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NATO ???

Yesterday in Brussels, NATO kicked off a yearlong process to draft a new strategic concept. The last strategic concept was adopted a decade ago at the Washington Summit marking the alliance’s 50th anniversary, when NATO was at war in what turned out to be a 78-day bombing campaign to stop Serbia and its autocratic leader Slobodan Milosevic’s ruthless campaign of slaughter in Kosovo labeled mildly as ethnic cleansing. But, in many ways, the challenges today are greater than at any time in NATO’s 60-year history.

For one thing, NATO’s success led to a complete dissolution of the enemy it was created to deter, contain and defeat when the Soviet Union imploded two decades ago. Yet, NATO still remains a military alliance directed against very diaphanous and different threats. Thus, NATO has been struggling for a raison d’etre that recognizes traditional defense does not fit the broader security challenges and dangers that are in evidence, all the while expanding from 19 to 28 member nations.

The centerpiece of the alliance rests in Article V of the Washington Treaty: an attack on one in Europe or North America constitutes an attack against all. In conducting its business, consensus, meaning unanimity in agreement, has been the modus operandi. However, the definition of threat is not universally shared as many NATO members are more comfortable with traditional and proximate notions of territorial defense than with the newer expeditionary missions that have taken the alliance to its first ground war ever in Afghanistan, and with new threats from cyberattack and protection of critical infrastructure to responding to huge disasters whether of man or nature. And make no mistake. The future credibility and cohesion of the alliance rests on how well or how badly Afghanistan turns out — in any event likely to prove a “close run thing.”

Beyond these profound changes in the security environment, NATO must come to grips with other tough issues. In virtually all member states, defense spending is declining in difficult economic times. NATO’s bureaucratic organization is sclerotic and needs major overhaul. And in dealing with this array of daunting issues, as outgoing Supreme Allied Commander Army Gen. John Craddock has outspokenly observed, “NATO’s political leadership is often AWOL.”

The Leninist question of “what is to be done?” now confronts the alliance in developing a new strategic concept. But not everything is negative. NATO has proven to be the most successful military alliance in history. It has the best armed forces in the world, many of whom have seen active combat in Afghanistan and some in Iraq. And France, under the leadership of President Nicolas Sarkozy, has rejoined the military command structure.

A new leadership is taking over in the key leadership positions. Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen will become the new secretary-general later this fall. U.S. Adm. James Stavridis is the new Supreme Allied Commander Europe, the first time a navy admiral has held that position. And in September, French Air Force Gen. Stephane Abrial will assume the duties of Supreme Allied Commander Transformation in Norfolk, Va., becoming the first non-American ever to hold that post.

Furthermore, NATO has just completed a major study on “Joint Futures” means to sketch out the range of threats facing the alliance from conventional to the more exotic, a very good first step in helping the alliance think through the nature of the dangers it is prepared to counter. Clearly, the shift from a defense-based to a broader security-based alliance is essential. However, given domestic politics in the 28 member states, while intellectually straightforward, if not done carefully, this transformation could be the political equivalent of leaping across the Grand Canyon in two single bounds.

In negotiating this transformation from defense to security as the basis for the alliance, history offers a tempting way forward. In the mid-1960s, the alliance was divided over conventional defense versus nuclear deterrence. With growing Soviet capabilities in both conventional and nuclear forces, the United States argued for stressing the former. The European allies, not wanting either a conventional war in their back yards or having to spend more on conventional forces, favored nuclear deterrence. The solution was “flexible response.”

Originally meant to defend across the entire conflict spectrum, the political brilliance of flexible response was that it allowed both sides of the Atlantic to emphasize their strategic preferences, relieving this political tension. What is needed is a new version of flexible response that enables member states to focus on the threats each view as most critical so the alliance is not forced into strategic platitudes or fundamental deadlock over the rationale underpinning the alliance. If this balance can be achieved, NATO could have at least another 60 years left. If not, we could end up reinventing an unsatisfactory replacement structure.

