As Chinese President Xi Jinping concluded the latest high-level Belt and Road gathering of world leaders in Beijing last month, China’s signature project has seemingly entered a new phase: worldwide acceptance of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as a fact of international life (like it or not). So, with the wind at its back, is China doubling down on its investments worldwide? Not exactly. The total value of China’s global investments and construction contracts actually fell by $100 billion in 2018, according to data analyzed from the American Enterprise Institute’s China Global Investment Tracker. Just about every region saw a significant decline in Chinese investment or construction projects except, surprisingly, for one: the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).
A flurry of Chinese investment and construction projects in the MENA region over the last three years has made it a key geoeconomic partner for Beijing. But surely, in pure volume terms, the MENA region could not have attracted as much Chinese economic activity as sub-Saharan Africa or East Asia, right? Think again. The MENA region ranked as the second-largest recipient of investment and Chinese construction projects worldwide after Europe in 2018, as the chart below shows.
MENA’s Growing BRI Clout
In 2018, the Middle East and North Africa leapfrogged other emerging markets as a destination for BRI projects.
The MENA region ranked ahead of traditional BRI stalwarts East Asia and sub-Saharan Africa last year, recording $28.11 billion in new projects. The region still lags behind both those regions as a whole since the launch of BRI in 2013 and dating back to 2005, but a three-year surge has brought it in closer proximity to the top of the table. That could mean a windfall for Chinese state-owned construction companies as the majority of MENA projects involve construction, rather than foreign direct investment.
Of the 2018 MENA total, nearly three-quarters was targeted at Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia. Those three countries also make up half of the “$20 billion club”—the group of countries with more than $20 billion worth of projects from China dating back to 2005.
Chinese Investment in MENA Countries
MENA countries with more than $20 billion worth of investment and construction projects by Chinese firms since 2005.
The list here is heavily skewed toward regional oil producers, with the exception of Egypt, and most of China’s projects in the region involve construction rather than investment. Despite a recent setback, Chinese state-owned enterprises will likely play a prominent role in Egypt’s ambitious infrastructure program, including the building of a new, gleaming capital city just outside Cairo. Chinese construction companies were vitalin President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s ambitious Suez Canal economic zone project.
At the Belt and Road Forum last month, Chinese enterprises also announced a new $3.4 billion investment to build a trade hub for Chinese goods in Dubai’s Jebel Ali Port, as well as a manufacturing and processing hub for animal and agricultural products for the food industry. China’s dramatic ramp-up of projects in the UAE suggests that it sees the country as an important piece of its Belt and Road logistics network.
Other significant nodes of China’s economic footprint in the region are Israel ($12.19 billion), Kuwait ($10.43 billion), and Qatar ($7.27 billion), according to data analyzed from AEI’s China Global Investment Tracker for the years 2005-2018.
China is pouring a lot of concrete and cement into construction projects in the region but what of Middle East exports to China? How is China affecting the bottom line of key MENA states?
The answer broadly: If you have oil or gas, China is likely to be a major export destination.
Exports to China From MENA Countries
China has emerged as a vital export destination for several countries in the Middle East and North Africa. For these countries below, China made the top five in 2018.
Major oil and gas producers generate significant revenues from Beijing, and China ranks as the top export destination for Saudi Arabia, Iran, Kuwait, and Oman, according to an analysis of data from the International Monetary Fund’s Direction of Trade Statistics.
In some cases, key U.S. allies such as the UAE send nearly three times more exports to China than to the United States, and for Kuwait, Qatar, and Oman, the gap is even starker, with nearly eight times, nearly nine times, and nearly 28 times, respectively, more goods exported to China than to the United States.
For Saudi Arabia, the difference in 2018 was less stark, sending some 30 percent more exports to China than to the United States, according to an analysis of IMF data. Expect this gap to widen as the United States continues to ramp up domestic oil production.
Meanwhile, most North African countries still maintain an export profile heavily dependent on Europe rather than on China, and Israel sends four times more goods to the United States than to China.
You can expect this map to get to darker shades of red over the next decade, particularly as China’s demand for energy—especially natural gas—continues to grow.
Afshin Molavi is a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Institute of Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and the editor and founder of the New Silk Road Monitor blog.
