Africa More Attuned to Partnerships With China as U.S. Woos the Continent

Hillary Clinton
Hillary Clinton on a recent trip to Africa

As the United States is making apparent efforts to compete with China for Africa’s heart, some analysts believe that the vast continent is more attuned to its relationship with China and more likely to dance with the partner that has renovated mutual cooperation for the good of Africa.

Unlike many other donors, China has in the past several decades offered Africa various assistance without any strings attached, said Sabelo Ndlovu Gatshery, an expert on international relations who also works as a lecturer at the University of South Africa.

Instead of taking advantage of its status as assistance-provider to dictate a development path for its African partners, China is willing to work together with Africa to achieve mutual benefits, Gatshery said.

China surpassed the United States as Africa’s largest trading partner three years ago, with two-way trade standing at 166 billion U.S. dollars in 2011.

At a meeting in July, China also pledged to provide Africa with 20 billion dollars of loans for the development of infrastructure, agriculture, manufacture, and to support small- and medium-sized enterprises.

Amid concerns about China’s growing ties with Africa, Washington has quickened its steps in recent months to bolster its profile in the continent.

Not long after the Obama administration unveiled in June a new strategy on Africa, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton started a 11-day African tour involving nine African countries.

The whirlwind visit, however, raised doubts among many African observers.

Kenyan journalist Issac Swila said in an article published on The People newspapers on Aug. 8 that it’s too late for the United States to ride on Kenya’s train of development since it missed the perfect opportunity in 2007 when Barack Obama was elected the U.S. president.

Kenya then hoped for stronger ties with the United States and more development opportunities, but was only disappointed, it said.

Thanks to China’s development aid in the past several years, the Kenyan economy has flourished and the two countries have become ever closer, it added. The U.S. move aiming to set up a development partnership came too late as Kenya’s train of development has already set off, the article said, referring to Clinton’s most recent visit to the African nation.

An editorial by South Africa’s local newspaper the Star said that Clinton’s visit came as Obama was in the midst of a campaign to win a second term at the White House.

“One has to wonder if Clinton’s visit did not merely amount to a political footnote to make up for lost ground, as Obama looks to burnish his Africa credentials, especially with the African American voters in the run-up to the presidential election in November,” the editorial said.

Aside from commenting on the timing of the Clinton tour, local analysts also voiced their doubts over the actual benefits it could bring to the African continent.

An article in The Marawi Post newspaper called the U.S. top diplomat “a spent force,” saying there is still a question mark as to the future of her promises made during the trip since she is expected to say goodbye to the job of U.S. secretary of state in November.