June 9, 2010 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Arms across the ocean

The Cold War was both an era of armed peace and global violence. The United States and the Soviet Bloc may have avoided the nuclear annihilation that many feared, but the rest of the world saw little peace between 1946 and 1989. The chilling concept of Mutual Assured Destruction added a sinister novelty to what was, in essence, a simple continuation of the geopolitics of imperial rivalry that have been a hallmark of the modern age. Europe was divided, but not in ruins; the actual wars of the Cold War were fought in Asia, Africa, and elsewhere, as the United States and the USSR shot at each other by proxy.

In retrospect, the long duration of the Cold War was perhaps not a surprise; but its quick end, when the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union fell with a sudden whoosh, caught many off guard. Grey, dreary, and oppressive, the Soviets nonetheless showed indomitable staying power over the years, crushing dissent when they had to – in Budapest in 1956 or Prague in 1968 – and alternately threatening and courting the West. Though the “war” ended two decades ago, it continues to define our sense of the latter half of the 20th century, and its ideas and stances have not yet ceased to influence the outlook of its former participants. The divisions within the West over the battle against communism remain stark, and the big questions – What accounted for the Soviet downfall? How did the West prevail? – are still a matter for fierce argument among the ageing Cold warriors still with us.

The intensity of these long-distant debates is more than apparent in the maddeningly idiosyncratic new book by the British historian Norman Stone, The Atlantic and its Enemies. As a disinterested general overview of the Cold War, Stone’s book is of dubious value. His account is, as the subtitle explains, “a personal history”. The former Oxford professor of modern history and now director of the Russian-Turkish Center at the University of Bilkent, Turkey, Stone is a legendarily colourful character. (At Oxford, he conducted tutorials over billiards and glasses of Scotch). Vehemently opinionated and mordantly witty, Stone’s personality barrels across the Atlantic at hurricane force. 

His history lessons come with plenty of ad-hominem thunderbolts: John F Kennedy was “a hairdresser’s Harvard man”; “[Jimmy] Carter’s regime symbolised the era. It was desperately well-meaning. It jogged; it held hands everywhere it went with its scrawny wife”; “Nancy Reagan was a face lift too far,” and so on.  

However, such quips distract from the seriousness of Stone’s often trenchant analysis. Stone, who is fluent in Hungarian, Polish, Czech and German among other tongues, is well-equipped to report from the trenches of this global struggle. He is a former speechwriter for Margaret Thatcher (who emerges, unsurprisingly, as the great heroine of this tale), but he is no end-of-history triumphalist. He says Marxism had much to recommend for analysing peasant economies of the postcolonial third world; he just vigorously disagrees with the prescriptions. Though he salutes “the extraordinary vigour of the capitalist world”, one of his themes is how the Western alliance tended to fumble economic issues. For a time, it was the Soviet Union and Communism that seemed to have the answers. 

In the immediate years after the Second World War, the British Empire, exhausted and financially prostrate, surrendered its place as a global power, creating an imperial vacuum into which the United States and the Soviet Union quickly moved – leading Stone to dub the whole mess “the war of the British succession”. The Allies had little claim on checking Stalin, whose armies had suffered immensely in the brutal struggle for the Eastern Front. He would have a sphere of influence in Europe, and his Communist allies in Poland, Hungary, and Czechoslovakia took power, however ruthlessly. In Asia, Mao triumphed in China and Ho Chi Minh defeated the French at Dien Bien Phu. The US contested these advances, in Europe with defence guarantees and monies in the form of the Marshall Plan, and in East Asia with armed interventions on the Korean peninsula and Vietnam. Britain’s last stab at imperial assertion, meanwhile, was the utter disaster at Suez in 1956.

But in Stone’s telling, it is economics, not armaments and military manoeuvres, that take pride of place. His vignettes on the Korean War and the Cuban missile crisis have the feel of a school primer. But on the economic issues confronting the West, Stone mounts a bold, if not altogether persuasive, argument. For Stone, the spectre haunting the West was not communism, but Keynsianism. America and Europe boomed through the 1950s and 1960s. In Western Europe, it seemed, social democracy could deliver the goods, literally: France had refrigerators and West Germany, washing machines. “Nato developed its own financial military complex,” he writes, “and the central banks were part of it.”

