Month: July 2019

New geographies are transcending old divides

In a world buffeted by multiple headwinds, it appears that we have a dearth of progressive leadership. How can individuals and institutions rise above the political divides that are inhibiting a new consensus?

Raisina Dialogue, Samir Saran, climate change, Atlantic Ocean, global economic order, Indo-Pacific, technology and finance, global technology platforms, Pacific Ocean, human capital, polarisation, fourth industrial revolution, governance, new consensus, Raisina Dialogue 2019, population, global high table, democracy, collective security, EU, Mahabharat, progress, science, religion, identities, ideas
Photolabs@ORF

Perhaps the most important driver of change is the certainty that 2019 will herald the arrival of truly global politics. The post-war order contributed immensely to the progress and security of nations; yet its ideas, frameworks, and institutions are no longer sufficient for a new world. The small community of nations that designed and sustained the post-war order must give way to a more diverse constellation of actors. New powers from the East are only one set of stakeholders — increasingly, global governance must allow for distribution of authority and to a more diffused networks of actors, from cities and citizens to corporations and civil society organisations. How we do this will be the key question of our time.

Consequently, we have chosen five themes that are defining a new world order. The first, and perhaps the most consequential of these developments, is the emergence of new strategic geographies that are transcending the old divides of East, West, North and South. Second, we analyse the discontent with today’s globalisation paradigms — and how new trade and technology tensions are threatening the future of connectivity and commerce. Third, we explore how technology is compelling us to search for a new contract between the individual, a business, and the state. Fourth, we ask what ethics will define the development and deployment of new technologies and how they will affect individuals and our societies. Finally, we emphasise the role of leadership — both individual and institutional — in managing the complexities of today’s world.

New powers from the East are only one set of stakeholders — increasingly, global governance must allow for distribution of authority and to a more diffused networks of actors, from cities and citizens to corporations and civil society organisations. How we do this will be the key question of our time.

These are the big ideas that have influenced the design of the Raisina Dialogue 2019. Over the next three days, we have curated over 40 sets of interactions with a global community of leaders and experts, in an attempt to paint a picture of a new world order that is rapidly emerging. A prominent feature of this year’s conversation at Raisina is Europe or more broadly, Eurasia. This supercontinent is without a doubt the most dynamic and unpredictable region in the world, one that continues to surprise itself and others around it. Once considered a benchmark for democracy and collective security, the EU is today increasingly roiled by the politics and economics of populism. Equally significant is that the geographical construct of the larger European continent is dissipating. New flows of finance, labour and information are merging Asia and Europe into a single Eurasian supercontinent. The question for the EU and other European actors, therefore, is whether they can act upon these momentous changes or be subsumed by them. The waters that link this region are undergoing a churn as well. Strategic and economic drivers have brought about seminal changes in the Arctic and the Indo-Pacific. As climate change transforms the geography of the Arctic, its waters will merge the politics of the Pacific and the Atlantic Ocean, even as the regions’ incumbent powers scramble to create new arrangements. The Indo-Pacific, meanwhile, is fast becoming a domain for great power competition. With over 60 percent of the world’s populations residing astride these waters, its potential for scripting new paradigms for globalisation and development is unparalleled. This begs the question of whether these new constructs merely allow us to visualise and manage tensions in the region, or whether they can emerge as a new conduit for development and stability globally.

Strategic and economic drivers have brought about seminal changes in the Arctic and the Indo-Pacific. As climate change transforms the geography of the Arctic, its waters will merge the politics of the Pacific and the Atlantic Ocean, even as the regions’ incumbent powers scramble to create new arrangements.

The broader shift in economic power will certainly not be free of friction. Indeed, it has already given rise to tensions amongst the great powers of the West and the East, and technology is the flashpoint that may inject a new urgency and ferocity to this contest. This dispute is only one facet of the broader dissatisfaction buffeting the global economic order. The rise of non-market economies and the domestic compulsions of populism and nativist economics are threatening the very foundations of free markets and free trade. How will the economic order that has enabled much prosperity over the past seven decades adapt? More consequentially, what happens if it cannot?

Even as the very foundations of the global order stand on shaky ground, the world is still attempting to address the imperatives of sustainable development. Emerging economies are struggling to access and raise sufficient finances to fuel their sustainable development pathways. This hints at a deeper issue: that 20th-century development paradigms continue to privilege a small set of actors and reflect their biases, preventing flows of technology and finance where they are most needed. Indeed, we must continue to ask how the global development agenda can be made more diverse by accommodating new voices. Engendering conversations on globalisation and development is one solution; and it must form part of the template that includes underrepresented communities from around the world. It is time that voices from the dynamic African continent contribute to the deliberations on the future of growth and development; and Latin American perspectives add a new dimension to the voice of the Americas.

.. 20th-century development paradigms continue to privilege a small set of actors and reflect their biases, preventing flows of technology and finance where they are most needed. Indeed, we must continue to ask how the global development agenda can be made more diverse by accommodating new voices.

For many years, the world remained optimistic that new technologies would provide a voice to these communities and create new pathways for progress. Events in 2018 have compelled us to revisit this consensus. Balancing the imperatives of economic growth, national security, and privacy seems harder than ever before. Democracies, it appears, are hard pressed to achieve this, given that open societies are most vulnerable to manipulation and influence in their political processes. Worryingly, however, despite their outsized influence in our lives, global technology platforms have proven immune to calls for accountability and reform. This year, therefore, the Raisina Dialogue will ask how powerful technology companies can be held more accountable to the constituencies that drive their growth and profit. Perhaps we must rethink regulation which curtails their influence and reach?

