There is a new scramble for Africa unfolding, as China and the United States are battling to win Africa. This is exacerbated by the trade gaffe between the two countries, with each wanting increased trade with Africa. Increased trade with the continent through opaque deals subject to less scrutiny means that either of the two countries benefits more, while the continent suffers.
The United States has always expressed its dissatisfaction as regards how trade is decreasing with Africa. The US has especially been worried because of Chinese business overtures in Africa. US Deputy Secretary of Commerce Karen Dunn Kelly said that the US must reverse the trend of falling US exports to Africa, with shipments to the continent having decreased by 32% since their peak back in 2014.
Chinese presence in Africa is growing exponentially, with the Asian giant investing in a lot of developmental projects across the whole continent. China now has increased access to African markets more than the US. And China always rejects accusations that it is employing the debt-trap diplomacy with African countries.
UNCTAD economist Giovanni Valensisi said, "The two major players, the USA and China, and to a certain extent also Europe, are competing to strengthen their economic linkages within Africa. They also want to boost their potential share on the African market, which is very dynamic, with a young population and reasonable growth rates."
In essence, a new cold war is brewing in Africa. In the midst of this, there is absolutely no consideration for the ordinary African citizen. The deals that are signed by those in the upper echelons of power are merely for cosmetics used by the regimes to cover up for a lack of deep and genuine reforms to transform their economies around. It is always the same story.
In mid-June, there was a US-Africa Summit held in Mozambique where the US stated its strategy to help African countries and foster more trade. Days later, China said that it enjoys good relations with African countries, with the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi saying that critics did not understand "the true friendship between Africa and China."
For the US, Africa has always been a place to confront its enemies. From fighting terrorists, to attacking the Soviets, this has been their modus operandi. For China, Africa is the place to win trade deals and developmental projects such as the construction of railways, roads, airports, electricity stations, and many other buildings. China has actively expanded railway lines in Africa, but for their benefit.
Where is the common African man in all these subtle battles? At the US-Africa Summit, the US offered $60 billion in a bid to "prosper Africa." Just last year, Xi Jinping, the Chinese President, pledged $60 billion solely for investment in Africa.
For some African governments, Chinese partnerships are "needed" because of the imperialist nature of America. So they perceive Chinese funding as "unconditional." They are oblivion to the fact that advances from both countries are equally detrimental.
And even the military tensions between the two countries are a risk for Africa because both countries command heavy military presence in the continent. The US trumps over China in this department, but still, the risks are high. Washington strongly wants to contain Beijing when it comes to military presence. Even if direct confrontation is a remote possibility, the presence of their growing forces is "playing out at different conflict and social upheaval hotspots across the continent."
This battle can be favourable for Africans if done in good faith. But we know this is not the case. A new cold war is brewing out and in all of this, the common man is left to resign to economic misery created by these two countries.
Header image credit - DW