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Thread: What should Washington's relationship with the developing World be?

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    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    I don't think anyone is blaming the Chinese for Africa's current situation... more a matter of watching curiously to see how it all turns out. I personally suspect that things may get a bit messy down the line, but that's mainly disinterested observation: I don't think the US has anything much at stake one way or the other.

    I think you may be overlooking a significant part of the difference between the Chinese and Western approaches: the Chinese can deploy state-directed investment as a tool of policy; the west cannot. Western States can direct aid, but investment in enterprise, whether light industry or resource extraction, is purely in the hands of the private sector. The US government can provide some incentives, which are not necessarily followed, but the bulk of the US private sector doesn't seem particularly interested in the African market. That may be at least in part because manufacturing of consumer goods, especially low priced consumer goods, is not a specialty of US industry: even the US gets them from China.

    The Chinese model of state-directed investment as a policy tool cannot be replicated by the West; it's fundamentally incompatible with the Western economic structure.
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

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    David,

    I think you may be overlooking a significant part of the difference between the Chinese and Western approaches: the Chinese can deploy state-directed investment as a tool of policy; the west cannot. Western States can direct aid, but investment in enterprise, whether light industry or resource extraction, is purely in the hands of the private sector. The US government can provide some incentives, which are not necessarily followed, but the bulk of the US private sector doesn't seem particularly interested in the African market. That may be at least in part because manufacturing of consumer goods, especially low priced consumer goods, is not a specialty of US industry: even the US gets them from China.
    What do you think the French have been doing for the past 50 years? Or do you think Total (the major French oil company) - is not some form of state-directed investment?

    Europe has advantages in Africa that the Chinese cannot even dream of - French have preferential rights to Niger's Uranium mines & control the money (CFA) of fourteen African nations - these are advantages the Chinese wouldn't even dream of.

    I'm not going talk about preferential trade policies/tariffs (a colonial legacy) that Europe & the USA benefit immensely from.

    Western media has done a great propaganda campaign on how the Chinese have a great advantage over the West doing business in Africa - that it is believed by many, doesn't make it true. It is not.

    Most mining companies in Africa still come from the West - Rio Tinto does big business here - but Western media makes it look as if only the Chinese are gobbling up everything.

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    Citing Bill (due to my length):
    What is Europe's current approach to developing nations? What are the lessons for the U.S.?
    Yesterday's prologue: Europe, especially as the EU gained momentum alongside increasing trade flows within the EU, in effect largely turned inward. Yes there were frequent summits, diplomacy meandered along, sometimes military might was deployed - for short periods, some trade, a lot of aid, holidays in the sun (in a few places) and growing immigration. It is remarkable how many of the rich and powerful, plus those in opposition, frequent some cities in Europe - not that governments talk to them much (Islamists from Tunisia are cited as an example).

    OK, Europe's approach is a mix of national and EU priorities. As a number of EU members were never colonisers that helps; the Irish gain being a former colony in their easy access.

    Firn no doubt knows far more, but many ex-colonies have very little non-natural resources to trade with us. Oil and gas is the exception, which affected the UK's stance on Biafra's attempt to secede from Nigeria (France covertly took a different stance).

    Aid I think remains large, although in the UK three times more is provided via charities & NGOs. Remittances, no idea. I suspect many former immigrants keep their money here.

    Very few colonies are significant to national security. Terrorism is often cited, although rarely impacting back here. India has a major internal issue, but rarely impacts here. The ex-colonies in the Sahel are large and thinly populated.

    For the USA and developing nations then.

    The USG must take into account a good part of the relationship is not controlled by the USG, i.e. private companies particularly in oil & gas. Multilateral financial and trade institutions maybe influenced. I know from a little reading that the prescriptions of the IMF, World Bank and development banks are often unacceptable.

    'Think small, act small'. Limit USG actions to small things. In the economic and aid field that is already happening. Clearly state the agreed objective, engage in partnership and have an end date.

    Wherever possible use locals, contractors and not USG staff. Westerners are often seen - by the public - as unwelcome intruders, riding around in 4x4s, staying in expensive hotels, lack language skills, empathy and don't stay long (many of these vices are very understandable form a Westerners viewpoint).

    Assume that one day the public and politicians at home will be disgusted or frustrated with USG actions. Breaching human rights is one "big hole" to fall into. Always be prepared to exit quickly, painful I know.

