Week in Review
Before the Arab Spring there was the Green Revolution in Iran in 2009. Where thousands used social media to gather in protests over what they claimed were voting irregularities that kept President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in power. President Obama did not support the Green Revolution. Despite Iran being a sponsor of terrorism, an enemy of the United States and the greatest threat to regional stability. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad suppressed the uprisings. And jailed some of the opposition. Where some have made claims of torture and rape. But as closed a society Iran is these claims have been unsubstantiated. Though we have the word of the ruling regime that crushed the rebellion that there was no torture or rape.
When the Arab Spring kicked off in Tunisia in 2010 President Obama announced a change in policy. The U.S. would support change in the Arab world instead of stability. When the Arab Spring spread to Egypt in 2011 President Obama told Hosni Mubarak that he had to step down from power. Despite being a stalwart U.S. ally. An enemy to al Qaeda. And being the anchor of stability in the Middle East and North Africa. Now the Muslim Brotherhood is in power there. Who has close ties with Iran.
When the Arab Spring spread to Libya President Obama supported the opposition based in Benghazi. Despite Colonel Muammar Gaddafi renouncing terrorism. And being an ally of America in their War on Terror. Like Mubarak he oppressed radical Islamists including al Qaeda. Which explains why al Qaeda was part of the opposition trying to overthrow Colonel Muammar Gaddafi. They hated him. And his oppression of anti-western radical Islamists. President Obama supported the opposition. Gave them weapons. And helped enforce a no-fly zone. In 2012 Islamists attacked the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. Killing 4 Americans. Including the Libyan ambassador. Chris Stevens. Perhaps killed with weapons we brought into Libya.
When the Arab Spring spread to Syria President Obama did not support the opposition. Despite Syria being a sponsor of terrorism. And a close ally of Iran. As Syria broke down into civil war al Qaeda joined the opposition. Making any U.S. support now even more complicated. However Syria turns out it will be a foreign policy failure. In fact the foreign policy of President Obama has been to abandon U.S. allies that bring stability to the region. While not getting involved in uprisings in states hostile to the U.S. Bringing great instability to the Middle East and Northern Africa. And beyond (see Police: 7 foreigners kidnapped in north Nigeria by SHEHU SAULAWA and JON GAMBRELL, Associated Press, posted 2/17/2013 on Yahoo! News).
Gunmen attacked a camp for a construction company in rural northern Nigeria, killing a guard and kidnapping seven foreign workers from Britain, Greece, Italy Lebanon and the Philippines, authorities said Sunday, in the biggest kidnapping yet in a region under attack by Islamic extremists…
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the abductions, though Nigeria’s predominantly Muslim north has been under attack by the radical Islamic sect known as Boko Haram in the last year and a half. The country’s weak central government has been unable to stop the group’s bloody guerrilla campaign of shootings and bombings. The sect is blamed for killing at least 792 people in 2012 alone, according to an AP count.
Boko Haram, whose name means “Western education is sacrilege” in the Hausa language of Nigeria’s north, has demanded the release of all its captive members and called for strict Shariah law to be implemented across the entire country. The sect has killed both Christians and Muslims in their attacks, as well as soldiers and security forces…
Foreigners, long abducted by militant groups and criminal gangs for ransom in Nigeria’s oil-rich southern delta, have become increasingly targeted in Nigeria’s north as the violence has grown. However, abductions of foreigners in the north have seen hostages regularly killed…
Foreign embassies in Nigeria have issued travel warnings regarding northern Nigeria for months. Worries about abductions have increased in recent weeks with the French military intervention in Mali, as its troops and Malian soldiers try to root out Islamic fighters who took over that nation’s north in the months following a military coup. Last week, the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, put out a warning following the killings of polio workers in the northern city of Kano and the killing of the North Korean doctors.
President Obama campaigned in 2012 that al Qaeda was on the ropes. While blaming the death of Ambassador Stevens and three other Americans on a spontaneous uprising because of a YouTube video. Which if it was it means the average Libyan on the street in Benghazi walks around carrying heavy weapons. Which is highly unlikely. Then again, the opposition the U.S. supported in Benghazi included al Qaeda. So maybe they did walk around the streets of Benghazi with heavy weapons. Just waiting for dates with symbolic meaning (9/11) to attack Americans.
