Implications of the U.S. Government New Africa Strategy

24th December 2018

The Trump administration has put the United Nations, and China on notice in a new Africa strategy unveiled by John Bolton, the National Security Adviser. The new strategy is a significant shift for the U.S. and counters growing Chinese and Russian influence in Africa, according to reports. The new strategy seeks to counter Chinese investments in the continent, overtaking the United States as Africa’s largest trading partner almost a decade ago.

China has focused on economic and infrastructure development, building ports, railways, airports, hospitals, schools, and stadiums across the continent, according to Washington Post. These investments as well as shift in where and how African states seek investments has led to U.S. losing ground to China.

During a speech at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., Bolton said the United States would no longer support United Nations peacekeeping missions that lack focus and are wasteful. In the new American strategy, Bolton stated that United States would no longer provide indiscriminate assistance across the continent, without focus or prioritizing and will no longer support, unproductive, unsuccessful and unaccountable UN Peacekeeping missions.

According to report, the new strategy probably will heavily scrutinize the United Nations Support Office in Somalia (UNSOS), the United Nations Mission in Darfur, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, and the United Nations Mission in the Central African Republic. The administration assesses that these missions lack focus and have been wasteful.

The new strategy is urgently required to counter Chinese outreach to Africa that aims to build investment and ties with continent often overlooked by the US and other Western nations. Chinese President Xi Jinping in September pledged $60 billion in financing for projects in Africa.

Speaking to a gathering of African leaders in Beijing, Mr. Xi offered $15 billion in grants, interest-free loans and concessional loans, $20 billion in credit lines, $10 billion for “development financing” and $5 billion to buy imports from Africa. In addition, he said China would encourage companies to invest at least $10 billion in Africa over the next three years, according to reports.

According to leading experts, China has gained economic and military foothold in Africa, posing national security and foreign policy challenges to the US. China has established its first overseas base in tiny and strategic Djibouti, enabling Beijing to gain a great foothold, and influence in Africa.

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Djibouti military base is the first of many China is seeking to build as part of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the 21st century Maritime Silk Road that will increase Chinese influence in the natural resources rich East Africa and the Middle East. The new military facilities China is planning on building in Somalia, Eritrea, Sudan, Kenya, and Tanzania, expanding China’s growing interests and economic ties in East Africa and the Indian Ocean.

The US and other Western nations have finally realized China’s growth of investments in Africa as well as PLA’s bases pose significant challenges to long established and often neglected interests in the Africa and the Middle East. Beijing is sending its military to protect China’s overseas interests. With over 250K Chinese citizens working in Africa and over 2 million Chinese visitors annually, Beijing has been showing Africa high interest to the detriment of U.S. and European interests.

The administration is taking meaningful steps to counter growing Chinese economic, and military influence in Africa. The new strategy seeks to bypass the United Nations and directly engage and partner with Africa nations to further American interests.

By Quilliam International’s Senior Fellow, Mo Fatah and Executive Director, North America, Dr Muhammad Fraser-Rahim.