Africa News Digest
Brown Snubbed by Mbeki, Preempted by African Union
April 17 (EIRNS)South African President Thabo Mbeki snubbed British Prime Minister Gordon Brown yesterday morning in New York, cancelling a meeting with him, which was to take place before the UN Security Council meetingchaired by Mbekitook place. Zimbabwe's election, which has been the subject of a broad British propaganda campaign, had been kept off the agenda by Mbeki, but Brown sneaked the issue in during his comments yesterday. Brown, has been called a "little tiny dot in the world" by Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, charged: "No one thinks, having seen the results at the polling stations, that President Mugabe has won this election. So let a single clear message go out from here that we ... stand solidly behind democracy and human rights for Zimbabwe...." This is British code for the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which they are sponsoring. "A stolen election would not be a democratic election at all," Brown pontificated.
But the wind had already been taken out of his sails. Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete said the Southern Africa Development Community was taking care of the situation. He praised the SADC for doing a "tremendous job ... to ensure that the will of the people of Zimbabwe is respected," according to Reuters. Tanzania is the current chairman of the African Union (AU).
Having failed to hijack the Security Council meeting, which Mbeki had called as a joint UN-AU meeting to get the UN moving on funding peacekeeping operations in Africa, Brown has been reduced to arm-twisting other African leaders to pressure Mbeki to abandon a policy which the British claim is biased in favor of Mugabe. Mbeki was appointed by the 14-nation SADC to mediate between the Zimbabwean government and the opposition, and has used the position to hold off the British. The desperate Brown even tried to get Kikwete to pressure Mbeki to abandon Mugabe, according to the South African Independent today. Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai tried to help Brown out, calling today for Mbeki to be replaced as SADC mediator in Zimbabwe, according to the German Press Agency.
The Independent today quotes an unnamed British official source saying, "We are worried that if we attack Mbeki, he will become more stubborn than ever. He did that over AIDS in Africa and we don't want that to happen on Zimbabwe." This is a reference to Mbeki's declaration that the high rate of AIDS in Africa was not due to Africans being promiscuous, as the Malthusian racists like Al Gore would say, but due to poverty, and lack of sufficient health care and economic development.
After he was snubbed by Mbeki yesterday, Brown cancelled his press conference, apparently worried that answering questions about Mbeki's snub would play to the advantage of Mbeki, his primary enemy in southern Africa.
Chinese Attack Campaign Against Their Role in Africa
PARIS, April 18 (EIRNS)A conference entitled "China in Africa: Only a Quest for Energy Resources?" took place here, at the press center of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, featuring Hongyi Wang, the deputy director of the Department of Studies of the World in Development center at the China Institute of International Studies (CIIS), and secretary general of its study center on Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. The conference was organized by the Asia Center, based in Paris, and is part of a Chinese offensive to counter hostile propaganda against its intervention in Africa. Wang Hongyi, who was ambassador to Cameroon in 2002, introduced noted that China's interest in Africa goes a long way back. After the creation of the People's Republic of China in 1949, China started its socialist assistance policy towards Africa and other areas of the world, building factories, hospitals, schools, and infrastructure. The best known of such Chinese-assisted projects is the ambitious 1,860-km Tanzania-Zambia railway line, concluded in 1976, a technological feat because it went through mountains, valleys, and forests. To this project the Chinese contributed loans without interest, for a total of 988 million yuan, and mobilized the participation of 50,000 Chinese engineers and technicians.
While the relationship with Africa started first as one of assistance, now, says Hongyi Wang, it is one of full partnership. Trade increased by 30% between 2002 and 2007. In 2007 alone, the increase relative to 2000 was 32.5%. According to the Chinese Ministry of Economics, China's contribution to African development is around 20%. China is currently investing in 49 countries, in raw materials exploration and exploitation, transports, and energy. The Chinese objective is that trade reach $100 billion by 2010. For China, the priority will be to increase imports from Africa, eliminating tariffs from most African products.
Africa needs Chinese technologies, said Wang Hongyi, declaring that a Sino-African development fund of $5 billion has been created, to support Chinese companies that want to invest in Africa, which has been divided in five development zones for this purpose.
Wang Hongyi announced that the objectives adopted at the Sino-African Development Forum of November 2006 have been concretized: Preferential loans to Africa have increased by $3 billion; debt-cancelling programs have been completed with all countries; and products without tariffs have gone from 280 to 440.
Many African journalists and associations attended the press conference. Those asking questions were favorable to Chinese involvement, but such a large-scale intervention is also creating tension between Chinese workers and the African populations. Questioners pointed out the need for the Chinese to develop local manpower, to increase their interactions with the population, and to take into account the differences in cultures.
Ethiopia Opens Commodities Exchange, Bans Futures Trading
April 20 (EIRNS)Ethiopia will open Africa's newest exchange for agricultural commodities this week, called ECX, the London Financial Times reports today. It will not permit futures trading. The British newspaper attacks the ban, saying a similar move in India last year proved unsuccessful. At the Addis Abeba market, spot contracts for commodities produced in Ethiopiawheat, corn, haricot beans, and sesame seedswill be traded. Buyers will be required to deposit cash to cover the full value of their purchase the day before trades are executed, to deter speculation and prevent defaults.
The Financial Times says accusingly that Ethiopia is one of Africa's most state-dominated economies and its reluctance to allow futures trading, which pre-dates the current food price crisis, is rooted in suspicion of free markets.
Niger Supports China, Calls for Nuclear Power
PARIS, April 18 (EIRNS)At a press conference here yesterday, Niger Communication Minister Mohamed Ben Omar, speaking about Niger's development programs, noted that the presence of China and other developing nations in Africa has reinforced the independence of Niger, which, he said, is now able to negotiate higher prices and better conditions for contracts with mining and oil companies.
The purpose of his press conference was to outline what the country is doing with these increased revenues. He indicated the countries to which the 141 exploration permits for uranium, oil, gold, copper, platinum, and other raw materials were granted. The list includes France, China, India, Canada, Britain, and the United States. In the area of oil exploration, in particular, he mentioned CNPC from China and the Algerian Sonatrach as being among the main recipients of those contracts.
As to the improvements derived from this new wealth to the country, he pointed out that 15% of the benefits of oil and uranium are turned over to the development of the areas where these raw materials are exploited. He was particularly proud to announce that never again would his country, one of the richest in terms of raw materials, allow itself to be treated as one of the poorest in Africa, begging for hand-outs. He also called for nuclear power to be developed in his country.
He said the country is not among those presently hit by famine, because Niger has a stocking system that it developed following a famine in 2005. Niger's agriculture is very poor, due to the lack of rain, and the fact that the part of Lake Chad which is in Niger has completely dried out, has left that area of the country without local water sources. EIR's Paris correspondent asked the Ben Omar what is being done with the project to supply water to Lake Chad, and whether Niger, with its new resources, could carry the greater part of the financial burden for this project. The minister responded that at a recent meeting of the Lake Chad Basin Commission, the member-states decided to fund feasibility studies for the transfer of water from the Chari and the Oubangui rivers to nourish Lake Chad. He said Niger President Mamadou Tandja, who presided over that institution until this month, is determined to move ahead with the project.