By Isaac Esipisu
Given that China is South Africa’s biggest trading partner and given the close relationship between Beijing and the ruling African National Congress, it didn’t come as a huge surprise that South Africa was in no hurry to issue a visa to the Dalai Lama.
Tibet’s spiritual leader will end up missing the 80th birthday party of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a fellow Nobel peace prize winner. He said his application for a visa had not come through on time despite having been made to Pretoria several weeks earlier. (Although South Africa’s government said a visa hadn’t actually been denied, the Dalai Lama’s office said it appeared to find the prospect inconvenient).
Desmond Tutu said the government’s action was a national disgrace and warned the President and ruling party that one day he will start praying for the defeat of the ANC government.
World Bank President Robert Zoellick ended a visit to Africa this week with the pronouncement that this century belonged to the continent’s development despite damage to economies from the global financial crisis.Those who remember what were flagged by some at the time as “Africa’s decades” in the 1980s and 1990s may have cause for scepticism given that in many countries they turned out disastrous despite early hopes.But Africa’s economies had been growing at an unprecedented pace before the global financial crisis struck.Zoellick acknowledged the immediate challenge required more resources to bolster regional integration as well as investments in energy, infrastructure and agriculture.He said Africa deserves more attention and should be made a priority at international meetings like the Group of 20 developed and developing countries in the United States next month.To make the case for more resources from donors, whose budgets are being strained by the financial crisis, Zoellick said Africans need to show they can use aid effectively and improve governanceWill African countries be able to show they can use aid effectively enough? Will this really be Africa’s century? If it is, then how auspicious is it for it to be kicked off with foreign aid?
U.S Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 10 day trip to Africa ends this week with many commentators viewing it at least partly as being aimed at offsetting China’s growing economic clout on the African continent.In public, Clinton has delivered Washington’s traditional messages on the importance of fair elections and of fighting corruption and human rights abuses.But the fact that top oil producers Angola and Nigeria are both on the tour has made clear the importance of the visit from the perspective of ensuring access to resources – an area of huge importance to China too.China’s trade in Africa hit $107 billion in 2008 and there are now 750,000 Chinese workers living and working in Africa. Sources in both Washington, D.C. and Africa confirmed that Clinton’s subtle diplomatic strategy is to offer African leaders infrastructure assistance in exchange for oil resources and increased energy investments on the African continent.China, meanwhile, may be marshalling reserves to help kick start African economies and fuel demand as well as to secure access to its resources.In the past, Beijing has always argued that it is still a very poor country on per capita basis so cannot afford foreign aid. China’s foreign aid was only 0.04 percent of its gross domestic product, only a fraction of the U.S. percentage of 0.4 percent and Europe’s 0.7 percent.But the financial crisis has changed this. While the downturn has crimped U.S. and Europeans companies’ ability to expand overseas, Chinese firms, awash with cash, are keen to look for new growth opportunities in new markets.Has Hillary’s visit helped to offset the Chinese push? What value can her words carry against Beijing’s ready cash? Should China be concerned that Washington may be catching up with its own push into Africa?Click here for more related articles:China, others shove US in scramble for AfricaChina may marshal reserves to fund African demand
Nowhere was Michael Jackson mourned more than in Africa. Young and old, people wept openly when news broke of his death, struck by disbelief and sadness. His funeral was followed across the continent anywhere that a television set could be found. Jackson’s link with Africa strengthened when he visited the continent at the age of 14 as lead singer of the Jackson Five. Emerging from the plane in Senegal, he responded to a welcome of drummers and dancers by screaming: ”This is where I come from.” But by the time of his death, it was unclear whether Jackson was so proud of his origins. Surgery had altered his appearance to such an extent that many felt he looked as white as he did African-American.His comment that he was “neither Black nor White” drew controversy during a visit to Africa in the 90s. Although he was happy to be crowned chief of several African villages and to shake hands with hundreds of people, the trip was a public relations nightmare – with allegations that police had beaten the crowds who went to see him and complaints in the local media that the pop star had been seen holding his nose, as if to keep out a bad smell. Racial unity was long a subject close to Jackson’s heart and his 1991 single “Black or White” explicitly promoted it, but his efforts to make himself look less black sent a more confusing message. There was no doubt that he was an incredible musician and entertainer, who will be remembered in Africa for a long time to come. But what about the other side of his legacy? Did he undermine pride in being African with his efforts to change his own appearance? Should Africa be proud of him?