President Obama got what he wanted. Change instead of stability. For there is little stability in the Middle East or North Africa. And now in West Africa. Where Islamists and al Qaeda affiliates are reaching into Algeria. Mali. And Nigeria. Radical Islamists are spreading their reach throughout the Middle East and Africa and in other parts of the world. Fueled by the decline of U.S. influence. And a rise in Iranian influence. The winner in the Arab Spring? It would appear that it is the radical Islamists that are benefitting most from the Arab Spring. While the people in these countries go from a somewhat western culture of liberty (especially for women) towards oppressive theocracies. Just as the Iranian people did during the Iranian Revolution in 1979. No doubt the Iranian women who protested the Shah of Iran rue the day they ever joined that protest movement. For they have none of the liberties they enjoyed under the Shah.
Guess this is what happens when you abandon your friends and help your enemies. Your friends suffer while your enemies grow stronger. And the world grows a more dangerous place.
Tags: Al Qaeda, Algeria, anti-western, Arab Spring, Benghazi, Boko Haram, change, Chris Stevens, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, Egypt, enemy of the United States, Green Revolution, Hosni Mubarak, instability, Iran, Islamic extremists, Islamists, Libya, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Mali, Middle East, Muammar Gaddafi, Mubarak, Muslim, Muslim Brotherhood, Nigeria, North Africa, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, President Obama, radical Islamists, regional stability, Shariah law, sponsor of terrorism, stability, Syria, U.S. ally, war on terrorism
Week in Review
Osama bin Laden is dead and GM is alive. This was the constant refrain during the 2012 presidential election. The Obama team spiked the Osama bin Laden football to no end. And stated victory in the war with al Qaeda. Saying al Qaeda was on the ropes. On the path to destruction. It was President Obama’s George W. Bush (W) ‘Mission Accomplished’ moment. The war was over. And President Obama won it. The enemy, al Qaeda, is no more. At least that’s what President Obama says. But then you read things like this (see US doesn’t feel stakes in Mali ‘as intensely’ as France by Jon FROSCH posted 1/19/2013 on France24).
In the days following the start of France’s offensive against al Qaeda-inspired groups in Mali on January 11, top US officials offered strong statements of support.
“We have a responsibility to go after al Qaeda wherever they are,” US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters during a trip to Europe, while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acknowledged that “instability in Mali has created the opportunity for a staging base and safe haven for terrorists”.
The US has offered logistical support (airlift assistance, reinforced intelligence and supplies to French and African forces) to French operations in the country’s former colony. But it has made no decision yet as to whether it will provide surveillance drones or aerial refuelling for French jets, as requested by France. Furthermore, the authorities have said there are no plans to send in American troops.
Indeed, the US response to unrest in Mali has been measured, even as American citizens are being held hostage by Islamist militants in neighbouring Algeria.
Apparently al Qaeda is not on the ropes after all. They’re toppling governments. Taking hostages. Storming consulate buildings in Benghazi. And killing U.S. ambassadors. Of course, the last was explained away by the Obama administration as being a spontaneous reaction to a YouTube video. Which it wasn’t. No, al Qaeda is not on the ropes. One could even say they are growing stronger under President Obama’s watch. For no American ambassadors were killed on W’s watch. And no hostages were taken.
Tags: Al Qaeda, al Qaeda is on the ropes, Algeria, American ambassador, Benghazi, hostages, Islamist, Mali, Osama bin Laden
Week in Review
Life in Somalia has been exceptionally hard. Sadly, it’s a recurring theme in some African nations. Who are ruled more by the gun than the law. And during near constant warfare there has been little chance for the Rule of Law and capitalism to take root and flourish. To develop a middle class where people can go to work while their kids go to school. And then come home at the end of their day to share a family meal and pursue some family activities. Or simply watch television in the peace and comfort of their living rooms. Things we take for granted in nations under the Rule of Law and capitalism. Now there is another change of political leadership in Somalia. And people are returning home after years of exile. People have hope. Even if they have to skip meals to help make ends meet (see Somalis ‘free’ but have no food, water by SARA MOJTEHEDZADEH posted 10/13/2012 on The East African).
