Thursday, June 12, 2008

Chinafrica (19) Watching for PRC Influence in Africa

Close to home: and introspective look at Liberia - China relations...

'No Conflict of Interest,' President Sirleaf Says
The Analyst (Monrovia)
11 June 2008
Posted to the web 11 June 2008

By Edwood DennisMonrovia

Liberia is painstakingly emerging from the depths it was thrown by 14 years of civil infamy and there is no question that it will use all available assistance.

President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf seems to have no problem with this approach to recovery and said so this week.

President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has disclosed that there is no conflict of interest in Liberia's relationship with both the U.S. and China.

She said what rather seems to exist is a confusion of interest amongst some of Liberia's international partners on how rapidly and to what level to help spur Liberia's post-war security and economic recoveries.

The President made the assertions, yesterday through an aide, when she addressed a ground-breaking ceremony for the US $21.5 million expansion project of the Fendell Campus of the University of Liberia.

The Fendell Campus Expansion Project, sponsored by the government of the People's Republic of China (PRC) as part of its assistance to the recovery efforts of the Sirleaf Administration, is expected to be completed in 2010, according to the PRC Ambassador to Liberia, Zhou Yuxiao.
Incidentally, the project is being undertaken by the China Guangdong Xinguang International Group.

The President Sirleaf said while neither the U.S. nor the PRC at any time expressed disquiet about the nation's partnership with the other, some Liberians and non-Liberians at one time or the other expressed fear that the direction the administration has taken may, at some point, fuel diplomatic conflict.

She did not say why the Liberians and non-Liberians thought that was a possibility, but observers recalled that the Tolbert administration paid dearly for such relation with China and the Soviet Union during the Cold War years.

Then, the U.S. regarded the two communist nations as threat to the democratization of Third World nations, including Liberia which many say the U.S. guided jealously as a satellite or pilot state.

Today with the U.S. and China cooperating at several fronts including the levels of trade, global terrorism, finance, and banking, analysts say, that Liberia will fall into trouble for courting China is far unlikely.

Fair unlikely is the catchword and President Sirleaf agreed, noting that her administration would ensure that neither the U.S. nor China misunderstands what role the other was playing in Liberia's recovery efforts.

She said Liberia needed all of its friends, traditional and new, so that the widespread desperation being felt across the country can be taken care of as rapidly as necessary to protect the nation's stability obtained through the sacrifice of UNMIL.

According to her, both the U.S. and China were genuine friends of Liberia who, in their own ways, were concerned about the plight of the nation following years of bad economic policies and a devastating civil war and doing what best they could to help the nation out of its current dilemma.

She said both governments were equally concerned about Liberia's quick recovery as indicated by their past contributions and present efforts to contribute to the improvement and expansion of the nation's only public institution of higher learning and to education in general.
She said not only has the U.S. government contributed to the economic recovery efforts of the country, but that it also collaborated in the Fendell modernization efforts through the construction of annexes to the Fendell Science Complex.

Meantime, the Liberian leader praised the Chinese government for embarking upon the construction of several buildings that would host students and faculty of UL at the Fendell Campus.

She said the project marks 'an important landmark in Liberia's quest to prioritize education in Liberia' and noted that it is significant in several respects including that it represented the government's commitment to education as well as the priority placed on education.
She also used the occasion to caution those who she said were in the habit of stealing building materials from major public construction sites to desist as such act would prompt sponsors to stop remitting funds to the projects.

She revealed that public projects that were being subjected to untold property theft under the pretense of scrap collection were the Hotel Africa and White Plans Hydro projects, amongst others.

The President called on residents to report such people to police for an appropriate action by the government.

For his part, Chinese Ambassador Zhou Yuxiao expressed the hope that the project will contribute significantly to education in Liberia.

He observed that the construction is proceeding due to the level of peace in the country. The Chinese envoy further challenged the University students not to take peace for granted, but rather work towards its strengthening in the country.

He reiterated his government's support towards working harder to obtain more scholarships for Liberians to study in China as well as offer Chinese lessons at the University of Liberia. Ambassador Zhou commended Liberia and the international community for the concerns shown after the recent earthquake in China.

