Wednesday 25 November 2015

Mozambique needs a community-driven approach to electrification

By Marcus Power, Durham University

Mozambique has one of Africa’s lowest electrification rates. The national grid reached just 23% of the population in 2012. Around 68% of Mozambicans live in widely dispersed rural areas making extending access to electricity difficult. The national grid infrastructure is extremely limited and increasingly struggling to cope with rising demand.

Around 80% of the country’s residents rely on biomass resources like wood, charcoal and leaves as their sole energy source for cooking and heating. Ironically, this widespread energy poverty is happening against the backdrop of plentiful natural resources. In the past decade, significant coal and gas resources have been discovered.

The wealth generated by this extractives boom represents a significant opportunity for Mozambique. It could provide the chance to address long standing challenges around limited electricity access and widespread energy poverty. Electricity needs to be sustainable, accessible and affordable to all. It should not be the sole preserve of industrial consumers or those in urban areas.

The politics and economics of electrification

The Mozambican state has increasingly prioritised the extension of the grid to rural spaces. Yet this effort has left the country with a critically under-maintained network. There is also a heavy reliance on a single energy source, hydro power. Administrative, transmission and distribution losses – totalling 27% of power generated – exacerbate the country’s increasingly acute energy shortage.

Mozambique’s electricity quantity and quality deficit could emerge as the biggest constraint to continued economic growth. Rural electrification projects are thus heavily backed by donors who see them as a promoter and enabler of economic development. What is rarely discussed with clarity is who and how many will benefit from rural electrification.

Complex financial and technical considerations are involved when extending a grid. This includes the cost and difficulty of extending the network across vast distances and varied landscapes. Yet it is also very much a political and economic process. It involves choices around tariffs, subsidies and which areas to electrify and when. Such decisions have an impact leading up to local and national elections.

The overstretched state owned energy utility Electricidade de Moçambique (EdM) has been the subject of considerable political interference and exploitation. Some of its technicians have also been implicated in corruption.

Electrification has thus become a source of business for private companies connected to Mozambique’s elites. Many of these firms have been awarded contracts without competition or with little transparency.

Decentralisation and renewable energy off-grid

In the past few years the state has been increasingly supportive of decentralised energy projects. This is seen as the most effective way to extend rural electricity access given the high costs and complexity of grid extension. These initiatives include mini-grids supplied by solar energy or micro hydro-power.

A mini-hydro system in Milange district, Zambézia province. Joshua Kirshner

Such measures are viewed as a small-scale solution with potentially positive distributional and environmental effects. There is little expectation that renewable energy sources alone will universalise electricity access. Or eliminate energy poverty for that matter.

Since the early 2000s, renewable – particularly solar – energy has been included in projects using localised mini-grids or standalone systems. These projects seek to provide electricity for administrative centres like hospitals, clinics and schools. This process has been led by the state’s National Energy Fund.

Our research suggests that this model has so far succeeded in expanding electricity access in far-flung rural areas. The problem is that it is often undertaken with little capacity building. Local communities are also not always consulted properly or given a chance to participate in planning and implementation.

The fund’s approach is typically top-down. It relies heavily on state procurement and donor funding. It’s focused on the centralised delivery of electricity. It also focuses on connecting rural institutions. Typically it has often been more concerned with raising the number of connections than with understanding how energy matters in people’s daily lives.

Democratising energy access

There is a pressing need to democratise energy access using off-grid, decentralised power generation. This would enable communities to have greater control and sovereignty over energy. The country also needs to reform and develop its key energy institutions.

The challenge is not the predominantly technical one of expanding generating capacity. This is how it is often presented by state agencies and donors. Rather, it lies in developing and coordinating state institutions and orienting policy to deliver electricity to those who need it most. Open public debate about what and who energy is ultimately for is a necessity.

Our research highlights the value of community engagement in designing and developing rural energy projects. This approach helps to foster greater local ownership. It will also empower ordinary Mozambicans and impart important skills. This is an essential step in ensuring sustainable energy access for all.

The Conversation

Marcus Power, Professor of Human Geography, Durham University

This article was originally published on 11 November 2015 on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Wednesday 18 November 2015

A new economic geography of trade and development?

By Rory Horner

In a new article published via Territory, Politics, Governance, Rory Horner reviews emerging evidence of the growth of South-South trade and argues for the need to move beyond win-win notions from development cooperation to highlight the commercial realities and very uneven geographies and development outcomes associated with this new economic landscape. 

The new geography of trade
More than a decade ago, UNCTAD declared that “a new geography of trade is emerging and reshaping the global economic landscape”. In 2012, a milestone was passed with the value of trade between developing countries (South-South trade) overtaking developing country exports to the global North.

