Focusing on the strategic competition between major powers, the Biden administration restarts the US-Africa summit
From December 13 to 15, 2022, the US-Africa Leaders Summit will be held in Washington. The United States invited leaders of 49 African countries and representatives of the African Union Commission to attend the meeting. Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali, and Sudan, whose membership was suspended by the African Union, and Eritrea, whose diplomatic relations with the United States were downgraded to the charge d’affaires level, did not receive the invitation. This is the first time the United States has held such a meeting in eight years since the Obama administration held the first U.S.-Africa summit in 2014.
Biden administration tries to reshape diplomacy with Africa
After the Biden administration came to power, it adjusted its policy towards Africa, strengthened its emphasis on Africa, reshaped the relationship between the United States and Africa, and its diplomacy with Africa has heated up significantly. In August 2022, during his visit to South Africa, Congo (Kinshasa) and Rwanda, US Secretary of State Blinken announced the “US Strategy for Sub-Saharan Africa”, emphasizing that African countries are “vital partners” of the United States.
The day before the summit, US National Security Adviser Sullivan publicly stated that the US promised to invest a total of US$55 billion in the African continent in the next three years. During the summit, the Biden administration announced a series of new measures for Africa, mainly including: supporting the African Union to officially join the G20; providing 21 billion US dollars in loans to low- and middle-income countries through the International Monetary Fund (IMF) To support Africa’s economic recovery; signed a memorandum of understanding with the African Continental Free Trade Area Secretariat to expand contacts; the US International Development Finance Corporation invested $369 million in food, renewable energy infrastructure construction and health projects in Africa; proposed the African Digital Transformation Initiative , expanding digital networking and “digital literacy” in Africa; launching the “African Democratic and Political Transformation” initiative; and so on. The Biden administration also plans to nominate former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnny Carson as the special representative of the president to implement the results of the summit full-time.
However, the summit failed to eliminate the crisis of trust between the US and Africa. Carlos Lopez, former executive secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, said, “The theme of the summit was unilaterally set in advance by Washington, rather than negotiated.” The posing of poses”. The South African Institute for Global Dialogue issued a report before the summit, stating that the core appeal of the United States is to contain China’s influence in Africa, but Africa insists on an independent foreign policy, which is very clear. During the summit, the rotating chairman of the African Union and Senegalese President Sall made it clear in a roundtable discussion with Biden and Blinken that the African people will not be happy with the “Combating Russia’s Non-Malicious Activities Act” being promoted by the US Congress.
New Features of America’s Africa Policy
Compared with the Africa policy of the Obama era and the “New Africa Strategy” introduced by the Trump administration in December 2018, the Biden administration’s policy toward the United States has further highlighted the main axis of “big power competition” and presented some new features.
One is to expand the scope and subjects of cooperation. The Biden administration is seeking four major strategic goals in Africa, namely: foster an open and open society, realize the “democratic and security dividends”, respond to the new crown epidemic and promote economic recovery, and support efforts to protect the environment, address climate change, and energy transition. Around these four major goals, the Biden administration has formulated many plans. In terms of promoting economic recovery in Africa, through the “Global Partnership for Infrastructure and Investment” (PGII) program jointly launched by the leaders of the Group of Seven countries, it will mobilize investment and connect financing channels, and jointly invest in “game-changing” projects. Thereby diversifying the supply chain and promoting the national security of the United States and African countries.
The second is to emphasize “American democracy” and values. Successive U.S. governments have always regarded Africa as a tool for geopolitical games and the goal of promoting “American-style democracy.” The Biden administration has paid more attention to the conditions of democracy and human rights in African countries. The “U.S. Strategy for Sub-Saharan Africa” states that the United States will support “democracy in Africa” by supporting civil society, including supporting activists in related fields and reformist leaders in various countries, and defending “free and fair elections.” On the basis of the “President’s Democratic Revival Initiative” and “Democratic Summit”, it supports “African democracy and opening up”, which makes no secret of its nature of interfering in the internal affairs of African countries.
The Biden administration has pushed the United States to focus more on the African continent. The main intentions are: First, to curb China’s influence. Although President Biden did not mention China in his keynote speech at the US-Africa Summit, he was actually “pointing at” China. The Biden administration admits that US diplomacy with Africa has failed over the past 30 years, and that the rise of China’s influence in Africa is an obstacle to the US’s maintenance of “leadership” in Africa. Obviously, the United States still clings to the Cold War mentality, indulges in geopolitical calculations, and tries its best to smear China’s image.
The second is to maintain military hegemony. The US will “review and reinvest” in US non-military cooperation. During Blinken’s visit to South Africa, he announced that the United States will pay 200 million U.S. dollars every year to promote “peace and security” in African countries suffering from terrorist threats and attacks. However, the United States did not give a specific implementation plan. In recent years, the United States has continued to hold joint military exercises in Africa on the grounds of anti-terrorism to strengthen its military presence. Next, the United States will further strengthen its non-military deployment on the grounds of “anti-terrorism” to provide a key geographical location for its own strategic interests.
The third is to seize economic benefits. Sub-Saharan Africa has a wide variety of mineral resources and large reserves. The reserves and output of diamonds and gold rank first in the world, and reserves of petroleum, uranium, copper, cobalt and coltan are also abundant, and many of these mineral resources are key raw materials for electronics, aviation equipment and clean energy technologies. US media have reported that the Americans have failed to protect decades of diplomatic and financial investment in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Today, “the world’s largest cobalt supplier is controlled by Chinese companies.” The reason why the United States re-emphasizes Africa is to avoid allowing China to “monopolize” Africa’s natural resources. The Biden administration’s increased attention and investment in US-Africa economic and trade cooperation is also because it is optimistic about Africa’s potential market prospects and huge demographic dividends.
In recent years, U.S.-Africa economic cooperation has been regressing: in 2014, the amount of U.S. investment in Africa was 69 billion U.S. dollars, which dropped to 47.5 billion U.S. dollars in 2020; in 2010, the U.S.-Africa trade volume was 113 billion U.S. dollars, but in 2021 this figure was only 64 billion U.S. dollars Dollar. Reversing the decline in US economic activities in Africa is the top priority of the Biden administration’s Africa policy.
How China Responds
China needs to fully understand the essence of the United States’ “return to Africa”, maintain strategic focus, and strengthen pragmatic cooperation with Africa in a targeted manner.
China and Africa should continue to deepen political mutual trust. China should strengthen cooperation with different African countries and different African sub-regions, implement the “Dakar Action Plan”, and implement policies such as the “Nine Projects” and the “Vision of China-Africa Cooperation in 2035” and the construction of the African Continental Free Trade Area and countries. Link to development planning. Deepen exchanges between Chinese and African political parties.
We must actively promote the transformation and upgrading of economic and trade cooperation. China should deepen global development initiatives, seize favorable opportunities such as the 10th anniversary of the “Belt and Road” initiative, and strengthen economic and trade exchanges with Africa. Improve the quality of China’s products exported to Africa, and avoid low-end products impacting African industries and affecting reputation. Promote cross-border RMB trade settlement and reduce exchange costs.
It is also necessary to further promote China-Africa people-to-people friendship. Emphasis should be placed on the interaction between Chinese and African people, so that the people of both sides can experience and correctly understand China-Africa relations. Strengthen cooperation between media and think tanks, change the form of unilateral propaganda, and form a two-way interactive international image construction and dissemination of China-Africa cooperation. At the same time, it is also necessary to properly handle the competition and cooperation issues with major powers in Africa, and reduce external resistance to China-Africa cooperation.