The importance of the scheduled people’s gathering on Climate Change is vital for the world generally and for more specifically for the MENA region. Excerpts of this article on the forthcoming ‘COP 24’ UN climate change conference is reproduced here below for their obvious meaning and then from whom better than Sir David Attenborough to receive an invitation from. Please share and pass on.
IOM/Amanda Nero | A boy watches the shore from a boat near Sirajganj, a community affected by severe erosion that has left many displaced. Sirajganj, Bangladesh. October 2016
As global temperatures continue to rise, climate action is lagging and the window of opportunity is closing. On Sunday, the United Nations will kick off critical negotiations on how to address the problem collectively and urgently, during a two-week climate change conference in Katowice, Poland, known as “COP 24”.
Thousands of world leaders, experts, activists, creative thinkers, and private sector and local community representatives will gather to work on a collective action plan to realize critical commitments made by all the countries of the world in Paris, three years ago.
UN News put together this guide to COP 24 to answer some of the biggest questions you may have and make sure you’re all caught up, with a ringside seat on the action.
1. The basics: UNFCCC, UNEP, WMO, IPCC, COP 24, Kyoto Protocol, Paris Agreement… can someone please make sense of all this?
These acronyms and place names all represent international tools and terms that, under the leadership of the UN, were created to help advance climate action globally. They all play a specific and different role in focussing us all on achieving environmental sustainability. Here’s how it fits together:
In this treaty, nations agreed to “stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere” to prevent dangerous interference from human activity on the climate system. Today, the treaty has 197 signatories. Every year since the treaty entered into force in 1994, a “conference of the parties” – a COP – is held to discuss how to move forward and, since there have been 23 COPs so far, this year’s will be the 24th, or “COP 24”.
Because the UNFCCC had non-binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions for individual countries and no enforcement mechanism, various “extensions” to this treaty were negotiated during these COPs, including: the famous Kyoto Protocol in 1997, which defined emission limits for developed nations to be achieved by 2012; and the Paris Agreement, adopted in 2015, in which all countries of the world agreed to step up efforts to limit global warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial temperatures and boost climate action financing.
Two agencies support the scientific work of the UN on climate change: the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Together, they set up the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1988, which is made of hundreds of experts, dedicated to assessing data and providing reliable scientific evidence for the climate action negotiations, including the upcoming ones in Katowice.
8. How can you participate in the discussion and do your part for climate action?
You can join the Climate Action ActNow.bot which will recommend everyday actions to save the planet and tally up the number of actions taken to measure the impact that collective action can have.
By sharing your climate action efforts on social media, you can help encourage more people to act as well.
In addition, the People’s Seat initiative, launched by the UNFCCC Secretariat, ensures you can contribute directly to the conversation at COP 24. So make sure to #TakeYourSeat and speak up!
10. Why is the UN also planning a Climate Change Summit in 2019?
To build on the outcomes of COP 24, and to strengthen climate action and ambition at the highest possible levels, UN Secretary-General António Guterres is convening a Climate Change Summit next September. In advance of the 2020 deadline for countries to finalize their national climate plans, the Summit is designed to focus on practical initiatives to limit emissions and build resilience.
The Summit will focus on driving action in six areas: transition to renewable energy; funding of climate action and carbon pricing; reducing emissions from industry; using nature as a solution; sustainable cities and local action; and climate change resilience.
The “Qatar vs GCC + Egypt” crisis carries on at not only the expense of Qatar but to also all concerned such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain. We elaborated on this last aspect in our Latest Diplomatic Crisis impacts Dubai City where we anticipated significant losses for Dubai, Riyadh and Manama alike. Life carrying on unabated, there must surely be drawbacks for everyone during and after this semi-political upheaval between the parties. The Qatar crisis impacts on the rest of the MENA region have yet to be measured and accounted for.
Following is a Chatham House conference of Qatar’ Foreign Affairs Minister’s response to the 13 points demand of Saudi Arabia and its allies.
