The recent rise of China as a Global Economic Giant has raised important questions on how U.S. can hold on to its position as the largest national economy in the world. The fundamental issue for African countries is not a China Rise as it should be a concern for many American foreign policy experts, but rather the Fundamental change Washington is ready to take towards its Africa Policy.
Later this Friday, President Obama will be visiting Ghana, and African countries are waiting for him to unveil the details of a new U.S. policy for Africa. As Africans we are not expecting much, but, we will need to see Obama's Africa Policy uniqueness compared to his predecessors. On his first meeting with the Tanzanian President, President Jakaya Kikwete; we didn't hear any specific details on the future of American policy to Africa rather the normal expected talking points. I hope Mr Obama understands the need of U.S. to incorporate Africa in its national strategic interests if it wants to hold its position as the largest national Economy in the world.
This is a time in history which will define the Rise and fall of both U.S. and Africa. As the U.S. and China compete for African resources, this is not a time for the U.S. to ignore Africa's priorities, if it wants to out compete China. All of this is unfolding at a time when The U.S. is not in a good financial shape; the danger is for it to reduce investments towards Africa. It is seems Unlikely for Obama's administration to be willing to request the congress for any additional investments towards Africa. I can predict it might go with popular and easy legislative agenda; which is militarizing the African continent through AFRICOM, this move is not going to be received well by Africans and neither is it a realistic solution to the long term problem.http://www.africom.mil/AboutAFRICOM.asp
There are a lot of foreign policy experts who still believe AFRICOM is the way forward for American policy towards Africa. In the recent arguments in favour of militarization of the African continent; was the article, "The Interdependence of U.S. Troops and Trade in the Developing World," which was published in the journal of Foreign Policy Analysis by Biglaiser, Glen, and Karl DeRouen. It suggested that the increased bilateral trade between U.S. and developing countries will depend on them accepting the U.S. troops, but the problem with this approach is that; it fails to take into account the effectiveness of investments and cash with which China Invests and buys contracts in Africa. A good example of such is, the fact that, AFRICOM cannot match up the bilateral agreement between China and Congo, aimed to invest $5 bn in Congo for infrastructure projects and loans, in exchange for Chinese mining rights to Congo's mineral resources (uranium, copper, gold, diamonds, iron, and cobalt).
Moreover, If we are looking for Global Green Energy and Food security solutions, there is no way U.S Militarization will be able to compete with countries like Saudi Arabia, who just sealed a deal worth $3 Billion to acquire 500,000 hectares of land in Tanzania. The only realistic alternative left for the U.S. is to Invest and provide Technology Transfer to Tanzania and other African countries for their Agriculture and Manufacturing sector development.
At the moment U.S. is struggling to free itself from foreign oil dependency, which has a massive threat to its National Security issues, however an even greater threat is in the making, where U.S. has adopted a new form of addiction by massive importation of cheap Chinese products which has increased the U.S. China Trade Deficit and China leverage on the global foreign policy direction.
The Rise of China highlights the long term problem with which US and other Developed countries ignored the political risk associated with their decision to invest in one country. For two decades they went on and invested in China and by passed African countries with almost all of their FDI and Technology Transfer being directed to China. They forgot that in the long term concentrating in investing in one country without diversification of their investment in different countries may lead to political risk. This can be observed, by the recent restrictions China has kept on exporting raw materials, which benefits China's Domestic Industries, but In turn affects U.S. manufacturing industries.
The only permanent solution for U.S. towards trade wars with China is not filing complains to WTO about China, as recently done by the U.S. Trade Ambassador Ron Kirk, but rather a change in Policy to Africa. The change in policy should aim at making African countries as a leading global manufacturer and exporter of its own raw materials by increasing the FDI and technology transfer to Africa. This will enable U.S. to achieve the political risk diversification, which it will never get from China.
To achieve this U.S. needs to abolish the negative perceptions about Africa. These perceptions have always been a motivator for U.S., and other western manufacturers to ignore Africa and to move their production to low-wage China even though Africa has abundant low wage workers as well and natural resources. When a positive change in policy is implemented it will clearly benefit both U.S. and Africa.
Moreover, the change in perception will necessitate the U.S. to start thinking of Africa as the same strategic level partner as it views China. This can be done by establishing similar dialogues which currently exist between China and U.S. I hope President Obama's new policy will realize the need to establish new U.S.-Africa Joint Economic Committee, U.S.-Africa Joint Commission on Science and Technology, U.S.-Africa Economic Development and Reform Dialogue, The U.S.-Africa Energy Policy Dialogue, The U.S.-Africa Healthcare Forum which are vital for the mutual benefit of both Africa and U.S, where U.S. will be able to keep its super power status and Africa will be able to achieve sustainable economic growth.