Vice-president, Kamala Harris is in Africa on a Three-nation duty tour seeking closer collaboration with leaders of the continent, which is primed to play a leading role in shaping the world economic environment for the rest of the 21st century.
As other world powers cast alluring glances at Africa in view of her enormous resources and incredible potential as a dominant power in the future, there appears to be a desperate scramble by the US to move ahead of the pack by forging closer ties on the continent in order to stave off interest from her rivals, particularly Russia and China.
With China investing billions of dollars to build Africa’s infrastructure to enhance and meet its trading objectives on the continent and Russia building close military ties, political watchers postulate that the US is desperate to reverse the gains of its rivals as it seeks to extend her reach in Africa.
As discussed in my previous article, there is an acknowledgement by global powers that Africa’s sheer market size, which is expected to double by 2050 and its rapidly growing urbanized spaces would attract significant investment that would transform the continent into a global economic power in the foreseeable future.
As expected, the US came into town with the usual fanfare offering millions of dollars to boost Africa’s ailing economy severely blighted by a global downturn exacerbated by Covid-19 and the Russian/Ukraine war.
Even before the charm offensive of this historic visit wears off, there are general concerns though about how the US plans to play this viewed against its own previous dealings with Africa and the rhetoric that have accompanied it.
The fact remains and which fact is beyond contestation that US strategic interests in Africa has changed significantly and this change has coincided with the emergence of China as a global power.
It is also insightful to state that post the emergence of China as a global power, experts have repeatedly characterized Africa as “the stepchild of US foreign policy”, prompting J. Peter Pharm, in his article titled, U.S. National interests and Africa’s Strategic Significance to describe this unfortunate characterisation as “a long standing…..self-fulfilling cliché.”
According to J. Peter Pharm, US national security strategy regarding Africa acknowledges that “In Africa, promise and opportunity sit side by side with disease, war and desperate poverty. This threatens both a core value of the US-preserving human dignity – and our strategy priority-combating terror. American interests and American principles therefore, lead in the same direction: we will work with others for an African continent that lives in liberty, peace and growing prosperity.”
While Africans appreciate America’s support in building a continent that “lives in liberty, peace and growing prosperity” what it wouldn’t accept nor countenance is the latter framing the conversation for this engagement from a position of a neighbourhood bully ready to use its superior resources to whip everybody into line.
Again, while Vice-President Kamala Harris ought to be highly commended for identifying issues such as the empowerment of women, technology and growing Africa’s creative space as priority areas for attention, the US should also be advised to tread cautiously on issues which do not align with the culture of the people of Africa.
Africa’s cultural homogeneity and complexities should inform all US engagements in the continent. And this is non-negotiable. What the US cannot impose upon other cultures around the world should not be countenanced in our neck of the woods.
As the face of the global system changes in light of the emergence of China and the re-emergence of Russia on the global scene, the US hegemony is clearly weakened and is on an inexorable slide towards a lesser power status.
Indeed, while we agree with O’Neil and Francis Fukuyama that democracy and liberalism has triumphed over autocracy and dictatorship, we are seeing in our lifetime the East rising to break the hegemony of the West.
This was a far distance thought but it appears that unless fate is tempted nothing is going to stop a change of guards at the very pinnacle of world power.
For Africa to accept the US as a partner worthy of participating in Africa’s leading role in shaping the global economic environment for the rest of the 21st century, the old rhetoric, stereotypes and narratives must be discarded.
Africa has come of age. Africa’s development will be dictated by her interests not by the exploitative interests of others.