The foreign minister of Qatar outlined his country’s position and response to the accusations made and diplomatic measures taken against Doha by a number of countries including Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
HE Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani, Minister of Foreign Affairs, State of Qatar
Chair: Dr Robin Niblett CMG, Director, Chatham House
The foreign minister of Qatar outlined his country’s position and response to the accusations made and diplomatic measures taken against Doha by a number of countries including Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
The Crisis in the Gulf: Qatar Responds The foreign minister of Qatar outlined his country’s position and response to the accusations made and diplomatic measures taken against Doha by a number of countries including Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Play 0:00 / 1:09:37 Fullscreen Mute Share 05 July 2017 HE Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani, Minister of Foreign Affairs, State of Qatar Chair: Dr Robin Niblett CMG, Director, Chatham House 01:09:37 Overview The foreign minister of Qatar outlined his country’s position and response to the accusations made and diplomatic measures taken against Doha by a number of countries including Saudi Arabia and the UAE. More information at The Crisis in the Gulf: Qatar Responds
According to Fresh Business Thinking. an online resource for business owners, directors and entrepreneurs May 17th will see the next Iranian presidential election – and the result really matters to us in the west more than that of the recent one in France, etc. In this context of Iran elections bearing on renewed business enthusiasts, we would like to propose this article of Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs who Emailed me this note on what’s going on in Iran’s presidential elections. It does elaborate fairly well on what matters most not only for the country’s citizens but also for everyone around.
This time next week we will know – we know whether the President of Iran is the reformist current president Hassan Rouhani, or someone else, most likely Ebrahim Raisi, a former judge who sat on what was called ‘death commissions.’ There is a third serious contender, the debonair Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf.
In the run up to Iran’s presidential election on 19 May, the idea of ‘resistance’ has become a key theme. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei set the tone in his annual Persian New Year address in March by declaring the coming year the ‘Year of the Resistance Economy’, a term that has been reiterated by conservative candidates who also speak of ‘the axis of resistance’ and ‘Islamic resistance’. But exactly what is Iran supposed to be resisting?
Resistance is not a new concept in the Islamic Republic. Indeed, since the 1979 revolution, conservative politicians have continued to invoke the concept of ‘resistance’ to exploit popular fears of Western meddling in Iranian affairs. The narrative of resistance has also stoked the spirit of Iranian nationalism and independence inspired by the words of revolutionary leader Ayatollah Khomeini’s call for Iran to be dependent on ‘neither East nor West’. The Supreme Leader and conservative politicians have long used the narrative of economic and political resistance as a means to preserve Iranian autonomy.
Enmity with the United States and by extension Israel is also tied to a national concept of resistance. Over the years, this national spirit has been used to justify Tehran’s unconventional foreign policy of supporting proxy groups as well as to provide support for its nuclear program. Resistance takes the form of political, revolutionary, social, cultural, economic and foreign resistance to change and interference from abroad all of which would result in the erosion of power. Ultimately, resistance is about protecting and preserving the Islamic Republic and its revolutionary ideals that have been gradually loosing sway and giving way to notions of reform from within.
In the upcoming election, this notion of reform is personified by the incumbent president centrist Hassan Rouhani. Rouhani’s main achievement in office has been the nuclear pact with the P5+1, which compromised on developing Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for relief from grueling economic sanctions, including an embargo on Iranian oil sales. But while investment has trickled in and economic growth has returned, albeit at a limited rate, Rouhani has struggled to translate growth into tangible popular economic gains. This has left him vulnerable to conservative attack…
The two countries confronted to their specific challenges ought to have a common vision in order to contribute to a prosperous future as based on genuine co-development and not on obscuring the memory of a shared past for long lasting relationships. The recent France’s presidential elections impacting Algeria, are looked at here as positively as they could be in so many years.
The 187 odd years of very close relationship between the two countries will certainly be in the agendas of each as the renewed French leadership confronted to challenges from all around is settling down shortly for business anew.
It is about preparing the future through mutual respect; a point that I always made during my various meetings with political and economic personalities, and maintained that Algeria should not be considered as a market only. It is in this context that a co-partnership between Algeria and France, far from prejudice and spirit of domination must be inscribed.
We must be aware that the new international relations are no more based on relationships between heads of State, but on custom networks and on decentralized organizations through the involvement of notably business and civil society cooperation, dialogue of cultures, tolerance and the symbiosis of the contributions of the East and the West.