But as confidence marks a new era of political leadership in Somalia, experts are warning that over two million Somalis continue to survive on a knife edge.
According to a recent study by Oxfam, many regions of Somalia are confronting severe food and water shortfalls as a result of poor rains.
The survey of 1,800 households found that 72 per cent were worried about their food supply in coming months as a result of this year’s poor “Gu” rains — the season between April and June that supplies Somalia with the rainfall vital for its September harvest. Nearly half of those surveyed habitually skipped meals to make ends meet…
“Any further shocks without proper assistance could take Somalia back to previous conditions, but that’s very unlikely now due to weakening anti-government forces and as more and more areas come under the control of the current government,” said Tamara Nanitashvili, the acting head of FSNAU…
“Many of those who have been displaced or who lost everything during the famine and conflict and want to return will need to be assisted to resume their farming or herding. Greater security can help tremendously to achieve these things,” she said.
In America the Democrats have attacked Mitt Romney about his ‘47%’ remark. Saying that he believes nearly have the population are just lazy people living off of government benefits. (Which he didn’t mean. What he meant was that it was going to be virtually impossible to get people receiving government benefits to vote for the guy NOT promising to increase them. As once people receive some benefit they are not happy to lose it. As demonstrated throughout Europe with all of those austerity riots.) That he would cut these benefits. Hurting the people that need them most. While at the same time President Obama’s wife is leading a drive to fight childhood obesity. And attacking fat people in general. The mayor of New York City has restricted the size of sodas people can buy because we are too fat. Our health care costs are out of control because people are too fat. Yet we need more government benefits, not fewer. Because people would starve without them. Even though we have an obesity problem. Unlike the Somalis. Who have to skip meals to make ends meet.
So on the one hand we are too fat. While on the other we’re going to bed hungry. Which is what we call a paradox. Because both statements cannot be true. If we are too fat then we can’t be going to bed hungry. And if we’re going to bed hungry we can’t be too fat. If both statements cannot be true then the political left must be lying about one of them.
In Somalia there is no paradox. They’re going to bed hungry. Because they’re skipping meals to make ends meet. And because they are skipping meals they don’t have an obesity problem. Somalis know true poverty. And true hunger. They would probably love to have the chance to suffer hunger the way they do in America. For at least they could go to bed without the gnawing hunger in their stomachs.
Tags: capitalism, childhood obesity, fat people, going to bed hungry, government benefits, hunger, obesity, obesity problem, people are too fat, rule of law, skipped meals to make ends meet, Somalia, Somalis, we are too fat
Week in Review
The developed nations are falling in love with East Africa. Why? Because they have oil literally oozing out of the ground. And enormous natural gas deposits are under the waters off Tanzania and Mozambique. The kind they measure using the word ‘trillion’. This energy bonanza is drawing the developed nations to East Africa to bring these resources to market. And into their economies (see Oil and gas are the new African queens by Emily Gosden posted 7/1/2012 on The Telegraph).
“In the space of a few years, East Africa has become a feeding ground for most of the world’s oil majors, which have sniffed our resources of oil and gas on a truly gargantuan scale,” wrote Malcolm Graham-Wood, oil analyst at VSA Capital, in a recent note. And in the world of oil and gas where, as he puts it, “if you find it, they will come”, those gargantuan reserves are the key.
“It’s been known there’s oil here for 100 years,” Laurie Hunter, chief executive of explorer Madagascar Oil says. “It actually seeps out on the surface in places.”
But with exploratory drilling consistently exceeding expectations, the geology of East Africa is proving to be even better than once thought.
