With its founding principles in the African Renaissance, the AFRICAN AGENDA 2063 is a 50 year developmental trajectory of the African continent. A blueprint, which is a master plan for the refurbishment of Africa into a global powerhouse of the future. It characteristically is the continent’s strategic framework that aims to drive Africa towards inclusive and sustainable development. Built and pursued under Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance, it is a tangible expression of the Pan-African obligation for autonomy, harmony, free will and determinism, development and cooperative prosperity.
It is common cause that despite having all the deposit raw materials, Africa remains a nonentity in the global economic arena. The genesis of Agenda 2063 was to inter alia prioritize inclusive social and economic development, continental and regional integration, democratic governance and peace and security. But with fragile governance, poor administrative capabilities, lack of basic and adequate health systems and access to clean water, Africa has struggled to have any significant form of development, let alone contest as a global player.
Added to this, African nations have been riddled with leaders who have misguided priorities towards sustainable developmental goals (SDGs’). The collective Agenda 2063 goals do not necessarily form part of the African nations’ long term or short term developmental goals. It is no surprise, we are in Africa after all.
The vibrant Julius Malema of South Africa said the majority of the Pan African Parliament constitutes many old people who were not capable of being accountable on either the 2030 short term or the 2063 long term goals. The aged and recycled leaders, lead to economic-policy-cycle intrusions punctuated by a litany of false political stalemates. Key gladiators in Africa are equipped with self-evident political immaturity and inexperience. The threat posed with Covid-19 means that the moment of reckoning has finally come for the New World Order, more devastating than the Great Depression, and the continent is up for grabs.
With a poor and dilapidated economical infrastructure, African nations resorted into global begging, with outstretched arms, one to the West and the other to the East. The International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and many Multi-National Companies (MNC) have taken advantage of the economic circumstances in Africa and have either brought a debt relief through policy mirage in form of Economic Structural Adjustment Programmes. These debt relief packages have high and unrealistic interest rates and they have led into deeper debt crisis abyss for African nations. Many MNCs’ have bought debt from aforementioned international finance institutions and nations at their mercy.
African countries are unable to service their debt while simultaneously developing. Debt crisis has left a negative impact on their capacity to fight against Covid-19. Without proper planning and administrative systems, nations face the unavoidable debt trap as they will automatically choose to (re)invest in their dilapidated infrastructure to save lives as compared to servicing debts, after all, it’s save lives’ at any (all) costs?
The West has developed a notorious reputation of taking advantage of Africa and none of the current heads of African states have it within them to challenge the status quo. For whatever worth it was, the late Robert Mugabe denounced the West. During the day he pretended to be angry behind the microphone making imprudent avowal, regretted it at night after being put on a sanctions list. He confided to many in private conversations disgruntled about the frozen offshore accounts and shopping spree travelling bans.
Debt Trap diplomacy
The exponents who marshaled this theorem held that debt trap diplomacy has worked for the colonial masters who intentionally extend excessive credit to nations with a sole intention of extracting economic and political concessions from the debtor nation. The lending conditions remain encrypted in an asset and infrastructure based surety.
The China effect in Africa has been frowned upon by the West. They have peddled theories that China might be hiding hegemonic intentions. They allege that the China effect challenges to state sovereignty by imposing unfair trade and financial deals to cash strapped nations which are unable to resist Beijing’s money. The West has claimed that China has been unethical in its lending – hypocritical and unapologetic colonizers!
From Cape to Cairo, China has been making a foot print in Africa and replacing the Western strongholds. Without frowning upon gross human rights abuses by the tyranny African leaders, China, itself a Communist nation, has invested in Africa without reservation unlike the West.
FOCAC and the African debt
In an effort to cement its African ties, China established a Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) which openly revealed overwhelming African political support of a continued relationship with China. South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa, Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta and Botswana’s Mokgweetsi Masisi all admired the impact of China in Africa, despite it being just a new formal colonialism in Africa. Will this forum play a pivotal role in fighting Covid-19?
China has become a major stakeholder in Africa with strong and growing influence on the continental affairs, at the expense of the West. African countries have rapidly increased their borrowing from China and it is estimated that Africa owes China well in excess of $50 billion. The top five ranking countries in Africa with the largest Chinese debt are Angola ($25 billion), Ethiopia ($13.5 billion), the Democratic Republic of Congo ($7.3 billion), Kenya ($7 billion), and North Sudan ($6.4 billion).
The factual position is that outside forces have their claws on Africa. With the Covid-19 wrecking havoc in the affluent parts of the world, this economic crisis has caused a catch-22 for the pitiable nations already in the red. This dilemma is not new. In West Africa the French set up a Colonial Ministry in Paris which played an oversight role in the African nations they colonized in the Western Africa region.