There is, however, little doubt that technology will continue to transform our societies. The fourth industrial revolution will spur new breakthrough innovations and progress, even as it makes redundant extant arrangements for social mobility and economic growth. It will also compel us to reimagine the value of human capital. Our education, healthcare and labour frameworks must shed their 20th-century formats and reflect the realities of today’s knowledge-based information economy. Further, societies will have to grapple with creating ethical frameworks for new technologies as they increasingly become essential to our politics, economics and military postures. In today’s polarised times, these tasks will not be easy.

The fourth industrial revolution will spur new breakthrough innovations and progress, even as it makes redundant extant arrangements for social mobility and economic growth. It will also compel us to reimagine the value of human capital.

This year at Raisina, we also explore an often-ignored aspect of governance — one that will be increasingly relevant in today’s world — leadership. In a world buffeted by multiple headwinds, it appears that we have a dearth of progressive leadership. How can individuals and institutions rise above the political divides that are inhibiting a new consensus?

Finally, we explore the role of India on the global high table. The opening lines of the Mahabharat, one of India’s oldest epics, boldly states that knowledge that eludes its pages may not be found elsewhere. It is fair to aver that India shares a similar relationship with the world. Its billion-plus population is an embodiment of all that is right with the world as well as all that needs resolution. The challenges that it confronts are those that constrain all of us today. It is inexorably destined to be the steward of the liberal order with which it has had significant differences in the past. It is still emerging even as it leads, it raises hopes even as it disappoints. Indeed, India is a “boundary” nation. It is a living experiment where science, religion, identities, and ideas intermingle to script a unique narrative of progress.

India is therefore an ideal location to dissect the most important issues that engage us all. It is on these boundaries that durable pathways for a world reorder will be discovered. This year, we have convened over 40 conversations to assess, analyse and argue these emerging realities. With 1,800 participants including 600 delegates and speakers from over 92 countries converging in New Delhi, there will be ample diversity and plurality of opinion. And our concerted efforts towards achieving gender parity have ensured that women account for over 40 percent of our delegates this year. We hope that the Raisina Dialogue can be an incubator that generates new ideas for a shared planet and our common future; provide a space where contesting ideas can flow freely; and a platform where we may just tease out an elusive consensus. As always, we look forward to hosting you here in New Delhi.


This originally appeared in the Raisina Dialogue 2019 Report.

Is Indo-Pacific a viable geostrategic project?

The Belt and Road Initiative and the “free and open” Indo-Pacific are competing initiatives. However, the real choice will be made by developing states, who are currently leveraging both initiatives to obtain better deals. It’s not inconceivable that in the long term, some multilateral arrangement will accommodate both initiatives.

Indo-Pacific, Chinese, Eurasia, Pacific, unilateral, mechanisms, Quad, BRI, bilateral, multipolar, synergy, commercial, security
Source: White House

Q: The concept of Indo-Pacific is increasingly often positioned as an alternative to the Chinese projects of improving connectivity in Eurasia. How viable is this idea?

A: The Indo-Pacific and Eurasia are not isolated geographical constructs. There is great interdependence between the markets, communities and security concerns of both. A plethora of actors seek to influence the political, economic and security frameworks that will govern these regions. China is undoubtedly chief amongst them.

However, China’s rise has also created new coalitions of states with alternative propositions. Where Beijing wants to globalize its own model of political authoritarianism and state capitalism, countries like the US, EU member states, India, Japan and Australia seek to advance norms based on democracy, multilateralism, good governance and rules-based security.

The “viability” of these competing propositions will depend on which resonates more with the development and security needs of developing states in Eurasia and the Indo-Pacific. In the short term, both will co-exist and compete.

Q: What economic, political and strategic goals are pursued by the United States and its regional partners, first of all, India and Japan? Where are they aligned and where do they diverge?

A:

The US seeks to protect its extant influence in Asia. This implies that the US will support initiatives that improve political freedoms, create free market rules for commerce and adhere to international security norms. Towards this end, it has clearly adopted state postures to compete with China.

Japan, meanwhile shares similar interests. However, it is more inclined to cooperate with China on the BRI to advance its own commercial interests. Japan will instead compete with China on the normsrelating to infrastructure connectivity—promoting good governance and financial sustainability in the projects it signs onto.

India shares a far more complex relationship with both China and the US. Delhi will not participate in the BRI considering that the initiative undermines its sovereignty and broader ability to exert its own interests. On the other hand, China will rank amongst the largest investors in the Indian economy. Delhi will have to be firm with the political relationship while facilitating integration with China’s economy.

India is partnering with the US in part because there is a convergence of interest in balancing China’s rise and in part because it is a partnership underpinned by shared values. However, both states share different perceptions of the Indo-Pacific. While the US’ mental map ends at West India, India’s stretches from the Western Pacific to East Africa. Both also share different attitudes to Eurasian countries like Iran and Russia.

Q: Should the Belt and Road Initiative and Indo-Pacifica be seen in zero-sum game terms?

A: Currently the BRI and the “free and open” Indo-Pacific are competing initiatives. However, the real choice will be made by developing states, who are leveraging both initiatives to obtain better deals. It’s not inconceivable that in the long term, some multilateral arrangement will accommodate both initiatives.

Q: The Belt and Road Initiative is often accused of blending economic and political goals. Is the same true for Indo-Pacific?

A: Yes, both initiatives undoubtedly blend political and economic goals. As mentioned earlier however, the difference lies in the norms, institutions and partnerships that both seek to advance and protect.