In a statement delivered by the China Added Project School buildings, the Chinese Ambassador reiterated the commitment of his government and people to contribute to the reconstruction of Liberia since the two countries were traditional friends.

Amb. Zhou revealed that when completed, the UL Campus Expansion Project that is the largest for now by the Chinese government, will put at the disposal of a students laboratories for soil testing and for civil engineering research and experimentation plus a computer science center.
Also to be put at the disposal of students and instructors, according to Ambassador Zhou, is one four-story comprehensive teaching building, four two-story dormitory buildings for students, five three-story apartment buildings for faculty members, a friendship tower (water tower) generator house, water treatment room, sports field, two basketball courts, three tennis courts, and other supportive facilities.

"We are offering Liberia a little help not because we are rich, but because we are friends in [time of] need and because we know fully that we are living in an increasingly interdependent world in which no country can go ahead single-handedly. In this global village, we all neighbors. We all need to help and support each other.

"With regard to Liberia, China, is not one-sided either; it is a two-way traffic. In our bilateral and multilateral diplomacy, Liberia has given so much support to China over the issues that are dear and near to China's national interest," he said.

Copyright © 2008 The Analyst.


Thursday, June 05, 2008

Are We Ready to Move a Mountain?

Iron-ore activity in Liberia is taking off and we are at a jog and gathering pace. ArcelorMittal’s stated ambition is for an iron-ore output beginning in 2009 of 500,000t/y and increasing to as much as 25Mt/y by 2011. At the end of May, Russia’s Severstal reached agreement to purchase up to a 61.5% stake in African Iron Ore Group Ltd (AIOG), which owns, through subsidiaries, the exploration rights for an iron-ore deposit in Liberia’s Putu Range area. In addition, Severstal will acquire a 6.29% stake in Mano River Resources, which currently controls AIOG.

Just across the boarder in Guinea, Rio Tinto reported 2,259Mt of JORC-compliant iron-ore resources at its Simandou project on May 29. These resources are located within the Pic de Fon and Oueleba deposits which form part of the Simandou range in southeastern Guinea. The company is planning the development of the first production phase of 70Mt/y, potentially rising to 170Mt/y, subject to agreement with the government.

Mano River, Putu Range and even old "Poor Bone" (Bong Range) are largely unknown quantities. So let's focus on the Nimba Area. The largest operation in the late 1960's through the 1980's was the Liberian-American-Swedish Minerals Company (LAMCO), a joint venture that accounted for about half of Liberia's annual iron ore output at that time. LAMCO began shipping ore in 1963, when the port of Buchanan, which the company had constructed, opened for traffic. The mine's capacity was about 12Mt/y of ore at the start-up of operations. In the late 1970s output dropped to about 9Mt/y.

Again, at its zenith, the highest capacity handling through the LAMCO facilities completed in the early 1960's was 12Mt/y of ore per year. The big question as we move forward, is production going to out run the capacity to handle the material? 25Mt/y by 2011 is double the old capacity. Do they really expect to add another 70Mt/y to that? Nearly 100 Million tons per year is not going to move west across Liberian territory without someone taking notice. The Simandou project may be exporting an unacceptable environmental impact. Are we ready?

Is green our fame or is it the red dust on the green leaves?

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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Chinafrica (18) Watching for PRC Influence in Africa

Monday, June 02, 2008; Posted: 06:42 PM
WASHINGTON, May 30, 2008, 2008 (IPS/GIN via COMTEX)

-- -- The U.S. and Chinese governments should coordinate their policies toward Africa in order to enhance the effectiveness of their economic aid and investment, to further political stability and to ensure the success of peacekeeping operations in the region, according to a report released this week.

Such collaboration should also be carried out in consultation with other powers that have major interests in Africa. These include the European Union, Japan, Canada, India, South Korea and Brazil, whose links to the region are poised to grow sharply in the coming years, according to the 14-page report, "Responding to China in Africa."

The report, which will be expanded later this year into a book, was co-authored by retired Ambassador David Shinn and Joshua Eisenmann of the American Foreign Policy Council.
In what some commentators have already compared to the 19th-century scramble for Africa by Europe's imperialist powers, the continent has attracted unprecedented attention in recent years for its untapped oil, gas and mineral wealth.

