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Trump’s Africa strategy should have cast China as a regional partner, not a global adversary

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John Bolton Donald Trump
From left, Director of the National Economic Council National Larry Kudlow and Security Advisor John Bolton listen as US President Donald Trump speaks to reporters. AFP PHOTO | SAUL LOEB 

US President Donald Trump has finally approved a “New Africa Strategy”. His national security adviser, John Bolton, described the contents on 13 December at the conservative Heritage Foundation in Washington. He began positively, declaring that:

lasting stability, prosperity, independence and security on the African continent are in the national security interest of the United States.

But he then went on to ignore Africa’s own efforts to address these broad challenges, including its multilateral initiatives. Instead, Bolton’s announcement was replete with rhetoric reminiscent of the Cold War.

The new strategy makes one thing clear: what really matters to Trump is not Africa but containing and countering China.

The reaction from an African perspective is likely be bemusement rather than surprise. Trump has shown little interest or empathy towards Africa. And much enmity toward China. His Africa strategy ignores two decades of complex – but generally positive – reactions across sub-Saharan Africa to China becoming the region’s biggest trading partner and a major source of aid and investment.

Previous US administrations generally welcomed Chinese engagement in Africa. Bolton, however, alleged that:

China uses bribes, opaque agreements, and the strategic use of debt to hold states in Africa captive to Beijing’s wishes and demands.

But does it need to be this way? I would argue not. Africa offers China and America an opportunity to demonstrate to the world – and to each other – that their competition can be constructive with Africa playing a moderating influence by brokering an agreed trilateral agenda.

We need to explore ways to advance cooperation between Africa, China and the US as a confidence building measure in relations between the US and China. This would obviously need to be designed for the primary benefit of African partners.

Collaborative projects that involve the US and China, with Africa in the forefront, have been the focus of a Carter Centre project since 2014. The centre’s many successful programs in Africa, especially public health, have generated high-level trilateral policy interest. Since the Trump administration took over, these conversations have excluded his senior advisors. Nevertheless, work has continued. This has included recent developments which suggest headway is being made.

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In early December the South African Institute of International Affairs hosted the troika that leads this project. The troika was represented by Seyoum Mesfin, Ethiopia’s former and longest-serving foreign minister, an ambassador to China, and regional mediator in Sudan; Zhong Jianhua, formerly China’s Special Representative on African affairs and to the Sudan conflicts; and Donald Booth, a former US ambassador to Liberia, Zambia, Ethiopia and special envoy to Sudan/South Sudan.

Three dozen African, Chinese and US scholars as well as policy experts contributed their analyses of previous and possible future areas for trilateral cooperation. They drew on some recent examples. These included efforts to combat piracy off the Horn of Africa and Gulf of Guinea as well as jointly developing a university campus in Liberia. Other projects have involved coordinated mediation between Sudan and South Sudan and mutually reinforcing actions to deal with the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.

Several priority areas for future tri-lateral cooperation were identified.

One was the recently constructed headquarters for the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention in Addis Ababa. Funded by China, the next priority for trilateral cooperation is to ensure the centre is equipped to provide better early warning and response to threats like Ebola.

Another priority area is expanding economic aid, trade and investment. This could be done through trilateral projects funded under China’s “Belt and Road” initiative and the US Build Act. The act was approved in October by a large bi-partisan majority of the US Congress.

A related issue is the huge loss of vital tax revenue to African governments due to huge “illicit financial flows”. These are estimated to exceed annual inflows of foreign assistance. The project will seek ways to encourage US and China to support the work of a panel set up by African Union and United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.

Two other broad areas for potential trilateral cooperation are sustainable agriculture and energy. Two initiatives started by the Obama Administration, with the support of Congress, have become popular in Africa. These are the “Feed the Future” and “Power Africa”.

Trump has long wanted to cut both. But his negative attitude isn’t shared by the US Congress, and perhaps even key members of his administration. Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, Tibor Nagy, summarised US-Africa policy before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the same day Trump approved the new Africa strategy. Nagy’s comments reflected a different mindset. He spoke positively about the two Obama initiatives. He also didn’t seem alarmed by China’s growing presence.

At a time when many in Africa are debating how to build capable states without the undesirable aspects of either America’s “decadent” democracy or China’s “responsive” authoritarianism, engaging both should yield important insights for advancing collective self-reliance and development.