    Look at how many countries in East Africa prefer Western involvement to be restricted. Kenya appears to be moving that way, Tanzania has long followed this and Ethiopia is a "half-way house".
    Last edited by davidbfpo; 08-17-2014 at 08:19 PM.
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    KingJaja,

    I don't dispute your remarks and my knowledge of Africa does not include knowledge of trade.

    Now three decades ago I recall a conservative South African journalist remarking that sub-Saharan Africa had been written off by the West except for natural resources. It is hard now to disagree.

    As for the French I know not. I would have expected after the Ivory Coast debacle that many expat French nationals calculation about life in Africa changed; were there not 50k French nationals living there IIRC.
    davidbfpo

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    David,

    KingJaja,

    I don't dispute your remarks and my knowledge of Africa does not include knowledge of trade.

    Now three decades ago I recall a conservative South African journalist remarking that sub-Saharan Africa had been written off by the West except for natural resources. It is hard now to disagree.

    As for the French I know not. I would have expected after the Ivory Coast debacle that many expat French nationals calculation about life in Africa changed; were there not 50k French nationals living there IIRC.
    The two most important French colonies in West Africa are Ivory Coast & Senegal. I call them colonies because the relationship between France and Francophone Africa would be unthinkable in the Anglophone world.

    But I need to add that trade was the driving factor for colonization & the Scramble for Africa. Trade has ALWAYS been central to the West's relationship with Africa - and we need to understand it from that foundation.

    It was the oil palm of the Niger Delta (which fed the British Industrial Revolution - used as soaps, lubricants for machinery) that led to the Royal Niger Company which eventually led to the colony of Nigeria.

    It is a pity that the US got to Africa in a big way when ideology, not trade was the major policy issue in Africa. (Carter spent half of America's aid budget to Africa on Mobutu - topic for another day).

    For France & Britain (Shell in Nigeria), trade has always been the primary focus.

    I think US finds it difficult to deal with China in Africa because this is not a battle of ideology, this has to do with trade - and US cannot compete with China on trade in Africa.

    A common accusation leveled against the Chinese is this: "the benefits of Chinese trade aren't trickling down". To which the Chinese can very easily respond: "show us the benefits of US trade"? And truth is, there are next to none.

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    Default Another automobile collaboration: Chinese & Ghanaian business men

    My point is that the trading relationship between Africa and China is infinitely more complex than the "Zambian copper mine" stories Western Media is so fond of.

    And every year this relationship deepens. It is a great pity that US diplomats are usually the last to fully grasp it. From my experience in Nigeria, it's clear the British know what's up, not sure about the Americans.

    According to him, test runs of the facility have also been successfully completely, paving the way for the grand launch of the facility to the general public.

    The plant, comparable to any automobile assembling facility in the world, assembles imported vehicle parts from China and other parts of the world, including locally manufactured ones.


    http://www.myjoyonline.com/business/...the-market.php

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    I think people who are paying attention (limited number, but that's always the case) see and understand what's going on, but really, what of it? It's not a threat or a challenge or a problem for the US, so there's no need for a response; it's not a model the US can reasonably expect to emulate, so there's no need to try to compete. Better just to sit back and watch how it plays out.

    The pattern of US "aid" to Africa, and to most places, is easier to understand when you realize that it's not designed to help the recipient, it's designed to make Americans feel good about themselves.
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

    H.L. Mencken

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dayuhan View Post
    I think people who are paying attention (limited number, but that's always the case) see and understand what's going on, but really, what of it? It's not a threat or a challenge or a problem for the US, so there's no need for a response; it's not a model the US can reasonably expect to emulate, so there's no need to try to compete. Better just to sit back and watch how it plays out.

    The pattern of US "aid" to Africa, and to most places, is easier to understand when you realize that it's not designed to help the recipient, it's designed to make Americans feel good about themselves.

    Africa/China trade was $10.6 billion in 2000. It is now $210 billion. If the US doesn't have a response to that, then it should consign itself to future irrelevance in Africa. It is that simple.

    And I don't have a problem with that, but the US still wants to feel important in Africa - without having a clear 10, 20, 30 year vision of what they want to accomplish here - but the Chinese do.

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    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KingJaja View Post
    Africa/China trade was $10.6 billion in 2000. It is now $210 billion. If the US doesn't have a response to that, then it should consign itself to future irrelevance in Africa. It is that simple.
    $210 billion sounds like a lot until you realize that total US foreign trade in 2013 was over $5 trillion; China was over $4 trillion. African trade is a drop in the bucket.

