Wary of Russian and Chinese influence in Africa, Trump administration has unveiled a new policy with Kenya as an anchor country of the strategy
This has been coming. America and to some extent the European Union sat and watched as Chinese, India and Russia flirted with African nations one after another. Even Turkey and Japan have had sessions with African heads of state dangling goodies in terms of economic and infrastructural development.
While Japan has remained steadfast on insisting countries meet basic integrity issues, China has bypassed these and preferred business to any other aspect of bilateral relations. Russia has started pushing its influence in the continent but its impact has not been felt much in areas of trade.
Just this week, a South African based RiskMap predicted that East Africa will be the centre of US-China rivalry in 2019. George Nicholls, Senior Partner for Southern Africa based organisation, elaborates, “So far, the US-China rivalry that dominated global headlines in 2018 has played out less visibly in Africa than on other continents.
He continued “While still the largest investor on the continent, the US has seen its engagement on the continent become more narrowly focused on security matters under the current administration – in contrast to China which has made formidable inroads in sub-Saharan Africa over the last decade.”
While all this was happening, US was quietly crafting a response and just this week, the Trump administration has unveiled the new focus on Africa to counter the influence of particularly China and Russia.
US businesses are huge in Africa. In Kenya, the technology and communication is littered with many start-ups mainly with a link to the US. The fintech environment too in Kenya is also marked by American companies. In total, US investment in Kenya inform of Foreign Direct Investments is on a rising trajectory.
In Africa, the US investments go beyond Fintech with massive investment in health, agriculture, oil and gas as well as other forms of energy. Its influence has been waning but now, this is taking a turn with the new strategy.
Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, announced Thursday last week that the President had approved the new strategy for Africa which will develop mechanism of tackling issues in Africa.
“Under our new approach, every decision we make, every policy we pursue, and every dollar of aid we spend will further U.S. priorities in the region,” said Bolton, speaking in Washington. “Our first priority, enhancing U.S. economic ties with the region, is not only essential to improving opportunities for American workers and businesses. It is also vital to safeguarding the economic independence of African states and protecting U.S. national security interests.”
Bolton said China is using big loans and opaque agreements to make Africa “captive to Beijing’s wishes and demands,” singling out projects in Zambia and Djibouti where he said Chinese enterprises are set to take over a state power company and a key port, respectively.
Bolton was quoted by Voice of America saying Russia in Africa, “advances its political and economic relationships with little regard for the rule of law or accountable and transparent governance.”
The United States has provided more than $8 billion in aid to Africa in each of the past two fiscal years and a review of all aid is being finalized, according to Bolton.
The many more billions of U.S. tax dollars spent there over recent decades, Bolton said, have failed to stop terrorism, radicalism and violence, nor have they prevented other powers from increasing their own power and influence.
“And, they have not led to stable and transparent governance, economic viability and increasing development across the region,” said Bolton.
There was word that in the new strategy, Kenya would be named as one of the anchor countries of the US policy on Africa given its strategic location, longstanding relationship with the West as well is encompassing and steady economy. However, this did not come out clear when Bolton, a former US ambassador to the UN announced the new strategy.
A similar move that would net African nations was witnessed a few months ago. President Trump signed into law the Better Utilization of Investments Leading to Development (BUILD) Act of 2018, On October 5, which creates an International Development Finance Corporation (IDFC) and establishes a powerful tool for U.S assistance and foreign policy.
The IDFC is coiled towards supporting private investment and development projects in emerging countries, including backing private investment; a move that gives or rather empowers private entities which have previously struggled with funding.
America’s move is seen as a shift to counter China which has cemented its position in East Africa as a key lender and developer of mega projects.
The region’s economies are reported to have borrowed over $29.42 billion from Beijing in the past 10 years to grow their transport, energy, manufacturing and communication sectors.
While responding to the new strategy on Twitter, Yemane Keleta, a geopolitical analyst on East African affairs welcomed the new strategy. “Thank you and congrats honourable Amb. John Bolton! East Africa supports the new American policy for E-Africa! Mutual respect and fair trade! US taxpayers will save millions if not billions! “