FTSE 100 explorer Tullow Oil began drilling by Lake Albert in Uganda in 2006 – the first well there since 1938. It has drilled 45 wells to date; 43 of them have hit hydrocarbons. The company says it believes the Lake Albert rift basin is a “a major hydrocarbon province in its own right”, with resources as high as 1.1bn barrels. French oil major Total and Chinese CNOOC have paid $2.9bn to buy into Tullow’s stakes…
But while the oil discoveries look transformational – for all involved – it is gas that is causing the most excitement. In the balmy waters of the Indian Ocean, off the coasts of Tanzania and Mozambique, gas discoveries are estimated to stand at more than 100 trillion cubic feet (tcf). Potential resources are significantly higher. By way of context, the UK’s entire annual natural gas consumption in 2010 was 3.3tcf…
But it’s not just the geology that makes East Africa so exciting – it’s also the geography. “Conveniently,” Mr Graham-Wood notes, East Africa’s gas “faces the lucrative markets of India and the Far East and is now a truly valuable commodity”.
The gas will be cooled into liquefied natural gas (LNG) so it can be shipped to Asia. Gas consumption jumped 21.5pc in China and 11.6pc in Japan in 2011, according to BP data…
Exploiting the reserves in East Africa is not without its challenges, as Mr Joyner notes from a recent visit to Mozambique. “There are no roads and you have to fly everywhere on dodgy twin-props.”
China has been particularly busy in Africa. Building a lot of infrastructure. In an infrastructure-starved continent. Out of the goodness of their heart. Unlike the colonial powers of times past. And I’m sure it’s just coincidental that enormous natural gas reserves are located so close to China. Just begging to find their way into that Chinese economy. Where gas consumption has jumped 21.5% in 2011. No, I’m sure that hasn’t a thing to do with their interest in Africa. Even though they’re investing in the energy industry in Africa.
As the developed nations buy these resources it should bring money into the private economies of East Africa. Or create them if they don’t yet exist. Creating jobs. A middle class. And hopefully a stable society. Complete with all the middle class institutions and the rule of law. Raising the standard of living for all in East Africa. By using the revenue from their energy sales to build an infrastructure in an infrastructure-starved continent. Preferably one that favors their needs and not the Chinese. Or the other nations flocking to East Africa.
Tags: Africa, China, developed nations, east Africa, energy, Indian Ocean, infrastructure, infrastructure-starved continent, middle class, Mozambique, natural gas, oil, Tanzania, Uganda
Week in Review
China is pouring billions into Africa. Apparently out of the goodness of their heart (see Track record by Andrew Moody and Zhong Nan posted 6/29/2012 on China Daily).
The relationship between China and Africa will come under the spotlight once again when leaders of up to 50 African nations will descend on Beijing in July for the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation…
China’s stock of overseas direct investment on the continent has increased eight-fold from $1.6 billion (1.3 billion euros) in 2005 to $13.04 billion at the end of 2010, the last year for which figures are available, according to China’s National Bureau of Statistics.
Trade has also seen a similar large increase with exports to Africa rising from $10.18 billion in 2003 to $59.95 billion in 2010.
In Africa itself the relationship is viewed as central. John Dramani Mahama, vice-president of Ghana, says dealing with China helps avoid the red tape linked to alternative sources of funding from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund or various international aid agencies…
Meles says far from exploiting Africa, China was in the process of rescuing Africa from the so-called Washington Consensus of the past 30 years that dictated that the private sector was the best engine for development in Africa…
Only one dominant view of the China-Africa relationship seems to exist in the West – that it is an exploitative and neo-colonial one…
The retired diplomat also feels China offers a great role model for Africa in terms of showing what can be achieved with a commitment to develop.
“I can remember when Sanlitun (now the bustling entertainment district in Beijing) was just bush and Shenzhen was a small fishing port and now it is like Hong Kong. There is a feeling if they can do it, we can do it too,” he says…
[Samuel B.] Nagbe [assistant minister in the Ministry of Public Works in the capital Monrovia], however, says this also has drawbacks since there is a lack of competition when large infrastructure projects are offered for tender…
The overall relationship between China and Africa will remain a subject of debate. Philip Nyinguro, associate professor of political science and international relations at the University of Nairobi, argues the weak state of some African countries makes them vulnerable when they are cutting deals with any country, whether it is China or a Western power.
This doesn’t sound much different than the spread of the British Empire. And British colonialism. Only the colonies may not do as well under the Chinese than they did under the British. For let us not forget that it was the British Empire that made Hong Kong the jewel it became. Not the Chinese.