    Look at the actual composition of African trade with China, and you see that it's already largely irrelevant to the US. US imports of African oil are down 90% since 2010, and now run under 200,000bpd, a pittance. The Chinese economy relies heavily on primary industry and imports large quantities of base metals and other primary materials. The US uses much less and most of what it needs is available in the Western Hemisphere. Why would you ship bulk materials like iron, copper, manganese, chromite etc from Africa when they are available much closer to home?

    Look at what China exports to Africa... is it really realistic for the US to even try to compete? Textiles? The US hasn't manufactured them for generations, we get them from China. The African market consumes a lot of machinery, equipment, and manufactured goods, but the market is cost sensitive and on a pure cost basis there's very limited space for US competition. As economies develop and buyers become more sophisticated it's likely that US and European brands will become more popular, but that's a fair ways off.

    How much Chinese industrial development in China is funded by government loans? US companies can't compete on those grounds; the government financing just isn't there.

    Add in impediments like the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which is a serious issue for US companies considering entry in the African market, and you pretty quickly reach the conclusion that the best move the US can make is to sit back and let the Chinese do as they will. If individual companies want to go in, fine, but on a policy basis I see no point at all in the US trying to compete with China in the African market.

    Quote Originally Posted by KingJaja View Post
    And I don't have a problem with that, but the US still wants to feel important in Africa - without having a clear 10, 20, 30 year vision of what they want to accomplish here - but the Chinese do.
    I actually think the US, for the most part, doesn't give a damn. There are sporadic efforts to put on a show of concern, but as an overall policy priority it's very low on the list.
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

    H.L. Mencken

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    $210 billion sounds like a lot until you realize that total US foreign trade in 2013 was over $5 trillion; China was over $4 trillion. African trade is a drop in the bucket.
    That isn't how business men think

    $210 billion could grow to $1 trillion in ten years if trade is aggressively pursued.

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    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by KingJaja View Post
    $210 billion could grow to $1 trillion in ten years if trade is aggressively pursued.
    It might, and it might not. Africa is seen as a high risk investment destination in the US, and there are many other places in the world (SE Asia and Latin America among them) with equal growth potential and far lower perceived risk.

    Again, for trade to flourish there has to be some level of compatibility in the markets that are trading: you have to have something they want, and they have to have something you want. The Chinese and African economies are compatible in many ways: China imports large quantities of hydrocarbons and basic industrial raw materials. US demand in these areas is much lower and can generally be satisfied closer to home. China exports huge quantities of low cost manufactured goods, from textiles to machinery, that are in high demand in cost-sensitive developing countries.

    In most of Asia Chinese goods are universally seen as being cheap but of poor quality: consumers seeking goods to flash or industries seeking durable capital goods show a strong preference for US, European, Japanese, or Korean goods. China-made goods carrying a foreign brand are more palatable, but a Chinese brand is pretty much the bottom of the pile. African consumers may get to that place as well, as consumers become more sophisticated, or the Chinese may up their game a bit.

    I really can't see much basis for a campaign to increase trade with Africa at the level of national policy. What does the US need from Africa that can't be supplied closer to home? What can the US reasonably aspire to export to Africa?
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

    H.L. Mencken

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    Default Give people hope

    Somehow this 2009 short video statement by Scott Attran appeared today in my 'in tray' and is relevant to this thread. It is headlined:
    US foreign policy is set by people who've almost no insight into human welfare, education, labour, desires or hopes.
    Nice example of a USAID project in Morocco and the importance of the future generation:http://www.theguardian.com/commentis...n-policy-video
    davidbfpo

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    Default Interesting story on growing trade/interpersonal links between Africa & China.

    The relationship between China and Africa is rapidly evolving - and demands a much more nuanced treatment than the scare stories that are the staple of Western media.

    Today, he owns a five million yuan (HK$6.3 million) flat in Zhujiang New Town, Guangzhou's smartest district, drives a car worth US$64,000 and speaks Putonghua. Issa ships 50 to 200 containers home per year - full of construction materials, because "they're the most lucrative" - and makes an average US$2,000 on each container.

    A friend, Yusuf Sampto - a trader with three shops in West Africa's Burkina Faso - pulls up a chair. They excitably describe stuffing suitcases with "literally millions" of US dollars to move their profits back to China once the goods have sold (they declare the cash at customs, they say). African banks can't be trusted, they explain, and it's impossible for a migrant to open a current account in the mainland.

    Like most of Guangzhou's successful traders, Issa has a Chinese wife.

    "She used to work for a company I ordered from, and we became friends," he says. "We had a Chinese wedding and a Muslim wedding. Her name was Xie Miemie but I renamed her Zena."

