Wednesday, 30 November 2016

FRANCE: In search of ''A True Leader''

If polls reflect the pulse of a people, the French appear to be on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
The Center for Political Research at Sciences Po released the findings of a nationwide public opinion study.

More than half the respondents think that France is now locked into an "irreversible decline," while three out of five fear that globalization threatens France. Two-thirds describe France's democracy as "malfunctioning," while an even greater proportion insists that politicians seek only their own personal gain -- a revelation, perhaps, on the order of Captain Renault's shocking discovery in the film Casablanca that gambling was going on at Rick's.

Yet there is one finding less easy to dismiss: Nearly nine out of 10 respondents lament the absence of "authority" in France and think that the country needs a "vrai chef," or real leader, to "re-establish order." The survey contains all the necessary ingredients for making the volatile brew of populism. For this reason, the poll's results are unfortunately far from groundbreaking: France's past is littered with ligues, or movements, that have sought to harness the power of popular disenchantment with politics.

The tinder for the cauldron is plentiful. Jacques Chirac, who served as president from 1995 to 2007, was found guilty in 2011 of diverting public funds for political purposes while he was mayor of Paris in the 1980s. His successor, Nicolas Sarkozy, is enmeshed in a number of corruption cases that include, among other juicy details, thick envelopes of cash exchanging hands at the mansion of the L'Oréal heiress Liliane Bettencourt. Perhaps even more importantly, critics have accused Sarkozy of playing the populist card by repeatedly raising the issue of national identity and enflaming the French public's fear of Islam.

President François Hollande has proved immune to such politics, he has also left the impression that he is not à la hauteur, or equal to the challenge, of events. Hollande's rating in public opinion polls seems locked in a death spiral. For many French, it seems that the president's nickname, "Flanby" -- a custard desert popular with children -- is all too apt. Many French think that Hollande is not capable of making the right decisions for France and he can not  unite the nation. For these reasons, French voters are desperate to try something new, a new kind of ''vrai chef'' (true leader) to restore France's clout.

It comes as no surprise that Francois Fillon, a free market social conservative,  who won France's center right primary by a landslide, positioning him as the leading mainstream candidate to take on National Front leader Marine Le Pen in the presidential election next year, a political has been, to be seen as ''the man'' to restore France's standing.

Despite the fact that a Fillon's victory in the spring could usher in a ''Conservatism Revolution'' via a Gallic brand of Thatcherism mixing economic liberalism with social conservatism, the likes of which France has never seen, French are nevertheless drawn by Fillon's message that the entire system is morally and ideologically bankrupt.

The Center for Political Research at Sciences Po's findings agree with trends in France dating back to the early 1990s that reveal both a growing distaste for the individualist ethos of 1968 and a "growing demand for public order." In fin-de-siècle France, there was a deepening of what Chirac called la fracture sociale, or social inequality, provoked by persistently high levels of unemployment, particularly among the beur population -- youths whose families are of North African origin -- along with growing unease over the place in French society of its 5 million or so Muslims. With the explosive wave of riots that swept the cités, or suburbs, in 2005, the fracture sociale appeared unbridgeable.

Yet, at the same time, the poll raises not just fears, but questions. Clearly, the French are desperately seeking a real leader. Less clear, though, is precisely what kind of leader they want. France's past, it turns out, offers more than one candidate.

The best known, perhaps, is the Bonapartist model. When the smoke and confusion settled in the wake of 18 Brumaire Year VIII -- or Nov. 9, 1799, for those unfamiliar with the French revolutionary calendar -- Napoleon Bonaparte bequeathed France, and the world, a certain idea of leadership. His successful coup against the First Republic inaugurated the opening phase of a dictatorship that convulsed the West's physical and political landscapes. No less importantly, the Napoleonic experience forged a new type of leader, one who embodied the nation's destiny and bridged its political and ideological divisions.

Half a century later, Napoleon's nephew, Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, re-enacted the 18 Brumaire. When he overthrew by force in 1851 the Second Republic that he had served as president, Napoleon III launched what scholars identify as the chief ideological vehicle for political populism. It was an authoritarian movement that adapted democratic practices like universal manhood suffrage and referendums, all with the goal of legitimating the rule of a charismatic leader who stood above mere politics.

At the end of the 19th century, Bonapartism morphed into a more toxic movement, Boulangism, that heaved a different model of the vrai chef into the world. In fact, this year marks the 125th anniversary of the stunning rise and flaming fall of the man who bequeathed his name to this ideology.

In many ways, 1888 seems a rehearsal for France's current predicament. The fledgling Third Republic was lurching from one political scandal to the next, anxious over its ability to compete in a new global marketplace, preoccupied by the influx of immigrants, and prey to racist demagogues whose target was not the Muslim, but the Jew. Public disgust with politics was widespread, as were doubts about the very viability of the republican model.

At that moment, Gen. Georges Boulanger strode across the national stage -- or, more accurately, rode across it on his white steed. Hailed by many on the left as well as right, seen as the guarantor of national glory and restorer of political authority, the general, who cut a dashing figure on horseback, handily won a series of national elections. By the end of the year, Boulanger's popularity seemed so great that many observers waited for him to simply claim power by marching on the National Assembly. He failed to do so, but he had nevertheless united for a brief moment a remarkably varied collection of groups united only in their desire for a strong leader, their hatred of traditional democracy, and their readiness to overthrow the established political order.

This has since become the standard French model of populism: nationalistic, anti-liberal, and anti-democratic. And it was the very model that many believed Charles de Gaulle revived when he came to power. The extraordinary presidential powers he placed at the heart of the Fifth Republic -- an authoritarian presidency based on the Bonapartist tools of universal suffrage and referendums -- were designed to institutionalize the sway of a vrai chef. But it turned out that Gaullism without de Gaulle was mostly an empty ideological shell, while even the monarchical powers of his republic were unable to resist the social and economic changes sweeping across his country.

In turn, de Gaulle leads us, quite literally, to a third kind of leader. In 1946, he made a pilgrimage to a village in France's Vendée region. At a modest gravestone, the leader of the Free French paid homage to the great republican leader Georges Clemenceau. Defender of Dreyfus and enemy of the church, Clemenceau is most famous, or infamous, for his authoritarian policies when he was in office. Although a republican, he fiercely suppressed massive labor strikes in 1905 to restore public order, and his near-dictatorial rule as prime minister in 1917 yanked France from its growing defeatism and pulled it to victory.

