Written by Sunday Orinya

Rethinking US-African relations

Recently, the leadership of the United States of America intensified efforts in reinvigorating its relations in Africa. This has become expedient because of the growing influence of China and Russia in the region.  A number of strategies are being put in place for cooperation in various fields. To this end, working visits of government officials, business representatives and non-governmental organizations have been coming in quick succession.

 

 

 

 

 

To oil this new relationship, numerous treaties, contracts and agreements have been put on the table. Various grants have also been given including humanitarian assistance. There has also been promises of investments in the national economy, donations of weapons, training programs, medical assistance, etc.

For example, between March-April this year State Department officials visited a number of countries in Central and West Africa and had talks on how to strengthen relations.

In fact, China and Russia featured prominently in some of these talks. The US is uncomfortable with the rising profile of these two countries in their diplomatic relations with Africa. For inexplicable reason, America has been behaving as if Africa does not matter. Trade between the US and Africa has been dropping compared to activities between China and African countries. There is also growing foreign direct investment by Chinese companies in Africa.

Times have changed. The dynamic nature of international politics has ensured that new actors continue to emerge in the international scene. This means that new alliances will be created thereby necessitating shifting and changing alliances. Organization like the BRICS, made up of countries like Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa as a product of these new alliances to challenge existing order.

The carrot being dangled in the face of African countries now by the US is not for nothing. The US does not give free lunch. Sooner or later, demands will be made in the form of requests either to provide access to natural resources, or to request for Africa support for Washington’s initiatives. We have seen this in the AFRICOM policy that has been opposed by most African nations.

The basic principle underpinning America/Africa relations has remained the same. From Donald Trump to his predecessors, there has been little commitment to seeing Africans live good life in terms of economic development. The mercantilist tendency of American economic relations hardly allows for a win-win situation that liberalism so much espouses. It becomes doubtful if Africa will benefit from this new move. They are more committed to how Africa will continue to be subservient to them to allow for continued free access to her natural resources.

 

As early as the beginning of the 20th century, particularly during the First World War, the Americans developed a very convenient strategy for themselves captured in a dictum which says “While others are fighting, we get rich”. This principle allowed the United States to become the world financial leader in the aftermath of the Second World War. The recognition of the dollar as the global reserve currency ensured that the US continue to maintain its global hegemony with de facto power over any state economy.

While the US preaches and enforces economic liberalism to the rest of the world it practices economic nationalism. For instance, imposition of tariff which is antithetical to the basic principle of free trade has become a major weapon in the arsenal of America in dealing with countries they have trade deficit with. It is surprising how this archaic trading practice has suddenly become very attractive to the US government, especially the Trump administration.

Consequently, trade war is assuming legitimacy in an era of globalization. While their goods and services flood our local markets under the guise of free trade, our people are prevented from enjoying the benefit of this trade surplus through imposition of stringent immigration laws that prevent African migrants from entering America. The situation has been worse under the current administration.

Yet, they want to do unto others what they would not want done to them. The practice is to look for malleable regimes that will remain loyal to the US and its business interest. Dissenting regimes are overthrown, leaders who are really able to defend national and regional interests are eliminated, sanctions are imposed and travel ban slammed on politicians who object to their tactics. In Africa and other countries of the world, opposition are financed and trained to cause internal crisis to undermine legitimate governments. Iraq, Libya, Syria and Ukraine are contemporary instances of this arm-twisting tactics.

The alternative has been the use of diplomatic means through international organizations. From the rostrum of the United Nations, dissenting governments are labeled terrorists or accused of genocide and abuse of fundamental human rights of their citizens. This is with the intention of securing the mandate of the world body (United Nations) and the support of international community for military action against such regimes. Some of these actions are done in complete violation of international law.

To achieve greater effect, the mechanism of financing opposition groups within the state becomes useful. This usually follows labeling of a legally elected leader as illegitimate and demands for the immediate change of power. To achieve this objective, hundreds of thousands of dollars are funneled into the accounts of opposition politicians through non-governmental organizations under various pretexts. This is a clear case of interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state.

It is expected that the new partnership will be one that will bring prosperity to the continent and not crisis. What Africa needs is a relationship that will address the nagging problems of terrorism and poor economic development. It is curious that this year funding for antiterrorist activities in Somalia, carried out under the auspices of the UN, has been reduced by 50%. This is disturbing considering the widespread activities of terrorist organizations in the continent.

Africa is a large continent, rich in human and natural resources, situated in a very favorable geostrategic location. It is this God’s blessings that the US and other powers want to put at their disposal. There is the possibility to artificially create and regulate armed conflicts in areas with a rich resource base. But after making away with regimes that ensured peace and security, you virtually set on fire the entire region. The situation in Libya and Egypt are sign posts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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