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Analysis

Africa a Setting for New Cold War?

Thursday 11 August 2022
Africa a Setting for New Cold War?

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US Africa Strategy Unveiled: Countering China

Alwaght- The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently visited a number of African countries in a bid to shore up cooperation with them. Reports say that the top American diplomat is seeking to reverse lagging behind China and Russia and check their deepening influence in Africa. White House officials have said that during this visit, Blinken will launch the US strategy for the sub-Saharan region and will lead an American delegation at the US-South Africa strategic dialogue meeting. 

The tour comes on the heels of the Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov's visit to a number of African countries. Last week, Chinese Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Affairs of the Foreign Ministry Xue Bing visited South Africa, something signaling a heightening competition in Africa among the world powers. 

In the 19th century, Africa had become a breeding ground for European colonialists, and the powers of that time took advantage of the weakness of the local governments and plundered the rich resources of the continent with their occupation, and now that the competition among the powers is increasing at the global level, Africa is once again rising to be the focus of Western and Eastern powers. 

Although Washington did not pay much attention to Africa in the past decades, since Moscow and Beijing have shown special attention in recent years to increasing interactions and developing their influence in this region, it has also struggled not to fall behind. Analysts believe that although the US is trying to counter the influence of China and Russia, it failed to form a new coalition to achieve its goal of containing these two countries due to the significant cooperation between China and Africa and Moscow's deep interaction with this continent. 

Pushing to check Russian influence in Africa 

During the Cold War, Europe was the main setting of competition between the East and West, and this time Africa may take Europe's role due to its geopolitical position and proximity to Europe, and the recent movements of Western, Chinese, and Russian officials bear witness to this fact. Because of its rich energy resources, gold mines, and precious metals, Africa has always attracted great powers and since the level of tensions between the US and rivals has intensified in recent years, leaders of Moscow and Beijing are trying to strengthen their interactions with Africa in the fields of trade and energy in order to neutralize the effects of Western sanctions. 

Many African countries have not yet joined the Western sanctions against Russia, and this is completely understandable given the dependence of the poor countries in this region on Russian grain and energy. On the other hand, the bitter memory of European colonialism and the help of the Soviets to African freedom movements for independence from the yoke of Western colonialism is still alive in Africans' subconscious, and this issue makes it easier for Russia to have African governments on its side. 

Russia's influence in Africa is so deep that some Western media have claimed that Russia is trying to finance a significant part of the war in Ukraine from African gold it mines. After the Ukraine crisis, Russia tried to get Africa's oil and gas-rich counties on its side, and it has been relatively successful. Therefore, the US, in order to realize the Western front's policy of Russian isolation, needs the help of influential countries in Africa

Containing Chinese ambitions in Africa 

Naming China the biggest threat to its global hegemony, the US is pursuing a policy of putting a check on of this emerging heavyweight across the globe. 

Since China has built strong trade ties with African countries in recent years and has made large investments in this continent, Washington is also trying to block China's voyage to being a global superpower by strengthening American relations with this region. The allocation of $600 billion by the US-dominated G7 to developing countries to put the skids under China's ambitious 'Belt and Road Initiative' is also part of this strategy. The Americans know that if they do not restrain China now, the country will unseat them as the world's economic hub in the future, that is, the power will be transferred from the West to the East after 8 decades. 

North Africa is part of China's 'New Silk Road' project, and influence in this region can accelerate Beijing's global goals and leadership. To this end, the Chinese make African states loans with the aim of building infrastructure such as roads, railways, ports, and airports. According to statistics, China's bilateral trade with African nations in 2021 set a new record, amounting to $254 billion. China, which entered developing countries through an economic partnership, considers African countries important to advancing its global agenda, and since Africans can play an important role in global competition between great powers, China has appointed a special representative for them. 

The visits of the Eastern and West officials to Africa signals the continent's role in the future global economic makeup, and any contender that manages to strengthen ties with these countries can turn out a winner. 

African countries need $170 billion of foreign investment annually to advance their infrastructure, and this is a good opportunity for big powers to attract these countries with financial aids. Driven by this reality, Washington and its Western allies are trying to spend a part of the $600 billion in Africa in order to eliminate the negative view of the African public to the West for its colonialism and also to hold back the Russians and the Chinese from domination of the African resources. 

Concerns about African states' membership in BRICS 

In order to challenge America's dominance over the world's financial and economic institutions, Russia and China have designed their own economic institutions, including the BRICS group ( Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa). In order to strengthen the arms of this economic bloc, they have recently invited developing countries to join in and this issue has made the Americans struggle to prevent African countries from joining the Moscow-Beijing axis. 

South Africa, Africa's economic leader, is key to the West and East. Experts argue that although Pretoria has friendly relationship with Washington and London, it is unrealistic to expect it to be in the Western camp against China and Russia. Because this country is considered one of the big emerging countries that actively interacts with China and is part of the BRICS. This issue will benefit Moscow and Beijing in the global competition. Strengthening the economy of the Chinese and Russian camp with rich energy of Persian Gulf countries in the gold and mineral resources of African countries can tip the scales in the Eastern bloc's favor. 

The developed economies are ratcheting up their support to developing counterparts and according to estimates, India, Brazil, and Indonesia will have a remarkable economic growth in next decade. India and Brazil presence in BRICS can seriously hamper Washington's global anti-China and Russia policies. 

Thanks to its Bretton Woods system of monetary management that governs World Bank and International Monetary Fund, the US has dominated the world economy for eight decades and should this system collapse, China and Russia replace their own institutions and hence take control of the global economy— something extremely worrying the White House officials. 

World developments signal Cold War 2.0 is in the making between China and Russia on the one side and the West on the other hand, and meanwhile Africa is part of this competition for a domination over world economy. Moscow and Beijing are relatively winning because while the US officials call African countries "sh*thole countries", as did Trump, the Russians and Chinese are expanding their interactions with the black continent for future advantages. They actually reap what they sowed years ago and the American visits and empty promises to the Africans cannot disrupt these relations. 

 

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