Ivory Coast the most populous of the French colonies was economically better off in the early 1990s even though it was impoverished by Western standards. The eighty-seven year old president Felix Boigny who once served as a minister in Paris, a member of the National Assembly who abandoned his early adherence to Communism, failed to advance the nation economically.
The nation was economically advanced and diversified as the pragmatic leader had welcomed Western Capital and French aid. A commodity decline in the cocoa and coffee prices led to a diverse effect of the economy. Servicing foreign debt eventually swallowed up a sizeable proportion of the export earnings. Like Kwame Nkrumah, Boigny wasted millions on imposing architecture in his poor country.
Is Ivory Coast ready to fight Covid-19? The debt that needs to be serviced and a dilapidated health system makes it a disaster in waiting.
Potentially rich in mineral deposits like bauxite for aluminum, Guinea gained too little in exports as the Russians who developed an art of extracting bauxite paid a very low price. The nation remained at the mercy of a handful foreign buyers. With Colonel Lansana Conte in charge the nation needed aid and with nowhere to go, France, the World Bank, and the IMF offered assistance with aid to liberalize the economy.
Currently, the nation is not spared from the risk of defaulting on its creditors. There is just little to nothing left to fight Covid-19 and without external support, the risk posed by Covid-19 could be unprecedented.
China lent Kenya extensive loans to build a standard gauge railway between Mombasa and Nairobi highways. Currently Kenya is having issues with the Port of Mombasa which could lead to Kenya releasing the control of the port to China. The effect of China’s debt trap has state sovereignty complications as evidenced in Sri Lanka.
This leaves Kenya very vulnerable and it, like any other African nation, would require assistance from all stake holders to fight Covid-19.
The economy driver of Africa borrowed US$2.5 billion to the state-owned power supplier (Eskom) during Jacob Zuma’s regime and currently has borrowed US$25 billion (R370 billion) under Cyril Ramaphosa. South Africa is better positioned to deal with the Covid-19 already yielding results from its comparatively early adoption of lockdown, and on the money front, it has systems in place to repay and service its rapidly climbing debts. The IMF and the World Bank have at numerous times dangled a carrot but South Africa has always found means and ways to sustain itself and may not be knocking on the door.
The copper belt rich nation is southern African’s third largest economy which has become a textbook example of an increasing debt facing the growing continent. The IMF rejected Zambia’s loan for US$1.3 billion debt since the borrowing plans provided by authorities would have to compromise the county’s debt sustainability and risk undermining its macroeconomic stability.
Loans from China accounts for 65.8% of Zambia’s external debt, an African record. The state owes China a large $US8.7 billion in debt burden as compared to its relatively small economy. Zambia has concluded that the debt was reckless and difficult to repay and jeopardized state sovereignty. The nation has considered a total surrender of its state electricity company Zesco as debt repayment after defaulting on a plethora of Chinese debts which funded the infrastructure projects.
With the demands of Covid-19 on the health and social sector, Zambia could find itself in serious trouble as the nation is in serious debt distress. This will undoubtedly affect the nation’s capacity to fight Covid-19.
Republic of Congo
What is sad about Congo is that it owes an estimate US$7.1 billion to China. The exact amount is even unknown to the Congolese government. Corruption and mismanagement has lead this nation into the snare of China and like all other African nations, its capacity to fight Covid-19 is weakened as there are no adequate systems in place in the health sector.
The former British colony was a major player in Africa and its ZW$1 was on par with the British pound as well as the US$ (dollar) in the late 1980s. Under Robert Mugabe, in 1992 Zimbabwe experienced national drought and was assisted by the IMF and the World Bank (WB) through an Economic Adjustment Programme (ESAP) which was just another debt trap.
After gross human rights violations in the year 2000, the IMF, WB and the East adopted sanctions that limited travelling for Zimbabwean political bad boys. The late Robert Mugabe led nation adopted a ‘Look East’ policy in 2003 and China has become the biggest foreign direct investment (FDI) source. The corruption ubiquitous nation has failed to repay more than US$2.2 billion in loans made between 2000 and 2017.
Zimbabwe owes international lenders more than US$10 billion in both principal and arrears. The domestic debt is at US$6 billion. A failure to repay a US$60 million to the China Export and Credit Insurance Corporation (Sinosure) led to a reluctance from China, but either way, China has magnanimously benefited from the world’s biggest open cast diamond mining. The biggest scandal to date as more than US$15 billion has not been accounted for by the Zimbabwean government. With that, Zimbabwe would have been a major international player, but all is now lost and a bleak future lies ahead.