China’s BRI is a unilateral project that advances the interests of one country. The Indo-Pacific strategy meanwhile is inclusive by definition. It must accommodate not only the interests of its guarantors (the Quadrilateral Initiative), but also of all states that are willing to participate in the initiative. It is possessed of cooperative mechanisms that facilitate dialogue and cooperation, as opposed to the BRI which privileges “client-state” models.

Q: Should Russia view Indo-Pacific project as detrimental to its Eurasian initiatives?

A: Counterintuitively, the Indo-Pacific project gives Moscow leverage with China in Eurasia. Currently, Russia is subservient to Chinas’ economy and, by consequence, its political vision. Moscow should recognize that while China may seek a multipolar world, its vision for Eurasia is unipolar. Russia will only benefit if both the Indo-Pacific and Eurasia are truly multipolar in their power structures.

In this, the Russia-India bilateral has a very important role to play. Both countries can facilitate greater synergy between commercial and security initiatives in the Indo-Pacific and Eurasia.


This interview originally appeared in Valdaiclub

Unleashing women leadership on coffee farms and the world

More than half of the world’s coffee is made by women.

Daria Illy, Grace Hightower, women, women leadership, leadership, Kigali, Kigali Global Dialogue, Rwanda, Kigali, University of Coffee

Two coffee entrepreneurs and trailblazers Daria Illy and Grace Hightower are making a powerful case that the time is ripe for unleashing woman power across coffee farms and their legacy ownership patterns. They say men are listening intently and even walking alongside women in a global effort towards getting women out of the old “traps” and boundaries that limit them from early in their lives. Illy and Hightower share their thoughts in a 30 minute conversation with Samir Saran, President, Observer Research Foundation, on the sidelines of the Kigali Global Dialogue in Kigali, the capital city of Rwanda. Illy and Hightower both have great expectations from Rwandan coffee and the country’s people and are sourcing a good chunk of coffee beans from here after having been touched by the country’s swift rise and its big dreams. From their favourite cup of coffee — “Rwandan, of course!” — to the mechanisms for women to hold their own in an increasingly “alpha” world, highlights from this “Unleashing Half the Sky” Q&A are below.


Samir Saran: When it comes down to achieving women’s leadership in the 20th century, what are the nuts and bolts we need to start working on? What does it take to drive women leadership which can create prosperity?

Daria Illy: I had a magnet on my fridge when I was a little girl and it said: “To teach is to touch a life forever.” The biggest change I have seen happening is when someone learns something new and they apply it. So, I think that real sharing, being in professional locations with the people — that’s a positive circle. Part of the change is absolutely culture.

The biggest change I have seen happening is when someone learns something new and they apply it. So, I think that real sharing, being in professional locations with the people — that’s a positive circle. Part of the change is absolutely culture.

Saran: Today teaching and learning is through personal contact — going to the field, going to the farms. There is also technology. Are we seeing technology as a catalyst for women’s learning and empowerment, giving them dreams?

Illy: We have platforms we use to diffuse the message globally. So absolutely, this helps very much. First, it helps us broaden what we are seeing. The University of Coffee has 27 seats in 27 parts of the world. We do what we can to refresh the training. We work on the web platform. It gives consistency to what we are spreading. Also, you can reach many more people. Education changes the equation but they need to get access to it. Access to education happens through positive and fortunate interaction. So, we need to reach out to them and help them grow more and more. The “we” includes foundations, institutions and governments.

Saran: What’s the ‘Grace formula’ for giving women aspirations and higher wages?

Hightower: I don’t empower women. I try and help them reveal the power that’s already there. When I heard President Kagame speak — he inspired me so much with his speaking about how the people of Rwanda wanted to be entrepreneurs. They didn’t want handouts. They wanted to create by themselves. I happened to fall into the business of coffee when I was looking for ways to make a contribution here to the people of Rwanda and I found out that coffee is one of the high producing resources. What I’ve seen is that women possess this incredible power and that’s already innately there. Personally, growing up, I knew that power is there. I didn’t know what it was at that time. Unfortunately, we women have been given roles and we fall into that trap of ‘this is what I should be doing.’ We need to take on roles that we did not know how to do — the unknown roles. Those are the ones that lead to creativity and those are the ones that lead to change. I don’t want to say ‘playing’, I want to say ‘doing’. And so, that has enabled me to work here in Rwanda — my second home — and be able to see how the women here and around the world have opened up that power and others are connecting to it. I think the timing is right. Women are very essential in making and creating the changes that are necessary for the campaign of moving forward for all.

Unfortunately, we women have been given roles and we fall into that trap of ‘this is what I should be doing.’ We need to take on roles that we did not know how to do — the unknown roles. Those are the ones that lead to creativity and those are the ones that lead to change.

Saran: I think you raised a very important point — the campaign. That campaign must include men and in this entire effort, are you beginning to see a larger number of men commit their resources and time towards that goal.

Hightower: We do live in a predominantly male dominated world but I find quite a few men who are stopping and listening to what women have to say. They are listening to their ideas. Their ideas are in alignment with what is going on naturally in the world. We cannot remain with the old ideas that were predominantly male and so many of the old ideas are not relevant anymore. I feel that men are becoming more wise and they are actually seeking out women’s ideas. I know that right now most of the companies — the Netflix, the Amazons, the studios are looking for female driven products. They are looking for female stories that are inspiring because they know these stories are real and have impact on our young people. That is going to be the tailgating. Yes, women have stepped into this role for change and men are alongside them.