And that attack on the private sector? The wealth that China is creating that allows them to invest in Africa came from the private sector. Granted it’s not what the West would call the private sector. It’s more state-capitalism. However, it was the transition from communism to capitalism (at least towards capitalism) in the cities that ignited their economic ascent. So, yes, even China must agree that the best engine for economic development must come from the private sector. Because it’s what they used. For the communists sure couldn’t make it happen.
There’s no such thing as a free lunch. Clearly the Chinese want those African resources. Just like the early mercantilist empires wanted colonies in foreign lands to feed raw materials to their economies. The Dutch, Portuguese, Spanish, French and the British. They’re just doing it a little differently. By ‘crowding out’ all other foreign investment. Who don’t ask any questions or place any conditions on their aid beyond the economics of their trade deals. Giving them a presence in these African nations. Who will expect favorable treatment in return for their generosity. If not they can just pull it away. And without a developing private sector these countries could return to where they were before the Chinese investments. Or accept an expanding Chinese influence in their nations. Just like a colony power.
Tags: Africa, African resources, British colonialism, British Empire, capitalism, China, China and Africa, Chinese, colonial, colonies, engine for economic development, exploiting Africa, Hong Kong, private sector
Week in Review
We have poured enormous amounts of aid into Africa. Celebrities have championed African causes. To get more charitable donations. And to shame governments in advanced economies to provide more aid. Little of this has helped. But here is something that has (see Africa’s Child Health Miracle: The Biggest, Best Story in Development by Michael Clemens posted 5/4/2012 on the Center for Global Development).
These shocking new numbers are in a paper released today by Gabriel Demombynes and Karina Trommlerová in the Kenya office of the World Bank. Here are their figures for some of the recent changes in rates of child death across the continent. The numbers in the last column are the percent declines in child death rates every year over the past few years.
This is a stunningly rapid decline, and nothing like it was occurring even as recently as the first half of the decade. For comparison, the Millennium Development Goal of a 2/3 decline in child mortality between 1990 and 2015 translates into a 4.3…percent annual decline in child mortality. In other words, the above countries are collectively reducing child mortality at an annual rate much greater than the rate called for by the Millennium Development Goals. They are doing this across hundreds of millions of people, across a vast landscape of hundreds of thousands of villages and cities.
These numbers originally come from the DHS Surveys, which are free and open-access. The paper’s authors investigate the reasons for the decline in Kenya alone, and conclude that in Kenya it results from a combination of broad public health efforts and the recent robust economic growth across the region.
With all the public health aid going to Africa all these decades it would appear that these miraculous reductions in child mortality rates has more to do with that robust economic growth. It’s the improvement in their standard of living. Which affords them better living conditions and better public health. For it is no coincident that the healthiest countries are also the most prosperous countries. Where wealth can build hospitals and clinics. Pharmaceutical companies and drug stores. And modern cities where there is no malaria.
This is the greatest gift we can give to an impoverished people. Free market capitalism. Which empowers people. Makes them the masters of their own destiny. By raising their standard of living. Without having to depend on celebrities or governments. Who can take it away just as easily as they can give it to them. But if they create this wealth on their own? That’s a different story. They will be independent. And never again will they have to depend on the kindness of others just so their children can survive childhood.
Tags: Africa, aid, celebrities, child mortality, donations, Kenya, public health, robust economic growth, standard of living, wealth
Week in Review
East Africa is plagued by poverty, political corruption, lack of infrastructure, poor health conditions, AIDS epidemics, high infant mortality rates and everything else that goes with impoverished, corrupt countries. Somalia is home to pirates that are the scourge of the high seas. Ethiopia’s recurring famines are well known. Uganda had Idi Amin. Who terrorized his people with murder, rape and torture. South Sudan came into being after a bloody civil war. Where tribal civil wars continue within the new South Sudan. As they do throughout much east Africa. Because there are no advanced economies to support a prosperous middle class. Just a ruling elite terrorizing the impoverished masses who survive on subsistence farming. But that may all be changing (see Eastern El Dorado? posted 4/7/2012 on The Economist).