Article by John J Stremlau, Visiting Professor of International Relations, University of the Witwatersrand

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World Bank pushes G-20 to extend debt relief to 2021

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World Bank Group President David Malpass has urged the Group of 20 rich countries to extend the time frame of the Debt Service Suspension Initiative(DSSI) through the end of 2021, calling it one of the key factors in strengthening global recovery.

“I urge you to extend the time frame of the DSSI through the end of 2021 and commit to giving the initiative as broad a scope as possible,” said Malpass.

He made these remarks at last week’s virtual G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting.

The World Bank Chief said the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered the deepest global recession in decades and what may turn out to be one of the most unequal in terms of impact.

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People in developing countries are particularly hard hit by capital outflows, declines in remittances, the collapse of informal labor markets, and social safety nets that are much less robust than in the advanced economies.

For the poorest countries, poverty is rising rapidly, median incomes are falling and growth is deeply negative.

Debt burdens, already unsustainable for many countries, are rising to crisis levels.

“The situation in developing countries is increasingly desperate. Time is short. We need to take action quickly on debt suspension, debt reduction, debt resolution mechanisms and debt transparency,” said Malpass.

ALSO READ:Global Economy Plunges into Worst Recession – World Bank

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Kenya’s Central Bank Drafts New Laws to Regulate Non-Bank Digital Loans

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The Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) will regulate interest rates charged on mobile loans by digital lending platforms if amendments on the Central bank of Kenya Act pass to law. The amendments will require digital lenders to seek approval from CBK before launching new products or changing interest rates on loans among other charges, just like commercial banks.

“The principal objective of this bill is to amend the Central bank of Kenya Act to regulate the conduct of providers of digital financial products and services,” reads a notice on the bill. “CBK will have an obligation of ensuring that there is fair and non-discriminatory marketplace access to credit.”

According to Business Daily, the legislation will also enable the Central Bank to monitor non-performing loans, capping the limit at not twice the amount of the defaulted loan while protecting consumers from predatory lending by digital loan platforms.

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Tighter Reins on Platforms for Mobile Loans

The legislation will boost efforts to protect customers, building upon a previous gazette notice that blocked lenders from blacklisting non-performing loans below Ksh 1000. The CBK also withdrew submissions of unregulated mobile loan platforms into Credit Reference Bureau. The withdrawal came after complaints of misuse over data in the Credit Information Sharing (CIS) System available for lenders.

Last year, Kenya had over 49 platforms providing mobile loans, taking advantage of regulation gaps to charge obscene rates as high as 150% a year. While most platforms allow borrowers to prepay within a month, creditors still pay the full amount plus interest.

Amendments in the CBK Act will help shield consumers from high-interest rates as well as offer transparency on terms of digital loans.

SEE ALSO: Central Bank Unveils Measures to Tame Unregulated Digital Lenders

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Scope Markets Kenya customers to have instant access to global financial markets

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NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 20 – Clients trading through the Scope Markets Kenya trading platform will get instant access to global financial markets and wider investment options. 

This follows the launch of a new Scope Markets app, available on both the Google PlayStore and IOS Apple Store.

The Scope Markets app offers clients over 500 investment opportunities across global financial markets.

The Scope Markets app has a brand new user interface that is very user friendly, following feedback from customers.

The application offers real-time quotes; newsfeeds; research facilities, and a chat feature which enables a customer to make direct contact with the Customer Service Team during trading days (Monday to Friday).

The platform also offers an enhanced client interface including catering for those who trade at night.

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The client will get instant access to several asset classes in the global financial markets including; Single Stocks CFDs (US, UK, EU) such as Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google, BP, Carrefour;  Indices (Nasdaq, FTSE UK), Metals (Gold, Silver); Currencies (60+ Pairs), Commodities (Oil, Natural Gas).

The launch is part of Scope Markets Kenya strategy of enriching the customer experience while offering clients access to global trading opportunities.

Scope Markets Kenya CEO, Kevin Ng’ang’a observed, “the Sope Markets app is very easy to use especially when executing trades. Customers are at the heart of everything we do. We designed the Scope Markets app with the customer experience in mind as we seek to respond to feedback from our customers.”

He added that enhancing the client experience builds upon the robust trading platform, Meta Trader 5, unveiled in 2019, enabling Scope Markets Kenya to broaden the asset classes available on the trading platform.

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