Saran: Daria, would you like to tell us about your ‘half the cup’ story

Illy: More than half of the coffee is made by women and only 25 per cent are managing farms. The first day of October is International Coffee Day. Every year we celebrate with the #ThankYouForTheCoffee project. Last year, the title for International Coffee Day was ‘Women in Coffee.’ What we wanted to do is bridge the gap between education, consumers and the coffee growers. We designed a cup to have two halves. In all our shops on that day, we were serving half the cup to customers. People looked and said what’s going on? This allowed us to say what we wanted to say. More than 50 per cent of women are involved in this business. When they understand what we’re saying, they get the other half of their coffee!

Saran: The world is becoming more alpha, more insular, there are more strongmen politicians. At this time, we are also awakening to unleash the potential of half of the human population, achieving SDGs. How do you achieve this, how does this mix over a cup of coffee.

Illy: Depends on how alpha we are. The only thing we can do is keep on insisting. There’s a balance happening. We are thinking there might be a moment when some private companies might have to say something. In America, it is happening more and more. It takes a lot of courage. It is something we need to think about the future. Sometimes you manage to stay out but you have your principles, you have to do more.

Depends on how alpha we are. The only thing we can do is keep on insisting.

Hightower: More corporations will have to begin taking a stand and I speak about America. We will have to say what we disagree with and we’re going to have to say we are not going to allow what we think is wrong. I think the people also have to take on another role. Let’s face it, the last four years, we were caught sleeping. I think the awareness has been raised and we have to push the envelope. None of the changes in America would have happened if somebody hadn’t pushed the envelope. Rosa Parks, Gloria Steinem — they all pushed the envelope. It takes courage.

Saran: Finally, share with us one transformational story

Hightower: I came here six years ago and I met with the people of Rwanda. I know you hear this story all the time — you go to Africa and you come back changed but I really did feel a synergy here that I have never felt before. So, when I started the Coffee of Grace company six years ago, I was sourcing from Rwanda, from small farms. I have seen and tasted the transformation. I have seen the product improve so much. The quality is amazing. People in the West are talking about Rwanda coffee now which they weren’t before. I myself did not know Rwanda had coffee before I came here. As women have become more active in co-ops and production, it transfers to many other areas as well. They get together, they talk, they solve problems. For me, that transformation has been enormous. Back in the West, the speciality coffees that these small Rwandan farms produce has become the millennials’ go to coffee!


Transcription and photo by Nikhila Natarajan.

“What the rest of the world is waking up to is a reality we have lived all the time”: Richard Sezibera

For Rwanda, it’s not about only creating wealth — safeguarding the environment is important.

Favourable Global Environment,Globalisation,Kigali Global Dialogue,Richard Sezibera

Rwanda’s foreign minister Richard Sezibera says the quality of his country’s growth is “striking” because it is “non-commodity dependent” and is the result of sound policy choices over at least a decade. Sezibera spoke with Samir Saran, President, Observer Research Foundation, on the sidelines of the Kigali Global Dialogue in Rwanda’s capital city.

“What the rest of the world is waking up to is a reality we have lived ourselves all the time and therefore we have chosen to invest in doing what we think is right for our people and building partnerships with people who understand us. We build those partnerships because we think what benefits us should also benefit others. It is not fair that we be asked to choose between partners and partnerships,” he told Samir Saran.

We bring you excerpts from this special interview that covers the wide arc of development partnerships that Rwanda and other African nations are building with the global community.


Samir Saran: Six of the 10 fastest growing economies are in Africa. Is this optimism well placed? Are there some fundamental challenges that could derail that growth story? Are we beginning to see a holistic approach?

Richard Sezibera: First of all, the growth that we are seeing in our continent is important. Quality of that growth is striking. Many of the fastest growing economies, including mine, are non-commodity dependent. Therefore, these are economies that are growing because of policy choices over many years. Certainly for my country over a decade and these choices have put in place the fundamental building blocks of growth. Investments in innovation, health, education and in critical infrastructure to sustain growth. So the optimism that you see is real. There are still major challenges. Africa is a continent of promise and prosperity potential but we still have to create wealth for the majority of our people and that is still ahead of us. There are challenges of peace, security and governance that is still an unfinished agenda. But all in all, countries have understood that we can grow and grow fast. No country is condemned to live in perpetual poverty. If my country under the leadership of President Kagame can lift itself out of the deep hole left by genocide, then any country on any continent can do well for its people. This dynamic young force that is growing up on our continent is hopeful for the future.

No country is condemned to live in perpetual poverty. If my country under the leadership of President Kagame can lift itself out of the deep hole left by genocide, then any country on any continent can do well for its people.

Saran: In President Kagame’s vision, what are the key sectors that you believe will allow Rwanda to become the service and ideas capital and innovation? What are the relationships you are investing in to help get there?

Sezibera: Thank you for your kind words. Twenty five years down the road, when you look back at 1994 and the devastation there was at that time, I can only say that President Kagame looked at what was and simply refused to see it. He chose to see what this country could be. That vision is captured in our vision 2020 and currently in our vision 2050 is a collective vision that has emanated from all Rwandans — from civil society, from local leaders, religious organisations and therefore they own it although it is executed by government. The pillars of our vision are critical. One of course is peace and security which is also an undertaking by the Rwandan people. We have made investments in health and education because we want an educated workforce that is able to create wealth. We have made investments in critical infrastructure — roads, rail, airlines and energy. We are making major investments in energy and electricity supply, agro-processing and agriculture. A number of manufacturing companies are setting up here — from textiles to automobiles. All this is being done in a manner that safeguards our environment. For us, it’s not about only creating wealth. Safeguarding our environment is important for us. Finally, ours is a vision that is based on regional and continental integration to create the value chains that our industries need.

