Saturday, January 23, 2021

Session 2: A Discussion on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam with Dr. Harry Verhoeven (Oxford University) 23 Jan 2021

NOTE: This session was held on 23 January 2021.

A recording is available at our Facebook Group Page. Alternatively, members can contact Fadji or Jack for a link to the YouTube recording.


Doctor Harry Verhoeven Biography:

Harry is the Convenor of the Oxford University China-Africa Network. He is an Associate Member of the Department of Politics & International Relations of the University of Oxford and the editor of the Cambridge University Press book series on Intelligence and National Security in Africa & the Middle East. He is the author of Water, Civilisation and Power in Sudan: the Political Economy of Military-Islamist State Building and Why Comrades Go To War. Liberation Politics and the Outbreak of Africa's Deadliest Conflict. Harry is a Senior Adviser to the European Institute of Peace.

Discussion Questions:

  1. In your opinion, how have recent political and security developments in Sudan (Bashir’s ouster) and Ethiopia (Tigray) affected appetite for energy-driven regional integration? Specifically, how do you anticipate the conflict in the Tigray region will affect the strength of Ethiopia’s negotiating position with regard to the GERD? What role could Eritrea play in all of this?
  2. An interesting data point for me was the contrast between energy consumption in the UK vs Ethiopia (5,500 vs 37 kWh per person). Against the backdrop of climate change and with efforts by countries such as Ethiopia to develop/industrialize, I think this raises important questions over global efforts to address greenhouse gas emissions. How have projects such as the GERD construction factored into international efforts to address climate change (I am talking specifically about the Paris Climate Agreement, which the new administration just rejoined)? Shouldn’t the international community be more supportive of this project and support an energy-driven regional integration approach? From an infrastructure perspective Is Ethiopia prepared to harness the potential power output from the dam when finished? What will be the power benefits to the region at large?
  3. Are there cautionary lessons that can be gleaned from other major dam projects applicable here?
  4. Do you have any sense as to how the new current administration will view the ongoing negotiations, particularly with regard to the current US-Egypt relationship, and the recent suspension of ongoing aid to Ethiopia under the previous administration? At least in Ethiopia, the U.S. stance on the GERD visibly turned the tide of public support towards the U.S.
  5. Is there an authoritative international governing body or legal framework that governs the use of water resources from rivers traversing multiple countries--akin to the UNCLOS: UN Convention on the Law of the Sea? How is the approach being used in other nations?
  6. Has Egypt been using its water responsibly for the last few decades? What does responsible water management look like for a downstream riparian country?
  7. Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, and the AU? What are the alliances playing out and with the potential to play out?
  8. What are the GPC-related concerns with regard to the Chinese financing associated with the GERD's turbine equipment, etc. ?
  9. You've had an impressive, widely-traveled career already? Aside from surviving the winter in Buffalo, what have been your famous rivers in your career?






















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Saturday, January 9, 2021

Inaugural Session: China in Africa Discussion with Professor Jennifer Cooke (GWU Institute of African Studies Director) 9 Jan 2021

NOTE: We held our first session on 9 January 2021. We had some technical Zoom problems so only the audio version of the event is available for our members. The recording is available at our Facebook Group Page.

Professor Jennifer Cooke Bio:




















She is director of the Institute for African Studies at The George Washington University Elliott School of International Affairs. The Institute serves as central for research, scholarly discussion, and debate on issues relevant to Africa. She is a prolific writer and professor of practice in international affairs, teaching courses on U.S. Policy Toward Africa and Transnational Security Threats in Africa.

FRAG Introductory Remarks:

As Americans, it is hard for us to proceed without thinking about the events that unfolded this week in DC. Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin declared that “"The post-9/11 era is over. The single greatest national security threat right now is our internal division. If we don't reconnect our two Americas, the threats will not have to come from the outside." In this context, we believe forums such as these are more important than ever in creating the space for having frank and honest debates about geopolitical issues in our field. We hope these webinars will inspire our group to think creatively for ways to work together, as one, to address issues that, if unresolved, could have serious ramifications here at home. With that said, let’s proceed with the Q&A session.

  1. So many in our group have daughters and sons growing alongside of us in locations across the African continent, can you share with us some memories and/or lessons growing up in Côte d’Ivoire and the Central African Republic and how they shaped you?  
  2. All too often, we gloss over someone’s CV or Bio in the introductory remarks but perhaps you could share a little about your professional journey: what were the “famous rivers” that you crossed since graduating from Harvard? In particular, perhaps you could speak a little on the National Academy of Sciences in the Office of Human Rights--that’s an organization that some may not have heard but which has an important mission.
  3. How important is Africa to American national security and economic prosperity?
  4. Too often, US-Africa policy is framed through the lens of foreign aid, humanitarian assistance, and support for peacekeeping operations. Does that view miss the mark? If so, how do we change the narrative to allow Americans to view Africa as an asset instead of a liability? The underlying assumption here is that with a reassessed importance, Washington would be more apt to prioritize engagement with Africa. 
  5. What are the People’s Republic of China’s ultimate actual goals in Africa? Are those goals beneficial to Africa? Are those goals compatible with U.S. objectives? If so, are there areas for cooperation or is the GPC narrative a permanent one for the foreseeable future?
  6. What are your views on US economic policies in Africa to counter Chinese influence in a new administration? Is what we have in place enough? (AGOA, MCC, OPIC)
  7. How have the PRC’s Forum On China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), Infrastructure investment by way of the Belt and Road Initiative, and military basing in Djibouti changed the China-Africa Policy landscape?
  8. Recent Afro-barometer surveys in African countries have shown that a growing number of Africans hold positive views of the PRC’s development model and engagement in Africa. Although Beijing still lags behind the US, the surveys have shown that Beijing is trending up. Do you worry the US will be eclipsed by China in the near future? If so, what would the ramifications of an Africa that looks to Beijing instead of Washington be?
  9. What is the scorecard for American Post-independence engagement with Africa? Have we succeeded or failed? 


Related Article:

How America and Democracies Around the World Can Defeat Illiberalism by Michele Lowe




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