Geopolitical competitors between the US and China is taking central stage in world affairs. Rising tensions and rivalry between the 2 are worsening in South East Asia, the Indo-Pacific, the Gulf and Latin America.
US President Biden has recognized countering China as one of many predominant strategic priorities of his overseas coverage. This rivalry can also be enjoying out in Africa.
Former US secretaries of state Mike Pompeo and Hillary Clinton have usually warned African leaders of the pitfalls of participating with Russia and China. US officers are additionally dissuading African governments from counting on Chinese language telecommunications chief Huawei for safety causes.
Nice energy rivalry in Africa has been properly documented. However there’s one other angle to contemplate – how can African international locations use the rivalry to their benefit?
I discover this query in a latest article.
I argue that African governments ought to keep away from the zero-sum sport, particularly when coping with US-China rivalry. They need to undertake measures that strategically play rivals in opposition to one another. They need to additionally implement long-term methods and home insurance policies for coping with strategic companions like China.
Keep away from the zero-sum sport
China’s engagement with Africa is commonly offered as a spectre by US officers throughout conferences with African leaders. Up to now, each Republican and Democrat secretaries of state have warned of the hazards offered by China. The latest journey by Anthony Blinken, US Secretary of State, recommended a rhetorical shift. Nonetheless, oblique criticism of China was nonetheless current.
Some argue that the US is trying to placed on a zero-sum sport, disrupt China-Africa cooperation, and completely advance American pursuits in Africa.
In response, African leaders have stipulated that they don’t need to be used as pawns in a proxy rivalry. Their predominant strategic precedence is partnership diversification.
This is smart. African governments ought to keep away from proscribing their methods to these of a mutually unique zero-sum sport. African economies are dealing with a disaster induced by the COVID-19 pandemic. They want a number of partnerships and will exploit the silver linings offered by nice energy rivalry. As Branko Milanovic, an economist at Metropolis College of New York, says, those that as soon as performed the US and Soviet Union in opposition to one another throughout the Chilly Struggle may do the identical now with the US and China.
Play one rival in opposition to the opposite
African international locations must be looking for to take advantage of rivalries to their benefit.
Listed below are some examples.
Indian and Turkish contractors compete with China for contracts in Africa. In Guinea, rivalry largely takes place between China and Russia within the mining sector. Negotiators there discovered a silver lining in pitting each events in opposition to one another.
Chinese language negotiators had been keener to reevaluate the clauses of their contracts, and to adjust to requests when the Guinean authorities performed the “Russia card”.
Tips on how to negotiate infrastructure offers with China: 4 issues African governments have to get proper
The technique of enjoying one rival in opposition to the opposite additionally proved advantageous to Ethiopian negotiators within the allotment of the primary telecom licenses in 2021.
By requiring new operators to construct their very own infrastructure or lease it from the state firm (Ethio telecom) as a substitute of third-party tower operators, the Ethiopian authorities selectively restricted the variety of contenders by prioritising its nationwide pursuits. This enabled them to avoid last bids between the MTN/China-backed consortium and the US backed Safaricom-Vodafone firm.
Implement long-term methods
African governments ought to decide how affords from rival companions can finest align with their nationwide improvement priorities. Kandeh Yumkellah, a Sierra Leonian improvement economist and former Director of United Nations Industrial Growth Organisation, put it this fashion:
Africa wants all companions. We have to be good and eclectic, selecting what works for us relying on time and context.
To realize this, I argue that 5 key measures are required:
Firstly, the “take-it-all” mentality of accepting brief time period, opportunistic affords must be prevented. Loans, grants and donations ought to match African international locations’ nationwide improvement plans. They need to additionally translate into initiatives that can immediately have an effect on folks’s dwelling requirements.
Secondly, African governments ought to undertake extra built-in and complete insurance policies. Senegal adopted a strategic plan that included sector-specific priorities through a particular unit connected to the Presidency. Members of the unit selectively select which overseas companions have the very best potential to hold out these priorities.
Diversifying companions through a selective and strategic method additionally allowed Senegal to be much less depending on previous partnerships with France or their newer partnerships with China.
Thirdly, geopolitical rivalry can also be happening in different areas comparable to Latin America and Southeast Asia. Studying how a few of them cope with this may increasingly current a possibility to reinforce the methods of African governments.
Fourth, a coherent technique requires enhancing the capability of African bureaucracies to cope with China, Russia, Turkey and India. This, by constructing an inside pool of specialists with data of their modus operandi, cultures and languages. Within the brief time period, African leaders can depend on the experience of former African college students who had been skilled within the universities of those international locations to supply experience and language expertise.
Fifth, African governments ought to take the very best of each worlds by selling extra trilateral or quadrilateral cooperation between new and conventional companions. Examples are the joint infrastructure initiatives carried out by Chinese language and French enterprises.
Bridging rivalry by way of numerous types of collaboration mobilises further swimming pools of finance and avoids mission duplication. Moreover, African governments ought to take their very own residents’ opinions on this subject under consideration.
A latest survey by Afrobarometer, the pan-African surveys establishment, throughout 34 international locations confirmed that 63% see China’s affect in Africa as constructive. That is just like the 60% who mentioned so within the case of the US.
This implies that US-China rivalry could not represent an either-or dilemma for bizarre African residents, however relatively a win-win state of affairs. It’s as much as African governments to make use of the advantages these rivalries current.
That is an edited model of an article that was initially printed by the Africa Coverage Analysis Institute.