Debt Trap: Growing Unease In Africa Against BRI Projects Of China

International Desk,
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A recent attack on Chinese workers in a gold mine in the Central African Republic has brought into the limelight the grievance of the common people in the continent of Africa against the Belt and Road Initiative projects of China.

On March 9, 2023, gunmen stormed the Chinese-operated gold mining site at 5 a.m., overpowered the guards at the site and opened fire, killing nine Chinese nationals and seriously wounding two others.

A panicked Chinese embassy in the CAR has advised Chinese nationals not to leave the capital city of Bangui for the threat of killing and kidnapping.

The attack at the gold mine came only days after gunmen had kidnapped three Chinese nationals near the borders of CAR with Cameroon.

After the kidnapping, President of CAR Faustin Archange Touadera had to make a trip to Beijing to reassure Chinese investors not to panic.

The CAR is one of the poorest countries in the world, despite having a vast mineral wealth of gold and diamond.

This has attracted the attention of Chinese companies which want to extract these valuable minerals and carry them off, to the detriment of the interest of the poor African nation.

Many of the mining exploration companies in CAR are now Chinese-run and they have faced security challenges.

Earlier in 2020, two Chinese workers were killed when local residents led an uprising against a mine operated by a Chinese company in Sosso Nakombo.

gain in 2018, three Chinese citizens were lynched by an angry mob after a local leader died in a boat accident while accompanying Chinese miners to a site.

By multiplying heavy infrastructure projects in Africa, China aims to establish its influence on the continent.

But experts warn that the poor African nations run the risk of being trapped.

China is the main donor in gigantic projects like railway lines and civil infrastructure, being built under the highly criticized Belt and Road Initiative of China.

“One in three major infrastructure projects in Africa are built by Chinese state-owned companies, one in five is financed by a Chinese institutional bank,” Paul Nantulya of the African Center for Strategic Studies has been quoted as saying.

He reports to the U.S. Department of Defence. Western countries were hesitant to invest in these projects.

“The Chinese saw this void and decided to invest in infrastructure,” says Nantulya.

For the poor African nations, however, this hobnobbing with China is proving to be costly.

Anna Borshchevskaya of the think-tank Washington Institute warns of a “debt trap” for African countries.

“China offers loans for expensive infrastructure projects and when a country cannot repay its loans, China takes control of its strategic assets,” she has said.

“Be careful about tempting deals. These can be opaque and ultimately fail to help the people they were meant to help,” U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has said about deals China has made in Africa.

Many of the poorest states in Africa are heading towards over-indebtedness or default, U.N. agencies have warned at a conference of the least developed countries organized by the United Nations in Qatar in early March 2023.

In Kenya, China is engaged in the construction of a gigantic project; a railway line linking the city of Mombasa with the Rift Valley at a cost of $5 billion.

Beijing is financing 90 per cent of the project.

Tanzania has signed a contract of $2.2 billion with a Chinese company for a railway line linking the main port of the country to its neighbours.

The real benefit for all these projects lies with Beijing, with maintenance contracts that can last up to 99 years.

The local benefit is low because the employees are overwhelmingly Chinese.

An Observer Research Foundation study sums up succinctly the real nature of BRI projects in African countries: “Over the past two decades, China has established a significant economic presence in most African countries.

Its lucrative economic investment package, flexible political approach and focused big-ticket investment projects under the BRI provide an ostensibly massive opportunity to African countries.

However, the unilateral nature of the initiative, the lack of transparency and accountability to African countries, and the absence of projects that directly benefit the locals have raised suspicion and fuelled local resentment.

There are increasing instances of African countries cancelling or postponing BRI projects over rising debt concerns.”

The claim of Beijing that the BRI projects offer a “win-win situation” to both China and the recipient country of a project is really a facade.

Beijing is driven by its need to find new emerging markets for its overcapacity amid a slowdown in the domestic economy of China.

Besides, Beijing is using the BRI to mask its geopolitical and geostrategic objectives.

Chinese investments in ports along the east coast of Africa and the first Chinese military base in Djibouti are pointers to this.

The local African population benefits little from these projects.

The skilled labour in most projects is from China, with a few African locals engaged in low-end employment.

Many BRI projects in China in Africa have been cancelled or postponed because of a lack of employment opportunities for local people, rising debt concerns, undermining of quality and standards and malpractice at the ground level like bribing officials.

As early as 2015, present External Affairs Minister of India S. Jaishankar had rejected the concept of the BRI and correctly described it as “China’s national initiative” without any discussion with the recipient countries, saying there was no need for the latter to buy these projects.

To serve its strategic interests, China is investing in ports along the coastline from the Gulf of Aden through the Suez Canal towards the Mediterranean Sea.

Of the 49 countries China has claimed to have engaged through BRI, 34 are located along the coasts of Africa.

China can use these ports for a typically colonial pattern of trade of transporting out raw materials and bringing in finished goods and also use the ports for the military purpose of surveillance and blockade of overseas and deep sea maritime traffic.

