Last week, I participated in the CCAPS Shifting Conflict Patterns in Africa: Drivers of Instability and Strategies for Cooperation conference, during which policymakers, practitioners, military personnel and scholars discussed the various demographic, political and environmental drivers of instability in Africa. Participants at the conference identified strategies for improved collaboration with African nations so as to mitigate the risk of instability and conflict.
The conference highlighted how climate-related extreme weather events and environmental degradation may exacerbate underlying social and political tensions, inequalities and demographic conditions that are already putting pressure on resources and governments, many of which are fragile and lack state capacity. In particular, climate change will accelerate cross-border migration and urbanization, which could fuel regional tensions and destabilize local governments if they do not have the resources and infrastructure to support the influx of people.
Move over, America.
East Africa has emerged as the newest potential player in the future geopolitics of energy. From oil in Kenya to natural gas in Mozambique, a region long thought to be devoid of energy resources is now receiving significant international attention. The opportunities and challenges of energy wealth abound in Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique.
In Kenya, the U.K.’s Tullow Oil and Canada’s Africa Oil Corporation have struck black gold in the Great Rift Valley. In the coming years, the “Cradle of Mankind” may yield more than the bones of ancient humanoids. The companies making plays in the region are fast-tracking their exploration and evaluation, with plans to drill 11 new wells in 2013 (up from 2 in 2012). The region remains largely unexplored, but the companies are optimistic. According to Bloomberg, Tullow Oil estimates that the Rift Valley alone could yield as much as 10 billion barrels of oil. While such large reserves are not yet proven and production in Kenya is in its nascent stages, appropriate physical and legal infrastructure development and continued successful plays in the region could unlock East Africa as a vital source of supply to Asian markets in the coming decades.
National security and energy policy experts have long called on the United States to diversify its sources of oil imports. These experts correctly asserted that in a time of limited domestic production and tension in the Middle East, ensuring U.S. energy security necessitated a variety of suppliers.
The African continent was often cited as one such potential source of oil. Academics, journalists and politicians predicted that the United States would acquire even larger amounts of oil from African producers, including large exporters like Nigeria and smaller petro-states such as Equatorial Guinea. For a time at least, they were right. Starting in 2002, the United States drastically increased its imports from established producers in Africa, most notably Nigeria, Angola and Algeria (The 5th, 6th and 9th largest suppliers of oil to the United States, respectively), and created relationships with new producers like Chad. As the United States looked to places outside the Middle East for its oil, several African nations seemed poised to become important suppliers.
All of that started to change in 2010. The international energy landscape began to shift dramatically as companies unlocked tight oil reserves in the United States through the use of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling technologies. For the first time in decades, the United States has seen production increase, to 6.4 million barrels per day in 2012 (up 779,000 barrels from 2011). And the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicts that the United States will increase crude output by another 900,000 barrels a day in 2013, largely from tight oil production.
Hu Jianto is in Washington this week having already spent much time in the Western Hemisphere. Along with his previous trips to the United States, Hu has visited numerous Latin America (LATAM) countries as China has cultivated an increasingly strong relationship with the region. Although China is not as established in Latin America as in other regions around the world, trade between Beijing and America’s neighbors to the South have grown substantially in recent years. Driven in part by the United States’ own indifference to the region, PRC-LATAM trade grew tenfold between 2000 and 2007. By 2008, it had reached 142 billion dollars.
Although over half of the countries in the world that formally recognize the Taiwan government's rule are located in Latin America and the Caribbean, this is at most a secondary interest for China in the region. Instead, Beijing’s interest in LATAM is driven by the same concerns that have caused it to increase its presence elsewhere: the need to secure the primary commodities that are essential to its economic growth.
Unsurprisingly, energy plays an important role in the PRC-LATAM relationship. Chinese companies have purchased large stakes in the oil fields of countries such as Ecuador, Argentina, Peru, Columbia, Brazil and Venezuela. In some cases, the LATAM states are unable to extract this petroleum without the assistance and resources of these foreign companies. In some ways then, the active presence of China benefits the region. At the same time, it impairs indigenous development. Additionally, because Chinese companies supply their own labor, which they bring over from China, it also impedes employment for the indigenous labor market.
This week, Chinese President Hu Jintao will make a pivotal visit to Washington, spotlighting various issues with the White House and the American people. Most likely, North Korea, currency concerns, and Iran’s nuclear program will occupy the agenda. While no major agreements are expected from the visit, Hu will seek to cheerfully reiterate – through meetings with think tank and congressional leaders along with a cameo in Chicago – the “strategic significance and global impact of China-U.S. relations.”
In the lead up to Hu’s visit, last Friday Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made remarks at the inaugural Richard Holbrooke lecture, touching on an array of aspects comprising the U.S.-China relationship, notably international development. Secretary Clinton took a somewhat critical tone towards Chinese development practices, encouraging the Chinese to “embrace internationally recognized standards and policies that ensure transparency and sustainability” and noting that Beijing’s activities have raised serious concerns in places such as Africa.
It is not surprising that Secretary Clinton put “development practices,” “Africa,” and “serious concerns” in the same sentence, as Chinese investment in Africa has captured the attention and concern of many U.S. officials. As recent WikiLeaks cables showed, one senior diplomat even views China as "a very aggressive and pernicious economic competitor with no morals.”