IN ENERGY terms, east Africa has long been the continent’s poor cousin. Until last year it was thought to have no more than 6 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, compared with 60 billion in west Africa and even more in the north. Since a third of the region’s imports are oil-related, it has been especially vulnerable to oil shocks. The World Bank says that, after poor governance, high energy costs are the biggest drag on east Africa’s economy.
All that may be about to change. Kenya, the region’s biggest economy, was sent into delirium on March 26th by the announcement of a big oil strike in its wild north. A British oil firm, Tullow, now compares prospects in the Turkana region and across the border in Ethiopia to Britain’s bonanza from the North Sea. More wells will now be drilled across Kenya, which also holds out hopes for offshore exploration blocs.
President Obama continually tries to tell the American people that we have the smallest oil reserves in the world yet we consume the lion’s share of the world’s oil production. But that’s not true. There’s a lot of oil out there. But you have to drill first to find it. And until you do you can’t prove these reserves. So no one counts them. Including our president. But it doesn’t stop anyone from looking for oil and natural gas. If they are not forbidden to do so. Like they are in America wherever the government has a say in the matter. People once thought east Africa had no energy. But it didn’t stop them. Who believe in the policy of ‘drill baby drill’. And in ‘drill and ye shall find’. Which they did. And they found. Oil and gas all over that once thought barren land. Because they just kept drilling, baby.
Kenya’s find raised less joy in Uganda, where oil was first struck in 2006…
South Sudan, for years the largest oil producer in the region and locked in an oil dispute with Sudan, now wants to send crude out through Kenya on a pipeline to a proposed new port in Lamu (see map). Such a channel could also serve Ethiopia, which shares Kenya’s joy about their joint oil prospects. But their winnings pale next to those farther south. Tanzania has done well out of gold, earning record receipts of $2.1 billion last year, a 33% increase on 2010. It will do even better from gas. The past month has seen the discovery of enormous gasfields in Tanzanian offshore waters. That of Britain’s BG Group is big, Another, by Norway’s Statoil, is bigger. Statoil’s recent gas find alone is estimated to hold almost a billion barrels of oil equivalent (boe).
Happily, Tanzania’s gasfield extends south to Mozambique, where Italy’s Eni last month unveiled a find of 1.3 billion boe, matching similar finds by an American firm, Andarko. With plans to build a liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal, Mozambique could be a big exporter within a decade. At least the vast and impoverished south of Tanzania and north of Mozambique will be opened up to much-needed investment.
Oil and natural gas everywhere. Finally a chance for these impoverished lands to develop a middle class. Who can develop a rule of law. And government of the people by the people for the people. Like in all Western countries. Where the quality of life and life expectancy is higher than in these impoverished east African countries. Which they can have, too. If they harness their energy resources. Create jobs. And provide the energy a modern economy requires.
Yet the region is not just excited about fossil fuels; a parallel push towards alternative energy is under way. Several east African countries are keen to realise the Rift Valley’s geothermal prospects. One of the world’s largest wind farms is being built in Kenya not far from the new-found oil in Turkana. Its backers say it will produce 300MW, three times the total output of Rwanda.
That is a drop in the bucket for Ethiopia. Its rivers, plunging from well-watered highlands into deep canyons, have hydropower potential. Meles Zenawi, the prime minister, has ordered the construction of a series of dams at a total cost of over $8 billion. The jewel is the $4.7 billion Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam on the Blue Nile. This should generate 5,250MW when finished, increasing electricity production in the country fivefold, providing a surplus for export and allowing Ethiopia to open up as a manufacturer.
Wind farms. Well, when you have no energy that 300 mega watts will be a lot. But when they build that dam which will produce 5,250 mega watts they can shut down those novelty wind mills. And put that land to better use. Perhaps building better homes for that budding middle class. Businesses. And schools. For that dam will be able to modernize their infrastructure. And bring electricity, and the modern conveniences we all take for granted, into their homes. Including cable TV. The Internet. And smart phones. Things few subsistence farmers enjoy.
Tags: Civil War, corruption, drill, drill baby drill, east Africa, electricity, energy costs, Ethiopia, Kenya, middle class, Mozambique, natural gas, oil, oil and natural gas, oil reserves, Political Corruption, poverty, prosperous middle class, proven oil reserves, South Sudan, subsistence farming, Sudan, Tanzania