Photo of the Day – Istanbul

Photo of the Day – Istanbul

I think we’ve all seen — and marveled — at shots of Istanbul along the Bosphorous, evoking both the complex history of the modern mega-city, its vital role as a sea trade connector between the Mediterranean and the Aegean, as well as its current energy as a commercial hub. I think this one here by photographer Shahriar Etminani is one of the best I’ve ever seen, You can see more of his photos here.

And if you are looking for a good read on Istanbul, check out Istanbul: Memories and the City, by Orhan Pamuk.

The African-American Artist Who Found “a Homeland” in Oman

The African-American Artist Who Found “a Homeland” in Oman

Last night, I attended an event at the Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center in Washington D.C – an often overlooked gem in the heart of mid-town — and came across this painting that caught my eye. It certainly has a 19th century New Silk Road-y feel to it.  Upon further examination, I noted the name of the painter – E. Harper Johnson – and he turns out to be a fascinating African-American artist who spent his final years in Oman under the patronage of the Sultan – the two men seen here.

He was born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1916, and died in Muscat, Oman in 2016. In that span of 100 years, he illustrated more than a dozen books and and worked for some leading publications. A consummate artist, he was also a talented vocalist and violinist (though his violin career ended with a broken wrist injury as a youth). In his later years, he began traveling to East Africa and the Arabian peninsula, and eventually settled in Oman after 1993. After being granted Omani nationality by Sultan Qaboos, he said, “I have finally found my homeland after a long, tiring life, full of travel and work.”

His is a life worth exploring further. If any New Silk Road Monitor readers know more about E Harper Johnson’s years in Kenya or Oman, please write.

The New Silk Road Monitor Friday Post

The New Silk Road Monitor Friday Post

The New Silk Road Monitor “Friday Post” – A round-up of this week’s stories that caught our eye

Insights on Investing in Africa, the UAE and the Belt and Road, Turkey’s New Silk Road Logistics Play, Russia’s New Silk Road Highway, the Africa Continental Free Trade Area and More

The UAE as a Linchpin of the Belt and Road –  By Jonathan Fulton in Al-Monitor

For Africa Investment, Look Beyond GDP Numbers – By Paulo Gomes, Project Syndicate

China, The G20, Africa, and the Future of World Trade – By Hannah Ryder in China Watch

Africa’s Massive 54 Country Trading Bloc – By Grace Shao, CNBC

Time for the U.S To Step Up in Promoting Africa Investments – By Aubrey Hruby, RealClear World

The Explosion of Tech Hubs Across Africa – By Yomi Kazeen, Quartz Africa

Turkey’s Logistics Play Along the Silk Roads – Logistics Middle East

Russia’s New Silk Road Highway – DM Chan, Asia Times


Ryan Hass of Brookings joins Kaiser Kuo of Sinica: A Multi-Layered China Policy Podcast

Urban Transportation Lessons for Africa from China: Eric Olander’s China-Africa Podcast Speaks to Robert Earley


Dr Carlos Lopes on the Africa Continental Free Trade Area, CGTN




Are China and India Recalibrating Their Relationship?

Are China and India Recalibrating Their Relationship?

It’s no secret that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and China President Xi Jinping don’t see eye to eye on a range of issues, including a long-simmering and sometimes flaring border dispute, the Belt and Road Initiative, and China’s close ties with Pakistan. No one, however, can accuse the two leaders of not communicating.

Consider the following:

  • On June 13, the two leaders held a bilateral meeting in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, as part of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization annual meeting
  • Xi and Modi will will hold another bilateral meeting this week in Osaka, Japan as part of the G20 leaders summit
  • In addition to the two bilateral summits within two weeks of each other, the two leaders will also meet during a separate Russia-India-China summit during the G20
  • They will also meet as part of the informal BRICS meeting on the sidelines of the global gathering.

If you are counting, that’s 4 tete-tete’s in less than a month. And if that’s not enough, India will host the second edition of the informal India-China summit later this year, the Economic Times reports, and the two will meet again at a BRICS summit in Brazil toward the end of the year.