Twenty five years down the road, when you look back at 1994 and the devastation there was at that time, I can only say that President Kagame looked at what was and simply refused to see it. He chose to see what this country could be.

Saran: Many believe we are facing a tough external environment. We are seeing reluctance around trade, fatigue around globalisation. Many of the big finance firms are working in their own geographies while consumer goods and tech move across borders. Stakeholders are becoming more partisan. How do India and Rwanda grow in such moments. How do we navigate?

Sezibera: or my country and certainly for other African countries, we have never had a favourable global environment. We have never known it. We did not have it in the 80s, we did not have it in the 90s, we don’t have it now. What the rest of the world is waking up to is a reality we have lived ourselves all the time and therefore we have chosen to invest in doing what we think is right for our people and building partnerships with people who understand us. We build those partnerships because we think what benefits us should also benefit others. It is not fair that we be asked to choose between partners and partnerships. We cannot do so. It is not fair that we be asked to be partners on other people’s agendas. No. What is important is that we have our agenda and have partners around it. We negotiate so that the partnership is mutually beneficial. Maybe the idea behind the non-alignment movement is as true today and it is was at another time. It is certainly true for us. We are aligned to our vision and agenda. Multi-alignment has always been true for us. We have to have partnerships with governments, partnerships with the private sector, with universities and research centres. For us, it has always been a world of multiple partnerships. The challenge for us has always been to get our voice heard among these multiple partnerships. 

Saran: Has that changed recently? Do you believe people are more attentive to views coming out of Rwanda and other countries? 

Sezibera: I hope so. We will not shy away from making those views known and to listening. It is a balance. The challenge we have in this world is that there are people who think they have been ordained to speak and the rest must listen. No, we think there must be a dialogue.

The challenge we have in this world is that there are people who think they have been ordained to speak and the rest must listen! No, we think there must be a dialogue.

Saran: Paul Kagame and your people have large support in India. Please share your thoughts on the bilateral.

Sezibera: India is a very important development partner for Rwanda. Not only today but even in the past. Some sectors of our industry developed because of the presence of and actions of Indian entrepreneurs. We have a very vibrant government to government relationship. You are right that President Kagame and Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi share a common vision of empowering people to develop and develop fast. More importantly, we are seeing a lot of interest from Indian entrepreneurs now.


Transcription and photo by Nikhila Natarajan.

“What the rest of the world is waking up to is a reality we have lived all the time”: Richard Sezibera

For Rwanda, it’s not about only creating wealth — safeguarding the environment is important.

Favourable Global Environment,Globalisation,Kigali Global Dialogue,Richard Sezibera

Rwanda’s foreign minister Richard Sezibera says the quality of his country’s growth is “striking” because it is “non-commodity dependent” and is the result of sound policy choices over at least a decade. Sezibera spoke with Samir Saran, President, Observer Research Foundation, on the sidelines of the Kigali Global Dialogue in Rwanda’s capital city.

“What the rest of the world is waking up to is a reality we have lived ourselves all the time and therefore we have chosen to invest in doing what we think is right for our people and building partnerships with people who understand us. We build those partnerships because we think what benefits us should also benefit others. It is not fair that we be asked to choose between partners and partnerships,” he told Samir Saran.

We bring you excerpts from this special interview that covers the wide arc of development partnerships that Rwanda and other African nations are building with the global community.


Samir Saran: Six of the 10 fastest growing economies are in Africa. Is this optimism well placed? Are there some fundamental challenges that could derail that growth story? Are we beginning to see a holistic approach?

Richard Sezibera: First of all, the growth that we are seeing in our continent is important. Quality of that growth is striking. Many of the fastest growing economies, including mine, are non-commodity dependent. Therefore, these are economies that are growing because of policy choices over many years. Certainly for my country over a decade and these choices have put in place the fundamental building blocks of growth. Investments in innovation, health, education and in critical infrastructure to sustain growth. So the optimism that you see is real. There are still major challenges. Africa is a continent of promise and prosperity potential but we still have to create wealth for the majority of our people and that is still ahead of us. There are challenges of peace, security and governance that is still an unfinished agenda. But all in all, countries have understood that we can grow and grow fast. No country is condemned to live in perpetual poverty. If my country under the leadership of President Kagame can lift itself out of the deep hole left by genocide, then any country on any continent can do well for its people. This dynamic young force that is growing up on our continent is hopeful for the future.

No country is condemned to live in perpetual poverty. If my country under the leadership of President Kagame can lift itself out of the deep hole left by genocide, then any country on any continent can do well for its people.

Saran: In President Kagame’s vision, what are the key sectors that you believe will allow Rwanda to become the service and ideas capital and innovation? What are the relationships you are investing in to help get there?

Sezibera: Thank you for your kind words. Twenty five years down the road, when you look back at 1994 and the devastation there was at that time, I can only say that President Kagame looked at what was and simply refused to see it. He chose to see what this country could be. That vision is captured in our vision 2020 and currently in our vision 2050 is a collective vision that has emanated from all Rwandans — from civil society, from local leaders, religious organisations and therefore they own it although it is executed by government. The pillars of our vision are critical. One of course is peace and security which is also an undertaking by the Rwandan people. We have made investments in health and education because we want an educated workforce that is able to create wealth. We have made investments in critical infrastructure — roads, rail, airlines and energy. We are making major investments in energy and electricity supply, agro-processing and agriculture. A number of manufacturing companies are setting up here — from textiles to automobiles. All this is being done in a manner that safeguards our environment. For us, it’s not about only creating wealth. Safeguarding our environment is important for us. Finally, ours is a vision that is based on regional and continental integration to create the value chains that our industries need.