Various indicators confirm this shifting geography as demonstrated in the below table. Claims such as those outlined in the UNDP’s The Rise of the South or the increasingly widespread notion of an “Africa Rising” are reflected in the growing share of global GDP generated in the global South. South-South trade is growing significantly, while the geography of demand is also changing – with import demand increasing rapidly within the global South. Notably, these trends are led by the rising power economies of Brazil, India, China and South Africa.

Summary indicators of the shifting geography of income and trade in the world economy:
South % of global GDP21.7 (1980)35.8
Export as % of GDP for Southern countries16.7 (1981)29.5
South % of world exports29.6 (1980)44.7
South-South % of global trade11.7 (1995)25.5
North-North % of global trade51.2 (1995)33.9
Source: Horner (2015, 7)

South-South trade raises the exciting prospect of moving beyond the more unequal and hierarchical North-South trade relationship. Specifically, South-South trade has been heralded as “vital for development” (OECD, 2006) and such trade integration viewed as “key to rebalancing the global economy” (UNCTAD, 2011). Much of the excitement in relation to South-South trade draws on “win-win” ideas of horizontal, more equal interaction drawn from the arena of development cooperation. Given that North-South trade has been characterised by high levels of inequality and hierarchy, the implicit suggestion is that South-South may offer at least some better opportunities.

Many of these optimistic viewpoints are somewhat speculative, however. It is questionable whether and how the intended “win-win” notions of South-South development cooperation translate into the commercial realities of South-South trade. The now quite significant body of research on China, and to a lesser extent India, in Africa suggests that while trading relationships may overlap with some of the intended aims of South-South cooperation, the associated impacts are not necessarily win-win. New hierarchies can characterise these relationships, leading to some suggestions of forms of neo-colonialism.

An emerging agenda on South-South value chains and production networks
Research on global value chains (GVCs) and global production networks (GPNs) can move beyond some more macro-scale, geopolitical interpretations to take an actor-centric approach to understand the variegated, region and industry-specific development implications of trade. However, such research has, to date, largely had a North-South orientation, focussing on those firms and farms in the global South participating in chains and networks mostly governed by lead firms from the global North.

Emerging evidence on South-South value chains also highlights two competing possibilities. As summarised in the table below, nascent empirical evidence has charted the potential for easier access to South-South markets in comparison to those of the global North, but also the new competition and unevenness within the South.

Emerging evidence on South-South value chains and production networks:

Pros: More accessible marketsCons: Greater competition
Volume/priceGreater volumesLower prices, more competitors
StandardsLower requirementsLower requirements may be short-lived
UpgradingLearning and functional upgrading opportunityUneven capabilities among firms to benefit
DependencyDiversification of end-market riskPotential new dependency
Source: Author’s construction

Governance of, and upgrading within, South-South value chains and production networks are two issues which deserve particular attention. In relation to private governance, new lead firms from the global South are playing increasingly prominent roles in coordinating trade. With firms from outside the global North comprising an increasing share of the world’s largest firms, it is necessary to understand the forms of governance these firms exert, including through private standards requirements. Public governance, a less focussed-on topic within GVC and GPN research, is also crucial to understand in terms of the varying capacity of state policymakers to shape South-South GVCs and GPNs. Upgrading opportunities deserves attention, including in relation to the possibilities arising from different end markets and the associated strategies required. With increasing heterogeneity within the South, the differential possibilities for upgrading, but also the possibilities for downgrading and negative outcomes from South-South trade warrant attention.

In June 2015, I organised an early career conference on this theme of “Global production networks and new contours of development” at the University of Manchester. We had 20 presentations from early career scholars moving beyond the North-South orientation of much research on GVCs and GPNs.

In two ongoing projects, I am now researching more deeply the nature of South-South production networks and their development implications, through an investigation of the economic, social and political relationships that constitute India’s “pharmacy to the developing world”. In South Africa, funded by a British Academy small research grant, I am exploring the various engagements of Indian firms and their local development implications. In East Africa (specifically, Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania and with the support of a Regional Studies Association early career grant), I am investigating the challenges for local pharmaceutical production and its viability vis-à-vis competition from Indian supply. The initial stages of these projects confirm comparatively lower entry barriers in such production networks, and find quite diverse implications for local stakeholders – with key differences, for example, between local industrial and consumer interests. Such outcomes fall in various positions along the spectrum between the two polar extremes of the discourse on South-South relations – as “win-win” development cooperation or neocolonialism.

Ultimately, new research can move beyond the win-win notions often drawn from an earlier era of South-South cooperation to unveil the commercial realities, varied outcomes and very uneven geographies of expanding South-South trade.

This blog post was originally published on Development@Manchester on 10 November 2015.

Thursday 12 November 2015

Rising Power multinationals and global development

Image by jscreationzs,

By Mo Yamin and Rudolf Sinkovics

Mo Yamin and Rudolf Sinkovics introduce a special issue of critical perspectives on international business, Vol 11, No.3/4 on the developmental impact of Rising Power firms.

