Last year in February, Professor Ian Taylor of the University of St Andrews passed away after a short struggle with cancer. Ian was a world-renowned scholar in the fields of African Studies, International Relations and Global Political Economy. Besides his remarkable academic achievements, Ian was an extremely passionate educator as well as a kind, humorous and supportive colleague and friend to many of us. This is a modest attempt at paying tribute to an inspiring intellectual and true friend of Africa.
Together with his twin brother Eric, Ian grew up on the Isle of Man, before the family relocated to West London where he spent his teens and would become a die-hard Brentford FC supporter – in his words a ‘100% local club’. Whilst there were few points of contact to Africa on the small Crown dependency in the Irish Sea, Ian, early on, developed an interest in Africa, as he heard stories from his grandmother whose parents had lived in South Africa, and where a large network of relatives still live.
After reading History and Politics at what was then the Leicester Polytechnic, Ian used a gap year in 1991-92 for his first travel to southern Africa – obviously at quite a formative time for the region. This trip clearly left a firm impression on him, as he would return to the region throughout his life. However, first he joined Jo, the love of his life whom he met in South Africa, when she took up Ph.D studies at the University of Hong Kong in 1994. Ian enrolled himself for a Master’s there. His 368-pages M.Phil thesis on China’s foreign policy vis-à-vis Africa laid the cornerstone for one of his research specialisations and arguably also for a new sub-discipline, China-Africa studies. One of his first academic articles, an output from his M.Phil research, was published in the Journal of Modern African Studies and has since been cited 357 times (Taylor 1998). Exactly 18 years later, Ian became co-editor-in-chief of this prestigious journal, together with Ebenezer Obadare.
Rede beim Neujahrsempfang der SPD Uhingen am 9. Januar 2022
(Es gilt das gesprochene Wort)
Sehr verehrte Damen und Herren,
zunächst einmal ganz herzlichen Dank an euch, Susanne und Michael, für die freundliche Einladung nach Uhingen zu eurem traditionsreichen Neujahrsempfang. Nicht nur ist es in den aktuellen Zeiten grundsätzlich schön, unter Einhaltung der notwendigen Maßnahmen persönlich zusammen zu kommen und sich auszutauschen. Schließlich sind wir alle soziale Wesen. Nein, es freut mich auch im Besonderen, mal wieder in Uhingen und in eurem tollen Uditorium zu sein.
Die heutige Neujahrsansprache ist überschrieben mit “Gerechtigkeit global gedacht“. Nun muss ich gleich zu Beginn sagen, dass sich dieses Thema tatsächlich nur mäßig dazu eignet, zu Beginn des Jahres gute Laune zu versprühen. Wir werden bereits von der allabendlichen Tagesschau daran erinnert, wie ungerecht es doch in vielerlei Hinsicht in Deutschland, an Europas Außengrenzen oder aber auf anderen Kontinenten zugeht. Trotzdem möchte ich in der nächsten knappen halben Stunde mit euch und Ihnen, ein wenig laut darüber nachdenken, warum es gerade vor dem Hintergrund aktueller Herausforderungen so wichtig ist, Fragen globaler Gerechtigkeit ins Zentrum gesellschaftlicher und politischer Debatten zu rücken. Ich werde dabei in der gebotenen Kürze einige globale Gerechtigkeitslücken ansprechen. Zugleich verspreche ich aber, mit einer optimistischen und hoffnungsvollen Note zu enden.
Um aktuelle politische und wirtschaftliche Entwicklungen auf dem afrikanischen Kontinent ging es beim jüngsten Stammtisch des SPD-Ortsvereins Geislingen im „Café im Grünen“. Als Referenten konnte der Ortsvereinsvorsitzende Thomas Reiff den Politologen und Mitbegründer des Geislinger Vereins „Freundeskreis Uganda e.V.“, Tim Zajontz, begrüßen.
Zajontz lehrt und forscht an den Universitäten in Freiburg und Stellenbosch in Südafrika zu den internationalen Beziehungen des afrikanischen Kontinents. Beim Stammtisch des Geislinger SPD-Ortsvereins teilte der Politikwissenschaftler nun Erfahrungen und Erkenntnisse, die er während teils mehrjähriger Aufenthalte im südlichen und östlichen Afrika sammeln konnte.
These are some of the answers I gave when I was recently interviewed on Chinese overseas investments in Africa, Asia and Europe.
