US-Africa Leaders Summit: In whose interest?

In its recent publication, The Economist describes how Africa ‘’is set to deliver a fresh asymmetric shock to the global order, taking its place as the last great emerging market.’’

The Economist no doubt truly captured how suddenly Africa transformed from the ugliest girl no one wanted to associate with to now the most beautiful girl in town. Any man who ignores her presence does so at his peril.

Given how it is home to six out of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies, it is understandable why the bulging consumer class that now equals India in size — and adding 10 million yearly to its expanding middle class — makes Africa increasingly the most compelling market ever which any developed nation should ignore at its own peril.

But to fully tell this story of the fast transforming Africa, let us not forget who the true partner was; while the entire western nations were calling it a hopeless and good for nothing continent, how China, ignoring all the risks, came to join hands with African nations.

And to ensure a truly win-win partnership with Africa, China went as far as conceiving the Forum on China and Africa Corporation in 2000. This, besides being the bedrock of genuine Sino-Africa diplomatic cooperation, is devoted to promoting business cooperation in a way that identifies key obstacles to trade and investment as well as identifies strategies for removing those obstacles to their implementations.

Little wonder, FOCAC has since successfully promoted Sino-African genuine economic, financial and trade partnership along with the promotion of an overall fair world economic and diplomatic system.

Also, unlike imperial western nations whose master-slave trade engagement with Africa included commodity price fixing in a way that endlessly plundered African economies, China’s decision to pay African nations the true market value of their commodity products and raw materials has also made Africans to earn enough money and buy cheap Chinese manufactured products rather than expensive western products.

With the world’s largest consumer market yet to industrialize, 90 per cent of its cobalt, the bulk of the world’s diamond, 64 per cent of the world’s manganese, 50 per cent of its phosphate and of its gold, 40 per cent of its platinum, 35 per cent of the word’s uranium, and more than 20 per cent of its oil reserves, China’s soared demand for them along with prices, triggered Africa’s current phenomenal growth.

That is why there is no way what is happening in Africa would have happened without China. In short, as the Chinese demand for the continent’s commodity products and raw material soared along with prices, economies in Africa began to finance social and physical infrastructure development in a way unheard-of before.

As the CEO of the Corporate Council on Africa overseeing the US investments and trade in Africa, no one was in a better position to see what America was missing than Mr. Stephen Hayes, who had to cry out loud for years before Washington and corporate America could begin to change their old ‘’view of Africa a case of aid than as…an opportunity for partnership.’’

Discovering such self-inflicted blunders, the US has since 2012 been trying to do everything possible to catch up with China in Africa. The US Commerce Department first launched its ‘’Doing Business in Africa’’ campaign in 2012. As a result, a marathon visit to Africa was organized in 2013 by President Barack Obama during which he ceaselessly wondered: ‘What has America done wrong? And what should America do to reverse its spectator status in Africa, while China continues its aggressive investments in Africa?’

Little wonder the urgency surrounding the organization of the first ‘US-Africa Leaders Summit’ which just took place on August 4-6 in Washington, where not less than 50 African heads of state and hundreds of African business leaders gathered to interact and discuss with their US hosts, President Obama and hundreds of leading US businesses, on how best to leapfrog the US trade and investment on the continent.

And that during the three-day summit, Obama spent most of the time bashing China as part of his efforts to convince his African guests why they should believe in America than in China failed was because unlike China, America still had serious difficulty walking the talk. The question for those bashing China failed to ask is: Would America have taken Africa this seriously had Chinese economic diplomacy in Africa not been this successful?

Arguing that China is in Africa ‘’just to build roads and bridges from mines to the ports, to Shanghai,” as plausible as it could sound, the undeniable truth remains that the west, not China, plundered Africa for centuries starting with slavery, colonialism, and neocolonialism. One thing Africans should give kudos to China for is that at least its rise brought to an end commodity product and raw material price fixing America and Europe used in plundering Africa’s vast wealth. This is because China consistently paid the right prices for Africa’s commodity products and raw materials. Without this, there is no way African nations would have been making such huge money from their exports that triggered the unprecedented economic growth.

Isn’t it astonishing how chief executive officers of global giant corporations including the General Electric, Mr. Jeffery Immelt, at the so-called US-Africa Leaders Summit came to the reality that Africa’s ‘’growth is real.’’ And for that reason, the GE will begin to invest in Africa’s electric power sector.

If it’s not all about China bashing, how come the US-African investment announcements for the next five years remained so meager to what China is investing Africa this year alone? If it’s not part of Washington’s distraction game, what should have been the explanation for the fact that despite the known fact that billions of dollars invested yearly in Africa’s power sector by their Chinese counterparts, the GE (world’s leader in power generation) was seen at the summit celebrating its meager $2bn investment in Africa’s power sector, not even this year alone, but by 2018?
Despite the fact that there is a lot of catch up to do, the US still maintains its old perception of Africa not worth investing in.

What was Obama thinking when he told African leaders how beneficial AGOA had been to Africans, when in reality it was framed to ensure that critical inputs should be sourced from the US and Africa has to contend with the environmental damage associated with the processing of those products?
Obama had told the US-African forum of business leaders, “I want Africans buying more American products; I want Americans buying more African products.” Was he sincerely talking about fair trade diplomacy if he should also insist on Africa implementing the Bali Agreement?

Implementing the Bali Agreement meant to create one-stop border shops by putting in place some bulky bureaucratic regulatory machinery with costly processes and fees made African nations to refuse its implementation.

But that AGOA should insist on enforcing the Bali Agreement, which African nations refused to enforce despite the US 2011 launching of some financial aid and ‘technical support’ for the implementation of the agreement should leave no one in doubt about the imperialist intentions of the summit.

Obama Power Africa Initiative in Africa isn’t different, especially with its insistence on greener energy projects. Africa leaders at the summit were not really excited; some insisted the US should hold its ‘export of low carbon idealism’ to itself.

At least, the takeaway from this summit would have been Washington&#8

217;s acceptance to dismantle its military stations on African soil, particularly its drones and its special forces operating in Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Niger.

From the above, we should agree that unlike every FOCAC summit that ends with African leaders signing billions of dollars worth of agreements, the first US-Africa Leaders Summit is another US instrument for promoting its trade and commerce interests in Africa.

Written by
Odilim Enwegbara
Join the discussion