Twenty five years down the road, when you look back at 1994 and the devastation there was at that time, I can only say that President Kagame looked at what was and simply refused to see it. He chose to see what this country could be.

Saran: Many believe we are facing a tough external environment. We are seeing reluctance around trade, fatigue around globalisation. Many of the big finance firms are working in their own geographies while consumer goods and tech move across borders. Stakeholders are becoming more partisan. How do India and Rwanda grow in such moments. How do we navigate?

Sezibera: or my country and certainly for other African countries, we have never had a favourable global environment. We have never known it. We did not have it in the 80s, we did not have it in the 90s, we don’t have it now. What the rest of the world is waking up to is a reality we have lived ourselves all the time and therefore we have chosen to invest in doing what we think is right for our people and building partnerships with people who understand us. We build those partnerships because we think what benefits us should also benefit others. It is not fair that we be asked to choose between partners and partnerships. We cannot do so. It is not fair that we be asked to be partners on other people’s agendas. No. What is important is that we have our agenda and have partners around it. We negotiate so that the partnership is mutually beneficial. Maybe the idea behind the non-alignment movement is as true today and it is was at another time. It is certainly true for us. We are aligned to our vision and agenda. Multi-alignment has always been true for us. We have to have partnerships with governments, partnerships with the private sector, with universities and research centres. For us, it has always been a world of multiple partnerships. The challenge for us has always been to get our voice heard among these multiple partnerships. 

Saran: Has that changed recently? Do you believe people are more attentive to views coming out of Rwanda and other countries? 

Sezibera: I hope so. We will not shy away from making those views known and to listening. It is a balance. The challenge we have in this world is that there are people who think they have been ordained to speak and the rest must listen. No, we think there must be a dialogue.

The challenge we have in this world is that there are people who think they have been ordained to speak and the rest must listen! No, we think there must be a dialogue.

Saran: Paul Kagame and your people have large support in India. Please share your thoughts on the bilateral.

Sezibera: India is a very important development partner for Rwanda. Not only today but even in the past. Some sectors of our industry developed because of the presence of and actions of Indian entrepreneurs. We have a very vibrant government to government relationship. You are right that President Kagame and Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi share a common vision of empowering people to develop and develop fast. More importantly, we are seeing a lot of interest from Indian entrepreneurs now.


 

 

“Not many nations get a second chance at democracy”: Mohamed Nasheed

“We will have to renegotiate loans with China, they have to understand it is not commercial,” said Mohamed Nasheed.

China, GMR, Mohamed Nasheed, China loans, Narendra Modi, Maldives, renewable energy, solar, climate change, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, India, Indian Ocean, Africa, Kigali, Rwanda, Kigali Global Dialogue, Observer Research Foundation, Samir Saran

Former President of Maldives and current speaker of his country’s parliament Mohamed Nasheed at a fireside during the Kigali Global Dialogue in Kigali, Rwanda, praised India’s partnership in Maldives’ development, pushed back against China’s high cost “commercial” involvement and made a stirring case for political and institutional leadership in renewable energy planning. A leading voice on climate change leadership, Nasheed is pushing the international community to “do the sums” and assess the impact of climate change not as an ethical or moral issue but as one which has fundamental implications of economic viability.

Speaking extensively on a hot button issue, Nasheed revealed that India’s GMR company submitted a $77 million quotation for the Male-Hulhumale bridge but the project went to China’s CCCC company which has sunk Maldives into a $300 million debt for this project alone. Maldives owes “various Chinese companies” over $3.4 billion and will double down on renegotiating the debt, Nasheed said.

Nasheed spoke with Samir Saran, President, Observer Research Foundation. We bring you excerpts from the interview.


Samir Saran: How do you view the recent politics of Maldives? Do you fear things may turn ugly again?

President Mohamed Nasheed: Not many nations get a second chance on democracy. In 2008, we were able to amend our Constitution and have our first multiparty elections. But then in 2012, we lost it to a coup. Then we had this 5-7 years of authoritarian rule. In 2013, we again had elections but those elections were stolen but we conceded that and we did not want to raise the confrontation and discontent any further. We feared that if we did that (confrontation), the risk of civil conflict would rise. We stayed back and we wanted another election. I wasn’t able to contest because the government wouldn’t allow me to contest. Our parliamentary leader Ibrahim Mohamed Solih contested and we won with a massive mandate. After that we had parliamentary elections. Your question is, are we going to vote again? Can we stabilise? I think we will stabilise. I also think our development partners, especially India, do understand what’s going on in the Maldives and therefore they would also keep an eye on the situation. Most recently India has assisted in our development a lot. Recently, when our President visited your country, India has pledged $1.4 billion of assistance. So, that is going to go a long way. We think the future is bright.

Most recently, India has assisted in our development a lot. Recently, when our President visited your country, India has pledged $1.4 billion of assistance. So, that is going to go a long way. We think the future is bright.

Saran: There’s a second significant partner you have engaged with — China. I invoke them because they too have invested in infrastructure projects the Maldives. They too have invested in the Maldives, they are significant economic actors anywhere in the world, they have a big treasury to disburse loans and assistance and aid. How do you assess your relationship with these two emerging actors with the ability to shape development agendas?