    Zena is from Hainan Island and Issa was the first African man her family had ever seen.
    http://www.scmp.com/magazines/post-m...ampaign=buffer

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    Quote Originally Posted by KingJaja View Post
    The relationship between China and Africa is rapidly evolving - and demands a much more nuanced treatment than the scare stories that are the staple of Western media.
    Possibly so... but does that get us any closer to answering the question "what should Washington's relationship with the developing world be"?

    China's relationship with Africa is a matter for the parties concerned to deal with. It's not a threat to the US, nor is it something the US can emulate. Washington needs to build relationships based on the synergies and compatibilities unique to US policy and the US economy, which are very different from those of China.
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

    H.L. Mencken

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    There is merit in examining how China's relationship with the developing world, in places, notably Africa, has developed recently. If only as it suggests "trade works" and appears to be minus any security relationships (except weapons sales). I do not doubt China has relationships with those who possess political power, which so far ensure trade and a measure of emigration.

    Given that the USA does not trade extensively with Africa in particular, except for oil & gas, maybe some minerals (diamonds and iron ore for example), what does the USG offer? It is easy to portray it as "Drones, Guns and Spies". All of which may affect US national security, do they impact public and national security needs?
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    Davidbfpo

    There is merit in examining how China's relationship with the developing world, in places, notably Africa, has developed recently. If only as it suggests "trade works" and appears to be minus any security relationships (except weapons sales). I do not doubt China has relationships with those who possess political power, which so far ensure trade and a measure of emigration.

    Given that the USA does not trade extensively with Africa in particular, except for oil & gas, maybe some minerals (diamonds and iron ore for example), what does the USG offer? It is easy to portray it as "Drones, Guns and Spies". All of which may affect US national security, do they impact public and national security needs?
    US relationship with Africa hasn't changed that much since the Cold War, very little innovation, no new thinking - nothing new really. It all boils down to aid, oil & gas and security.

    China has brought a lot of new thinking with it - examples:

    1. Focus on trade. Obama's just concluded Africa/US summit is in response to China/Africa summits (5 have been held since 2000).

    2. Focus on Infrastructure: China introduced innovative infrastructure financing - infrastructure for commodities. This limits cases of money simply being siphoned away to the Dictator's Swiss account. You see the value for the money.

    China is building three very important dams in Africa - Bui in Ghana (400MW), Grand Renaissance in Ethiopia (6,000MW) and Mambilla in Nigeria (3,000MW).

    Most importantly, China gives Africans greater bargaining power - the West was the only game in town during the 80s & 90s - and trust me, Africa wasn't better off for it.

    Now, does the US really want to be a major player in Africa? I'm not sure.

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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    There is merit in examining how China's relationship with the developing world, in places, notably Africa, has developed recently. If only as it suggests "trade works" and appears to be minus any security relationships (except weapons sales). I do not doubt China has relationships with those who possess political power, which so far ensure trade and a measure of emigration.
    Trade does work... but that doesn't mean it works for the US and Africa. US companies make their own decisions on trade and investment; government input is limited. The US government can't make US companies buy from or sell to Africa. The synergies between the respective economies are in fact limited. Unlike China, the US does not need large quantities of basic commodities, and what it does need is available closer to home in less risky investment environments: why would you invest in uranium mining in Niger when you can buy all you need from Canada? Also unlike China, the US does not produce large quantities of manufactured goods appropriate for sale in cost-sensitive markets: to put it bluntly, cheap stuff. US exports tend to be at the top of the price range in any given category. As a middle class develops and as consumers become more quality-sensitive, more opportunities may open up, but at the moment there are real limits to what the US can expect to sell. Wheat, yes... but no competition from China on that score; the Chinese also import wheat from the US.

    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    Given that the USA does not trade extensively with Africa in particular, except for oil & gas, maybe some minerals (diamonds and iron ore for example), what does the USG offer? It is easy to portray it as "Drones, Guns and Spies". All of which may affect US national security, do they impact public and national security needs?
    US oil and gas purchases from Africa are dropping fast, and Africa is no longer a major supplier. The US buys its iron ore from Canada and Brazil. How badly do we really need precious stones and cocoa?

    When we ask "what does the USG offer", we have to ask as well "offer in return for what"? What has the US to gain? The offer is "drones, guns, and spies" because all that's seen is a series of headaches that don't really threaten the US but that get enough attention to merit a show of "doing something".

    Quote Originally Posted by KingJaja View Post
    China has brought a lot of new thinking with it - examples:
    China has a different set of interests. I don't know that this involves "new thinking", they are just pursuing their own interests.