Whereas Clemenceau was an atheist and man of the left, and de Gaulle was a Catholic and man of the right, the two men shared a few crucial traits that suggest what a vrai chef means for most French. They were equally indifferent to their own wealth, equally  scornful of party politics, equally committed to the greatness of France, and equally convinced that they alone could guarantee that grandeur. These qualities are always unusual, to be sure. But their absence is felt with particular anguish today.

Clemenceau once remarked that war is too important to be left to the generals. But as France's past reminds us, this does not mean politics is too important to be left to politicians -- or, put differently, that real leaders cannot be politicians.

Unlike the men of the Bonapartist or Boulangist tradition, Clemenceau and de Gaulle were supremely political and selfless. The frame of their political vision dwarfed their own ambitions. Both men saw themselves as leaders not of a party, but of the nation; as guarantors not of their private fortunes, but of France's republican fortunes. The frame for Clemenceau and de Gaulle, in a word, was France. It may well be that this is the sort of vrai chef the French are seeking today.

Prof  Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Author
International Affairs Expert

Monday, 28 November 2016

FRANCE: Francois Fillon's surge

Francois Fillon, a free market social conservative, won France's center right primary by a landslide, positioning him as the leading mainstream candidate to take on National Front leader Marine Le Pen in the presidential election net year.

Mr Fillon, a former prime minister who compares himself to Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, resoundingly defeated Bordeaux Mayor, Alain Juppé, in the runoff of the ''Républicains'' primary yesterday, garnering 66% of votes according to counts from 96% of polling stations.

The upset forces France's mainstream parties to rethink their approach to Marine Le Pen, an anti-immigrant euroskeptic, who polls show would easily reach the second round of next year presidential election. With the more staunchly conservative, Mr Fillon as the center right's standard bearer, the party will come under more pressure to drive turnout among right-leaning voters.

Francois Fillon's victory presents the ''Front National'' with a strategy problem. He calls for deep spending cuts, loosening labor laws that protect workers and tax breaks for business and the rich. If elected in the spring, Monsieur Fillon would slash half a million public sector jobs and $106 billion in public spending, abolish the 35 hour workweek and raise the retirement age and roll back parts of same sex couple's adoption law.

The ''Front National'' has reason to fear Fillon. His traditionalist and socially conservative line on family values and the Christian roots of France, his emphasis on French national identity, sovereignty and patriotism, his hard line on immigration and Islam as well as pro-Putin foreign agenda against ''America Imperialism'' all overlap with some of Marine Le Pen's key ideas.

This could potentially see Fillon steal some of Marine Le Pen's most socially conservative voters, particularly right wing elderly people, who always have a big turnout to vote but remain skeptical about the ''Front National''. However, Fillon might struggle to appeal to the lower middle class and working class voters who are afraid of losing their jobs.

This leaves Marine Le Pen a wide margin in which to go for Fillon's jugular as she fights a campaign centred on the people versus the elite. The Front National has already begun attacking Fillon as snobbish, political has been. It argues that Fillon, as Nicolas Sarkozy's prime minister, was responsible for the failures of the Sarkozy era and cares more about the rich, globalized elite than the working class who have faced decades of mass unemployment.

On the economy:  Fillon has promised a radical shock for France with free-market reform, major cuts to public sector jobs and reducing public spending. Le Pen claims to represent the forgotten French underclass and has economic line that is essentially left wing: she is anti globalization and favors protectionism and state intervention.

On the eurozone, Fillon has backed the creation of a  common eurozone treasury and the establishment of an independent ''general secretary'' divorced from the European Commission to lead on governance matters in the single currency area. Marine Le Pen has by contrast called for France to leave the eurozone and promised a series of reflationary economic measures, including reviving France's declining heartlands.

A Fillon's victory in the spring could also usher in a ''Conservatism Revolution'' via a Gallic brand of Thatcherism mixing economic liberalism with social conservatism, the likes of which France has never seen.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
International Affairs Expert
Political Analyst/Author

Photo-Credit:

Friday, 25 November 2016

E.U: Freezing Turkey's EU membership talks

The European Parliament has voted to suspend Turkey's EU membership talks because of the Turkish government crackdown since a coup attempt in July. The ''non-binding resolution'' aims to send a political message to President Erdogan.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan threatened on Friday to unleash a new wave of migrants on Europe after lawmakers there voted for a temporary halt to Turkey's EU membership negotiations, but behind the fighting talk, neither side wants a collapse in ties.


Turkey first applied to participate in the European Community (EEC), the earlier incarnation of the EU, in July 1959, following Greece's application in the same year. It signed the Ankara Agreement in 1963 and applied for full membership in 1987. Turkey was officially accepted as an EU candidate country in 1999, and accession negotiations started in 2005. 



This March, EU members agreed to speed up membership talks to coax Turkey to stem migrant flows into Europe. The agreement struck in March with Ankara, under which it helps control migration in return for the promise of accelerated EU membership talks and aid, has reduced the influx via Turkey to a trickle. But its neighbours are still struggling to cope.


However, Turkey's chance of joining the EU looks slimmer than ever after the failed coup attempt in July. European leaders are alarmed by Turkey's violations of basic freedoms, which have reached unprecedented levels. Turkey remains under a state of emergency after the coup. Thousands of military leaders, judges, academics, teachers, police, and journalists have been detained or suspended. President Erdogan has also said he would approve the return of death penalty, which was abolished in Turkey 2004 as Ankara sought EU accession. The EU has warned Turkey that reinstating the death penalty would end its membership prospects.


The EU Copenhagen Criteria demand democracy, full implementation  of the rule of law, human rights, union rights, minority rights, gender equality, participation, and pluralism for Turkey. However, Erdogan is moving away from democratic principles.


Nevertheless, the vote by the European Parliament in favour of freezing Turkey's EU accession talks was non-binding and Germany, France and most other EU states back continued engagement, despite their concerns about Turkey's human rights record. But Turkey also needs Europe. The EU is Turkey's largest trading partner and its 11-year membership negotiations, though long stalled, served in their early years as an important anchor for pro-market reforms and investor confidence.


Turkey's EU ambitions are part of a larger debate over identity. Turkey's leaders typically wish to pursue a bandwagon strategy and to make their country member of the West, but the country's history, culture, and traditions are non-Western.


Turkey's people want democracy and EU membership. According to a newly released Pew Research Center 2015 poll, a majority in Turkey( 55%) want to become a member, while only 32 percent oppose joining the EU. But Turkey's strongman leader wants to join the ''one man rule club of Shangai Cooperation Organization.


