US Releases New African Policy to Counter China, Russia

The US government has released a new policy on Africa to counter China and Russia’s increasing presence in the continent.

The new policy, launched on Monday, is coming on the heels of the visit of US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, to South Africa, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

According to reports which states that some of US’s longstanding approaches to issues affecting the continent as insufficient in meeting new challenges in a more contested and competitive world, the US is seeking to reframe the region’s importance to its national security interests with a view to articulating a new vision for how and with whom the US engages, while identifying additional areas of focus.

In the main, the new policy states that the world recognises Africa’s importance, a fact that spurs several engagements on the continent, which it said, “presents new opportunities and challenges for US interests in the region.

“The People’s Republic of China, PRC, by contrast, sees the region as an important arena to challenge the rules-based international order, advance its own narrow commercial and geopolitical interests, undermine transparency and openness, and weaken US relations with African peoples and governments,” the policy said.

It describes Russia’s views of the region as a permissive environment for parastatals and private military companies, through which it often foments instability for strategic and financial benefit.

“Russia uses its security and economic ties, as well as disinformation to undercut Africans’ principled opposition to Russia’s further invasion of Ukraine and related human rights abuses.”

As part of its desire to reorder its priorities through the new policy, the US will employ four objectives in Sub-Saharan Africa, including fostering openness and open societies; delivering democratic and security dividends; advancing pandemic recovery and economic opportunity; and conservation, climate adaptation and a just energy transition in the next five years.

“We will broaden our engagements, continuing to invest in the largest states while also deepening our relations with small and medium African states to advance our shared priorities, including the AU’s Agenda 2063,” the new policy document added.

It added however, that the U.S will advance its objectives on the condition that Africa’s civil society, including journalists and activists, as well as multilateral bodies and democratic institutions, stand up for shared democratic values, such as transparency, accountability, diversity, equality and equity, women’s rights, and inclusion.

According to the document, the US will equally elevate Diaspora engagement with a view to strengthening the dialogue between US officials and the diaspora in the United States and support the UN’s Permanent Forum for People of African Descent.

“The United States will leverage all of our diplomatic, development, and defense capabilities, as well as strengthen our trade and commercial ties, focus on digital ecosystems, and rebalance toward urban hubs, to support these objectives,” it said.

Over the years however, China has, in addition to offering low-interest loans, become a darling to many African nation with the provision of massive infrastructure projects to them. The gestures have helped to grow and cement Chinese influence in the continent. For instance, loans from China are being deployed to finance massive rail and road projects, most of which are also being constructed by Chinese firms in Nigeria, Africa’s largest economy.

Russia’s influence on the continent came to the fore recently when most African countries failed to either condemn the country outrightly or even support sanctions against it for its invasion of Ukraine. In addition, Russian private miltiary contractors, one of them, the notorious Wagner group, is very active in many African countries, including the Central African Republic and Mali.

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