What is your take on China’s massive investments in ports and maritime infrastructure? What is China’s game plan?
Chinese investments in port infrastructure all around the world are another testament to the current geographical reorganisation of the global economy. Investments in overseas ports play a crucial role in China’s foreign trade policy, as they facilitate China-oriented value chains and growth. Seaports like the ones in Gwadar, Hambantota, Djibouti or Piraeus are crucial logistics hubs to facilitate trade and trans-shipment along the Maritime Silk Road. However, to assume that Chinese port investments form part of a meticulously planned grand strategy would be misleading. Chinese port and logistics companies, such as China Merchants and COSCO Shipping, are meanwhile global players in a highly competitive market. They operate with a significant degree of independence from Beijing and, like their competitors, first and foremost aim at profit maximation.
A collective tribute to a true friend of Africa and a wonderful teacher
On 22 February 2021, we lost Professor Ian Taylor. Ian has been a world-renowned scholar who made outstanding contributions in the fields of International Relations, African politics and China-Africa studies. Besides his remarkable academic achievements and output, Ian was an extremely passionate educator who has inspired generations of students at all levels of their studies and literally all across the world. He was genuinely interested in the opinions and lives of his students and truly cared for them. This ‘collective obituary’ is a modest attempt to pay tribute to the important role Ian has played as a ‘teacher’, mentor or supervisor for many of us. We thank the editors of the St Andrews Africa Summit (SAASUM) Review to honour Ian’s life and legacy by publishing this collective tribute in their 2021 edition.
Some of my answers from an interview on China’s growing role in Africa’s energy sector can be read here.
What are some of of the main reasons for China’s interest in investing in African energy projects? Will the trend continue?
TZ: According to World Bank data, only 47.7% of people in Sub-Saharan Africa had access to electricity in 2018, compared to 98% in East Asia and the Pacific and 100% in Europe and North America. In other words, Africa’s energy markets have huge growth potential, as the demand for electricity constantly grows with progressing urbanisation. The African Union, the regional economic communities and African governments all consider increasing access to electricity as essential for social and economic development on the continent.
I just gave an interview on the Zambia visit of Chinese top diplomat Yang Jiechi. Some of my answers you can read here.
What is the significance of Yang’s visit as Lusaka faces debt troubles and prepares to go into elections?
TZ: There can be no doubt that Zambia’s fiscal situation is on top of the agenda during Yang Jiechi’s Lusaka visit, as negotiations between the Zambian treasury and the IMF about a possible rescue package are in full swing. Both the IMF and private creditors have repeatedly insisted that the Zambian government discloses all its liabilities. This includes terms and conditions of loans and export credits from China as well as state guarantees provided by Lusaka to Chinese lenders. The negotiations between Zambia and the IMF are therefore not only of economic concern to Chinese creditors but also politically very sensitive. As member of the Politburo and Director of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission Yang Jiechi reports directly to President Xi. It is very likely that Yang and his delegation are instructed to discuss Zambia’s debt and Yang is certainly authorised to take far-reaching decisions where needed.
From the Tanzanian perspective, Mr Yi’s visit to the East African nation seemed to have two main goals: Normalisation of the relations between Tanzania and China and showing China’s readiness to take part in the former’s industrialisation drive.
I was asked to comment on Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s Africa tour as well as on likely developments in Africa-US relations post-Trump. Some of my answers I share here.
What are the goals of Wang Yi’s trip to Africa and how would you evaluate the results?
TZ: Whilst it has become a tradition for Chinese foreign ministers to travel to Africa for their first overseas trips of the year, Wang’s five-country tour last week was of particular political significance. Wang’s Africa visits can be interpreted as a reassurance of China’s commitment to Africa amidst the economic turmoil caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Many African economies are highly dependent on trade with and investment from China for their post-Corona recovery.
Here I share with you some of my answers from an interview on the state of China-Africa relations, as Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi has embarked on his January Africa tour.
A number of analysts had predicted that BRI was experiencing a slowdown in funding. With Botswana and DRC joining, what does it say about Chinese president Xi Jinping’s mega initiative?
TZ: The official admission of Botswana and the Democratic Republic of Congo into the Belt and Road Initiative is a diplomatic success for Beijing and serves Chinese efforts to counteract growing public perceptions that the Initiative might lose momentum. With the membership of the Belt and Road Initiative in Africa growing to now 46 countries, the Chinese government can plausibly maintain its narrative that it is successfully steering a new era of globalisation.