Posts Tagged ‘Africa’

Dr. Tedros, the WHO, Africa and Chinese power

May 8, 2020

Nikolai Vladivostok is the blog handle of an Australian expatriate who has worked extensively in the Horn of  Africa.  He made four posts that contain good information about China, and its influence on the World Health Organization and Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director of WHO, which I haven’t come across elsewhere.

Here are links to the four posts—all well worth reading.

Dr. Tedros

Trust WHO?

Who the hell is Tedros?

How did China wrest control of the WHO?

How does Tedros manipulate the WHO?

N.V. described how the Chinese have extended their economic influence into Africa and used their leverage on African governments to influence United Nations agencies, including the World Health Organization, and how that paid off during the coronavirus pandemic.

I’ve been skeptical of U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s attempt to blame China for the spread of the virus.  I see it as a cynical attempt to divert attention from U.S. failures and to weaken China politically.

But propaganda—systemic attempts to influence public opinion—is not necessarily false.  There is circumstantial evidence that the virus could have originated in a Chinese research lab (not a bio-warfare lab) and escaped into the world through negligence.  I don’t claim to know the whole story, but there certainly is something to investigate.

The Chinese government has used the coronavirus pandemic to increase its geo-political influence.  It presents itself to the world as a kindly helper—the opposite of the U.S. government, whose diplomacy is based on threats and naked self-interest.

As the old saying goes, you can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar.  But if you are a fly, it doesn’t matter how you are caught.

The rising human tide in Africa

September 7, 2019

“If the biggest global news story of the past 40 years has been China’s economic growth,” wrote demographer Paul Morland, “the biggest news story of the next 40 years will be Africa’s population growth.”

In his book, The Human Tide, Morland traced what’s called the demographic transition in society after society, from Britain and Germany to China and India.  The pattern is that societies experience surges in population when the death rate falls and life expectancy increases, but then the fertility rate levels off and then decreases.

In many parts of the world, including North America, Europe, Russia, China and Japan, the fertility rate is below 2.1 children per woman, which is the replacement rate.

In general, each successive society that underwent this transition had a bigger and more rapid surge in population than the ones that went before, but also a more sudden drop.  The latest region of the world to begin the demographic transition is sub-Saharan Africa, and that part of the world is still in the early stages of its population surge.

United Nations statistics quoted by Morland show that:

  • Of the 48 states and territories with fertility rates of 4 and above, all but seven are in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Nine out of 10 countries with the highest fertility rates are in Africa.
  • Every one of the 30 countries with the lowest life expectancy are in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • All but two of the 30 countries with highest infant mortality rates and the lowest median age are in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • The population of sub-Saharan Africa is growing more than twice as fast as the world as a whole.

Fertility rates in Africa are falling, just as in the rest of the world, and Morland is confident they will continue to fall.  But they are falling from such a high level that there will be a population surge regardless.  Population growth depends not only on how many children the average woman has, but how many women there are of child-bearing age.

My knowledge of Africa is superficial, but it is obvious that conditions in sub-Saharan Africa are bad.  Much of Africa is at risk of famine.  Africa is torn by war and ravaged by drought—which can only get worse, as global temperatures rise.  Corruption is prevalent.  Although there are bright spots and encouraging signs, most African governments still are on a spectrum from corrupt semi-democracies to dictatorships for life.

I have to say that I have a good impression of African immigrants in the USA—not only highly educated professionals from Nigeria and Kenya, but also poor refugees from Liberia, Sierra Leone, Sudan and Somalia, whom I got to know as a volunteer driver years ago for a Catholic refugee resettlement charity here in Rochester, N.Y..

Most of the refugees struck me as having great resilience, great personal dignity and a strong desire to repay the least little kindness.  Somali refugees were moved into a section of a public housing project, and the smell of Somali home cooking replaced the smell of marijuana in the hallways.  The managers were glad to have tenants who didn’t drink alcohol or take dope, play loud music late at night or get into fights in which the police had to be called.  From what I’m told, they’ve all thrived since.

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Chinese and U.S. strategies in Africa

December 21, 2015

chinaafrica

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Source: South China Morning Post.  (Hat tip to Barry Ritholtz)

China is Africa’s largest trading partner.  Its infrastructure investment are large and growing, although total Chinese investment in Africa is less than U.S. investment.