Last night, CNAS hosted the official launch of Robert Kaplan’s new book, Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power. As Nate Fick said in his opening remarks, we had a twofer: Robert Kaplan was joined by NPR’s award-winning correspondent Tom Gjelten who moderated the discussion. We will be posting videos, photos and a podcast of the event soon, but I wanted to share a part of last night’s discussion that I think is worth mentioning.
During the Q/A portion of the event, Tom Gjelten asked Robert Kaplan about climate change; specifically how the rest of the world views the challenges and potential implications of climate change and the lack of American leadership to combat it. Gjelten prefaced his question by wondering aloud about the prospects of the next congress taking up climate and energy legislation given that a number of conservatives (some of them climate change skeptics) won seats in last week’s election.
For Kaplan, Bangladesh seemed to be the most apt example to use to respond to Gjelten’s question. As Kaplan notes in his book, Bangladesh may look small on a map (considering it’s surrounded by India), but if you look at the overall population, it has more people than Russia and a greater Muslim population that Iran. Now consider that most Bangladeshis are living at or below sea level.
Kaplan paints a vivid picture of what this means. Indeed, an interesting observation he makes in his book (and that he made last night) was how precious dry soil is in Bangladesh and how as sea level rise inundates Bangladesh, dry soil for agricultural and domestic use could become more scarce. (Kaplan noted that when people move their homes in Bangladesh, they often take the dry soil with them – that is how scarce it is.)
The twentieth century witnessed Europe unfold as the center of gravity for world history. And in this still early century, the Middle East and South-Central Asia have been focal points for American policymakers and others around the world. But the Greater Indian Ocean may well be the defining geo-political cauldron in the twenty-first century, according to CNAS Senior Fellow Robert D. Kaplan in his latest opus, Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power.
Monsoon is a carefully crafted examination of the future of American Power in the context of the Indian Ocean, a region that once upon a time was the epicenter of world culture, travel, trade – wrestled over by empires of yesteryear – once again rising in prominence.
As the reader learns early on, historically, the region’s monsoon system (specifically its winds) shaped international engagement in the region, allowing travelers from the Horn of Africa and the Middle East to make the journey to India and beyond in a fraction of the time it would take states to cross the Mediterranean (which is also a much shorter distance than the leg from North Africa to India). The short duration made travel and trade expedient, allowing states to share goods and culture throughout the entire Indian Ocean region. (Indeed, we learn how the monsoon winds helped to spread Islam across the ocean.)
Today, the Indian Ocean remains a crucial region for trade, both commercial and energy. Kaplan writes:
Today, despite the jet and information age, 90 percent of global commerce and two thirds of all petroleum supplies travel by sea. Globalization relies ultimately on shipping containers, and the Indian Ocean accounts for one half of all the world’s container traffic. Moreover, the Indian Ocean rimland from the Middle East to Pacific accounts for 70 percent of the traffic of petroleum products for the entire world.
For those of you familiar with Kaplan’s work, you won’t be surprised at the level of detail and depth into history he provides the reader to help ground his or her understanding of how important the region was, which of course is necessary to fully understand the region’s resurgence in geo-political affairs. Of course, Kaplan’s personal accounts from his voyage across the Indian Ocean help the reader connect with the story he unveils as he hops across the greater region, from Oman, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Burma, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, to Zanzibar.
Though the conflict in Darfur has publicly captivated Americans, U.S. officials are vigorously striving to prevent a war in Sudan that promises even greater human costs. A January referendum for southern secession and the potential derailment of a delicate 2005 peace deal ending a 22-year civil war between the northern Arabs and southern Christians could revive the bloody conflict in the nation. Given the unrivaled importance of the natural resource to the economies of both northern and southern Sudan, U.S. special envoy to Sudan Scott Gration has urged all involved parties to settle an elusive deal on oil reserves to ensure a peaceful transition.
In Sudan, the failure of European-imposed industrialization in the 1950s precipitated massive exploitation of the nation’s natural resources as a source of national income for the nascent African nation. The first major deposits of Sudanese oil were discovered by Chevron in April 1981. Sudan’s then-president Gaafar Nimeiry (with Chevron’s explicit support) quickly abandoned plans to allow local, southern authorities to develop the requisite infrastructure to extract and process the resource. This was an obvious affront to southern Sudan. Subsequent plans to construct a 1,400 kilometer pipeline redirecting the oil to the North compounded southern grievances of underdevelopment and disenfranchisement by northern Sudan and impelled the southern citizenry to resort to civil war.
The predominately rural, agriculture-based southern region suffered more than 2 million deaths and 4 million displaced persons as a consequence of the Second Sudanese Civil War, which lasted from 1983 until 2005. In 2005, due to intense pressure by the United Nations and the George W. Bush Administration, the Sudanese government and the southern authority Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) signed a Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA). This agreement contained three important features: it established both a new government of National Unity and an interim, autonomous southern Sudan authority; and it set a deal for wealth-sharing, power-sharing, and mutual security arrangements (e.g. ceasefire, withdrawal of troops, and resettlement of refugees). The most prominent condition of the CPA were plans for January 2011 elections, allowing the South to vote to secede or remain a part of Sudan.