Africa not a bat­tle­field for ma­jor power geopol­i­tics

China Daily (Latin America Weekly) - - Comment -

Would Africa have at­tracted such in­tense global in­ter­est had China not worked for mu­tual ben­e­fits with its part­ners there? The ques­tion de­serves spe­cial at­ten­tion. In­creas­ingly, the long-ne­glected con­ti­nent is seen as a land of bound­less op­por­tu­ni­ties. Which is good both for over­seas in­vestors and the African peo­ple.

With its rich re­sources, rel­a­tively cheap la­bor, and un­fath­omable po­ten­tial de­mand, Africa could be the last fron­tier of tra­di­tional devel­op­ment mod­els promis­ing lu­cra­tive re­turns for in­ter­na­tional in­vestors. For­eign cap­i­tal, tech­nolo­gies and man­age­ment ex­per­tise will in turn in­ject vi­tal­ity into Africa’s economies, and ul­ti­mately im­prove the liveli­hoods of the peo­ple there.

With what it has learnt from its own re­form and open­ing-up, China is en­gaged in mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial co­op­er­a­tion through­out Africa. This co­op­er­a­tion has yielded rich fruits thanks in part to China’s long­stand­ing pol­icy of non-in­ter­fer­ence in other coun­tries’ in­ter­nal af­fairs, as well as to the his­tor­i­cal friend­ships cul­ti­vated over the past decades.

Al­lured by the rich prospects Africa of­fers, an in­creas­ing num­ber of de­vel­oped coun­tries are turn­ing to the con­ti­nent, promis­ing hand­some in­puts — only that they are not just reg­u­lar for­eign in­vestors eye­ing prof­its but have the com­mon goal of coun­ter­ing China’s in­flu­ence there.

For in­stance the United States ad­min­is­tra­tion not only de­fines Bei­jing as Wash­ing­ton’s fore­most “ri­val”, but also has re­peat­edly de­clared its re­solve to take on China. And US Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­vi­sor John Bolton has just pledged to re­spond to “preda­tory prac­tices” of China in Africa and safe­guard US in­ter­ests there.

Even the Euro­pean Union has jumped into the fray promis­ing more in­vest­ments in Africa to bal­ance Chi­nese in­flu­ence. At the 2018 AfricaEurope High-Level Fo­rum in Vi­enna last week, EU of­fi­cials were heard echo­ing Wash­ing­ton’s al­le­ga­tion that Chi­nese in­vest­ments are in­creas­ing Africa’s debt bur­den, and vow­ing to not “leave” Africa to China.

Which prompted Moussa Faki Ma­hamat, African Union Com­mis­sion chair­man, to ex­press worry that mar­ket competition in Africa is be­ing seen through the prism of ma­jor power geopol­i­tics. “We choose our part­ner­ships, and cre­ate con­di­tions based on mu­tual in­ter­est and ben­e­fit. Do not in­fan­tilize an en­tire con­ti­nent,” he said.

Rwanda Pres­i­dent Paul Kagame (who is also AU pres­i­dent) re­in­forced the mes­sage, say­ing Euro­peans need to see Africans as part­ners, not ben­e­fi­cia­ries of their gen­eros­ity. “…we should have a con­ver­sa­tion about what Africa brings to the part­ner­ship and how what Europe has been of­fer­ing can be of­fered dif­fer­ently, so that we get the re­sults we want,” Kagame said.

In­deed, Africans know what it is in their best in­ter­est.

And it would be sad if Africa be­comes a new play­ground for ma­jor power geopo­lit­i­cal con­fronta­tions.

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