In 2017, China built its first overseas naval base in Djibouti.

The connectivity projects like railways and roads link the industrial and energy projects of China like mineral processing, oil and renewable in the hinterland of Africa to projects along the coastline like ports.

Death toll in the train accident in India rises to 207

International Desk,, Dhaka
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Death toll has risen to 207 in the deadly train accident in India's eastern state of Odisha. More than 900 people were injured in this accident. The death toll may rise further.

According to the report of the Indian media The Hindu, on Friday (June 2) Karamandal Express was hit by an accident near Bahanaga Bazar station in Baleshwar, Odisha. Karamandal Express was going from Shalimar in West Bengal to Chennai. On the way, the passenger train rammed a freight train from behind while crossing the Bahanaga Bazar area of Odisha. All the coaches of Karmandal Express derailed except 3 coaches.

After this accident at 6:30 pm local time, almost an hour has passed since the rescue operation started. This increased the number of casualties.

Odisha Chief Secretary Pradeep Jena said that more than 200 ambulances have been dispatched to Baleshwar.

This is the worst train accident in India in this century. Officials said the death toll is expected to rise.

So far 200 seriously injured people have been taken to various hospitals in Odisha state for treatment. Out of the 15 derailed coaches, the casualties have not yet been rescued from three AC rooms.

Meanwhile, Odisha's special relief commissioner Satyabrata Sahu said that 47 people have been admitted to Baleshwar Medical College Hospital so far. Another 132 people have been admitted to nearby hospitals, Odisha Chief Secretary Pradeep Jena said.

Expressing grief over the news of the terrible train accident, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Twitter, "I am shocked by the train accident in Odisha. Condolences to the bereaved family at this difficult time, may the injured get well soon.”

Modi announced that the families of each of those killed in the accident will be given Rs 2 lakh. Apart from this, Rs 50,000 will be given to the injured.


India Will Remain Focused On Economic Development: G20 Sherpa Amitabh Kant

International Desk
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India's G20 Presidency will remain focused on economic development issues and endeavour to bring all the member countries, including Russia and China, on board amid the ongoing geo-political uncertainties, G20 Sherpa Amitabh Kant said on Thursday. Addressing 'Times Network India Economic Conclave', Kant further said that during the G20 Summit here in September, there is a need to remain focused on objectives of economic development and leave politics to the United Nations (UN) and United Nations Security Council (UNSC).

"We are living in the world of politics, but we should be clear of our objectives... We remain focused on economic development and economic growth that is India's priority," he said while responding to a question on forging consensus at the G20 Summit.

India assumed the presidency of G20 for one year from December 1, 2022, to November 31, 2023. The G20 Summit will be held in New Delhi on September 9-10.

"So, we will bring everyone around...We are very hopeful. Our objective is to really bring all the 20 countries, including Russia and China, on board and find a way out," Mr Kant said. He also said that for the first time, India is setting the agenda for G20, and the whole world is responding to its positive and constructive initiatives.

Mr Kant further said as G20 President, the job of India is to bring consensus on a vast range of issues, including economic and developmental issues, which are impacting the emerging markets of the world.

"If you look back over the years, in the last five or six decades, we have actually responded to an agenda set by the developed world always. "This is the first time that India is setting an agenda for G20, which accounts for about 85 per cent of the global GDP," he said.

The Group of Twenty (G20) is an intergovernmental forum, comprising 19 countries and the European Union. Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, the US and the UK are among other members.

"So, we are setting the agenda, and the world is responding to that agenda.

"And therefore, we picked up a very positive, very constructive development agenda, which takes care of emerging markets, which takes care of the global south and takes care of very human-centric, global development," the former Niti Aayog CEO said.

Responding to a question on the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, Mr Kant said the war is an important issue for Europe. He pointed out that Covid-19 has left 200 million people below the poverty line, 100 million people have lost their jobs, 75 countries in the world are facing a global debt crisis, and 1/3 of the world is in recession.

Mr Kant further said the world is facing a crisis of climate action and climate finance. "These are very important issues for emerging markets and developing countries. These issues need to be brought to the centre stage, not just the issue," he emphasised.

Responding to criticism that India is not on the right side of history as it has not directly condemned Russia, Kant said India looks at the world as a whole. "We should not end up getting caught in just one issue. It's very important to look beyond this issue to understand what the citizens of the world are confronted with and find a solution to the challenges." Russia launched a special military operation in Ukraine on February 24, 2022. The Russian action has been widely condemned by the US-led West.

"If we get just caught up in that one issue, we will be forgetting all the other challenges, which both emerging and developing countries are confronted with," he said, adding that it is very important to focus on all these issues.

Noting that the war is the challenge, Mr Kant said that irrespective of what is happening in one part of the world, the world needs to move on.
"Because we must understand that there is a cost of living crisis, there's inflation.