Abhijnan Rej has a great piece in the Diplomat, arguing that we are witnessing a profound shift in Indian foreign policy thinking on China, and the world’s two most populous states may be on the verge of a fundamental recalibration of ties. He writes:

As the New Delhi commentariat continues to be riveted by the possibility of a rapprochement between India and Pakistan, a much more pronounced rebalancing when it comes to China is underway.


When the Party Secretary of Guangdong province and Central Politburo member Li Xi met [India Foreign Minister] Jaishankar on June 6, the normally-scrutinizing media here – one that pays particular attention to who is in town and for what – failed to realize its significance. First, reports only perfunctorily noted that the Hong Kong-bordering Guangdong by itself is a major economy a GDP of more than $1.4 trillion, making it bigger than Australia in economic size as well as the fact that Modi’s home state of Gujarat has a particularly close relationship with that province, as “sister states.”…


Li’s visit to New Delhi, thus, is far from devoid of serious significance. One can be all but certain that Li came as Xi’s emissary, though it is unclear to what extent his India trip was planned ahead of the elections here. Whatever be the case, this visit fits nicely in a pattern of low-key but significant engagements between the two countries. Indian press reports have noted an uptick in party-to-party ties, between Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the CPC, with a BJP source noting that a high-level delegation from their party to China could be in the making.


If Li’s visit to New Delhi portends to an ongoing recalibration of India-China ties, the rise of the political fortunes of his host, foreign minister Jaishankar, is no less a sign of things to come. While most commentators have focused largely on Jaishankar’s contributions to the U.S.-India relationship (and sotto voce expect him to arrest its downturn), some see in his appointment as foreign minister a concerted effort on Modi’s part to cool temperatures with China.


With India-China trade expected to hit $100 billion this year, both sides may also be following the money toward a more nuanced relationship. Watch this space.







Two Middle East Companies Among Top 100 US Exporters, Importers

Two Middle East Companies Among Top 100 US Exporters, Importers

Every year, the Journal of Commerce, the world’s leading publication on global shipping and logistics, publishes its Top 100 U.S Importers and Exporters (paywall) guide. It’s a great insider look at U.S trade and globalization from the company level. It measures imports and exports as expressed in container ship volumes – through which the vast majority of global trade is conducted. It should come as no surprise that Wal-Mart took the crown as America’s largest importer, though it may surprise you to know that Koch Industries, the Wichita-based conglomerate, is America’s top exporter of goods via container ship.

Deep into the standings, I was struck by two companies headquartered in the Middle East that made the list: Almarai and Dubal.

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia-based Almarai came in at #77 on the Top 100 Exporters list. Anyone who has spent time in Saudi Arabia knows Almarai. It’s the leading dairy producer and a major foodstuffs exporter across the Middle East and South Asia. National Geographic Television even did a documentary about Almarai’s massive dairy mega-factory.

But what was Almarai doing in the Journal of Commerce U.S Exporters list?

So I did a bit of digging, and it seems that its recent purchases of farmland in California and Arizona has begun to pay off with large-scale alfalfa production. Alfalfa is hard to grow in Saudi Arabia’s climate, and the government grew tired of subsidizing the crop for major dairy producers like Almarai, so they told companies like Almarai to go out and find their own alfalfa. That’s when Almarai went out and bought some US farmland. This article in the Guardian outlines some of the controversies, challenges, and opportunities of Almarai’s investments.

So, Almarai buys farmland in the U.S, grows alfalfa hay in large quantities, packs them into shipping containers for the long journey to Red Sea ports in western Saudi Arabia and feeds the bale to cows on Almarai dairy farms. How’s that for global supply chains? More on this story later.

The second company that caught my eye was Dubal America. They ranked as #72 on the Top 100 importers list. Dubal America is, according to its website, a “wholly owned subsidiary of Dubai Aluminium PJSC (“DUBAL”) and a member of the Emirates Global Aluminium (“EGA”) group of companies. DAI is the sole distributor of the aluminium products manufactured by Dubal and Emirates Aluminium Company Limited PJSC (“EMAL”) in North America.”