While Europe and the U.S. have long been the main external sources of aid and investment in Africa, their historic dominance is now being challenged by other actors.

Just this week, for example, energy-starved Japan is hosting a trade-and-aid summit in Yokohama with more than 40 African heads of state vying for some $4 billion in concessional loans and another $2.5 billion in grants and other aid that Tokyo plans to invest in the region.
Japan's meeting follows an unprecedented "India-Africa Forum Summit" last month that drew 14 African heads of state. At stake were offers of some $500 million in development assistance and another $5 billion in credit for future, Delhi-sponsored projects.

But China, which initiated its own Forum on China-Africa Cooperation back in 2000 and whose bilateral trade with Africa has mushroomed from $10 billion in that year to some $70 billion in 2007, has made by far the biggest splash of the non-Western powers. Given current trends, Beijing, which has been increasing its exports to Africa, as well, is expected to displace the U.S. as Africa's biggest bilateral trade partner by 2010.

While China's investment in the continent has been relatively modest -- about $13 billion as of late last year, most of it concentrated in energy-related projects in Sudan and West Africa -- it is poised to rise sharply, according to the report.

Fueled by the highest sustained growth rates in modern history, China's economy is increasingly dependent on access to Africa's resources. The region already accounts for more than a third of China's oil imports. By contrast, the United States currently gets about 15 percent of its foreign oil from Africa, all of it from West Africa and the Gulf of Guinea. That figure is expected to rise to 25 percent by 2015.

Statistics like those have had many analysts worried that the U.S. and China are engaged in a potentially fierce struggle for influence in the region.

Those worries have been played down by the two countries' leaders, with Bush declaring during his trip to Africa in February that Washington does "not view Africa as zero-sum for China and the United States," a phrase recently echoed as well by Beijing's ambassador here.
At the same time, however, Washington's decision to create a separate military command for Africa -- as well as growing military ties between China and key African countries, mainly in the form of training and sales of small arms and light weapons -- has fueled concerns that a burgeoning geo-strategic competition is indeed underway.

The report -- which is based on interviews with more than 250 experts, government officials, business executives and civil-society representatives in China, seven African countries, the U.S. and Europe -- suggested a number of areas in which Washington and Beijing could cooperate in Africa.

On aid to the continent, it urged the U.S. to make a greater effort to engage China in discussing how to coordinate assistance, including debt policies, and to encourage investment through the World Bank, which has already taken such an initiative. It also called for investment through the relevant committees of the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development, to which Beijing should be invited to join, "at least as an observer."

In addition, it called on the U.S. and China to identify several specific projects on which they could collaborate directly. The two countries have already discussed such cooperation on agricultural projects in Angola and Ethiopia, according to the report, but could also consider public health projects, given Washington's multibillion-dollar program to fight AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis in Africa and given China's successful malaria-control record and its long-term history of sending medical teams to Africa.

The two countries should also initiate a dialogue involving relevant African countries on the best way to develop the latter's natural resources, particularly in oil and gas, given the U.S. and China's status as Africa's biggest customers in those two areas. Washington should also actively engage with Beijing to support the multinational Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative to improve accountability in that sector.

The report urged both countries to identify specific African countries threatened by instability to coordinate steps to prevent or mitigate conflict there. It noted that Washington and Beijing have already worked together -- with only limited success -- to persuade Sudan to accept deployment of a U.N.-authorized force to Darfur and suggested that the two powers also share a strong mutual interest to ensure the success of the increasingly shaky Comprehensive Peace Agreement for ending the north-south conflict in Sudan, from which China last year obtained 6 percent of its total oil imports.

On security and military issues, the report called for cooperation in maritime operations to reduce smuggling, piracy and drug trafficking off Africa's coasts. It noted that the U.S. and Chinese militaries have already collaborated in Liberia to improve that country's armed forces as part of the U.N.'s peacekeeping effort there and suggested that that model could be replicated elsewhere in Africa. China currently has nearly 1,500 troops in Africa, more than any other permanent member of the U.N. Security Council.

Beijing and Washington could also coordinate more closely in carrying out disaster relief operations in the region, the report urged.

© 2008 The Connors Group, Inc