Africa’s narrative is now changing the world over not because of its stereotypical ‘wars and instability’ but because of how fast it is emerging as an investment destination.
The continent which has become a hub and recipient of FDI in unprecedented proportions is rising from its ashes and reforming, financially, a country at a time.
While the benefits are yet to be felt by every citizen, the change is visible with the emergence of new infrastructure projects in cities around the continent.
China has become a key figure in this narrative with its investments especially in energy, roads and other multi-billion dollar projects which are transforming the face of Africa.
Africa is currently painted red as the dragon country has its tentacles in almost every African country except Eswatini which has resisted the Chinese like the plague. The country is however receiving investments from Taiwan.
New Africa strategy pits US against China, Russia
The world is now Africa’s courtier and globally, every country wants a piece of the pie.
In December last year, the United States unveiled a new Africa strategy to challenge China and Russia in their efforts to develop economic, political and security partnerships in Africa.
US National Security Adviser John Bolton outlined a three-part policy to foment its military, trade and aid initiatives in Africa.
The Donald Trump administration is keen on curtailing and frustrating Beijing and Moscow in their African exploits.
Thus, China and Russia will not go unchallenged on the continent which has immense investment opportunities especially in natural resources. With the growing population notwithstanding, America will not cede ground on the continent with President Trump saying as much.
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.”
The strategy is explicit in pursuing programmes that advance US interests in Africa.
China transforming Africa in a decade
While the US and other developed nations have been on the continent for decades, very few can match China’s development record.
In Kenya for instance, the Chinese have built thousands of kilometres of roads which are improving connectivity in the East African nation.
In comparison, Kenya has seen more infrastructural development in the past 15 years than at any other time with the West as a development partner.
In playing catch up and trying to stop China from ‘colonising’ Africa with its expertise and loans, the US and the developed nations may already be treading a path that only betrays them.
While China does not care much for ethics, human rights and anticorruption policies, it can only get better for Africa which has been lagging behind in matters development.
Having more competition in Africa ‘for Africa’ will yield better returns for the continent since the best development partner will win.
Civil rights and freedoms
Only a few countries in Africa can boast of vibrant civil societies among them Kenya and South Africa.
While the continent is flattered with the dollars, the hawk-eyed civil organisations will be pushing for more accountability especially on expenditure pegged developing countries.
For instance, within Africa, a South African lobby group led to the shelving of a plan to import power from the Congo once the Grand Inga Dam Project was completed.
Public participation and more open processes in what the countries engage in with development partners will under a lot more scrutiny to make sure that projects are delivered at fair costs.
China’s human rights record is questionable and while this has been highlighted in Kenya, nothing much has happened especially in ensuring that Kenyans get justice.
Complaints about mistreatment in the construction of the much hyped Standard Gauge Railway Phase 2 from Nairobi to Naivasha have not yielded much. Kenyans are given menial jobs while all the skilled labour is given to Chinese nationals at top dollar.
The Chinese ambassador to Kenya, Sun Baohong, admitted that there is a conflict between Kenyan workers and their Chinese counterparts.
She, however, explained that some of the things taken as mistreatment are part of “Chinese culture.”
America’s fear of china and Russia in Africa
According to the director of George Washington University’s Institute for African Studies, Jennifer Cooke, the US has returned to the Cold War tendencies.
Cooke told the VoA that the result is a strategy that emphasizes American needs and bilateral relationships, while downplaying African concerns.
“This sounds like a real return to the policies of realpolitik during the Cold War, when allies were based on their opposition to communism or the Soviet Union rather than good governance, human rights, economic prosperity and so forth,” Cooke said.
The Americans should be careful of how they tread since in 2014, there were 1,503 and 1,099 Chinese enterprises respectively in the secondary and tertiary sectors in Africa. This accounted for 55 per cent and 40 per cent of the total.
In the EY Global’s 2018 Africa Attractiveness report, United States businesses and investors increased the number of American FDI projects in Africa by 43 per cent to 130 in 2017. This was nearly twice the next country.
Overall, FDI to Africa rose by 6 per cent to 718 projects up from 2016’s 676. This was the lowest in 20 years.
Source: The Exchange