Turkish President, Tayyip Erdogan values the imperial past of his country more than the achievements of the Western modernity and Erdoğan, rules his country like a czar and a sultan. Mr. Erdoğan dreams himself back to the times of divine law as he rests in his palace of 1000 rooms. No normal head of government or religious leader could afford to do anything like that in this day and age. It is modern-day Caesaropapism – like a flashback from another time, with a touch of Hitlerian discourse: In Turkey, it is proclaimed that Mr. Erdoğan has boosted the economy and put the country on a path toward growth and prosperity. A statement reminiscent of the National Socialist’s employment miracle through highway construction.

Mr. Erdoğan dreams of restoring the Ottoman Empire. He feels a sense of patronage toward the countries now occupying the territory of the former Ottoman Empire. The departure from the traditional Turkish stance towards Israel serves to appeal to the wider Arab world, allowing him to be perceived as a political leader. Erdogan's political ambitions are detrimental to Turkey's EU membership ambitions.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Author
International Affairs Expert

Photo Credit: 
Turkish President, Tayyip Erdogan

Thursday, 24 November 2016

U.S.A: Reasserting America's Leadership

Does the strategy of retrenchment and selective disengagement pursued by the Obama administration and advocated by president-elect Donald Trump enhance or threaten America’s own national interests and the stability of global order?

This is a question that would not have been asked until recent years. But we have been witnessing a sea change in foreign policy as America has gradually but unmistakably been pulling back from its customary international role.

Current retrenchment in foreign policy has been driven not only by ideological considerations but also by public disillusionment with the results of long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as by complex policy dilemmas, the perceived intractability of regional problems, and economic and budgetary constraints. And it has been applauded by “realists” from both the academic and policy worlds.

In practice, of course, the retreat process has been uneven and more subtle in some areas and functions than in others. The United States has used force, including drone attacks against al-Qaeda and ISIS. It took part in air strikes against the Libyan regime of Kaddafi in 2011. It has returned advisers and air power to Iraq, slowed the drawdown of forces from Afghanistan, and undertaken limited air strikes and Special Forces operations in Syria.

Nonetheless, the Obama foreign policy has more often than not been one of disengagement, conciliation of adversaries, and aversion to the use of American power that itself has been affected by marked reductions in the size of the U.S. military. This approach has been adopted with the aim of reducing conflict, motivating local actors to counterbalance regional threats, encouraging the international community to “step up” in assuming the burdens of regional stability, protecting America’s own national interests, and promoting global order.

But the results of this policy indicate that it has failed to achieve its own objectives. As a consequence, we now face an ever more dangerous world with the rise of hostile powers, fanatical terrorist movements, and worsening regional conflicts in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. Meanwhile, US allies have become uneasy and have sought to hedge their own security commitments, while senior military and intelligence leaders warn of increasing threats to America itself.

For three-quarters of a century, the United States was the world’s preeminent power. Its accomplishments, now surrounded by growing nostalgia, included victory in World War II, creating and sustaining the institutions of the postwar world order while guiding the recovery of Europe and Japan, Cold War leadership of the Atlantic Alliance while deterring and balancing against the Soviet Union, and active engagement in the post–Cold War world.

Notwithstanding speculation about how “history” had “ended” with the defeat of the Soviet Union, the quarter century since the end of the Cold War has seen changes that deeply affect international affairs and the environment in which America conducts foreign policy. Important among these has been a growing diffusion of power, in which major regional states have emerged as leading actors and in some cases as challengers to the United States and its allies and interests.

Globalization, economic growth, the massive expansion of trade, and the digital revolution have fostered these changes among others. The results have not only affected regional security but also the economies and societies of the traditional Western and liberal powers. As a result, the relative strength of America’s allies in Europe and Japan has ebbed, while rising powers, the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), and others have taken on increased importance or even emerged as potential competitors of the United States.

For more than seven years, President Obama has repeatedly framed foreign policy as a stark choice between his preferred course of action and military conflict. Not only in confronting real-time problems in Syria, Iraq, and Ukraine, but in dealing with Iran, Russia, China, Cuba, and others, Obama policy rhetoric has greatly understated and undervalued the wide range of options between nonintervention and the use of force while downplaying the costs of inaction.

In practice, aversion to the use of power undercuts the effectiveness of diplomacy. It has been said that power without diplomacy is blind, but it is equally true that diplomacy not backed by power is impotent. Skillful integration of power and diplomacy, wielded with prudence and informed judgment strengthens deterrence, provides reassurance to allies, and can actually lessen the need for military action.

Moreover, in enhancing the credibility of U.S. commitments and signaling to potential adversaries, it reduces the risks of war by inadvertence where an adversary might otherwise dangerously underestimate American resolve.

The president elect Donald Trump who takes the oath of office next year will thus face a daunting task in reasserting leadership, deterring adversaries, and reassuring allies. Although robust involvement and leadership by the United States cannot be a sufficient condition for security and world order, the evidence suggests it is a necessary one.

President elect Donald Trump will also face a  retrenchment has not yielded peace, stability, and global order, but instead has seen growing instability, intensifying civil wars, expanding territorial control by hostile groups, worsening threats from terrorism, gross human rights abuses, and surging floods of refugees. Not all of these would have been or are solvable by American actions, but inaction or ill-considered U.S. policies have, on balance, exacerbated these problems.

Donald Trump must heed these policy failures to understand why it is necessary to adopt a more robust world role, not only to serve America’s own national interests but also for reasons of regional and global order.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Author
International Affairs Expert

Photo-Credit:

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

FRANCE: Marine Le Pen's surge

The French political landscape is heading for some dramatic changes as former Prime Ministers Alain Juppé and Francois Fillon are heading for the second round of the ''Republican'' primaries following a national vote. Meanwhile, polls in the build up to the primaries showed ''National Front''. (FN) leader Marine Le Pen ahead in the first round of next year's vote.

Today France political climate is rife with violence rooted in nationalist agendas and exploitation rooted in international ones. People's sense of belonging in France has begun to detach itself from the established parties ( Republicans and Socialists) that have been governing them, and instead they have gravitated towards nationalism and populism, offered by Marine Le Pen.

Marine Le Pen claims to be fighting against ''those at the stop''. The approach is successful because the Paris elite is indeed aloof. Up until now, the established parties preferred to simply ignore the Front National. But that is no longer an option. This increases Marine Le Pen's popularity even further.The ''Republican'' and the ''Socialist Party'' have now officially declared war on Marine Le Pen and dubbed her their most important opponent for the presidential election. This would never have happened in the past.

Marine Le Pen is in very strong position to win France's presidential election next year, because French are rejecting the old parties associated with the old policies. French no longer care how extreme Le Pen's views are. In fact, many French do now adhere to Le Pen's views on the economy, immigration, the declining living standard and the lack of real job creation.