Huawei phones, Nando’s chicken, Tata cars – brands from Rising Power countries are present in more and more countries across the globe. The new multinationals that produce these brands are increasingly competing with established Western multinationals, in the Europe and America as well as in Africa and Asia. But what impact do these Rising Power multinationals have on global development? As they expand their global operations, how do they influence the economy, people and the environment? These questions are at the core of a special issue in Critical Perspectives on International Business.

The developmental promises and challenges of Chinese, Indian, or Brazilian companies’ international operations are controversial. One argument in favour of South-South FDI is that firms from emerging economies might adapt more easily to local realities in a developing country than multinationals from the US or Europe. So, do they better understand the needs of low-income consumers, and can they provide these with goods and services that used to be available only for the rich? Or, on the other hand, should we believe media reports on land grabbing and giant infrastructure projects by Chinese or Indian investors that destroy the environment and harm local communities?

Against this debate, the special issue takes a closer look at the nature and strategies of these Rising Power firms. Four articles in the collection look at how capabilities of these firms differ from those of Western multinationals. First, Peter J. Williamson finds that Rising Power firms have distinctive capabilities of innovation and reconfiguration that can give them an edge over competitors. Peter Konijn and Rob van Tulder examine “Resources-for-infrastructure (R4I) Swaps” as a specific market entry strategy of Chinese firms in African countries.  Taking a different angle, Jaya Prakash Pradhan and Keshab Das highlight regional differences within Rising Power countries and their effects on export performance of local SMEs. Further, Rory Horner shows how the emergence of Rising Power firms in the pharmaceutical sector has led established multinationals to increase pressure around intellectual property rights in India and South Africa.

Three further articles examine how the concept of global value chains (GVCs) can help to understand Rising Power firms’ developmental impact. Zaheer Khan, Yong Kyu Lew and Rudolf R. Sinkovics show why Pakistani automobile suppliers have benefited relatively little from their integration into GVCs. Joonkoo Lee and Gary Gereffi  point out that new markets in emerging economies and new regional value chains can be an opportunity for developing country firms to upgrade economically. However, they warn of a risk that this economic upgrading may be accompanied by negative social effects. Finally, contributing to the debate about the social impact of Rising Power firms, Noemi Sinkovics, Rudolf R. Sinkovics, Samia Ferdous Hoque and Laszlo Czaban propose a reconceptualization of social value creation, focusing on the “root causes” of constraints to creating social value.

Overall, the special issue contributes both conceptual thinking and empirical insights to the debate around the developmental impact of Rising Power firms. In sum, the articles show that there is no easy answer to the question of whether these new Chinese, Indian or Brazilian multinationals are good or bad for global development. But one thing is sure: We should keep an eye on them.

For more details, please refer to:
Mo Yamin , Rudolf R. Sinkovics , (2015) "Rising power firms – the developmental promises and challenges: an introduction", critical perspectives on international business, Vol. 11 Iss: 3/4.

Read the full special issue of critical perspectives on international business, Vol 11, No. 3/4.

