat. If you care, see Kathryn Cramer’s post on the cease-and-desist order by State to TopCat Marine or see links off my recent summary of the events around the TopCat screw-up.

What is interesting is the last sentence. The Chinese are in a full court press on the continent, as I’ve noted in various blog posts. While they don’t care about the plight of the people, they do care about the plight of the elites. There’s money to be made on fishing etc (the same fish stocks China’s poaching) that China is more than happy to help the gov’t protect (for a fee). Also, keep in mind the Chinese way of sealing the deal is different than that the Americans. We include lawyers and the Chinese include promises of unrelated business to sway the decision maker as necessary, sweetening the deal and ignoring details to be dealt with later. While we look over the details with lawyers, China says “Deal! We’ll work out the details later.”

It will be interesting to see if we see a headline with both China and Somalia in it in the near future.

China and Peacekeeping

Stratfor published a useful chart depicting China’s increased participation in peacekeeping operations.
This is a semi-regular topic on this blog.  Back in 2003, the PLA Daily, the newspaper of the Chinese Army, stated the intent to increase participation in peacekeeping operations to raise China’s global profile.  In other words, peacekeeping would be a tool of both public diplomacy and traditional diplomacy.

In 2005, China was the 15th largest contributor of forces, moving earlier this year to 12th, which included increasing its contribution to 1,000 in Lebanon in 2006 for the declared purpose of raising its profile in the Middle East and in Europe.

Not surprisingly, China prefers to send its peacekeepers to Africa over other destinations.  This fits with Chinese stated public diplomacy strategy (and here for more specific example).  However, as was the case in Haiti, China doesn’t play exclusives and will go where it feels it can get a big bang for its disaster relief and humanitarian aid renminbi.

In addition to being seen, this has the added benefit of practicing for deployments away from their very-near abroad.

I’m sure we will see more Chinese peacekeepers.  The UN maintains about 20 operations at any one time with a new rotation starting every 6 months.

The Top 5 “peacekeepers for hire” have little in the way of international interests and get paid about $1100 per man per month (and require on top of that transport, equipment, and support).  These Top 5 collectively contribute nearly 50% of all UN forces, while the top 3 are 39% of the total.

If China ramps up its peacekeeping, will it have a ripple effect to these poor nations counting on the cash?  Will that create new opportunities for the Chinese to provide aid, in the variety of forms they provide “aid”?

Stay tuned.

Image credit: Stratfor