There are three major strands in mass attitudes which predispose French to vote for the radical right or '' Front National'': nativism – that is, a belief that holds that only indigenous inhabitants should have full civic and social rights – authoritarianism, and populism which counter-poses the ordinary people against the ‘elite’, the political class, the liberal intelligentsia. This, combined, constitutes what the cultural theorist Stuart Hall called ‘authoritarian populism.’

According to the theory of ''Pathological normalcy'', authoritarian populism, far from being confined to the margins, is deeply embedded within the mainstream. Two factors, one can argue, have propelled it into the forefront of political consciousness. The first is the rising salience, and emotional voltage of anti-immigrant feeling, that is to say mounting antipathy, resentment and apprehension towards those – whether they be recent immigrants, asylum-seekers or established ethnic minorities – who constitute ‘the other’.

The second is, of course, the impact of the financial crash and the economic recession. The effect of this has not been a tilt to the left. Left-wing diagnoses, at least in France, have had little purchase: there is only a muted sense that the gyrations of the financial system are in any way responsible for what went wrong. Most people, one suspects, are left baffled by talk of sub-prime mortgages, derivatives and credit default swaps. They are looking for something more tangible to blame: if not Francois Hollande then welfare recipients and, of course, immigrants.

The implication of all this is disturbing for the ''Republican'' and the ''Socialist Party''. Research for some while has indicated that authoritarian populism in France appeals in particular to the more poorly-educated, to manual workers and to routine clerical workers: the natural constituency of the those two main parties. What we are witnessing is, in a sense, a reconstitution of a form of class politics.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Writer
Author/International Affairs Expert

Photo Credit: Getty-Images of Madam: Marine Le Pen

Monday, 14 November 2016

WORLD: Democratizing ''Internet''

When thinking of the future of democracy, we should not only focus on using the Internet as a means for greater participation, but also think of it as one of the greatest achievements of our society, one that must be kept free and open – an achievement we should safeguard with democratic processes.

To many of us, the Internet is this little blinking box that we get when we sign a contract with an Internet provider. Not so many years ago, it made funny sounds when connecting to the world. Nowadays it just blinks. To none of us ordinary users is it really conceivable what actually happens inside this blinking box and beyond, and how it enables us to connect to remote websites that contain nearly every bit of information we might want to access: from the timetable of the Bogota metropolitan transport system to cat videos. 
We do not know how it works, but there is a vague feeling that there must be someone in charge of keeping it running. And this is both true and false: It is fatally false because the Internet has grown organically, decentrally, and clumsily. From a handful of geeks and academics at universities that started sending e-mails and creating the first websites to your dog’s travel blog: there was never a single central authority that coordinated the Internet. Up until today, the internet is a structure that consists of a large, open and free space that creates opportunities not only for thriving businesses, but also for political activists, social networks, arts and culture.
Nevertheless, there are actors that have specific coordinating functions within the Internet. Perhaps the most important one is ICANN (The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), which allocates IP addresses and domain names. It’s basically the Internet’s address book. The question of who controls this address book has already been one of the most heavily debated political questions on Internet governance for some time. But with the Snowden revelations, it’s appeared on the radar of global policymakers.
The U.S. released control of the ICANN last October 2016. This means that  ICANN once controlled by a multitude of stakeholders (composed of tech companies, providers, and NGOs), is now managed by an organisation that is largely independent of national governments. This is hardly more democratic. Although the Internet affects the daily lives of billions of people around the globe, these people are not able to effectively and directly shape the of its governance.
China and Russia, but also Brazil, India, South Africa and many developing countries demanded more say in the governance of the Internet and ICANN. While the U.S. argued that ICANN was controlled by a multitude of stakeholders (composed of tech companies, providers, and NGOs), these countries preferred to have governments ruling it, arguing (again, not without irony) that this would make it more democratic.

With the multi-stakeholder approach control of ICANN, the Internet’s governance was in the hands of those who successfully organize: some NGOs, some civil rights organizations, some government representatives, but also big companies. It is highly doubtful whether ordinary Internet users around the world will be able, willing, and competent to organize themselves effectively for the purpose of Internet governance. The issues at stake in Internet governance are too complex and too global for most of us. Make no mistake: the multi-stakeholder approach was more beneficial to the needs of most users, but it was not very democratic either.

Now that the BRICS’s argument has succeeded, and governments do gain more say in the Internet’s governance, democratic flaws similar to those of the United Nations still restrain citizen participation. There is no globally elected parliament, nor are there any global referendums or popular initiatives that would allow individual Internet users to shape the future of one of their most precious technologies. 

On the contrary: Internet governance remains to be more of a game for the big powers, threatening the free flow of information across borders. While some nation states try to protect their industries, some censor free speech, and some intrude on their citizens’ privacy.
In order to effectively gain some leverage in the discussion about the democratization of Internet governance, the participation of true global citizens would be needed. To achieve this, we need new approaches that allow inclusive democratic processes. But we’re only at the very beginning of thinking about such processes. One such process we should keep an eye on is Argentina’s Partido de la Red; another one, which ultimately failed but taught us valuable lessons, was Iceland’s crowdsourcing of a new constitution. 

Compared to the challenge of developing a global democratic process for Internet governance, these are baby steps, but we would be well advised to take them as we “stumble forward” on this path, as Bill Clinton put it.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Writer
International Affairs Expert/Author

Friday, 11 November 2016

U.S.A.: Trump's success: Analysis

The phenomenon of the angry voters currently appears to be making significant strides toward conquering America at the moment. The outrage is directed against elites in politics and in the business community, against the established political parties, against free trade and, of course, against immigration. Many Trump's supporters are among these angry voters.

It is a phenomenon that did not just pop up yesterday. But the rage has reached a boiling point these recent years, fueled by the globalization, immigration and the feeling of having been forgotten by the political system is one that dominates among angry voters in America. The outrage of these voters is often neither oriented clearly toward the left nor the right, and yet it poses an internal threat to America's democracy.

Now, much that seemed impossible only a short time ago suddenly happened. Donald Trump is the president-elected of the most powerful country on earth. Trump's victory indicated that voters have become unpredictable. Many are turning away from the traditional political power and the ''reason'' toward the new angry, populist man.

For the most part, the movements that tend to profit from these voters are authoritarian, xenophobic and nationalist in nature. The kind of people who voted Trump are often less educated, older people who come from rural or former industrial regions. This says a lot about a world in which fortunes are being accrued like none other seen before, but which not all are profiting from.

