China Dominated – US-Africa Summit
By George Curry | 8/16/2014, 1:05 p.m.
Although the continent of Africa has 54 countries, the nation that received the most attention at last week’s US-Africa Summit in Washington, D.C. was China. That’s because the U.S. is trying to catch up with and surpass the Asian superpower.
Africa has six of the top 10 fastest-growing economies: Angola, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Chad, Mozambique, and Rwanda. From 2011-2015, Africa is expected to hold seven of the top 10 spots: Ethiopia, Mozambique, Tanzania, Congo, Ghana, Zambia and Nigeria.
Suddenly, instead of being viewed through the outdated prism of stereotypes – war, famine, disease, corruption – Africa is an attractive place to do business. That was evident when President Obama announced $33 billion in government and private sector investment in Africa – $12 billion in new commitments.
In a speech to nearly 50 African heads of state and top officials at the U.S.-Africa Summit, Obama said: “As president, I’ve made it clear that the United States is determined to be a partner in Africa’s success – a good partner, an equal partner, and a partner for the long term.”
The problem is that Africa already has a long-term partner – China.
While the US-Africa Summit was the first such gathering of African leaders on U.S. soil, China held its fifth Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) in Beijing in 2012. At that conference of African leaders, China pledged to provide $20 billion a year over three years in foreign aid to deepen the Sino-African connection.
China is not a newcomer to Africa.
As I wrote last year in a series on China, the first trade exchanges between China and Africa are believed to have taken place during the Tang Danasty [618-907]. China supported many African liberation movements in the 1960s and 1970s.
It was sympathetic to and hosted such prominent African Americans as W.E.B. DuBois, Paul Robeson, Langston Hughes, Malcolm X and Black nationalists Robert F. Williams, Huey P. Newton, Eldridge Cleaver, Angela Davis, and H. Rap Brown.
A report by the Rand Corporation titled, “China in Africa: Implications of a Deepening Relationship,” observed: “Most analyses of Chinese engagement with African nations focus on what China gets out of these partnerships – primarily natural resources and export markets. Some studies have described the impacts, positive and negative, that China’s aid and investment policies have had on African countries. However, few analyses have approached Sino-African relations as a vibrant, two-way dynamic in which both sides adjust to policy initiatives and popular perceptions emanating from the other.”
It explained, “African governments look to China to provide political recognition and legitimacy and to contribute to their economic development through aid, investment, infrastructure development, and trade. To some degree, many African leaders hope that China will interact with them in ways that the United States and other Western governments do not – by engaging economically without condescendingly preaching about good governance, for example, or by investing in high-risk projects or in remote regions that are not appealing to Western governments or companies. Some Africans aspire to replicate China’s rapid economic development and believe that their nations can benefit from China’s recent experience in lifting itself out of poverty.”