Still, financial arrangements in the Atlantic world were ever precarious. The dollar – and its crucial adjunct, cheap oil – underpinned the whole system, but by the end of the 1960s, this hard-won stability was starting to break apart. The United States, pouring money into the war in Vietnam and into LBJ’s Great Society programmes, unleashed waves of inflationary pressures that, combined with oil shocks of the 1970s, would bring about a sea change for the Western economies. Inflation was the genie unleashed from the bottle, and getting it back in would vex governments across the Atlantic world.

Reviewing the decade, Stone finds little good to say about this turn in the West. It had become “extraordinarily self-indulgent”. He approves of the coup in Chile that brought Augusto Pinochet to power (with not a little bloodshed) and the economic reforms the General put into place after seizing the presidency.

He commends Helmut Schmidt’s gestures to the USSR and East Germany – the so-called “Ostpolitik” – and generally rhapsodises about the performance of the German economy, but for Britain his scorn is unrelenting. “Since 1815 Germans had been asking why they were not English. After 1950, the question should have been the other way about: why was it preferable to be German?” America’s central partner in the Atlantic alliance was in thrall to the unions – Stone hates them – and spent money ontoo generous a welfare state: “The overall Atlantic crisis was displayed at its worst in England.” (He refers to nationalised industries as “a sort of non-violent protection racket.”) Stone spends a great deal of time in trade ministries looking at currency flows and trade imbalances, but here misses an opportunity to look at the broader intellectual contest about economics and society.

Stone does not have much to say about the social history of these decades, or the ideas that animated it. He is scathing about the student movement of the 1960s – the expansion of universities, he suggests, was a mistake – but he pays very little attention to debates that played out in magazines, journals and op-ed pages. If the Cold War was, in fact, a kind of intramural argument within the West about how best to organise society and politics – whose roots date back to the same Enlightenment – Stone acknowledges it only incidentally, by focusing so relentlessly on the disputes within the capitalist bloc. Thatcher’s heroism, in his account, has less to do with her opposition to communism than her defeat of the moderate Tory “wets” and the unions inside Britain.

His disjointed narrative attains a certain momentum only with the arrival of the Iron Lady, “who knew when to be Circe and when to be the nanny from hell”. Stone is a partisan, and he cheerleads for the supply-side economics favoured by the prime minister and her American partner Ronald Reagan; he approvingly cites Reagan’s quip about the US government, “If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidise it.” This, in a nutshell, is what strikes Stone as wrong with the welfare state economics of the West.

Stone’s account ends rather abruptly, with a whimper, not a bang. He hazards no thoughts about the legacies of the Cold War, its metaphysics and the habits of mind it spawned, and their implications for Europe and the rest of the world. For Stone, it is enough to say that the 1980s “had been the most interesting, by far, of the post-war decades”. A united Europe, the crisis in Greece notwithstanding, is a successful by-product of the Cold War’s end; yet the legacy of the Cold War is still, in some senses only coming into shape.

May 29, 2010 Posted by | Cold War, Off Topig | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My Drive to Save African Sex Workers

BS Top - Gbowee Congo A sex worker waits in a corridor in a center run by Doctors Without Borders in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. (Lionel Healing, AFP / Getty Images) On a trip to Congo, peace activist and Daily Beast Africa columnist Leymah Gbowee witnesses the violent arrest of a refugee girl forced into a bleak life as a sex worker. Inside her rage and helplessness.

In the past two weeks I have cried angry tears on more than occasion. Each time, it has been because of the tragic fate facing a young African girl.

On April 24, I attended the funeral of a young Liberian refugee who had died of AIDS-related causes. I met this very promising young woman in September 2002 at the West African Peacebuilding Institute, when I was leading a women’s movement for peace in my home country, Liberia. A friendship blossomed and she joined our Mass Action Campaign. In 2003, she was the youngest member of the sit-ins for peace held in Accra, Ghana. At the time she told me she wanted to be a journalist.