Because it might be unproductive to be and remain locked in distant positions as the latest events should rather make us think of to how avoid antagonising each other beliefs be it religious. After all Islam, Christianity or Judaism did contribute to the development of civilization.
Future relations between Algeria and France must also concern the Maghreb-Europe space and more generally the Mediterranean-Europe area. Our two countries can be dynamic agents, because southern Europe and the Maghreb cannot escape adaptation to the current global changes (the present crisis already causing upheaval in both socio-economic and geo-strategic) and more generally throughout the Mediterranean region.
Because it is necessary to go beyond narrow chauvinist nationalism insofar as real nationalism will be defined in the future as the ability to together expand the standard of living of our people by our contribution to the global value.
Today’s world is characterized by interdependence. This does not mean the end of the role of the State but a separation of politics and economics which cannot be the vagaries of the economic climate, the State dedicated to its natural role as regulator of macroeconomic and macro-social life. I firmly believe and after analysis that the intensification of the cooperation between Algeria and France not forgetting all other cooperation between Algeria and the USA, all emerging countries such as China, Japan, India, the Brazil, Turkey, South Korea and Russia etc…
And in a more comprehensive way between the Maghreb and Europe as based on a genuine co-development, partnership, the introduction of direct investment would upset the bureaucratic behaviour conservative annuitants and enrol them in a dynamic perspective that is beneficial to the peoples of the region thus helping to turn the Mediterranean into a lake of peace and prosperity. The Mediterranean can be that place of rational networking to communicate with distant cultures, encouraging the symbiosis of contributions of the East and the West.
This network should facilitate communication links, freedom insofar as the excesses of the collective voluntarism inhibit any spirit of creativity. It is that the Maghreb and Europe are two geographic areas with an opening on the Latinity millennial experience and the Arab world with natural links and overall culture and Anglo-Saxon influences…
It is essential that Europe developed all actions that can be implemented to achieve a desirable balance within this set. In fact the formation of weak regional economic areas is a step of structural adjustment within the globalized economy with for a goal to promote political democracy, – a humanized, competitive market economy – promotion of ideas through social and cultural debates so as to combat extremism and racism – the implementation of common business whilst never forgetting that these are driven by the logic of profit and not emotions.
Thus, it is necessary to pay special attention to the educational action because human thinking and creation should in the future be the beneficiary and the leading actor in the development process. That’s why I would advocate the creation of a Euro-Maghrebine University as a cultural center as well as a central Euro Mediterranean bank as a facilitator for all Exchange.
It is in this context that a realistic approach must be apprehended so as to the co-partnership between Algeria and France taking into account all potentialities. At the global level, we are witnessing the evolution of a built-up passed based on a purely material vision, characterized by hierarchical rigid organizations, to a new mode of accumulation based on the mastery of knowledge, of new technologies and flexible organizations as networking around the world, with globally segmented supply chains of production where investment in comparative advantages takes place in sub-segments of these channels.
As rightly noted by Jean-Louis Guigou, President of IPEMED (Institute of Prospective Economic of the Mediterranean world, in Paris), it should be that, in the interest of both of the Algerians and of the French, and more generally of the Maghreb and the Europeans as well as all South-Mediterranean populations, the boundaries of the common market of the future, the borders of Schengen in the future, the borders of social protection in the future the borders of the environmental requirements of tomorrow, must be South of the Morocco, the Tunisia and Algeria, South and East of the Lebanon, Syria, of the Jordan and the Turkey, through a lasting peace in the Middle East, Arab and Jewish populations with a thousand-year history of peaceful coexistence.
Specifically, Algeria and France have economically other strengths and potential for the promotion of diverse activities and this experience can be an example of this global partnership becoming the privileged axis of the re-balancing of the South of Europe by amplification and the tightening of links and exchanges in different forms. Per the official foreign trade balance of Algeria in 2016, the countries of the European Union are still its main partners, with the respective proportions of 47.47% and 57.95% of exports and imports. Italy is the main customer and France the main supplier.
Between France and Algeria, trade can be intensified in all areas, i.e.: agriculture, industry, services, tourism, education, not to mention cooperation in the military field, where Algeria can be an active player, as shown by its efforts to bring stability to the region.