"There is a challenge of post- COVID era, and if we are not able to use our leadership to provide relief to huge segments of the population then we'll be failing," Mr Kant opined.

He asserted that India will never get obsessed over one issue.
Pointing out that the third G20 tourism working group meeting in May in Kashmir was a phenomenal success, India's G20 Sherpa said, "Other than China, everyone was present".

G20 members represent around 85 per cent of the global GDP, over 75 per cent of the global trade and about two-thirds of the world population.


Pakistan: Five killed, 3 injured in Kot Addu blast

International Desk
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At least five people were killed and three others injured in an explosion inside a house in the Daira Din Panah neighbourhood of Punjab's Kot Addu, around 80 km from Muzaffargarh, the Pakistan-based The News International reported.

According to the police, a person who works at a junkyard owned the home where the explosion took place. They said that three of the deceased were women and that all of the deceased belonged to the same family.

As per details, the deceased were identified as Haseena Mai (40), Bilal (38), Iqbal (30), Shano Mai (28) and four-year-old Sadia Bibi, The News International reported.

The injured were shifted to District Headquarters (DHQ) Hospital, Kot Addu. "Even at the time of the explosion, waste materials and scrap were being sorted," police said, The reported.

However, the cause and nature of the explosion were not yet ascertained, the police said, adding that investigations were underway.

They further stated that rescue teams, bomb disposal squad and other related security agencies had reached the spot soon after the explosion, The reported.

According to Rescue 1122, the control room received a call at 8:44 am in which the caller informed that five people had been killed and three were injured due to the explosion of an "unknown object" in the house.

The caller requested that an ambulance be sent quickly.

"Rescue 1122 Control Room immediately dispatched three ambulances from Kot Addu Central Rescue Station to the accident site and also informed the police," a statement from the helpline said, The News International reported.

When the rescue staff reached the location, eyewitnesses said that five people died on the spot and three people were injured due to the explosion of an unknown object in the room.

While the rescue team has started rescue operations, the statement said, it would be premature to say anything about the nature of the explosion.

Taking notice of the explosion, Punjab Inspector General of Police (IGP) Usman Anwar has sought a report from Dera Ghazi Khan regional police officer, The News International reported.

He also directed the Muzaffargarh district police officer to investigate the matter from all aspects. (ANI)


Terror strikes in Pakistan surged after Taliban takeover: Report

International Desk
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In the first 21 months after the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan, the number of terrorist attacks in Pakistan increased dramatically by 73 per cent compared to the same period before their takeover, Dawn reported. Since the Taliban seized control of Kabul on August 15, 2021, there have been a substantial number of terrorist attacks inside Pakistan. In addition, 138 per cent more people were killed in attacks in Pakistan between August 2021 and April 2023.

These are some of the main conclusions of the policy-focused paper titled "Pakistan's Afghan Perspective and Policy Options," which was released by the Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS). Since July 2021, the think tank has conducted eight expert discussions, done substantial monitoring, research, and analyses, and produced the study, which includes significant suggestions for policymakers.

Participants in the launch event included academics, parliamentarians, journalists, students, and representatives of civil society in addition to security and Afghan affairs experts. At the conclusion of the ceremony, experts gave statements and participated in a question-and-answer session. The report also says that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) and Balochistan have witnessed a marked impact on the Afghan situation in terms of terrorist violence, where the number of attacks during these 21 months surged by 92 pc and 81 pc, respectively, reported the Pakistani daily.

The report warns that these emerging trends of terrorism will only add to Pakistan's persistent security challenge in terms of Taliban's presence in KP and the erstwhile tribal areas, Baloch nationalist insurgency in Balochistan, ethno-nationalist violence in Sindh, as well as growing religious extremism and radicalism, Dawn reported. "Protracted over a longer period of time, such an environment of insecurity, militancy, and violence can pose serious threats to political and economic stability as well," it states.

Meanwhile, the Deputy head of mission of the Royal Norwegian Embassy in Islamabad Dr Maha Noor Khan expressed concern over women's situation in the war-torn country. She said that the Taliban government's decision to deny women and girls their right to education and work was a severe violation of human rights. "We underline the need for a more representative and inclusive government (in Afghanistan)," she said.

Professor of Politics and International Relations at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad Dr Zafar Nawaz Jaspal said that all segments of society had a consensus that Pakistan's over five-decade-long Afghan policy needed to be revisited. Defence and strategic affairs analyst retired Maj Gen Inamul Haque viewed that banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and border fencing were the two "variables" as well as irritants in Pak-Afghan relations, Dawn reported.

Former first deputy speaker of the Lower House of the Afghan Parliament Mirwais Yasini pointed out that the core issue was to build trust between Pakistan and Afghanistan. He added that mistrust existed between both countries for a very long period of time, Dawn reported. Earlier, PIPS Director Mohammad Amir Rana in his welcome note said that Pakistan should widen its policy options and policy framework, which should be based on inclusivity with input from all stakeholders, on the issue of Afghanistan.