Jonathan visits China next week, to sign $3.8b Chinese loans

By The Rainbow

President Goodluck Jonathan will travel to China next week to sign off on US$3 billion (S$3.8 billion) in Chinese loans to build infrastructure in Africa’s most populous country, the finance minister said on Wednesday.

President Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone just ended a week-long visit to China upon the invitation of the Chinese leadership during which he visited China Kingho Energy Group and signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Sierra Leone Government for the developing of a mine and port project in Sierra Leone, the construction of a power plant, construction of a transport and logistics facility, a 250 km railway construction starting from Magburaka in the north to Sulima in the south, with an estimated project cost of $1.74 billion.

China has been courting some African countries with loans, which some analysts have dubbed obnoxious because of their conditionality.

.President Barack Obama duringĀ  his recent visit to some African countries warned that some of the China loans to the continent comes with inherent risks.

The agreed loans will come from the Chinese government and will be based on interest rates of less than 3 per cent over a 15-20 year period, Minister of Finance Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala said.

The deal underscores increasing Chinese interest in Africa and its resources – Nigeria is the continent’s top oil producer – in competition with Western powers.

Mr Okonjo-Iweala estimates Nigeria needs US$10 billion a year of investment to improve infrastructure like roads and electricity to keep up with a rapidly growing population, already some 170 million, and to sustain economic growth at around 6-7 per cent.

The Muslim Brotherhood leader, Mohamed Morsi, took power in 30 June 2012 following a number of alliances formed with pro-revolution groups and various political powers. Throughout his first year in office, he turned his back on a number of promises given to the Egyptian people and to his electoral alliance, most significant of which was the re-formulation of the constituent assembly tasked with drafting a new constitution.

Not only did Morsi continue with the Islamist-leaning constituent assembly, but Morsi forced a constitutional declaration ahead of the completion of the constitution, giving himself legislative and executive powers and securing the Shura Council against judicial oversight.

This led to significant anger in the streets that turned violent near Cairo’s presidential palace in December 2012, where a number of non-Islamists were killed allegedly by a Brotherhood militia. The National Salvation Front (NSF) was formed as coalition of political parties, movements and activists to oppose the constitutional declaration.

Anger only escalated following the referendum to pass the new constitution against all opposition requests to review it. The constitution eventually passed with a 63 percent majority, but the hoped-for stability never materialised, and the worsening economic crisis was aggravated by instability and a security vacuum.

Currency devaluation, fuel shortages, electricity cuts and dwindling tourism only pointed to an unstable regime that is heading downhill, yet the Muslim Brotherhood and the president gave no indication that a plan was underway to reverse the trend beyond statements and temporary international loans.