Zimbabwe like other African nations has a triple threat from the Covid-19, food shortages and the economic meltdown. The 21 day lockdown restrictions were eased and in an attempt to offset the impact of the stay at home decree on a struggling economy and a deepening food crisis.
The former bread basket has over 7.7 million citizens (half of its population) facing severe food shortages with statistics indicating that at least 80 percent (80%) of urban families can’t meet food needs. With a 90 percent (90%) unemployment rate in the informal sector, citizens live from hand to mouth on the streets.
In addition to this, they are subjected to no less than 18 hour power cuts and taps have been dry for years due to drought and lack of maintenance on the water system infrastructure. Social distancing is practically impossible as people spend long hours on shallow wells and boreholes.
Zimbabwe is a major risk in Southern Africa as there is no pandemic preparedness and readiness. The incumbent president Emerson Mnangagwa has reiterated that the nation is ready to fight the Covid-19, but the first death and case recorded was of Zororo Makamba the son of the affluent media mogul personality.
The family purchased their own oxygen and ventilator amongst many other things, but there was no help as there were no systems in place. Further extreme anxiety is based on the nurses and doctors that are not working as they have no protective clothing.
Just like other sub-Saharan nations, three years ago Angola depleted just about six times as much servicing its external debt rather than public health care. With a slump in revenues and without any tangible investor-relative-safety, lenders increased borrowing returns.
What happens to Africa?
I bet my last penny that the Covid-19 fight will now be an excuse for not meeting the AGENDA 2063 goals. The status quo points towards a scenario where nations will find it impossible to finance their fight against the pandemic and sustain their economies as they are spending just 0.8% of GDP compared to the affluent nations who are statistically borrowing to spend about 8% of GDP on stimulus measures.
The majority of nations are at risk of default as they have limited domestic savings and large external debts; Ethiopia, Ghana, Zambia are not spared. It is not strange that the average public debt in sub-Saharan Africa has risen faster than in any other developing region, from 40% to 59% of GDP in 2018 and everyone is in debt distress.
The IMF and the World Bank had debt reduction drives to the struggling nations, but China having signed loans worth more than US$146 billion to African governments in the last 20 years may perhaps not be as sympathetic. The diversion of aid into servicing mostly China debts discourages rich nations from coming to Africa’s aid.
With the current pandemic there have been calls from the World Bank and IMF to suspend debt payments from the world’s 76 poorest countries, but China might take this as an opportunity to cement its strong hold in the sub-Saharan region. The countries that borrow the most have propensities of spending irresponsibly. Even call for cancelling debt payments in 2020 will not be ideal either as multilateral banks are reluctant to risk their own credit ratings or private bondholders are hard to round up. Any debt relief payments for 2020 will still affect the nations as they collect diminutive taxes. The lack of a policy implementation has resulted in low commodity prices and decreased revenues.
Africa is in serious trouble and it will have to make serious post coronial adjustments that can be corroborated with serious political and social economic adjustments, which in is a farce as African nations have refused to have a United States of Africa.
Pre-planning is critical when dealing with a pandemic and requires principles and policies that are permanent and not temporary nor opportunistic. Africa never learnt from the Ebola scourge. This truth, which is about to prevail because it is inescapable, has not yet come out, but when it does, one hopes that it will allow for a serious focus on Agenda 2063 issues.
Without a shadow of doubt, any propaganda by any African head of state that they are ready to fight Covid-19 is a fallacy which cannot even be believed by that dunderhead. The African population cannot be taken for a ride except and whoever believes in Africa’s readiness in the heads of those among us who are given to truancy and delinquency. Anyone who believes Africa is ready will believe anything as that stand and proposition would be simply ludicrous. Africa needs help financially to finance the fight against Covid-19.
The rest of the world needs to unfortunately help Africa. The entrepreneurial Pentecostal pastors who have further milked the Africa’s poor haven’t done much to improve the case. Despite having all the resources, Africa remains poor and at the mercy of the money lenders. Africa is at a risk of being wiped out if stern measures are not taken to protect her.
As Covid-19 rips through the world, fragile Africans are being subjected to inhumane treatment from Africa’s so call beloved guardian angel, China. We have the land and my editor works at a land bank. Rodger Hatnick, when are South Africans getting the land? When are Zimbabweans utilizing their land? When will Africa learn to be self sustaining? Motherland is stuck in quicksand, she can’t move forward or backwards. Is there hope for Africa? Is there anything called African solutions for African problems?
The Africa that we desire is not the Africa that e are building.
Let the collective fight to Covid-19 unite us.