American Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Africa for the first time since he was elected to the post in 2018. The visit took him to three African countries namely; Senegal, Angola and Ethiopia. The choice of the countries for Mr. Pompeo’s tour were not an accident or randomly selected, it is believed that the countries have big investment projects with China which gives sleepless nights to the Washington administration.
It should be noted that Senegal was one of the African countries that President Xi Jinping visted in July 2018, and since last year, Senegal assumed the co-chairmanship of the forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC). Although Mike Pompeo crafted his words along working with West African countries to counter extremist violence in the region, the real motive of the visit was different. Senegal being top on the agenda, his visit, can be seen as trying to counter China’s influence in Africa which has been growing over the years especially through the FOCAC cooperation framework. In the last FOCAC summit in 2018, China pledged $60billion worth of support to African countries where a big part of the money goes into infrastructure development projects.
In Ethiopia, Pompeo announced that the United States was providing $8 million in additional funding to support regional locust control operations in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia. The gesture although welcome, looked like he had come empty handed but reminded the region had a locust invasion, and the support was not under any known cooperation agreement between US and Africa probably on disaster management.
However, political analysts believe that the real interest in Ethiopia are twofold. The first is that Ethiopia is one of the most populous nations in Africa with over 100 million people, which makes good business for America companies. The second, is that the US needs Ethiopian as a gate way to the horn of Africa for security reasons. China-Africa analysts and Ghana scholar Antwi Danso, observes that, “If the US is able to gain a foothold in Ethiopia, it will be able also to counter China’s influence in the region,”.
In Angola, Pompeo heaped praises on the Angolan president for fighting corruption and privatizing state owned enterprises. His remarks both in Angola and Ethiopia, focused more on promoting American companies trying to compare them with China, although he avoided mentioning the country by name. “When we come, we hire Angolans, We do high quality work. It’s transparent”, said the US top diplomat at a press conference in the Angolan capital. The remarks were viewed as in reference to the common US criticism that Chinese companies employ less local people, produce inferior commodities and are corrupt.
Pompeo’s visit to three African countries in a few words, plays out like a bridegroom coming to lure a bride who already enjoys better relationships with a convenient and self-chosen bridegroom. There is a feeling that the US is trying to arm twist African countries to stop dealing with China, something that is neither practical nor possible in the 21st century era of globalization. African countries are open to work with all countries of the world, as long as the relationship is mutual and beneficial. “The US lost the status of Africa’s main business partner to China ten years ago, Antwi Danso, further observes.
China through FOCAC, has supported African countries to acquire technology to promote industrialization, establish Special Economic Zones for processing of raw materials and value addition as well as infrastrure development to promote business and trade. The US “Prosper Africa” Program that aimed at shifting Americas policy from Aid to economic relations still remains in limbo. Ms Aubrey Hruby, a senior fellow with the Atlantic Council Africa Center that promotes dynamic geopolitical partnerships with African States, says that, “The Trump administration’s Africa policy has focused almost exclusively on countering the influence of China and Russia, and yet to find “a positive focus to promote in Africa”. The battle of wits continues.
Africa China Review Editorial