Since 1999, the average annual salary of a US family has fallen by around $5,000 to $53,657 in 2014. Economists have even come up with a harsh term to describe the phenomenon: financial impotence. The American Dream promises that everyone has the opportunity to become prosperous, but unfortunately, it no longer applies to many, At the other end of the spectrum, 400 Americans possess as much wealth as two thirds of the rest of society.

The result is that dividing lines in today's political debates are often based on worldviews, but instead run between modernization's winners and losers. The America is divided between those who profit from the barrier-free America and those who believe that America has left them behind.

America's political system still has not understood that ideological and cultural divides have long separated them from the simpler classes. The overwhelming majority of Americans may be convinced of the necessity of building social housing, but given that they are largely inhabited by immigrants, they nevertheless oppose their construction. In today America, the white lower class views itself as threatened by Hispanic immigrants, whereas the well-educated often welcome immigrants because it contributes in terms of economic growth, demographics and a society's cultural richness. When people feel their world is vanishing, they are easy prey for fact-free magical thinking and demagogues who blame immigrants. The less educated masses have a different conception of the future, a vision that is more closed, collective, protective and segmented.

And because America's political system has yet to find any solutions to these problems, particularly to the fears of the less-educated, many are responding with scorn for the elite and with radicalization. This provided a tremendous opportunity for Trump who never would have stood a chance of even sniffing power, much less winning an election. Those who society has left behind had the greatest potential for anger and, as such,, also represented the most significant vote potential for Trump.

In addition to the economic crisis, America is also facing an identity crisis. America's society is deeply divided and the ''American Dream'' ideal, that glue which used to hold the nation together, has lost its power to reconcile. In America, there is no society left today, all that remains is a state. There are even fears that the superpower's importance is diminishing. It is a deep seated fear of decline that can also be found in many continental European countries. Ultimately, the radicalization of many people is the response to a feeling that politics no longer provides answers to the most pressing issues.

It is the left that has suffered the most under this radicalization in America. It is quarreling over the question of how best to react to globalization. Part of this is attributable to the fact that the left-leaning electorate is divided into two opposing camps: the classic workers constituency and the urbane, well-educated and liberal milieu that counts among globalization's winners.

This conflict cost Hillary Clinton the election. It was her husband Bill who once signed the NAFTA into law. She is a Democrat who is also viewed as representative of the establishment. These days, though, there is no label in America that is as odious as ''establishment''. That partially explains why Clinton was faced with an internal party insurgency by anti-establishment socialist candidate Bernie Sanders. Later in her campaign, Clinton opposed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) free trade agreement. As a candidate, she too was seeking to court the angry voters, while at the same time appealing to reason. And yet she suffered under the same difficulty that all politicians face when forced to run against populist.

Angry voters did not defect to Trump because they found the details of his plans to be persuasive. They flocked to him because they saw him more convincingly expressing their anger. They were not bothered by the risk than an end of free trade will lead to further deterioration of their situation or they did not believe it. They saw themselves as underprivileged already.

America 2016 presidential election has exposed the conflict between the elites and the middle working class. And it is possible that the era of angry voters has only just begun.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Writer
International Affairs Expert/Author

Photo-Credit: The US President-Elected: Donald J Trump

Thursday, 10 November 2016

U.S.A.: The Dangers of Trump's Presidency

Trump's stunning victory is a shock for all those who had counted on the political wisdom of American's voters. Trump's presidency will be of ''reflexes'' as opposed to real policies, of withdrawing from the world, instead of  engaging with it.

The secret to Trump's victory was his relentless optimism. It did not matter that he had deficit of real plans, genuine programs and identifiable advisers. The lack of specificity to his policies was what really distinguished Trump. He provided emotional placeholders where messy political ideas belong. Trump promised a utopia through the magic of deficit spending. Never mind the division of powers, checks and balances and bureaucratic inertia: Trump encouraged his believers to think he will resolve all of the nation's problems. These shortcomings turned out to be strengths.


Now the postwar liberal order has been upended in the nation that created it, paid for it, defended it by means military, cultural , and ideological. Trump won the presidency by openly pitting some Americans against others--Against Muslims, Hispanics, African-Americans, and liberals, He won by calling his rival a criminal and vowing to prosecute her. He won by inciting crowds to acts of violence. 

No one can be sure exactly what Donald Trump, a 70 years old man with a temperament of 9 years old would do as president of the most powerful country on earth. If Trump's words (promises) were his bond ( we know that it is not the case, because Trump lies better than the devil), then Trump's presidency will cause these damages:

Trump considers the nuclear pact that President Barack Obama painstakingly reached with Iran to be the worst deal ever made. He will certainly abrogate that deal, sending Iran into a frenzy of nuclear enrichment, and which will turn provoke Israel, perhaps with American help, to launch an attack. Iran, in turn, will respond by using proxies: including Hezbollah to attack Israel and America's interests in the region.

Donald Trump considers climate change a hoax. Few things are more certain that he will repudiate the Paris agreement to limit carbon emissions. And should Washington abandon efforts to slow climate change, we can predict that many if not most, major governments will follow suit, which will reversing all the efforts made so far.

Globalization has already stalled in recent years. Trump's presidency threatens to throw into reverse. At very least, Trump's presidency will kill off the paint hopes of concluding the trade deals that Barack Obama's administration had been negotiating: the completed but unratified Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) with 11 Pacific countries, and the stalled Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) with the European Union.

Trump's presidency will threaten Europe's security. The fact that Trump has indicated he will demand that European NATO allies pay more for US military protection, and has even called America's own loyalty to the alliance into question, has triggered widespread concern, particularly in Eastern Europe.

Trump will also renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) with Canada and Mexico. Trump might as well pull out of the World Trade Organization (WTO), the multilateral rules based trading system. Such an agenda would threaten a global recession. The collapse of the TPP will paves the way for the Chinese to build their own trading bloc.

Trump's presidency will threaten East Asia's  security as well as its economy. By retreating from the free trade and casting doubts on US security guarantees for its allies, Trump could prompt Japan, South Korea, and others to race to acquire nuclear weapons to protect themselves against a rising China. The Philippines is unlikely to be the last country in the region to conclude that cozying up to China is a better bet than relying on an increasingly isolationist America.

Trump's outright racism, hostility to Hispanics immigrants, and Islamophobic rhetoric threatens a culture clash, and even violence, within America. It could also set the stage for the clash of civilizations. Bullying Mexico to try to force it to pay for the huge border wall that Trump wants to erect would be an act of hostility against all Latinos. Casting Muslims as enemies and denying them entry to America, as he vowed during his campaign, would be a powerful recruiting sergeant for the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, as is suggesting that the US ought to seize Iraq's oilfields for itself.