The men pulled the girl out of the hotel room clothed only in panties, kicking and punching her for resisting. I ran to follow and she reached out to me, pleading for help.

A month ago, I got a message from a friend that this young girl had suffered a stroke, was diagnosed HIV-positive, and had a brain infection. She died on Easter Sunday.

At her funeral, I cried for a life that had been wasted and wondered how many more young Africans with fine prospects are losing theirs lives based on limited choices—a direct result of their economic status.

Take Action: To help build the African sexual rights movement, support Akina Mama wa Afrika, whose goal is to empower sex workers to stay healthy and improve their lives. Learn more through AMwA’s partners, HIVOS and the Open Society Institute. I was once a young refugee myself, and I endured the constant harassment of men who imagined that every refugee girl was ready to have sex for some form of cash. At the funeral of this young woman, there were many other refugee girls who came skimpily dressed. I kept asking myself, ‘How can we help them, how can we reach them, how can we as African women ensure that they don’t all die because some man neglected to protect them?’ ”

These questions continued to haunt me as I traveled to Congo to do some work with Congolese women, who live in a nation plagued by war and mass rape. On the fourth day of the trip, I was sitting in my hotel room chatting online when I heard a scream: “Somebody help me!”

Article - Gbowee Sex Workers Nicolette Bopunza, age 14, stands outside her house in Mbandaka, Congo. She works as a sex worker, charging about 50 cents for sex and $2 for a whole night. (Per-Anders Pettersson, File Photo / Getty images) The activist, mother, and feminist in me ran outside in only a piece of wrap and a shirt, to see a young Congolese girl on the balcony of a hotel room crying. She was shouting in not so perfect English, “This is all you wanted, sex me and throw me out! You are a bad person! I don’t ever want to see you again!” I continued to stand and watch. She said to me, “Mama help me, after being bad to me, now he is calling the police.” In less than five minutes, about four police officers and several men in plain clothes came running to the scene. The girl was pulled off the balcony and back into the room, as she screamed for help and asked, “What is my crime?”

The men then pulled her out of the hotel room clothed only in panties, kicking and punching her for resisting. I ran to follow and she reached out to me, pleading for help. I asked the guy who was apparently the commander of the whole operation to release her to me, but he said no, that she was a constant problem for the hotel. More men continued to pound and kick this girl.

As three police officers and two plainclothes men dragged her away, she tilted her head in my direction and said, “Mama, help me!” They had handcuffed her, and she was obviously headed for a police cell. What became of her in the cell that night, only God can tell.

All I could do was join her in screaming. My scream was for my own helpless state at the moment, for her pain, and for the many young African girls living in situations of conflict, who are constantly being exploited. My scream and angry tears were for the psychopaths we call leaders in Africa, who give us nothing but pain and misery. My scream was for the misery of so many African women who live at the mercy of men and boys.

My scream blended with the screams of my Congolese sisters. The rage subsided after 15 minutes and all that was left was a feeling of helplessness for every African refugee girl. I believe even as they walk the streets offering sex, they are looking at us African women, the seemingly strong ones, and screaming silently like the Congolese girl I saw: “Mama, help me!”

Take Action: To help build the African sexual rights movement, support Akina Mama wa Afrika, whose goal is to empower sex workers to stay healthy and improve their lives. Learn more through AMwA’s partners, HIVOS and the Open Society Institute.

May 29, 2010 Posted by | Sexuality | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Myth of Africa’s Economic Miracle

Africa is doing better than ever economically, but many regular people remain desperately poor. Kofi Annan on how Africans are being excluded from their continent’s economic miracle—and how to end the crisis.

BS Top - Annan Africa Poverty

People wait outside the United Nations High Commission for Refugees office to seek permission to move to a different camp on August 21, 2009 in Dadaab, Kenya

This is an important year for Africa. The World Cup is putting the continent at the center of global attention. With Africa’s strengths and frailties under greater international scrutiny than ever before, what will the story be?