Nasheed: Everyone must understand that we are an Indian Ocean country. India is just a few miles away from our northernmost island. We read the same books, we watch the same films, we eat the same food, we listen to the same music, we are the same people! People to people contact and dialogue between India and the Maldives runs far back than any other countries. Also because of geography, we are right next to you, so everyone must understand our relationship with someone else cannot be at the expense of our relationship with India. We are trying to tell everybody that yes, we want to have friends, we want to have good relations but please don’t try and suggest that that relation should be at the expense of something else. Once China understands that, and I think they will understand that, we will have far more stability in the Indian ocean. The Maldives does not want to be sandwiched in between hostilities between any two countries. In terms of contribution from China, much of it was commercial loans from commercial banks and most of the projects were priced very high. They came in, they did the work and sent us a bill. It’s not the loan interest rate as such, but the (high) costing itself. For instance, for the (Male- Hulhumale) bridge, GMR gave us a quotation for $77 million and the Chinese gave us a bill for $300 million. What we are seeing is that in other countries, they are asking for equity and with that we relinquish both land and sovereignty.

For the (Male- Hulhumale) bridge, GMR gave us a quotation for $77 million and the Chinese gave us a bill for $300 million. What we are seeing is that in other countries, they are asking for equity and with that we relinquish both land and sovereignty.

Saran: Your country, although the per capita income is many times that of India, your economic size is small. How does a country of Maldives’ size manage this Chinese debt diplomacy as it were. Will you need help from others to get out of this? What is the plan?

Nasheed: First, we have to save. We owe about $3.4 billion to various Chinese companies. Come next year, 2020, we will need to spend 15% of our budget to pay 15% for education and 15% for health. I can’t see how our development can be that rapid and that amount of growth to have that amount of saving. So, we will have to renegotiate. China must understand that this is not commercial. 

Saran: Has the new Government reached out to China?

Nasheed: Yes, the foreign minister has visited China. This is not commercial. What happened between the Chinese EXIM bank and the Chinese state owned enterprises is not commercial and therefore we must not go into commercial arbitration. I believe China will understand that we cannot handle this.

Saran: How has your appraisal of India’s engagement with Maldives been? Do you have a sense that India should have done more or do you think they have got the balance right?

Everyone must understand that we are an Indian Ocean country. India is just a few miles away from our northernmost island. We read the same books, we watch the same films, we eat the same food, we listen to the same music, we are the same people!

Nasheed: They have got it right. I have been very critical but after seeing everything, what I know is that they have struck the right balance. Indian diplomats are clever and they have done an excellent job. Hats off.

Saran: Now, moving to climate change without getting into its politics. The reality is that sea waters are rising. Some parts (of the globe) are getting warmer, some parts are getting colder. Bio-diversity is shrinking, plants are dying, the earth is scorched. You have been ahead of the world in terms of climate change leadership. You hosted your first cabinet meaning under water to shock the world into understanding the urgency of climate change. That was 10 years ago. Has the global governance mechanism failed to respond and create a viable framework to respond to perhaps the most significant challenge of our times?

Nasheed: Has the UN failed? If we take climate change as an ethical issue or a human rights issue, it is very difficult to go forward. But once we start seeing it as an economic issue and its economic viability, then things look very different. The economic viability of renewable energy and low carbon development is not because of UNFCCC. The power purchasing agreements in Germany and solar panels in China meant that these things were available to everybody. Now, in any given situation, solar is cheaper than coal. The business case for solar is strong. India became the largest installation base for solar last year. But India has invested a lot in coal (stock) and we (Maldives) have invested a lot in diesel. Many countries are in this problem. The electricity departments are unwilling to get into power purchase agreements for renewable energy because they are already locked in. We need to get into some arrangement to buy off or retire these old plants. If the World Bank and the financial institutions can find a mechanism to buy out existing coal plants and existing diesel and then decommission them.

The World Bank and the IMF have not even done the sums. They have not thought about retiring and decommissioning a coal plant.

Saran: Let’s go back to the international financial system. Unfortunately for countries such as India and Maldives and some others, while we may be loud voices and a big market, the decisions are still being made in New York and London…

Nasheed: The World Bank and the IMF have not even done the sums. They have not thought about retiring and decommissioning a coal plant. Instead of spending their money on new plants even if it is renewable, it will be better for them to buy existing plants and decommission them and allow the market to come up with a viable economic solution.

Saran: In many countries of the world, this could work but energy access is still a mirage in many places. It is incumbent on the state to provide that public utility. If you were to take a 100 million debt from a country, your monetary policy will go for a toss because your GDP size is so small. So, for these countries even getting international loans at discounted prices is very hard.

Nasheed: Look, in Africa, there are no plants. They did not have phones. Now, you have more communication happening with new technology. Fortunately, most of Africa is not powered by coal plants because they are not powered at all. So, the new plants when they come up, it should must be renewable. If they do the sums, if they come up with these pledges and these kinds of views and ideas and policies and run elections based on that…

Fossil fuel is Victorian technology. It’s cumbersome, it’s old, it’s obsolete. You don’t touch it, it’s unviable.

Saran: Is it time for people like you to mobilise political leaders around the world and come up with a climate manifesto?

Nasheed: It is the Planet B manifesto. For the 2018 elections in the mountains, that’s exactly what we did. Everything was environmentally sustainable. When people lose elections, the losers would be thinking of a manifesto for the next election. That’s the time to go and tell them — look you’ve been trying to sell this old idea and there are no buyers anymore. The minute you come up with something new, you can promise jobs, health centres, transport, education, schools, everything — but in renewables. Fossil fuel is a Victorian technology. It’s cumbersome, it’s old, it’s obsolete. You don’t touch it, it’s unviable.