If all goes well, the infrastructure investments will result in building up Africa’s export industries, which will be used to pay off the Chinese loans.  If not, China will still have a claim on the food, energy and mineral resources of Africa, much as European and American banks did in an earlier era.

U.S. base locations. Click to enlarge

U.S. military sites in Africa.  Click to enlarge.          Source: Nick Turse for TomDispatch.

The United States meanwhile is increasing its presence in a different way.   Investigative reporter Nick Turse, whose articles are posted on TomDispatch, reports a growing number of secret U.S. military site in Africa, to advise and help the armed forces of African countries and supposedly to be in place to fight terrorists.

Which will be stronger in the long run—China’s economic influence or American military influence?

I think some Africans probably resent the growing power of China as a foreign economic power operating in their countries.

I think some African leaders would be grateful if the U.S. military could provide effective help against the Boko Haram terrorists in Nigeria or the so-called Lord’s Resistance Army in central Africa.

But overall, I’d bet on China.  The Chinese are creating jobs and building useful and visible public works, which foreign military bases and the presence of foreign troops are always resented.

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Optimism or pessimism?

October 23, 2015
Africa-Child-Mortality-in-1990-and-2012_Max-Roser

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I schedule and sometimes lead a Sunday morning discussion group at First Universalist Church of Rochester, NY.  One Sunday the discussion leader made the case for that, although there were very serious problems in the world, some things are getting better.

One of the members of the group angrily disagreed.  He said that although some things are getting better, there are very serious problems in the world.

The world has in fact become a better place in some ways.  That doesn’t mean it will automatically become a better place in all ways, but it is reason to resist hopelessness.

LINKS

It’s a cold hard fact: Our world is becoming a better place by Max Roser, creator of Our World in Data.

50 Reasons We’re Living Through the Greatest Period of World History by Morgan Housel for The Motley Fool (via Barry Ritholtz)

How traditional Africans treat clinical depression

April 15, 2014

The writer Andrew Solomon used to suffer from depression.  A friend of his who lived in Senegal said the people there had a traditional cure for depression.   In the spirit of being willing to try anything once, he traveled to Senegal and had the chance to get a Senegalese village therapy session.

It consisted of stripping to a loincloth, being rubbed with millet, listening to a tape of Chariots of Fire, holding shamanistic objects and dropping them, listening to villagers drumming, getting in bed with a ram, being covered in blankets and sheets by dancing villagers, stripping naked, being drenched with the blood of the ram and two roosters, drinking a Coke, being wrapped in the intestines of the ram, burying little bits of the ram, receiving the millet wrapped in paper with orders to give it to a beggar the next day,  saying goodbye to the spirits that infested his body, and then being cleansed of blood by village women spitting water on him.

And you know what?

Although he had no belief whatever in exorcisms or spirits, the experience left him feeling great.

Some years later he went to Rwanda, which is on the other side of Africa.  A Rwandan acquaintance told him that while Rwandan customs were different, the Senegalese ceremony made sense to him.   Then, according to Solomon, the Rwandan said something interesting:

You know, we had a lot of trouble with Western mental health workers who came here immediately after the genocide, and we had to ask some of them to leave.”

I said, “What was the problem?”

And he said, “Their practice did not involve being outside in the sun, like you’re describing, which is, after all, where you begin to feel better. There was no music or drumming to get your blood flowing again when you’re depressed, and you’re low, and you need to have your blood flowing. There was no sense that everyone had taken the day off so that the entire community could come together to try to lift you up and bring you back to joy. There was no acknowledgment that the depression is something invasive and external that could actually be cast out of you again.

“Instead, they would take people one at a time into these dingy little rooms and have them sit around for an hour or so and talk about bad things that had happened to them. We had to get them to leave the country.”

Click on http://www.esquire.com/blogs/news/notes-on-an-exorcism to read Solomon’s whole article.

Africa is bigger than most Americans realize

September 20, 2013
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Double click to enlarge.

When I learned geography in school, our maps for the Mercator projection, in which the lines of longitude are the same distance apart, all the way from the North and South Poles to the Equator.  This makes Greenland look larger than Africa, and islands in the Canadian north seem larger than important South American countries.

I knew this wasn’t so, but this map helps me to grasp just low large the continent of Africa is.  Africa is not all one country.  It is made up of many nations that are at least as diverse as Europe, even if you only look at the countries south of the Sahara.  I don’t know much about Africa, but I do know that much.