The most enduring damage will be to America's soft power and the appeal of its liberal democracy. The election of a racist president with fascist tendencies is an indictment of America's political system. Trump himself has shown to be contemptuous of democracy, saying he would not accept the election result if he lost and threatening to hail his opponent. America is no longer the ''shining city upon the hill that successive presidents have proclaimed it to be.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Writer
International Affairs Expert/Author

Photo-credit: The US President elected : Donald J Trump

Monday, 7 November 2016

U.S.A.: Clinton( the reason) v Trump ( the rage)

The results of tomorrow presidential election will have ramifications around the world. It is not about the construction of walls and societal peace in a divided country, it is also possible trade wars with Asia, the survival of the trans-Atlantic alliance and America's relationship with the Arab world. Tomorrow the future of the international community in on the ballot.

The two nominees could not be any more different from each other. The voice of societal rage against a power-political strategist, an outsider against the establishment, the voice of furious whites against the advocate of a diverse America.

Trump's campaign

The question that seems to be becoming increasingly pressing is whether America, a proud, great and powerful country, will fall into the hands of an egomaniac who wants to prevent Muslims from entering the land and to deport millions of illegal immigrants, a man who seeks to limit freedom of opinion and who has threatened to terminate old friendships across the globe. A whiff of 1950's McCarthyism is in the air, emitted by a candidate who is stoking hatred against Muslims and immigrants to a degree never before seen in a presidential campaign.

Trump is a candidate of rage, supported by the sense many have that something fundamental must change in the United States. The woman tasked with saving America from Trump is the candidate of reason, supported by the liberal bourgeoisie  who want a continuation of Obama's policies of enlightened pragmatism.

Trump is shamelessly seeking to take advantage of the uncertainty that has taken hold of American society and is instrumentalizing fears of a new terrorist attack for his campaign. Contrary to expectations, he has not become more presidential or more conciliatory since becoming the presumptive Republican nominee.

Trump appeals directly to a significant chunk of the population, one that feels abandoned by the country's leadership, left behind by globalization and threatened by demographics. Trump's campaign slogan: '' Make America Great Again'' might suggest that he is adhering to the American exceptionalism narrative and, thus, to the America founding myth. But much of what he says, banning Muslims from entering the US, stepped up domestic surveillance, expanded use of torture, is in direct opposition to the ''Constitution''. Indeed, the ''greatness'' that Trump wants to return to, it has become clear, is one free of immigrants and blacks. One where white American need not to encounter adversity, allowing their supposed natural superiority to shine through. Trump is suggesting an altogether different narrative of America identity, one based on race and religion.

Trump's vision of America is not rooted in the ''Constitution'', but one rooted in the notion that White America is under fire from all sides and must be rescued from the establishment. His patriotic movement is an identitarian crusade, open to those who dream of an America not for freedom loving democrats, but for those who seek a white revolution to take the power back.

And he has rhetorically armed the movement to continue beyond tomorrow. His utter rejection of Hillary Clinton as legitimate candidate democratically chosen by a political party representing half or more of the American electorate, combined with his repeated warnings that the election is rigged, provides all the excuse necessary for the white right to carry on the fight after Election Day. It is difficult to view the recently exposed plot by a group calling itself ''The Crusaders'' to blow up a Somali housing complex in Kansas the day after the election as anything other than a response to Trump' s hardly veiled call to arms.

Hillary's campaign

It seems as though Hillary Clinton has always been there. She was first lady, she was a US Senator, she was a presidential candidate and she was secretary of state. In 2008, many thought she had a clear path to the presidency--until she was beat out in the primaries by a virtual unknown by the name of Barack Obama.

She began this campaign too as the presumptive favorite, but stumbled early on over the email affair and faced an unexpected challenge in the form of a 74-year old senator by the name of Bernie Sanders. His call for a leftist revolution proved surprisingly appealing among many young Democratic voters, including a remarkable number of women who, it had be thought, would gravitate toward the Clinton campaign..

And now Trump has the initiative, and has not proven shy about deriding her and portraying her as a weakling, crooked. It is almost impossible for Clinton to reply in kind. She wants to avoid dividing the electorate and is loath to play one group of voters off against another. Reasonable responses are the only possible rejoinder to Trump's baiting of Muslims and other minorities, but her message of conciliation seems fainthearted and impotent against Trump's blustering. It is a battle being fought with unequal means, but what else can she do?

In this race, Clinton is fighting against something much larger than Trump. She is struggling against the widespread mistrust of the country's entire political class, a mistrust that has gripped the country like a fever. The majority of Americans have lost faith that politics can improve their lives. Representative democracy was born in Philadelphia and Washington and America, this ''shinning city upon a hill'', as Ronald Reagan described his country in 1989, became a paragon across the world. Today, though, it has lost much of its luster.

American society current identity crisis has a lot to do with the vast gap between the super-rich on the one hand and the middle, and working-classes on the other. The 400 richest Americans own as much wealth as the bottom two thirds of society taken together.and the annual, inflation-adjusted income of an average family has dropped by $5,000 since 1999 to $52,000. The great promise of America, that it is possible to climb the social ladder if you work hard enough, sounds to many these days like so many empty words.

Washington, DC does not just stand for the hatred establishment, but also for the connection between money and politics, a link few could epitomize better than the ''Clintons''. Indeed, the calculating presidential couple Frank and Claire Underwood from the television series ''House of Cards'' almost seems like a parody of Bill and Hillary.

Politics have in fact made the ''Clintons'' rich. Since they left the White House in 2001, Bill and Hillary have earned more than $150 million from public speaking engagements. They have become part of the 1 percent. Trump, of course, is also extremely rich, but he has established a narrative that his wealth makes him incorruptible because he does not need to rely on other people's money. He presents himself as the opposite of Clinton, a narcissistic businessman who claims to have the best of everything: the best women, the best properties and even the best genitals.

Clinton's campaign relies on women, African Americans, Hispanics, the LGBT community, on the summation of many different elements of American society, and the politics she champions is focused on reconciling these elements. She wants to continue along Obama's path. Still, Clinton's policies would result in improvements in the lives of many Americans. She intends to preserve Obama's health care reforms, introduce paid medical leave and establish a right to paid maternity leave. On foreign policy, she advocates a more aggressive approach that focuses on US military power. Whereas Trump would like to withdraw the US from NATO, Clinton would intensify American;s presence on the global stage. Trump is an isolationist. Clinton is an interventionist.