Also, let’s not forget the diaspora with residents of Algerian origin in France that would exceed 4 million, including more than 2 million bi-nationals. This regardless of the numbers is an essential element of reconciliation between Algeria and France, because it holds significant intellectual, economic and financial potential. The promotion of the relations between Algeria and its emigrant community should be mobilized in various stages of intervention initiatives of all the parties concerned, namely the Government, diplomatic missions, universities, entrepreneurs and civil society.
Hence, any intensification of this cooperation won’t possible – whilst not forgetting the duty of memory – if Algeria and France have a realistic approach to the co-partnership for a win-win partnership away from any mercantilism and spirit of domination. The two countries must have a common vision of their future.
Algeria can overcome its current difficulties but the success of national and international industrial partnerships is not feasible without a total renovation of all central and local governance systems with a coherent vision based on both political, social, economic structural reforms including financial market, land and property market, labour and especially reform of the socio-educational system, at the dawn of the fourth technological revolution.
The objective for Algeria is to commit for structural reform, whilst assuming a broad internal mobilization of the social front, tolerating the different sensitivities, in the face of the many challenges in order to allow Algeria to emerge, in the medium and long term. For this, the dominance of the bureaucratic approach must give way to economic operational approach, with positive social and economic impacts. Also, in the face of the new global changes, Algeria undergoing this transition towards a productive economy closely tied to its energy transition, needs an accumulation of technological and management expertise with assistance from its foreign partners.
In short, Algeria and France are key actors for the stability of the region, and that any destabilization of Algeria would have negative geo-strategic repercussions throughout the Mediterranean and African region, as I pointed out in my interview on December 28, 2016, the American Herald Tribune (3).
And of course, subject to Algeria furthering into the rule of law, democratization of society and that it’s reorienting its economic policy in order to achieve sustainable development. The current tensions between Algeria and France are only temporary, as per information gathered with friends of mine in France.
It is only in this context that cooperation must return for a win-win partnership far from all prejudice and in mutual respect.
Notes : See recent contributions and international interviews of Professor Abderrahmane Mebtoul
-«Wahl in Algerien Der Graben ist tief – wer stimmt ab?» – www.tagesschau.de–ARD- 04/05/2017
-« Après Glavany et Macron… « Dépassionner les relations entre l’Algérie et la France » quotidien financier français la Tribune .Fr 19 février 2017 – (“After Glavany and Macron…» “Take the heat out the relationship between Algeria and France” by French financial daily la Tribune.fr 19 February 2017)
The World Economic Forum will be meeting in the MENA region this coming May. for as much as it can be mustered in a three day gathering hosted by Jordan at a Dead Sea resort location.
It will definitely be quite a change from the high climes of Davos as the different participants will be debating of the present conjecture from a lower than sea level altitude.
The debates on the MENA’s multi-faceted diversity of languages, ethnics and of course economies types will certainly be spanning from the lower oil & gas prices impacted earnings of the GCC countries to the so-called globalisation induced feelings of instability in the various hot spots of the Maghreb and/or Mashreq and all their ensuing traumatising effects on the rest of the region’s as well as the world.
For starters, would Iran and Turkey also be on the agenda, since these 2 countries do participate in the MENA countries life?
Meanwhile, the WEF’s website produced this article that is republished here with our thanks to the author Jenny Soffel, Website Editor and its publisher; our aim is none more than to help in this campaign of gathering as many people of good repute and knowledge as possible for the summit.
The World Economic Forum is holding a summit on the Middle East and North Africa 2017 at the Dead Sea, Jordan, on 19-21 May. The meeting will take place in the context of growing economic reform efforts that are being made in many countries of the region, as well as shifting investment and trade priorities. It will also aim to address continued geopolitical shifts and humanitarian challenges by supporting multi-stakeholder dialogue on the situation in Syria, Iraq and Libya, as well as the ongoing refugee crisis.
Here is our guide to how to follow #mena17 on our digital channels, as well as how to embed individual sessions on your website.
Join the conversation
The official meeting hashtag is #mena17. Follow tweets on this hashtag to keep up with everything going on in the meeting.
The World Economic Forum’s official Twitter account @wef has over 3 million followers. For live-tweet updates of sessions you can also follow our live-tweet account @davos and our Arabic Twitter account @WEF_Arabic where we post the highlights from the meeting.
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