After major difficulties in the wake of the global financial crisis, African economies are recovering and proving their resilience, in contrast to gloominess elsewhere in the world. The African Development Bank and IMF foresee GDP growth rates of around 5 percent by the end of the year.

Africa’s progress should be measured not just in GDP but by the benefits that economic growth brings to all of Africa’s people.

Trade is growing too, both within Africa and with partners, including the global South. Africa-China trade has multiplied more than tenfold in the last decade. Barely a week goes by without reports of the discovery of more oil, gas, precious minerals, and other resources on the continent.

Climate change is drawing attention to the vast potential of its renewable energy supplies, including hydro, thermal, wind, and solar power. Business activity is increasing.

In short, Africa’s stock is rising, as highlighted by the Africa Progress Report 2010 released today, Africa Day. But the report also asks some difficult questions.

Given our continent’s wealth, why are so many people still trapped in poverty?

Why is progress on the Millennium Development Goals so slow and uneven? Why are so many women marginalized and disenfranchised? Why is inequality increasing? And why so much violence and insecurity?

The good news is that access to basic services such as energy, clean water, healthcare, and education has improved in many parts of the continent. But these basics are still denied to hundreds of millions of women, men, and children. Why?

In trying to provide the answers to these difficult questions, one must be wary of generalizations. Africa is not homogenous; it is raucously diverse. But its nations are linked by common challenges hampering human development and equitable growth: weak governance and insufficient investment in public goods and services, including infrastructure, affordable energy, health, education, and agricultural productivity.

Over the last decade, we have learned a great deal about what is needed. Ingredients include determined political leadership to set and drive plans for equitable growth and poverty reduction. Technical, management, and institutional capacity are vital if policies are to be implemented. Good governance, the rule of law, and systems of accountability are essential to ensure that resources are subject to public scrutiny and used effectively and efficiently.

So what is holding back progress? Lack of knowledge and a shortage of plans are not the problem. Good, even visionary agendas have been formulated by African leaders and policy makers in every field, from regional integration to women’s empowerment. Moreover, we have myriad examples of programs and projects that are making a tangible positive difference in peoples’ lives, across every field.

Given the continent’s vast natural and human resources and the ongoing, often illicit, outflow of wealth, lack of funds is not the barrier either, even though more are needed.

It is political will that is the issue, both internationally and in Africa itself.

Internationally, there are concerns that the consensus around development has been eroded by the financial crisis. Many rich countries are keeping their promises on development assistance, but others are falling badly behind. These shortfalls do not result from any decrease in human solidarity and sympathy. Nor, given the relatively modest sums involved, can they be blamed on budgetary constraints alone.

They stem more from the failure to communicate the importance of putting the needs of the least-developed countries at the heart of global policies.

Efforts must be stepped up to explain why fairer trade policies and stemming corruption are not just ethical or altruistic, but practical and in the self-interest of richer countries.

Africa’s leaders have prime responsibility for driving equitable growth and for making the investment needed to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. They can help by making the case more strongly for development policies and necessary resources.

The continent now has leaders who stand out as champions of development. We need more of them. Sadly, though, their efforts are overshadowed in the international media by the authoritarian and self-enriching behaviour of other leaders. Africa’s progress should be measured not just in GDP but by the benefits that economic growth brings to all of Africa’s people.

Africa is a new economic frontier. The approach and actions of the private sector, and of Africa’s traditional and new international partners, are crucial in helping overcome the continent’s challenges. There is a real opportunity to strengthen the new partnerships to help achieve development goals, with countries such as China and those in the Middle East, South Asia, and Latin America

African leaders need to have more confidence in their bargaining position, and greater legal and negotiating capacities to ensure that they secure deals that bring benefits to their people. Their partners, including those in the private sector and from the global South, should be held to high standards of transparency and integrity.

