US-Africa Summit attempt to assert competition against China: Experts
Although the US is exacerbating efforts to assert its presence in Africa, the way China is developing in the region is more attractive to other developing countries, according to experts.
The second unique event of its kind in history, the 2022 US–Africa Leaders Summit was observed by some as a technique for the US to try and assert domination amid growing influence in Africa.
This comes after some African nations refused to stand with the West against Russia and as experts state US president Joe Biden’s greatest challenge is to prove to the African leaders that his country can be a reliable, long-term partner.
In an interview with Sputnik, Dr. Ezzat Saad, director of the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs, analyzed that although the US is exacerbating efforts to assert its presence in Africa, the way China is developing in the region is more attractive to other developing countries.
"It is remarkable that China does not seek to impose its development model or governance system on other countries, but through a flexible Chinese policy that is compatible with the changing conditions [...] in Africa, and is based on a development pattern that meets the needs of the continent away from competition or any ideological considerations, in contrast to the American approach in this regard," he said, stressing that the US treats Africa "as a bloc without states with their own interests and concerns", which "undoubtedly reflects the strength of the relationship between Washington and Africa".
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'Too little, too late'
Ovigwe Eguegu, a Nigerian policy advisor at consultancy Development Reimagined, observed that the US would "continue to increase its pressure campaign on China and try to recruit African countries to partake in Western-sponsored UN resolutions and proposals also in the United Nations, the Human Rights Commission, to try to use the UN system to exert pressure on China. And that is likely to increase both. There's a concern that African countries are not going to play along,"
Intentions to invest $55 billion over the next 3 years and to allocate $2.5 billion for food aid in Africa, and to lend up to $21 billion through the IMF to low- and middle-income countries are still insufficient to counteract Chinese presence in Africa. According to Dr. Saad, all of the above are "too little, too late,"
Ongoing inflation and domestic policies in Western countries will pose risks of being obstacles in the plans, Dr. Saad says, adding that insecurity in Africa is viewed by China as an outcome of insufficient sustainable development as he believes that economic and technical aid are crucial to achieving "stability, security, social peace and good governance in the countries of the continent".
Trade is another key and common point among rivals looking to invest in the continent. Nimley emphasizes that Chinese exports are taking over since "it is about quantity over quality", whereby China supplies products and services more suitable to Africa's purchasing power.
"The US model speaks about quality over quantity, but looking across Africa, you will see the AU [African Union] headquarters, funded by China, ongoing ECOWAS [Economic Community of West African States] headquarters, funded by China, African Center for Disease Control, funded by China, railways, bridges, being funded by the Chinese loans," he says.
'Lecturing and bullying'
The history of US-Africa policies itself undermines US loyalty to vows after the 2014 US-Africa Summit "did not result in concrete commitments", whereby one of the discrepancies at the time was the crisis in the Sahel, which was taken care of neither by the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM), nor by America's European allies.
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Ugandan independent researcher Dr. Frederick Golooba-Mutebi notes that the US' way in tackling issues is "lecturing and bullying" Africans while China avoids that - leading to more African sentiment and appreciation.
"[Competing with China is] going to be very difficult [for the US], for as long as the Chinese are going to keep playing the game that they're playing right now – of flexibility, of non-interference, of willingness to invest money, I'm not sure the US is flexible enough to play... I'm not even sure that the Europeans are able to play the same game. I think that the Chinese have been much more creative... And I don't think Western powers are going to be able to catch up with them," Golooba-Mutebi notes.
The US "is starting with 15 billion out of a total of 55 billion" but China on the other hand has provided $60 billion to Africa through loans and other types. "So, in order for the US to regain its role, they need to help Africa to develop," Nimley said.