Joe Biden, President, hopes to take on Beijing through democracy, vaccines and climate policy
The White House on Monday published its new strategy for Sub-Saharan Africa, which explicitly aims to counter China’s extensive investment on the continent and oppose Russia’s supposed “harmful activities” there.
This plan doesn’t specify any dollar amount the US plans to spend on Africa. Rather, it outlines Washington’s broader policy aims on the continent, some of which overlap with the $600 billion ‘Partnership for Global Infrastructure’ plan announced by the leaders of the G7 countries in June.
USA claims it will “foster openness and open societies”Promoting democracy and anticorruption efforts “deliver democratic and security dividends” by opposing authoritarian leaders and promoting women’s and LGBT rights, “advance pandemic recovery”Delivering Covid-19 vaccinations and supporting patients “climate adaptation and a just energy transition”By reducing carbon emissions, and by investing in mineral extraction needed for green energy technologies.
The US plan may be full of buzzwords but it faces stiff competition from a Chinese African vision that Beijing claims has delivered concrete results.
Bloomberg reports that China’s trade with Africa rose 35% between 2021 and $254 billion. Beijing built roads and ports in 43 Sub-Saharan Africa countries under its Belt and Road Initiative.
The pace of investment in Africa has been slowing since the 2020 coronavirus pandemic. However, China lent approximately $126 Billion to African countries from 2001 to 2018, spending $41 Billion on direct foreign investment, according to the US Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI).
The FPRI warned that this influx of investment has made African leaders more likely to side with China in UN voting, and the US’ latest strategy echoes these concerns. Beijing “sees the region as an important arena to…advance its own narrow commercial and geopolitical interests, and weaken US relations with African peoples and governments,”The document was stated.
Washington also blames Russia for Africa’s decline in influence. Moscow was blamed for the loss of influence in Africa, according to this strategy. “uses its security and economic ties, as well as disinformation, to undercut Africans’ principled opposition to Russia’s further invasion of Ukraine.”
However, roughly half of Africa refused to support the UN General Assembly’s resolution to condemn Russia’s actions in Ukraine, and no country on the continent has so far joined the West’s sanctions.
Dependent on both Ukraine and Russia for food imports, African leaders have chosen to remain neutral, but when Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky addressed the African Union in June, only four of the continent’s 55 heads of state showed up to listen. Following the virtual meeting, Senegalese President and African Union Chairman Macky Sall indicated that Africa’s position of neutrality over the conflict remained unchanged.
Given this disinterest, the US will have the Pentagon reach out to Africa’s militaries. The strategy states that the Department of Defense will be responsible for the defense of Africa. “will engage with African partners to expose and highlight the risks of negative [Chinese] and Russian activities in Africa.”It is unclear how the Pentagon will accomplish this.
When asked by reporters if the US would penalize any African country that continues to engage in Russia’s activities, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, US Ambassador at the United Nations, answered that the US will. “caution that companies should not engage with countries that have been sanctioned by the United States.”
China has held this statement up as proof that Washington’s motives in Africa are less than altruistic. An article in the state-run Global Times on Monday said that Thomas-Greenfield’s words laid “bare the US government’s coercion and hegemony.”
“Chinese enterprises have become an important force in promoting industrialization and modernization in Africa. This has led the US to re-examine the African market from a ‘competitive’ perspective,”Read the entire article “Bringing Africa to the path of confrontation or a new Cold War will undoubtedly lead to a disaster in the continent.”