Political leadership, practical capacities and strong accountability will be the winning elements for Africa. The international community can play a decisive role in ensuring that the continent is playing on a level field. But Africa’s destiny is, first and foremost, in its own hands.

by Kofi Annan

May 29, 2010 Posted by | Africa | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Africa – China ( Cultural Revolution ) part 1

The railroad—known as the Tazara line—was built by China in the early 1970s, at a cost of nearly $500 million, an extraordinary expenditure in the thick of the Cultural Revolution, and a symbol of Beijing’s determination to hold its own with Washington and Moscow in an era when Cold War competition over Africa raged fierce. At the time of its construction, it was the third-largest infrastructure project ever undertaken in Africa, after the Aswan Dam in Egypt and the Volta Dam in Ghana.

Today the Tazara is a talisman of faded hopes and failed economic schemes, an old and unreliable railway with too few working locomotives. Only briefly a thriving commercial artery, it has been diminished by its own decay and by the roads and air routes that have sprung up around it. Maintenance costs have saddled Tanzania and Zambia with debts reportedly as high as $700 million in total, and the line now has only about 300 of the 2,000 wagons it needs to function normally, according to Zambian news reports.

Yet the railway traces a path through a region where hopes have risen again, rekindled by a new sort of development also driven by China—and on an unprecedented scale. All across the continent, Chinese companies are signing deals that dwarf the old railroad project. The most heavily reported involve oil production; since the turn of the millennium, Chinese companies have muscled in on lucrative oil markets in places like Angola, Nigeria, Algeria, and Sudan. But oil is neither the largest nor the fastest-growing part of the story. Chinese firms are striking giant mining deals in places like Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and building what is being touted as the world’s largest iron mine in Gabon. They are prospecting for land on which to build huge agribusinesses. And to get these minerals and crops to market, they are building major new ports and thousands of miles of highway.

In most of Africa’s capital cities and commercial centers, it’s hard to miss China’s new presence and influence. In Dar, one morning before my train trip, I made my way to the roof of my hotel for a bird’s-eye view of the city below. A British construction foreman, there to oversee the hotel’s expansion, pointed out the V-shaped port that the British navy had seized after a brief battle with the Germans early in the First World War. From there, the British-built portion of the city extended primly inland, along a handful of long avenues. For the most part, downtown Dar was built long ago, and its low-slung concrete buildings, long exposed to the moisture of the tropics, have taken on a musty shade of gray.

“Do you see all the tall buildings coming up over there?” the foreman asked, a hint of envy in his voice as his arm described an arc along the waterfront that shimmered in the distance. “That’s the new Dar es Salaam, and most of it is Chinese-built.”

I counted nearly a dozen large cranes looming over construction sites along the beachfront Msasani Peninsula, a sprawl of resorts and restaurants catering mostly to Western tourists. Near them, sheltered coyly behind high walls, lie upscale brothels worked by Chinese prostitutes. In the foreground, to the northwest, sits Kariakoo, a crowded slum where Chinese merchants flog refrigerators, air conditioners, mobile phones, and other cheap gadgets from narrow storefronts. To the south lies Tanzania’s new, state-of-the-art, 60,000-seat national sports stadium, funded by China and opened in February 2009 by President Hu Jintao.

“Statistics are hard to come by, but China is probably the biggest single investor in Africa,” said Martyn Davies, the director of the China Africa Network at the University of Pretoria. “They are the biggest builders of infrastructure. They are the biggest lenders to Africa, and China-Africa trade has just pushed past $100 billion annually.”

Davies calls the Chinese boom “a phenomenal success story for Africa,” and sees it continuing indefinitely. “Africa is the source of at least one-third of the world’s commodities”—commodities China will need, as its manufacturing economy continues to grow—“and once you’ve understood that, you understand China’s determination to build roads, ports, and railroads all over Africa.”

Davies is not alone in his enthusiasm. “No country has made as big an impact on the political, economic and social fabric of Africa as China has since the turn of the millennium,” writes Dambisa Moyo, a London-based economist, in her influential book, Dead Aid: Why Aid Is Not Working and How There Is a Better Way for Africa. Moyo, a 40-year-old Zambian who has worked as an investment banker for Goldman Sachs and as a consultant for the World Bank, believes that foreign aid is a curse that has crippled and corrupted Africa—and that China offers a way out of the mess the West has made.

