H/T Vala Afshar
H/T Vala Afshar
Writing in Foreign Policy, Alex de Waal is certain that Brexit is terrible for African countries, and that “[e]verything from the economy to peacekeeping missions will suffer.”
The damage to British interests is significant, but the losses for [African countries] could be greater still. In campaigning to leave the European Union, Minister for Africa James Duddridge argued that Britain would be able to forge stronger ties with the continent if it were unencumbered by EU inefficiencies in aid and trade. Perhaps if Duddridge had a blank slate on which to construct a new Africa policy, he could do better than Britain’s existing one, which is part bilateral and part multilateral through the EU. But no policy is ever built on a blank slate, and surveying the post-Brexit political wreckage, he is now faced with a salvage job that will involve decoupling Britain from numerous EU-led peace and development initiatives and renegotiating dozens of trade deals. Even deftly managed by Duddridge or his successor, the Brexit will leave Britain with a fraction of the influence it currently wields in Africa.
And over at Africa is a Country Grive Chelwa notes that:
The one obvious channel through which Brexit could affect economies in Africa is if it triggers a recession in the UK. A recession might affect trade and investment between the two regions. The Bank of England thinks a recession might very well be on the cards. A study reviewing all studies that have estimated the likely economic impact of Brexit found: “GDP losses for the UK in the range of 10% or more [could not] be ruled out in the long run.”
How much trade takes place between the UK and Africa? Not much, it turns out. Combining data from the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) for 2014, the latest year for which we have comparable data, we calculated that exports from Africa to the UK represent about 5% of Africa’s total exports. Africa is more worried about a slowdown in China, its biggest trading partner by far.
…. The UK doesn’t have the same influence on the continent that it did decades ago. And Brexit will be further proof of that. If the UK sneezes Africa will … well Africa will say “bless you” and move on.
On balance, I agree with Chelwa. It appears that with regard to the UK-Africa relationship, the Brits stand to lose more than Africa as a unit following Brexit. This is for the following reasons:
This is not to say that Africa’s economies will be able to weather Brexit without any non-trivial hiccups. South Africa, Nigeria, and Kenya are probably the most exposed (in that order). Other African economies will be exposed to the extent that economic troubles in the UK lead to a global recession (the gold exporters might even benefit…)
And Western security policies and support for missions in Somalia and across the Sahel may face short-term uncertainties. But these experiences will not necessarily be catastrophic (on the security front, America will most likely steady the ship).
In fact, I tend to think that the long-run impact of these experiences will be positive. English speaking African economies will have incentives to diversify their export destinations away from the UK. African countries will have more leverage vis-a-vis the UK and (a fractured) Europe (and the US). And the lessons from the political upheavals in the West will serve to liberate Global South elites to mold their own societies in their own image and in a manner that respects sociopolitical realities in their specific contexts.
The BBC reports that the illegal logging of wood in Madagascar is increasing the risk of extinction of certain endangered tree species. Already the felling of ebony, pallisander and rosewood is illegal in Madagascar. However, enforcement of this law continues to be hampered by the absence of a functional legitimate state in the island country off the coast of eastern Africa. Madagascar has been plagued by political instability since Andry Rajoelina, former DJ and mayor of Antananarivo, seized power in a coup last year.
Most of the wood finds it way to the US, Europe and China and is used among other things to make million dollar beds in China.
The Economist reports a scientific finding that links nutrition and disease burden to human intelligence. The findings add to the development debate by suggesting that disease burden, through its effect on brain development, is a significant predictor of a country’s average intelligence level and that this in turn may explain endemic underdevelopment within the tropics. The questionable inferences from the research findings aside (see the comments section of the Economist article) my two cents on this is that it doesn’t matter. Firstly, a low average does not preclude outliers on the right hand side. And secondly, a country only needs so many Einsteins (Read Debraj and others on the impact of tertiary education on development). Plus after reading Bernstein I can bet that the average Sri Lankan or Chadian is still smarter than the average Renaissance man, despite the latter’s spectacular achievements.
What really matters for economic development are Institutions and the rule of law. These can help countries survive even not so bright leaders – Bush’s America is a good example here. Of course the bigger problem is that it might be the case that you need a high national average intelligence to maintain self-reinforcing institutions that promote development. But even this would be a tough sell given the high variance in institutional capacity across different countries with different disease burdens (contrast Cuba with some of the poorer and sicker but higher ranked countries for instance).
The causal link between poor nutrition, a high disease burden and cognitive development probably exists. But I don’t think that the impact is large enough to explain underdevelopment in the global South. Just until 150 years ago there was not much variation in the average life expectancy across the different regions of the world despite the disparate development levels.
The complete list is here
update: Here is a paper that documents the secular increase in IQ levels in Sudan. In light of the above article, poor countries need not worry. It appears that modernization will take care of their low average IQ worries.
So the Chinese, with their increasing hunger for raw materials, have been scouring the African continent looking for all manner of trade partnerships – all in an attempt to secure the supply of the essentials needed to fuel the East Asian monolith’s fast growth.
A stroll through many an African capital – at least in the East of the continent – will reveal a number of things Chinese. You won’t miss the Chinese workers laying out fiber optic cables or paving roads or even selling food in a Chinese restaurant. After years of living worlds apart, the lion and the panda have decided to become bosom buddies.
But is the relationship symmetrical? Can the panda and the lion cohabit in a sustainable and mutually beneficial manner? Many people have complained that the coming of the Chinese to the African continent will only serve to exacerbate the continent’s position as a mere source of raw materials. I beg to differ. This stance assumes that Africans and their leaders do not know what is good for themselves and are easily fooled – in the past by the Europeans and now by the Chinese.
The Africa that Europe encountered back in the nineteenth century is very different from the one that the Chinese are engaging with today. Furthermore, the Chinese are not here to merely take away things the way Western Europe did, they pay for the stuff they take. They may not pay well enough but the point is that they pay, plus there is no hand-chopping bula matari or a pontificating Smith Hempstone. On top of that the Chinese have created numerous jobs for the local people, be it in manual construction work or in higher level management and consultancy.
As the West continues to shy away from Africa because of the continent’s lack of or perceived lack of democratic institutions, the Chinese are taking advantage of the situation and reaping the benefits. The Africans are benefiting too.
It is high time the rest of the world took the pragmatic approach that China and increasingly India have taken in their relationship with Africa. Democracy and good institutions can only be supported by good economic outcomes and vise versa (Read scholars like Dahl, Moore, Przeworski, etc). The deepening of democratic beliefs and practices necessarily require economic development. Democracy’s proselytizers in Washington and Brussels should be informed that their lectures on liberties and human rights that are not backed by cranes, computers and jobs are akin to playing guitar to a goat.
So overall, I think that the new-found friendship between the lion and the panda is, at the macro level, a good thing. Darfur and other atrocities may tarnish this relationship but down the road we shall someday look back and with hindsight appreciate China’s contribution to Africa’s economic take-off. A word of caution for the panda though, the lion may seem lazy and unconcerned in the heat of the Savannah, but never take him for granted. He can pounce without warning and has the habit of switching lionesses with wanton abandon.