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.
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.
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.
Today, I share with you some of my answers from an interview on recent developments in the context of China’s Belt and Road Initiative in Africa.
There have been reports of a slowdown in BRI lending in Africa and in other countries. What’s your view of this?
TZ: It is important to acknowledge the structural drivers behind the BRI. The Chinese economy has faced an increasingly severe overaccumulation crisis in the aftermath of the 2007-08 global financial crisis. Massive stimulus packages in the aftermath of the crisis only exacerbated overcapacities, especially in the infrastructure and construction sectors. From an economic point of view, the BRI has been the attempt to ‘move out’ these surpluses by financing infrastructure projects that are designed to link Eurasia and Africa.
In March 2020, I submitted my PhD. It’s has been a long walk to freedom…
Thanks to my colleagues, friends and family! Here you can read the acknowledgements, the most important page in the entire dissertation. 😉
Foremost, I want to thank my supervisor Ian Taylor for his advice and support during my PhD journey. Not only have I enjoyed our exchanges of views, your impressive academic output, firm political beliefs and personal humility have inspired me, as the combination of these qualities seems rare in this industry. Thanks for having the confidence in me that I myself was lacking all too often. I also want to thank Vassilios Paipais for his thoughts in the initial stages of the research. Needless to say, the countless shortcomings of this study are my own doing.
Earlier toady, I witnessed the most beautiful act of loving kindness. I was sitting in a Victoria line train when a woman entered the coach and asked people to help her with some money. Clearly, the woman was not in a good state. She looked pale and exhausted.
The usual situation unfolded – one that is probably best described as collective neglect fused with individual embarassment about the same. No one turned one’s attention towards the woman. Some stared at the floor, others onto their phones. The ones with their 160 pounds Airpods pretended not having noticed the woman’s plea for help.
8,500,000,000,000 Ugandan Shilling. This is roughly the volume of a loan, which the Ugandan government currently negotiates with China’s state-owned Exim Bank. The sheer number of digits is impressive, even when converted in less inflationary currencies. The concessional loan of over US$2.3 billion is earmarked for the construction of 273 kilometres of rails between Kampala and Malaba at Uganda’s border with Kenya. The project constitutes the next stage of East Africa’s new standard gauge railway that is designed to link Mombasa at the Indian Ocean with Uganda’s capital and, if plans materialise, will extend to Juba, South Sudan and Kigali, Rwanda in the future. The first stretch of the line between Mombasa and Nairobi has been inaugurated in mid-2017 and celebrated as another milestone of Sino-African development cooperation.
When my mum informed me we would be relocated to Scotland at age nine, I wasn’t too happy. I hadn’t heard much about the country apart from it was very cold and that boys there wore ‘skirts’. Back home in Sudan, people refer to anywhere in the UK as London. I still frequently overhear in my mum’s conversation with friends and family in Sudan; ‘How’s life treating you in London?’ She has given up correcting them.
We arrived in the UK and claimed Asylum at the Croydon Home Office. Subsequently we were placed in a B&B in Margate for a month. Each day we would search for our names on the notice board to see if or when we were going to be taken to one of the dispersal cities. Luck of the draw found us on the eleven-hour coach trip to Glasgow. Looking back I feel both sympathy and admiration for my mum for making this journey with three young kids in tow and keeping an unwavering composure throughout. She had, after all, been through a lot worse.
Thanks for this warm introduction. As it was mentioned, my name is Tim Zajontz, I am a PhD student at the School of International Relations here in St. Andrews. I am also a research associate and guest lecturer at Stellenbosch University in South Africa, where I did my Master’s some years ago. I have been working in German politics as well as in the European Parliament, before I came back to University. My PhD research deals with the spatial political economy of the TAZARA Corridor, that economic space connecting landlocked Zambia with Tanzania’s port of Dar es Salaam. As you have heard, I am also the chairperson of a Germany-based, non-profit organisation called Freundeskreis Uganda which is partnering with social projects in Uganda.