“Between 1970 and 1998,” she writes, “when aid flows to Africa were at their peak, poverty in Africa rose from 11 percent to a staggering 66 percent.” Subsidized lending, she says, encourages African governments to make sloppy, wasteful decisions. It breeds corruption, by allowing politicians to siphon off poorly monitored funds. And it forestalls national development, which she says begins with the building of a taxation system and the attraction of foreign commercial capital. In Moyo’s view, even the West’s “obsession with democracy” has been harmful. In poor countries, she writes, “democratic regimes find it difficult to push through economically beneficial legislation amid rival parties and jockeying interests.” Sustainable democracy, she feels, is possible only after a strong middle class has emerged.

In its recent approach to Africa, China could not be more different from the West. It has focused on trade and commercially justified investment, rather than aid grants and heavily subsidized loans. It has declined to tell African governments how they should run their countries, or to make its investments contingent on government reform. And it has moved quickly and decisively, especially in comparison to many Western aid establishments. Moyo’s attitude toward the boom in Chinese business in Africa is amply revealed by the name of a chapter in her book: “The Chinese Are Our Friends.” Perhaps what Africa needs, she notes, is a reliable commercial partner, not a high-minded scold. And perhaps Africa should take its lessons from a country that has recently pulled itself out of poverty, not countries that have been rich for generations.

“I would say this is a transformational moment for Africa,” Moyo told me from London last spring. “I see the explosive development of infrastructure. I see people producing more food and having more jobs … And besides, I don’t see how otherwise you are going to get a civil society, except by building up a middle class.”

Even taking the recent global downturn into account, this has been a hopeful time for a historically downtrodden continent. Per capita income for sub-Saharan Africa nearly doubled between 1997 and 2008, driven up by a long boom in commodities, by a decrease in the prevalence of war, and by steady improvements in governance. And while the downturn has brought commodity prices low for the time being, there is a growing sense that the world’s poorest continent has become a likely stage for globalization’s next act. To many, China—cash-rich, resource-hungry, and unfickle in its ardor—now seems the most likely agent for this change.

But of course, Africa has had hopeful moments before, notably in the early 1960s, at the start of the independence era, when many governments opted for large, state-owned economic schemes that quickly foundered, and again in the 1970s, another era of booming commodity prices, when rampant corruption, heavy debt, and armed conflict doomed any hopes of economic takeoff.

China’s burgeoning partnership with Africa raises several momentous questions: Is a hands-off approach to governmental affairs the right one? Can Chinese money and ambition succeed where Western engagement has manifestly failed? Or will China become the latest in a series of colonial and neocolonial powers in Africa, destined like the others to leave its own legacy of bitterness and disappointment? I was heading south on the Tazara—through the past and into the future, to the sites of some of China’s most ambitious efforts on the continent—to try to get some early sense of how the whole grand project was proceeding.

May 29, 2010 Posted by | Africa, China, Travel & Tourism | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

South African Visas Required When Traveling Overseas

South African passport holders need a visa to enter the Schengen area of Europe. The countries of the Schengen territory are Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain and Sweden.

If you are visiting only one Schengen country, you must apply for a Schengen visa at that country’s embassy or consulate.

If you intend visiting several Schengen countries, you must apply for your Schengen visa at the embassy or consulate of the country where you will be spending the most time. For example, if you are visiting Germany for three days, France and the Netherlands for two days each, you would apply for your Schengen visa at the embassy or consulate of Germany.

If you are visiting several Schengen countries, but will not have a main destination, you must apply for your Schengen visa at the embassy or consulate of the first country you enter.

A Schengen visa is comparable to a multiple visa for all the above countries, and you need only one Schengen visa. There are several kinds of Schengen visas – a transit visa, a short-stay visa, a long-stay visa, an airport-transit visa and a group visa (only under some circumstances). The general cost of a Schengen visa (of any category) is l60 (R575).

When applying for any visa, you must phone the embassy or consulate concerned.

