While the world is witnessing the US-China trade war, Africa is in a state of Cold War. The cold war in Africa is being fought in almost all domains. The deep involvement of economic giants has created a situation for the cold war in Africa.
In the last week of June, the US-Africa business summit was held in Maputo, Mozambique. This event was attended by 11 heads of states of African countries and more than 1000 business personalities. In this event, the USA disclosed a $60 billion plan of investment with a distinctive focus on Africa. This announcement was part of John Bolton’s “New Africa Strategy.” John Bolton presented this plan before Trump administration at the start of 2019.
This proposal claimed that China and Russia have extended their presence in Africa. They both are trying their best to harm the US’ economic interests in Africa. In Africa, the USA is more worried about the rising influence of China. It seems that African countries want to achieve the maximum benefits from the US-China trade war. The presence of gigantic militaries in Africa indicates that the continent is on the verge of the cold war.
China is using its economic power to maintain and strengthen its presence in Africa. In 1999 China announced its “go out” policy. Since then Africa has become the top market for Chinese goods and services. Now China’s trade with Africa is more than 140 Billion dollars. Meanwhile Chinese Direct Foreign Investment (FDI) is about 43 billion dollars. The major portion of this investment is given to energy and development sectors.
China is investing in railway networks in Kenya, Ethiopia, Nigeria and other countries of Africa. Currently, China is working on a huge hydropower plant in Angola. China has successfully completed a railway network connecting Ethiopia and Djibouti. It is the longest railway network in Africa. China built the headquarters of the African Union in Addis Ababa. It has also built the headquarter of regional countries of western Africa called ECOWAS in Abuja.
Previously the USA has viewed Africa as a ground to eliminate terrorism or to maintain a military presence during the cold war era. Unfortunately, the USA did not try to create an economic relationship with African nations.
The trade volume between USA and Africa has now dropped from 120 billion dollars to 50 billion dollars. This shrink of trade occurred between 2012 to 2019. American FDI has also dropped from 9 billion dollars to 330 million dollars between 2012 and 2017. The current announcement by the USA to invest 60 billion dollars is a welcome decision. However, it will not challenge the Chinese influence in Africa. In last year China has also announced $60 billion solely for development in Africa.
The USA sees Chinese investment as a debt trap policy. The USA has also warned African nations to avoid this debt trap policy. The USA accuses China of using the debt trap to influence decision making of African countries. The USA also borrowed a huge amount from China. Currently, the USA owes 1.1 trillion dollars to China while Africa owes about 80 billion dollars to China.
On the other hand, Africans are also well aware of China’s debt trap diplomacy. But poor economic conditions of some African countries has forced them to join China for economic stability. African leaders also claim that Chinese partnership is long term and feasible for African conditions.
Ongoing US-China trade war is posing threat to African countries. A report of African development bank states that oil exporting countries will witness a drop of 1.9 percent in GDP while resourceful African countries will face a drop of 2 percent in GDP.
Both China and the USA have a military presence in Africa. Expert opine that further escalation in trade war can endanger the security of the entire continent. Currently, China is actively participating in the peacekeeping mission in Africa. In 2017 China opened its first overseas military base in Djibouti. It has about 350 staff members and troops but it has the capacity to accommodate ten thousand people. Experts opine that this base will provide assistance to China’s anti-piracy policies and will also support China’s Belt and Road Initiative.
However, China’s military presence is much less than that of American. The USA also has its only permanent base in Djibouti. Beside this USA has about 34 military bases in Africa. The USA conducts its military operations through these bases. The USA is also supporting the militaries of Nigeria, Ethiopia, Niger, Mali, and Egypt. Also, G-5 Sahil counterterrorism force also works with the collaboration of USA.
Experts opine that the USA and China will not confront directly however their growing military presence can endanger the continent. Currently, Djibouti acquired the center stage in US-China confrontation. It hosts military bases of both China and USA. Therefore It will have to create the balance in US-China rhetoric.
In last year Djibouti regained the control of its Doraleh Container Terminal from an Emirati enterprise DP World. Djibouti claimed that operations of the DP world are posing a threat to its sovereignty. This created a strong fear in the USA. The Trump administration fears that control of this port can be given to China. John Bolton warned that handing over the port to China will disturb the balance of power in Africa.
However, Djibouti maintained that the port will not be given to China. Experts say that the USA is also working on the construction of the military base at an alternative location in Eritrea. This caused American allies Saudi Arabia and UAE to take Eritrea out of its decades-long isolation. After these events, Ethiopia and Eritrea signed a peace deal to end the 20 years old conflict. In the meantime, UNO also lifted sanctions from Asmara. As a result of these developments, Eritrea can appear as a strategic opponent to Djibouti. Now it can offer its ports for foreign investments. Meanwhile, the UAE has already built a base near the port of Assab.
Now let’s have a look at Sudan. China had been a longterm supporter of ousted president Omar al Bashir. China used to purchase 80 percent of Sudan’s oil. China’s financial support helped Sudan in confronting rebels. Despite the UN’s sanctions Russia and China kept on providing assistance to Bashir’s regime. Sudan is the biggest beneficiary of China’s 60 billion packages. China is also working on various plans to make developments in Port Sudan. China is already operating an oil terminal at the same port. Turkey and Qatar also signed various agreements with Bashir’s regime to avail the facilities of the port city.
Now Saudi Arabia and UAE want to have an authoritarian regime in Sudan. They want a ruler in Sudan who will not abandon the war in Yemen. UAE and Saudi Arabia also want to curb the influence of Turkey and Qatar in Sudan.
If the USA wants to confront China it will have to work on the economic domain. The USA will have to offer the best economic alternatives to African countries. However, this will happen only if the USA focuses on the development of Africa instead of confronting China.
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