It’s worth noting that Emirates Global Aluminum is owned equally by Abu Dhabi-based Mubadala and Investment Corporation of Dubai, and represents a rare example of Abu Dhabi Inc. joining hands with Dubai Inc. to consolidate and build a better global company than the separate entities that existed before the merger.

Emirates Global Aluminum is the sixth largest aluminum producer in the world, and sources a good deal of its bauxite — the aluminum raw feeder — from sub-Saharan Africa. They have invested in a $1.4 billion bauxite project, administered by the Guinea Aluminum Corporation, wholly owned by EGA.

So, again, a story of our global supply chains – bauxite from Africa to the UAE, processed and refined into aluminum ingots, and sent to the United States to be sold to companies ranging from the aerospace to the food industry. More on this later too.

In fact, Dubal America imports more container ship volumes into the United States than — are you ready for this? — Starbucks.




Red Sea Economies – By The Numbers

Red Sea Economies – By The Numbers

Photo: Red Sea Gateway Terminal at Jeddah Islamic Port

Red Sea Economies/Population and Exports at a Glance

Country Population GDP Top Export Destination
Saudi Arabia 32.3 M $782.4 B China
Egypt 95.7 M $245.6 B Italy
Sudan 39.6 M $33.9 B UAE
Yemen 27.6M $26.9 B China
Eritrea 4.96 M $6.721 B Ethiopia
Djibouti 942,333 $2.1 B Egypt
TOTAL 201.1 M $1.097 Trillion



Top Ten China Crude Oil Suppliers 2018

Top Ten China Crude Oil Suppliers 2018

In our latest Top Ten List, we look at the Top Ten Crude Suppliers to China for 2018. The United States sneaked in at the number ten spot this year, and would likely have ticked upward in 2019 were it not for the US-China trade war. For more on U.S petroleum, see the United States of Petroleum

Here’s the Top Ten List with the percentage of market share, with thanks to

China’s Top Ten Crude Oil Suppliers and Their Market Share

  1. Russia – 15.8%
  2. Saudi Arabia – 12.4%
  3. Angola – 10.4%
  4. Iraq – 9.4%
  5. Oman – 7.2%
  6. Brazil – 6.8%
  7. Iran – 6.3%
  8. Kuwait – 5%
  9. Venezuela – 2.9%
  10. USA – 2.8%

(The UAE comes in at #11, also with 2.8% of market share)

The United States of Petroleum

The United States of Petroleum

The United States quietly surpassed Saudi Arabia and Russia in 2018 as the world’s largest crude oil producer, according to the Energy Information Administration. If you count all petroleum liquids, the U.S is by far the world’s largest producer. This table below, from the EIA, gives you a sense of U.S primacy in petroleum production.

The 10 largest oil1 producers and share of total world oil production2 in 20183

Country Million barrels per day Share of world total
United States 17.87 18%
Saudi Arabia 12.42 12%
Russia 11.40  11%
Canada   5.27   5%
China   4.82   5%
Iraq   4.62   5%
Iran   4.47   4%
United Arab Emirates   3.79   4%
Brazil   3.43   3%
Kuwait   2.87   3%
Total top 10 70.96 70%
World total 100.66

1 Oil includes crude oil, all other petroleum liquids, and biofuels.
2 Production includes domestic production of crude oil, all other petroleum liquids, biofuels, and refinery processing gain.
3 Most recent year for which data are available when this FAQ was updated.

For the link to the EIA site where this table was found, go here.

U.S Oil and Gas By the Numbers

12.1 million barrels/day – Estimated 2019 crude oil production in the United States

12.9 million barrels/day – Estimated 2020 production

90.2 billion cubic feet/day – Estimated U.S natural gas production in 2019

92.2 billion cubic feet/day – Estimated U.S natural gas production in 2020

DP World Primer

DP World Primer

DP World Primer – By Afshin Molavi (Part of the Dubai Silk Road Series)

Dubai-headquartered DP World is the world’s fifth largest container terminal network operator, handling 71.4 million twenty foot equivalent units (TEUs) last year at 78 marine and inland terminals across 6 continents. Founded in 2005 by merging the Dubai Ports Authority and Dubai Ports International, DP World has become a major trade enabler across emerging markets. According to DP World, some 75% of their trade volume flows through emerging/frontier markets.