A Schengen visa will be issued to South Africans on a temporary passport provided the passenger is travelling within two months of the issue of that temporary passport and if that traveller has a South African identity document. Some Schengen countries do not allow entry on a temporary passport. Check before you travel.

Austria: Austrian Embassy, Pretoria, phone 012-452-9155. Cost: E60.

Belgium: Belgian Consulate-General, Rosebank, Joburg, phone 011-912-9600. Cost: E60.

Britain: South African passport holders do not need a visa to enter Britain for visits of up to six months. However, visa clearance cannot be issued on a temporary passport. Working holiday makers must have a visa when entering Britain. Working-visa applications should be made at the DHL Visa Centre (the British High Commission’s outsource partner). Call 0861-858-4727 or go to Cost: R195 to DHL plus cost of relevant visa.

Canary Islands: SA passport holders will need a Schengen visa for entry. The Spanish Embassy, Pretoria, phone 012-460-0123. Cost: E60.

Cyprus: Cyprus High Commission, Pretoria, 012-342-5258. Cost: R110.

Denmark: Royal Danish Embassy, Pretoria, phone 012-430-9340 or Royal Danish Consulate-General, Sandton, phone 011-804-3374. Cost: E60.

Finland: The Embassy of Finland, Pretoria, phone 012-343-0275. Cost: E60.

France: French Consulate-General, Rosebank, phone 011-778-5600. Cost: E60.

Germany: German Embassy – visa section, Pretoria, 012-427-8999. Cost: E60.

Greece: Greek Consulate-General, Illovo, 011-214-2300. Cost: E60.

Iceland: The Royal Danish Embassy represents Iceland in the issuing of visas, Royal Danish Embassy, Pretoria, phone 012-430-9340 or the Royal Danish Consulate-General, Sandton, phone 011-804-3374. Cost: E60.

Ireland: SA passport holders do not need a visa to enter Ireland for a stay of up to three months. Contact the Embassy of Ireland, Pretoria, 012-342-5062 for further information.

Italy: The Italian Embassy in Pretoria issues visas only to Pretoria residents. Phone 012-423-0000. Applications from South Africans living in the postal code areas 1000 to 2899 and 9300 to 9999 can be made to the Consulate-General of Italy, Houghton, phone 011-728-1392. Cost: E60.

Luxembourg: The Belgian Consulate-General, phone 011-912-9600. Cost: E60. South Africans with temporary passports are not allowed entry into Luxembourg.

Malta: SA passport holders need a visa to enter Malta, but if you already have a Schengen visa, you can enter Malta on that. The Honourary Consulate for Malta, Cape Town, phone 021-430-5319. Contact the Malta government website

Monaco: Contact the Honorary Consulate of Monaco on 021-702-0991/2.

Netherlands: The Netherlands Embassy, Pretoria, phone, 012-425-4500. Cost: E60. South Africans travelling on a temporary passport will not be allowed to enter the Netherlands.

Norway: Royal Norwegian Embassy, Pretoria, phone 012-342-6100. Cost E60. As well as a Schengen visa, South Africans travelling on a temporary passport must have their SA identity books to show as proof of residence.

Portugal: Portuguese Consulate-General, Johannesburg, 011-622-0645-9 or the Portuguese Embassy – consular section, Pretoria, 012-341-5522. Cost: E60.

Spain: The Spanish Embassy, Pretoria, phone 012-460-0123. Cost: E60. As well as a Schengen visa, South Africans travelling on a temporary passport must have their SA identity books to show as proof of residence.

Sweden: Swedish Embassy, Pretoria, phone 012-426-6400. Cost: E60.

Switzerland: SA passport holders do not need a visa to enter Switzerland for a visit not exceeding three months. But if you are studying, working, etc, you need a visa. The Embassy of Switzerland, Pretoria, phone 012-452-0660.

Turkey: South African passport holders need a visa to enter Turkey. The Turkish Embassy, Pretoria, phone 012-342-6053/4. The cost of a visa is R676.

May 23, 2010 Posted by | Africa, South African, Travel & Tourism | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments