Friday, December 21, 2012

With Friends Like These...

There was an interesting connection I noticed when reading over my tweeter feed today.

Tarila Marclint Ebiede, a PhD candidate in the political science department at KU Lueven, linked to this Reuters article about South Sudan wanting international support for a new airline and airport. There was a passage that caught my eye:
The new country will also need to bring in experts to help set up the airline, he said. He did not say how long it might take to get the airline running or name any of the potential investors.
The biggest carriers in the region include companies like Kenya Airways (KQNA.NR) and Ethiopian Airlines. South Sudan said last week China would provide a $158 million loan to help finish a new airport in Juba.
The work will be done by Chinese companies and supervised by South Sudan's transport ministry, Malek said.
"Once we're satisfied, we tell the minister of finance ... to tell the Chinese Axim Bank that this part of work has been done, you pay that company," he said.
That sounds like a really great deal for South Sudan, China, and the Chinese Exim Bank. If an American NGO wants to gain traction with African governments, perhaps the Enough Project should have chipped in some money. China did a masterful job of improving the, at times quite acrimonious, relationships with the people of Sudan and South Sudan.

I then came across a set of juicy quotes from the recent video interview with Malawian president Joyce Banda:
"China doesn't keep us waiting for two years. China will decide today and will go ahead. The next day you sign, and work starts … so, the choice for Africa is: do I want to have a road next year, or do I want to stay for two years discussing about human rights and governance before we can even talk about the road?"
These were broadcast by Tolu Ogunlesi, a first-rate journalist and a prolific tweeter. The video interview was made by Lucy Lamble, Nick Francis and Marc Francis, the latter two famous in Sino-Africa circles for their documentary "When China Met Africa." President Banda has a good relationship with the U.S., so for her to make such a blunt assessment of the difficulties in dealing with the U.S. and Europe when it comes to infrastructure projects is significant. 

The U.S. knows all too well that China offers very attractive aid and trade packages, it just stings when another leader acknowledges it. In the span of a week, China is agreeing to finance the completion of an airport in a country which does not hold the highest regard for the Chinese, and the president of a country friendly to the U.S. is pointing out just how the Americans are failing said country. I still believe the U.S. and China operate quite similarly in the African continent, but my view is not what matters. What President Banda thinks is what matters.

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