India, UK and the dawn of the Afro-Asian Century

As we approach the third decade of the 21st century, it is unmistakable that Asia now has a twin – Africa. Even as economists and political pundits alike contest and celebrate the Asian Century, it would be erroneous to ignore the promise that a full one-fifth of humanity that is young, aspirational and innovative holds.

Africa is unarguably already the new growth engine of the world. It is now at the vanguard of tackling the most fundamental development challenges of our time—from lifting millions out of poverty in an increasingly fossil fuel constrained world, to creating new enterprises and opportunities for a young and aspirational workforce. And like Asia, Africa is home to the youngest and fastest growing economies. It is evident that the rise and the leadership of these twin geographies will define global growth and prosperity. The Afro-Asian century is indeed upon us.

Africa has taken command of its own destiny at a time when the global balance of power is irrevocably shifting. These global transformations will create new opportunities to forge beneficial coalitions and partnerships. The troika comprising of the UK, India and Africa must use this moment to carve a new relationship and cement an old accord. The UK, for one, seeks new purpose: finding its place in the world outside the confines of the European Union. “Global Britain” is now its new agenda. Simultaneously, India’s footprint has moved beyond South Asia and the Indian Ocean, and its aspirations and hunger for partnerships necessitate a recalibration of its engagement with Africa. A realisation has dawned on Raisina Hill that India’s partnership with the continent will determine its economic prosperity and national security.

The convergence of interests between the communities, markets and states of Africa, the UK and India will script the entwined futures of the three geographies.

A convergence of Interests

Trade expansion, responding to climate change, and technology-led growth are the areas where the interests and stated ambitions of all three geographies converge.

Africa has emerged as a trading giant, with significant implications for the global arrangements. The African Continental Free Trade (AfCFTA), which came into effect on 30 May, has created one of the world’s largest free trade zones. It has brought together the commercial potential of a billion individuals —with the AfCFTA now valued at over $2 trillion. London, meanwhile, remains the financial capital of the world, despite the looming shadow of Brexit. India, for its part, is already contributing to 15 per cent of global GDP growth—and its share will only get larger. As Africa shapes new trade arrangements, India pushes for reform at the World Trade Organisation (WTO), and Britain searches for new partners, all three geographies can discover solutions and pathways to their ambitions in the other.

Beyond trade, sustainability forms the core of their respective development agendas, and all three regions are at the forefront of combating climate change. The UK continues to lead the Atlantic green transition, with the potential to reach near-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. India is responding with its own propositions. Home to the International Solar Alliance, it is currently the second largest solar power market in the world. The upward revision of its solar capacity target for 2022 from 20 GW to 175 GW speaks to the success of India’s efforts. As Britain and India discover solutions and pathways for sustainable growth, Africa has a hunger that the two satisfy. Energy poverty costs the continent two to four GDP percentage points per year, and Africa needs innovative solutions to meet the energy demands of the 600 million people who remain off-grid. A partnership between the three geographies has the potential to cater to the energy and development demands of this large cohort of the human population.

Finally, all three seek to leverage the technologies of the 4IR to create economic opportunity and pathways for social mobility. Enterprises in the Fourth Industrial Revolution will be driven by the energy of the young. With its mature regulatory ecosystem, Britain can supply the services and the institutions that cater to start-ups and gig economy; while India and Africa, powered by ideas and the human zeal, can provide solutions that truly cater to the bottom of the pyramid and export solutions to the developed world as well. This presents us with a unique opportunity to co-design policy in an age of disruption and to address some of the most pertinent challenges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution—harnessing women’s potential and providing protections (social and physical), purpose and paychecks.

New Economic Diplomacy

At a time when challenges transcend state boundaries, building multi-stakeholder partnerships and responses is crucial. ORF is excited to help catalyse new conversations across these three geographies through the Centre for New Economic Diplomacy (CNED). The CNED is a policy research platform committed to building communities and strengthening transnational partnerships to respond to challenges and opportunities that confront the global community. Over the past six months, the Centre has successfully curated platforms to facilitate the cross-pollination of ideas, debates and solutions across geographies. On the sidelines of the United Nations Environment Assembly, the CNED hosted the first India and Africa Partnership for Sustainability conference in Nairobi, Kenya. This platform brought together over 40 stakeholders from over 11 countries to coordinate responses to climate change and the broader SDG agenda. Following its success, CNED launched the Global Programme for Women’s leadership in New Delhi, a seven-day programme that brought together over 100 young women from India, Africa and the Bay of Bengal communities in an effort to build a trans-continental network of future leaders.

A conciliation with history

The CNED is not merely a community of experts. It is an effort that seeks to capture the realities that will define global growth in the decades to come. The traditional North-South and East-West divides are remnants of days past, which were harsh, brutal and inequitable. The success and failure of international regimes, global governance, and globalisation itself have been implicated by these conceptualisations. Escaping these realities requires embracing new relationships that are driven by mutual respect and collaboration—in formats that discard the geographical constructs of the 20th century. An India-UK-Africa relationship possesses the strongest potential to catalyse a new arrangement and perhaps a new global ethic—one that allows us to leapfrog old limitations. This is a poignant partnership, which will help shed artificial distinctions constructed by human greed and allow these three vital regions to contribute to a new world order.

We are delighted to collaborate with the India-UK week to bring our partners from Africa and India to help shape and redefine the most important trilateral engagement of our time.