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African Leaders Challenge U.S. Stance On China After U.S.-Africa Investment Meeting

African and USA leaders meet
Credit: Axios

Some China-Africa thought leaders have always argued that Africans, not Americans or Europeans, should lead the discourse on Sino-Africa relations. African leaders have been admonished to dictate and define their dealings with the Asian giant. After participating in a virtual U.S.-Africa investment meeting, African leaders challenge the U.S. stance on China. Africa continues to seek a balance between the East and West rivalry.

At a recent virtual investment meeting, organized by President Donald Trump’s administration, some participating African leaders have questioned America’s stance on relations with China. The event was aimed at building partnerships and increasing investment in Africa. According to devex, the event included a number of announcements, including a new collaboration with African development finance institutions. The event also highlighted investments made by the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation plus goals for a range of U.S. agencies moving forward.

According to devex, Robert O’Brien, White House national security advisor, stated that the U.S. approach stands in “stark contrast” to the Chinese Community Party. The national security advisor said “whereas Beijing promotes a journey to China dependence, the U.S. promotes a journey to self-reliance…the U.S. provides grants and transparent financing while China “pushes unsustainable and opaque loans,” devex reported. 

Washington continues to attempt to deter African leaders from further cooperating with China. O’Brien said, “the result is the erosion of national sovereignty…President [Donald] Trump has a strong message for you today. Choose a different path for your great nations. Choose independence, maintain your sovereignty, embrace self-sufficiency, and true partnership. Above all, control your own future.”

In response, Senegal President Macky Sall indicated that Africans have their own mind in dealing with China. The President stated that “Africans today know exactly what their priorities are. And I’m very happy to see that Americans are concerned about the sovereignty of Africa. The projects that we implement with our partners will not suffer from any encroachment on our sovereignty.” Senegal, according to the President, is open to all partners and has no exclusivity. President Macky Sall noted that China provides critical long-term funding.

President Macky Sall added that Africa never benefited from low-interest capital as Europeans did through the Marshall Plan after the Second War. African nations need the long-term loans China provides to build critical infrastructure. “We don’t want our friends to see China’s intervention and China as a threat to the partnership we have with them,” President Macky Sall expressed. 

Ouhoumoudou Mahamadou, chief of staff to Niger’s President, responded to O’Brien’s submission stating, “You observed that there is enthusiasm from other countries to invest in Africa. That’s the case with Asian countries — China and Japan, even Europe and Russia, of course…The U.S. should also contribute to that investment in Africa.”

Filipe Nyusi, Mozambique’s President, acknowledged recent U.S. investments in natural gas in his country. He is particularly interested in drawing investment to improve Mozambique’s agriculture system. He wants to find ways to use the energy investments to “strengthen the economy as a whole,” devex reported.  

 Africa And Sino-America Rivalry

China’s engagement with Africa has attracted criticism from the United States, especially under President Donal Trump. 

President Trump’s former national security advisor John Bolton, once suggested that “the greatest threat to the U.S. in Africa comes not from migration or extremism, but from China (and to a lesser extent, Russia). In a speech reported by Lowy Institute, John Bolton accused China of “deliberately and aggressively” targeting its investments in Africa to gain a competitive advantage over the United States. This saddles African governments with debt, harming their long-term development prospects and undercutting their sovereignty. As a result, the U.S. would “encourage African leaders to choose sustainable foreign investments that help states become self-reliant, unlike those offered by China that impose undue costs”.

But Ian Taylor, an International Relations expert, believes that “when examining Sino-African ties in the context of the United States, hyperbole about China’s role needs to be tamed. Although many African actors would probably like serious competition to exist so that they can extract as much as possible from the various suitors, Washington, DC does not seem overly concerned by China’s rise in the continent; the United States’ economic and political ties with Africa are robust and not threatened by Chinese interests.”

“While Washington generally promotes governance rather than infrastructure enhancement and while governance, peace, and security are crucial to Africa, reducing poverty and building infrastructure are critical to Africa’s development, which is where China may play its role.  In such circumstances, the United States must engage Beijing in identified areas where mutual interests converge,” Ian Taylor admonished

Should African Leaders Be Concerned About Some Of Washington’s Concerns?

One major criticism of the U.S. over China’s technological inroads into other countries is the security threat. In recent years, Trump’s administration has moved heaven and earth to block the 5G success story of China’s Telecommunication giant, Huawei, in other countries. The U.S. has warned many countries, including those in Africa, to be careful about their national security when it comes to ‘China-made’ technology. 

In September this year, a software that eats up mobile data and registers people for unwanted subscriptions was detected on China’s techno devices in African countries. The built-in malware was found on 53,000 Tecno W2 devices shipped to 5 African countries (Ethiopia, Cameroon, Egypt, Ghana, and South Africa). It has been found preinstalled on these smartphones more than two years after it was first detected.

Should African leaders continue to question the U.S. stance on relations with China or harken to Washington’s concerns? Can African leaders alone chart a course that makes Africa relate with China on more mutually beneficial terms?

What do you think? Let us know in the comments.

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