According to the classic rules of campaign analysis, Trump is certain to lose tomorrow election, not because Clinton is so strong, but because he has scared off too many constituencies. There are indications these days that Trump may have gone too far with his message of exclusion and hatred.

By doing so, Trump has presented Clinton with a unique opportunity; Clinton biggest strength now is the widespread fear this man could become president. . Hillary Clinton would be the most unpopular president since 1948, but she would still be president. It would represent the triumph of reason over rage.

By Prof Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Writer
International Affairs Expert/Author

Photo Credit:

Friday, 4 November 2016

WORLD: Analyzing the term '' The Occident''

The Occident is notoriously hard to pin down: It is neither a state nor a community united under a single government and its administrative apparatus. The Occident is not a democracy but an empire, governed by kings and emperors instead of presidents and chancellors. It is a fairy tale, not a travel destination. Today, we can no longer access this bygone world. It would take a magical train to take us there, similar to the train that takes Harry Potter from platform 9 ¾ to Hogwarts.

The Occident is a narrative, as mythical as the kingdom Albion in the legend of King Arthur. Albion is the epitome of a peacefully united kingdom – the Occident describes the peaceful community of European Christians. Albion and Occident are utopias: They exist only in our imagination, never in reality. They are constructs of the mind.
Leadership within the Occident has always bestowed strong political and symbolic power on those who could claim it: It was a privilege with divine providence. Thus, the occidental narrative was frequently co-opted by existing empires to further their respective interests and to increase their political legitimacy. The Franks, the Ottomans, and the Russian czars all regarded themselves as the legitimate and chosen heirs of the Roman empire; they saw their respective empires as the new Rome. 
The translation of utopian ideas into the practice of realpolitik illustrates the dark side of community: Collective moral reference points are rarely established without coercion. Forging political practice out of good ideas comes at a cost, which is usually paid in human lives. The emperors of the Occident were willing to pay a high price for internal homogeneity and external exclusivity. Thus, and not surprisingly, the political practices of the Occident were neither peaceful nor harmonious: Who is the legitimate king? Who is the divinely blessed pope? Which Christian faith is the true faith? How should religious deviants be treated?
Today, the term “Occident” and its historical connotations have lost much of their relevance. One of the achievements of modernity is the disenchantment of the idea that all people could (and should) be brought under the unified umbrella of Christianity. Yet the success of modernity does not absolve us from the responsibility of interpreting the terminology of the Occident – especially during a time of Occidentalist resurgence, when old terms are used to defend the idea of European homogeneity and to mount a political campaign against liberal immigration policies. In Germany, the Pegida protests have invoked “the Occident” to reduce complex realities to simplistic slogans. The Other is caricatured as a monolithic alien, as the enemy, as Muslim. It’s us-versus-them rhetoric. Intellectually, this agenda is bound to fail.
When protesters invoke “Islam” as an abstract enemy, they reduce the complex realities of life of more than one billion people – from Morocco to Malaysia – to a few childish catchphrases that sound embarrassing when uttered by adults. The world is never monolithic! Diversity, divergence and difference are always with us, but they are discussed in selective fashion: We tend to regard ourselves as individualistic and diverse, but describe others in simplistic terms that confirm prejudice, prompt dismissiveness, and fuel resentment. The German Pegida demonstrations are a case in point.
To speak of the Occident today would require a discussion of Europe’s diversity, of the continent’s multiple languages, customs, traditions, and life courses. Do the opponents of immigration and Islam understand Europe’s diversity? Do they understand that the Occident can no longer be grounded in an alleged homogeneity but must accept diversity as a social fact and an enrichment of social life?
One utopian vision of our forefathers has become reality: Europe has experienced seventy years of peace; we no longer consider it legitimate to discriminate against someone because of race, ethnicity, or religious faith. This vision has seeped into realpolitik to an extent that would have seemed impossible to our medieval ancestors.
But let us look towards history once again: When the term “Occident” was invoked by previous generations, it usually implied the Christian Occident. The religiously infused rhetoric helped to construct a great and glorious past that could be pitted against frustrations and anxieties of the present. The distant Other and the religious Other were painted in broad strokes as monolithic, and were either glorified or condemned. Indeed, the greater the spatial or temporal distance, the easier it becomes to stylize others positively or negatively, and thus to instrumentalize them for one’s own interests.
The Middle Ages – long seen as a dark period – experienced renewed interest during the age of Romanticism. Architectural trends drew inspirations from earlier epochs, recycled medieval styles, and gave rise to the Gothic Revival. Composers like Charles Widor and Louis Viernes committed themselves to the revitalization of Gregorian choral music. One reason why people turned towards the past: The rapidly changing world of the 19th century. Steam engines, electricity and evolutionary theory had altered reality with unprecedented speed and consequence. The longing for simplicity and purity manifested itself transcendentally in a turn towards the Middle Ages.
On its journey towards realpolitik, the Occident also had to contend with the rise of nationalism, and thus with the increasing division of the world into “us” and “them”. The peoples of Europe confronted each other with delusions of superiority, and sought to justify dominance of colonial subjects and of their European neighbors with accounts of national and ethnic destiny. But even then one could have realized that a homogeneous world was nothing but a fiction, and that Europe’s nations were diverse and pluralistic entities. The unity of Christendom had already been shattered several centuries before during Reformation, and only blind frenzy could ignore those social realities: Frenzied arguments do not aspire to accurately reflect the world, but seek to bring about a particular vision of the future.
The idea of capital-T Truth had already become blemished by the end of the 19th century. But instead of defending it, one could have turned towards an ethically oriented Christian anthropology that takes Erasmus of Rotterdam as its intellectual forefather. Erasmus and other thinkers of the medieval renaissance posited a humanistic account that aspired to overcome petty differences between people. The fanaticism of Reformation put an end to their project and clung to political discourse like clumps of dirt cling to old boots. For centuries, difference and differentiation became the guiding principles of political order. 19th century nationalism represented the culmination of this trend – and has now re-emerged in slightly altered guise. How sad if we were forced to admit that nothing has changed.
In “The World of Yesterday”, the Austrian writer Stefan Zweig describes Europe before the first World War. His descriptions might as well apply to today: Four decades of peace, technological progress and economic growth had helped to create more wealth for more people. Insurance companies offered increasingly far-reaching protections that promised to insulate the individual against the uncertainties and upheavals of politics. Two World Wars and several decades of nationalist fervor later, we have started to realize that we cannot insure ourselves against social risks.
To prevent the resurgence of destructive forces in Europe’s cities and minds, it is necessary to dry up the fertile ground upon which parochial ideas can flourish. The task, in other words, is to expose two central aspects of the Occident’s gradual transition from mental utopia to political agenda as ideological simplifications: first, the claim of internal homogeneity, and second, the claim of exclusivity vis-à-vis external others.
This second claim becomes intelligible once we consider the history of Christendom: In the Arabic countries of North Africa, people from the Occident used to be called “the Latins”: Muslims perceived and defined European Christendom primarily through its liturgical language. The Second Vatican Council ended the dominance of Latin as the language of rituals and religious practice in the 1960s. Even today, some groups within the Catholic Church reject this loss of exclusivity, but their argument appear increasingly anachronistic: In the 19th and 20th centuries, the Catholic Church transcended the borders of Europe’s cultural region and expanded into Africa, Asia, and Oceania.
A consequence of the Church’s global footprint was the inclusion of external influences into a world that had been protected by codices and rituals for many centuries. Popes that hail from Poland, Germany, and now Argentina are one aspect of the opening of the Catholic Church to new influences; diversity is its necessary consequence. The current Argentinian pope is indicative of the Church’s inclusivity, and of a universality that characterizes not only the Catholic Church but many political and international institutions. Universalism is the realpolitical reply to the intellectual achievements of modernity.
The Occident today is an arena of intellectual and political pluralism. Critical discourse and cultural diversity are more prevalent than ever. But those achievements are once again in jeopardy: They are threatened by proponents of simplistic world-views who elevate themselves and devalue others. Will we succeed in defending the pluralistic and tolerant Occident against this booted horde of misanthropes?

