Howard French
Howard French

The United States are rethinking their Africa policies, and at the core of that process is the position China has gained at the fastest growing continent, writes journalist Howard French, author of China’s Second Continent: How a Million Migrants Are Building a New Empire in Africa, in Foreign Policy.

Howard French:

There is one country that has not failed in its imagination about Africa in the last decade or so, and it happens to be the leading global competitor of the United States: China.”.

And it is China’s booming interests in Africa, and the appetite for African business that has been created in its wake in any number of other middle or rising powers — countries from Brazil and Turkey to Malaysia and Vietnam — that underscore the second major objection to the Smith appointment.

Africa has 1.1 billion people today. By the middle of this century, it will almost certainly count over two billion. By the end of the century, Africa will astoundingly have between three and five billion people. The continent is presently urbanizing faster than any other part of the world. Its GDP is growing at least as fast as Asia’s – though few Americans have noticed. Its middle classes are already larger than India’s. Here, one finds irony in the way China has pursued an ideological competition with Washington in Africa, portraying itself as the non-judgmental foreign power that won’t get involved in other countries’ internal affairs, least of all questions of democracy.

The United States has paid an enormous price to its credibility in Africa for its readiness to preach about democracy with states that are deemed relatively insignificant, while making little public fuss on the subject with long-favored authoritarians and deeply corrupt petro-states like Angola and Equatorial Guinea. Meanwhile, it has utterly failed to understand Africa in terms of its immense upsides, as a place of tremendous opportunities. In economic matters, Washington has made little effort to compete with China and other outside powers in Africa — something that most Africans would greatly welcome and which would be beneficial to all.

More in Foreign Policy.

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