Monday 2 November 2015

Debating China in Central Asia

Will China continue to defer to Russia in Central Asia’s international security relations?
By John Heathershaw (Text and photocredits)
What kind of great powerSONY DSC is China in Central Asia?  It was this question that animated our discussions in October as colleagues and new contacts of ExCAS gathered in Shanghai and London to discuss China’s emerging role in the region.  Prompted by ongoing research and the recent report by our partner Saferworld (who wrote their own summary here), we asked whether Chinese power will remain primarily economic and whether China will continue to be a singular actor in the region.
On 14 October, several of us associated with the ESRC Rising Powers and Conflict Management in Central Asia research project met in Shanghai to discuss conflict and security questions in Central Asia and China’s current role as the region’s main trading partner and foreign investor.  This event was co-organised between the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies (SIIS) and Saferworld. Participants included: Chen Dongxiao, President,  SIIS; Aisher Khamidov, Independent researcher, Kyrgyzstan; Li Lifan, Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences; Bernardo Mariani, Saferworld; Anna Matveeva, Kings College London; Yang Cheng, East ChSONY DSCina Normal University.
The following week, on 23 October, a few of the participants – including Yang Cheng, Anna Matveeva and myself -reconvened in London to consider China relations with Russia including in both Central Asia and the Russian Far East.  We were joined by Bobo Lo of Chatham House, Caroline Humphrey of the University of Cambridge, Alexei Maslov of the Higher School of Economics in Moscow and Marcin Kaczmarski of the Centre for Eastern Studies, Warsaw.  The event was co-organised between the universities of Cambridge and Exeter and hosted by the Royal Institute of International Affairs Chatham House.
Several core questions reoccurred across the two events.  These included:
SONY DSC1.  Is China’s role in Central Asia similar to its role in its other neighbouring regions, including the somewhat comparable Russian borderlands, or is qualitatively different?
2. How does China’s relations with other great powers, especially Russia, affect its role in Central Asia?  Are these relations shifting from formally ‘equal partners’ to subservience of Russia to China?
3. How will the One Belt, One Road (OBOR) strategy with an estimated $50 Billion of investment and associated strategic engagements transform Central Asia?
4. Is China a singular actor in Central Asia where all Chinese governmental, state-owned enterprise (SOE) and private business in the region act consistently according to a single policy from Beijing (or is something more complicated afoot)?
SONY DSC5. How can China remain an overwhelmingly economic power in the region (as its own rhetoric claims) when history suggests that rising powers always seek wider political and security roles in their neighbouring region?
6. Will China continue to defer to Russia as the security guarantor for Central Asia?  Will China continue to play a passive or very indirect role in the management of minor armed conflicts in the region, particularly with the recurrent political violence surrounding the increasingly authoritarian regime in Tajikistan?
With a variety of views expressed in the workshops, I was struck by the sense of flux in China’s current position in the region.  Central Asia remains of less importance to China than any other region.  This is reflected in the knowledge and understanding of the region in Chinese academia and the  think-tank world.  We were fortunate to have two of the most knowledgeable Chinese experts in Li and Yang with us in Shanghai and London but such researchers with field experience of Central Asia are few and far between.  Our workshop in Shanghai also included experts on the Americas, Europe, South Asia and the Middle East echoing the reality that Central Asian is often seen through the prism of these regions – where China has estbalished political and security roles.
How far will this change under OBOR and the ‘drive West’?  In other regions, as the research of Lee Jones and Shahar Hameiri shows, China becomes not just a political and security player but a decentred one as SOEs and private businesses begin to pursue agendas distinct from that of Beijing.  Tensions between ministries may emerge.  Lack of knowledge and interest, along with the relativeness newness of Chinese engagement, means that most Chinese investors presently follow Beijing’s lead in infrastructure and trade agreements.  As Central Asia is considered a ‘frontier’ region this may continue for some time.  An added complexity is the ‘Sinophobia’ apparent in Central Asia.  It is unlikely that this suspicion of China will change rapidly even as more Central Asians go to China as students and traders.  One important factor will be whether Chinese companies become significant employers of the local labour force.  The current impression – not entirely unjustified – is that Chinese businesses employ their own, pay their workers poorly, and keep themselves to themselves.   This may soon change as Chinese and Central Asian governments seek to generate real economic growth in the region to meet the ambitions of OBOR.  But impressions often last long.
In this dim light, China’s potential security role in the Central Asian republics seems distant indeed.  However, a glance across the border to China’s emerging role in Afghanistan suggests that a more activist foreign and security policy make just be a matters of the eventfulness of international politics.  History and logic also suggest that China is unlikely to allow Russia gate-keeping rights over security cooperation in Central Asia for perpetuity.  It is China which borders Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan after all, despite Russia’s claim to its ‘near abroad’.  Such deference would be rather like early 20th century America allowing a foreign power to be the security hegemon for Mexico or the Caribbean states (something which had already ruled out with the Monroe Doctrine of 1823, of course).   This is a problematic historical analogy – as the US was reacting to European colonialism, not a post-colonial world, and the America were its primary neighbour - but at a certain level it is telling.  Geopolitics is a constructed phenomenon not a pattern which emerges from simple physical and political geography.  It may be constructed in a manner which belies the supposed eternal truths of political realist thought.  But it would be surprising, perhaps unprecedented, if China did not internalise classical geopolitical discourse and play a more assertive role in all its borderlands, even the most distant from the populous East.
The question is made the more urgent by the multiple incidents of minor armed conflict which have taken place in one of China’s Central Asian neighbours since 2008.  Tajikistan has experienced no fewer than six serious incidents of political violence over that time, largely involving senior officials or former officials and mid-ranking security officers.  In addition, it saw the head of its special forces Gulmurod Halimov defect to ISIS/ISIL in March 2015. Losing both Halimov and the recently promoted deputy defence minister Abdulhalim Nazarzoda to rebellion in the same years must say something about the (in)stability of the Tajik state.  More particularly, it tells us that it is the regime which is producing these rebellions as it seeks to narrow its circle and expel all those whose absolute loyalty it doubts.  Will China stand by if a future rebellion causes wider instability?  Its notable 8 September statement in support of political stability, following the violence associated with Nazarzoda on 4 September, suggests it is watching closely.
A greater security role for China in Central Asia – beyond its formal cooperation within the Shanghai Cooperation Organization – may be far off.  But rather than strategy dictating we may expect events beyond Beijing’s control to play a profound role.
This blog post was originally published by the Exeter Central Asian Studies Network on 30 October 2015 (revised on 2 November 2015).