We use cookies to provide some features and experiences in QOSHE

More information  .  Close
Aa Aa Aa
- A +

A new cold war in Africa

22 116 0

Last week, the 12th US-Africa Business Summit was held in Maputo, Mozambique, a high-level event attended by 11 African heads of state and government and some 1,000 business leaders. During the three-day event, US officials unveiled a $60bn investment agency which will seek to invest in low- and middle-income countries, with a special focus on Africa.

The announcement came six months after National Security Advisor John Bolton presented the Trump administration's "new Africa Strategy". According to the document: "Great power competitors, namely China and Russia, are rapidly expanding their financial and political influence across Africa. They are deliberately and aggressively targeting their investments in the region to gain a competitive advantage over the United States."

Although both China and Russia are mentioned, over the past few months, the US has demonstrated that it is mainly concerned about the former. In fact, it already appears that Africa is set to become yet another battleground for the escalating trade war between Beijing and Washington.

With increasing foreign military presence and growing diplomatic tensions, the continent is already witnessing the first signs of an emerging new cold war. And just like the previous one devastated Africa, fuelling wars and forcing African governments to make economic choices not in their best interest, this one will also be detrimental to African development and peace.

China's approach to Africa has always been trade-oriented. The continent became one of the top destinations for Chinese investment after Beijing introduced the so-called "Go Out" policy in 1999 which encouraged private and state-owned business to seek economic opportunities abroad.

As a result, Chinese trade with Africa has increased 40-fold over the past two decades; in 2017, it stood at $140bn. Between 2003 and 2017, Chinese foreign direction investment (FDI) flows have also jumped more close to 60-fold to $4bn a year; FDI stocks stand at $43bn - a significant part of which has gone to infrastructure and energy projects.

China has significantly expanded African railways, investing in various projects in Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Angola and Nigeria; it is currently building a massive hydropower plant in Angola and have built Africa's longest railway connecting Ethiopia and Djibouti; it has built the headquarters of the African Union in Addis Ababa and the West African regional bloc ECOWAS in Abuja.

By contrast, for a long time the US has viewed Africa as a battlefield where it can confront its enemies, whether the Soviets during the Cold War, terrorists after 9/11 or now the Chinese. Washington has never really made concerted effort to develop its economic relations with the continent.

As a result, trade between the US and Africa has decreased from $120bn in 2012 to just over $50bn today. US FDI flows have also slumped from $9.4bn in 2009 to around $330m in 2017. The new $60bn investment fund announced last week is a welcome initiative from the US but it will not be able to challenge Chinese economic presence on the continent. Just last year Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged $60bn too but dedicated it solely to investment in Africa.

The US has repeatedly accused China of using "debt to hold states........

© Al Jazeera