It is also the only listed major port operator, listed on the Dubai International Financial Exchange in 2007.

Here’s a world map of their operations.

These are the Top 5 container port operators worldwide, according to Lloyd’s List, with DP World coming in at number 4 due to a recent purchase of  European container ship operator, Unifeeder.

Terminal Operator HQ Annual TEU (2018)
COSCO Shipping Ports China 117.36 Million
Hutchison Port Holdings Hong Kong 84.6 Million
PSA International Singapore 81 Million
DP World Dubai 71.4 Million
China Merchant Port Holdings HK Subsdiary of China HQ 80.73 Million

TEU’s compiled by Afshin Molavi from public data. Order above based on Lloyd’s List; TEU’s not the sole criterion.

According to my calculations, these five port operators handle about half of the world’s containerized trade.

DP World’s flagship operation is located in Jebel Ali, in the United Arab Emirates. The Jebel Ali port is the ninth busiest container terminal port in the world. Here’s a cool visual on the biggest container ports in the world.

DP World in Africa

DP World operates, develops and manages 7 marine and inland terminals in Africa. They include Senegal’s busiest container terminal as well as DP World Maputo, three berths on the Suez port of Sokhna, Egypt, an inland logistics facility in Rwanda, as well as facilities in Algeria, and a new facility in Berbera, Somaliland.

The company was recently awarded more than $500 million by a London court arbitrating its dispute with Djibouti over the managing and developing of the Doraleh Container Terminal. Quartz Africa has a good piece on the background and the business and geo-strategic elements of the conflict between DP World and Djibouti, and the tussle between DP World and China Merchant Port Holdings. The tussle, however, has done nothing to dent the dramatically rising commercial relationship between China and the UAE.

In a press release issued on February 5, 2019, Group Chairman and CEO Sultan Ahmad bin Sulayem, said “performance in Africa remains robust driven by Dakar (Senegal) and Sokhna (Egypt).”

Timeline of Key Events – DP World

  • 1972 – Port Rashid is launched with 11 berths; This begins Dubai’s journey as a sea trade hub for the region
  • 1976 – Ruler of Dubai launches Jebel Ali Port construction, x miles away from Port Rashid; At the time, many saw it as white elephant and unnecessary given the recent launch of Port Rashid. According to accounts at the time, some merchants even tried to get him to stop it.
  • 1979 – Jebel Ali completed, and it begins attracting major industrial players to set up business just outside the port
  • 1991 – Dubai Ports Authority is created to merge Port Rashid with Jebel Ali under one authority. By this time, traffic to Jebel Ali had been rising dramatically, and the two ports combined went over the one million TEU mark.
  • 1999-2004 – Dubai Ports goes international with the formation of a company to manage and operate container terminals outside the UAE; over the next few years, the newly formed entity, Dubai Ports International FZE, wins contracts in Djibouti, India, Romania, and Saudi Arabia
  • 2005 – DP World is officially established by merging Dubai Ports Authority and Dubai Ports International.
  • 2005 – DP World acquires CSX World Terminals, one of the world’s largest terminal operators, catapulting DP World into the “Premier League” of terminal operators
  • 2006 – DP World purchases Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company, P&O Maritime, increasing dramatically its global network.
  • 2007 – DP World listed on Dubai International Financial Exchange (DIFX) in what was at the time the largest IPO in the region, valued at $4.96 billion dollars.
  • 2008-9 – Major acquisitions and operating contracts won include Brazil’s EmbraPort as well as ports in Netherlands, Algeria, Spain and Peru
  • 2013-17 – Acquired Prince Rupert Container Terminal (Canada), Won 30 year concession for Port of Berbera (Somaliland); Consoidated Santos Brazil with 100% ownership
  • 2018-19 – Investment with National India Infrastructure Fund to invest up to $3 billion across the country; 30 year concession for port in Banana, DRC; 100% acquisition of Unifeeder Group, largest container feeder and shortsea network operator in Europe

Sources: Most of the timeline information above comes from DP World.

Now, if you really want a deep dive on DP World, I found this presentation online that they gave to investors in May 2019.


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