    Quote Originally Posted by KingJaja View Post
    1. Focus on trade. Obama's just concluded Africa/US summit is in response to China/Africa summits (5 have been held since 2000).
    Was the US summit really about trade, or was it just about putting on a show? Again, trade is not directed by policy, it's directed by economic synergies. China needs raw commodities from Africa, the US doesn't. China produces the low cost/low quality manufactured goods that are in demand in cost-sensitive economies, the US doesn't. Opportunities for trade are thus limited. US private investment is not directed by the state and is determined by private entity assessments of risk and profitability. Summits won't change those assessments.

    Quote Originally Posted by KingJaja View Post
    2. Focus on Infrastructure: China introduced innovative infrastructure financing - infrastructure for commodities. This limits cases of money simply being siphoned away to the Dictator's Swiss account. You see the value for the money.
    That works for China, because they need the commodities. The US doesn't need the commodities. So they would offer infrastructure for... what?

    Quote Originally Posted by KingJaja View Post
    China is building three very important dams in Africa - Bui in Ghana (400MW), Grand Renaissance in Ethiopia (6,000MW) and Mambilla in Nigeria (3,000MW).
    So what? Should the US compete with China to see who can build more stuff for Africa? Why? What's in it for us? There is not some sort of competition going on to see who can win the affections of Africans.

    Quote Originally Posted by KingJaja View Post
    Most importantly, China gives Africans greater bargaining power - the West was the only game in town during the 80s & 90s - and trust me, Africa wasn't better off for it.
    I'm sure that bargaining power is better for Africans... but again, how does that affect the question of how the US should engage with developing nations?

    Quote Originally Posted by KingJaja View Post
    Now, does the US really want to be a major player in Africa? I'm not sure.
    I would say no, the US doesn't really want to be a major player in Africa. Why should they?
    Last edited by Dayuhan; 08-24-2014 at 12:15 AM.
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

    H.L. Mencken

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    Default Pluralism or markets?

    The USA offers Africa and I assume other parts of the developing world an odd mixture - the teachings of a dead economist, John Kenneth Galbraith and loads of US$ investment:http://thinkafricapress.com/economy/...aith-us-summit

    This passage reminds me economists should not write:
    ....the US-Africa summit ended with a promised $14 billion in new US private investments in areas such as energy and infrastructure. This was also served up with the potential carrot of extended trade preferences under the US African Growth and Opportunity Act, and bathed in a thick glaze of philanthropic feel goodery sprinkled with a sugary, anodyne dash of corporate social responsibility. Africans might want to consider taking this meal with a lorry load of salt.
    davidbfpo

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    Quote Originally Posted by davidbfpo View Post
    The USA offers Africa and I assume other parts of the developing world an odd mixture - the teachings of a dead economist, John Kenneth Galbraith and loads of US$ investment:http://thinkafricapress.com/economy/...aith-us-summit

    This passage reminds me economists should not write:
    US driven policy prescriptions for Africa - championed by IMF/World Bank, failed woefully during the 1980s/90s. That is one reason why China is quite popular here. Africa's affinity for China isn't totally irrational - but Westerners, as usual don't listen to Africans - they more used to doing all the talking.

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    Quote Originally Posted by KingJaja View Post
    US driven policy prescriptions for Africa - championed by IMF/World Bank, failed woefully during the 1980s/90s. That is one reason why China is quite popular here. Africa's affinity for China isn't totally irrational - but Westerners, as usual don't listen to Africans - they more used to doing all the talking.
    Of course Africa's affinity for China is rational, nobody's questioning that. How that works out down the line remains to be seen, but for Americans that's not a particularly important question. Again, China's involvement in Africa poses neither threat nor useful example to the US, so I'm not sure how it relates to the question of how the US ought to deal with developing countries.

    It's easy to promise investment in a meeting, but whether or not those investments emerge is another question. US companies do not invest according to directions from the government, but on the basis of their own projections of risk and reward.

    Coming from Asia I am sometimes surprised at what the Chinese get away with in Africa: here there is no way that foreign nationals would be allowed, for example, to engage directly in retail trade, or that a Chinese enterprise would be allowed to import Chinese laborers... but again, that's up to Africans to work out. Certainly Africans won't get a "better deal" from the US, which is not engaged in a competition to give anyone a better deal, but any time you rely on outside help - from anyone - to spur development, there will be a piper to be paid down the line.
    “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary”

    H.L. Mencken

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