Africa doesn’t need US rivalry strategy

By Shen Shiwei Source:Global Times Published: 2018/12/16 16:28:39

Without doubt, "America First" and countering Chinese and Russian presence in Africa have become the leitmotif of Washington's newly-released Africa strategy. 

As John Bolton, President Donald Trump's national security adviser, said at the Heritage Foundation on Thursday, three pillars of the US' Africa strategy include promoting economic and trade cooperation to benefit American export and job market, strengthening the anti-terrorism campaign to protect American citizens there and withdraw US aid for some UN peacekeeping missions which he labeled ineffective.

Indeed, we have seen this US administration threaten sanctions on Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and other African countries, and scrap the African Growth and Opportunity Act.

The move came after African countries banned import of secondhand clothes from the US by 2019, a decision aimed at spurring local industry and job creation, while probably hurting the American market.

Research by the East African Community proves that secondhand clothing imports have had an adverse impact on apparel production in Africa, leading to about 40 percent decline in production and 50 percent decrease in employment over the period 1981-2000.

To import used clothes with a threat hanging or to develop its own textile industry, that is the question for Africa. Paul Kagame, president of Rwanda and chairperson of the African Union, and other leaders stick to the ban despite US threats.

Bolton promised a new program, "Prosper Africa," to support American investment across the continent and continued to label Chinese investment a "debt trap." Double standards and propaganda on display once again.

The Zambia debt issue raised in the US strategy has been addressed by the Zambian government many times, saying that no state-owned enterprise has been offered to lenders as collateral for any borrowing. On the contrary, Zambia's most urgent eurobond debts are all owned by West-dominated financial institutions.

Recently, the Zambian president insisted they will not sacrifice sovereignty despite mounting pressure from the IMF and the World Bank. Back in the 1990s, Zambia had failed privatizing state-owned ZESCO, forced by its major debt owners IMF and World Bank.

"No political strings" and "non-interference" have been emphasized in this year's Forum on China-Africa Cooperation Beijing Summit, a fundamental and well-known principle of Chinese loans and aid.

When former US secretary of state Rex Tillerson warned against Chinese investments in Africa, African Union Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat said, "I think Africans are mature enough to engage in partnerships of their own volition."

The African continent is large enough for all participants to be partners rather than strategic rivals. There are many matured and sound trilateral cooperation mechanisms among China, the UK, the EU, France, Germany and other European countries.

The cooperation is also open to the US as many American companies like the GE, Boeing and Caterpillar have benefited a lot from Chinese investments and infrastructure projects across Africa. American citizens living there also enjoy a much better access to internet, water supply and power utility that comes from the hard work of Chinese engineers.

The US government needs to abandon its old mentality of regarding Africa as its own sphere of interest and trying to drive out others from there. African nations shall not be forced back to the era of bloody strategic contest between the US and the Soviet Union.

Eighteen years ago, a cover story in The Economist described Africa as "The Hopeless Continent." With vibrant China-Africa cooperation, the West gradually rediscovered Africa and The Economist changed to labeling it "Africa rising" in another edition in December 2011.

Today, many emerging economies like Turkey, India and Brazil are vigorously promoting investments in Africa.

African nations welcome all partners to offer development opportunities and strategies, but without creating rivalry and chaos. The continent has suffered too much from confrontation.

The author is a research fellow of The Charhar Institute and former government and business relations consultant permanently based in several African countries.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

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