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Writer
Author/International Affairs Expert

Thursday, 3 November 2016

CHINA-AFRICA: China's loans to Africa

The goatie crisscrossing today's China is transformative feat of construction. The high-speed railway, which connects formerly isolated hinterlands to bustling cities, stretches for 19,000 kilometrers longer than all of the world's high-speed lines combined.

But Chinese railway construction is not just a Chinese story. In 1975, China built the $500 million TanZam Railway from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania to Kapiri Mposhi in Zambia, the single longest railway in sub-Saharan Africa. Forty years later, China helped build the first light railway on the continent in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, which opened in October 2015.

In April 2016, the China-Africa Research Initiative (CARI) at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) released its database of Chinese loans to Africa (2000-2014). One of four biggest discoveries was that Chinese loans on the continent mostly go toward building connective infrastructure--roads, railways, and power lines--rather than pursuing natural resources via the petroleum or mining sectors.

Previously, the Rand Corporation, AidData, and Fitch Ratings produced data on Chinese loans to Africa, but in trying to confirm their data, I found many problematic errors. Most frequently, these organizations failed to check whether a project mentioned in a media report actually received funding. This led them to significantly overstate the number and value of Chinese loans. After scouring sources ranging from Chinese government reports to African newspapers in French, Arabic, and Portuguese, and drawing on network of official sources in Africa, I revealed my own rigorously cross-checked figures, which lead to a number of conclusions.

First, China is only somewhat politically motivated when loaning to African countries. Indeed, recipients must follow the ''One China Policy'': the three countries that recognize Taiwan--Burkina Faso, Sao Tome and Principe, and Swaziland--received no loans. But there is little indication that loans are targeted toward clients states. Although both Sudan and Zimbabwe are potential client states, only Sudan shows up on the list of the top 10 African recipients of Chines loans.

Second, I found scarce evidence that Chinese loans are mainly purposed to access natural resources. While the top recipient of Chinese loans was resource-rich Angola, the next recipient was resource-poor Ethiopia, where almost 90 percent of loans went to connective infrastructure in transportation, communication, and power.

Finally, Chinese loans are building the continent. From 2000 to 2014, almost 50 percent of Chinese loans financed the two biggest sectors: transportation ( receiving $24 billion of loans) and energy ( mainly electric power) with $17 billion. Roads and railways made up just under 80 percent of loans in energy. Taking a closer look, I found that the biggest Chinese loan-financed infrastructure project was ''Phase I of Kenya's Mombasa-Nairobi Standard Gauge Railway by $ 3 billion of loans. The second largest project was the aforementioned Addis-Djibouti Railway, funded at $2 billion. In addition, there is an important distinction on the construction sites of these projects: data shows that foremen and technicians are generally Chinese but the workers are African, contrary to popular belief.

In sub-Saharan Africa, where 16 percent of roads are paved and 25 percent of people have access to electricity, a lack of connective infrastructure hinders economic prosperity. Appropriately, the Program for Infrastructure Development (PIDA) under the African Union's New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) prioritizes regional and continental infrastructure in its 30 year strategy. The need for connective infrastructure in Africa is evident, even for the Chinese. Without roads to transport construction equipment or electricity to power manufacturing factories, Chinese contractors' projects, which originally had big hopes, often do not materialize.

In fact, out of the 1,246 reports of Chinese loans financing Africa that I analyzed, a significant number did not materialize. In the transport sector, only 47 percent of 233 total projects (worth $49 billion) ever materialized. The rest turned out to be mistakes, rumors, cancellations, or inactive, meaning agreement was signed more than five years ago, but the project is still not in implementation. Similarly, in the energy sector, only 61 percent of total of 221 projects (worth $30 billion) materialized.

The frequent cancellation and uncertainly of projects may partially explain why China's approach to infrastructure in Africa resembles Deng Xiaoping's ''crossing the river by feeling the stones'', rather than a mammoth strategy from the start; additional loans go toward the implementation of ''phases'' that proceed step by step for successful projects. For example, the largest wind farm in sub-Saharan Africa, the 153 MW Adama Wind Farm in Ethiopia, was funded in phases in 2011: a Chinese loan of $99 million financed the Adama Wind Farm I, and in 2013, the Ethiopian government signed an additional $293 million loan with China EximBank to build the Adama Wind Farm II. China's approach in Africa is experimental, as in China.

As the economic slowdown lingers, China's excess industrial production and overcapacity continue to reach new heights. Despite efforts to cut steel production, at least one Chinese official pointed out that there has been ''no improvement in overcapacity''. But in Africa, there are strong demands and business opportunities for Chinese to build infrastructure that will use up China's excess output. As Chinese construction companies lobby for more ''One Belt, One Road'' funding for Africa, China's ''going global'' scheme of finding new markets for its goods and services becomes even more relevant.

Given all of this, it is unsurprising that so many Chinese loans to Africa are focused on building infrastructure. But at the end of the day, the formula is even more straightforward: African governments borrow because their needs are dire. Chinese banks lend because Chinese companies win the contracts.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Writer
International Affairs Expert