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Expert: US must look through the lens of Africans

By YIFAN XU in Washington | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2022-12-16 13:17

Attendees of the US-Africa Leaders Summit walk through the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., December 13, 2022. [Photo/VCG]

The US should work for the benefit of Africans and not compete with them, says a US expert while talking about the US-Africa Summit in Washington on December 13-15. The event was attended by 49 African leaders,

"Washington must look at Africa through the lenses of Africans themselves," Sourabh Gupta, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Institute for China-America Studies, told China Daily.

A variety of issues, including food security, global health, and education, was discussed at the summit.

In the US-Africa Business Forum, held on December 14 and attended by 49 African leaders, US President Joe Biden said,"the United States is all in on Africa's future". During the summit, he also announced supporting and investing in Africa worth billions of dollars, including $500 million to reduce transport costs at an important West African port in Benin, $350 million to boost its digital economy, and $150 billion worth of deals made at the forum.

The meeting is the first international conference hosted by the US since the global pandemic and the first since the last US-Africa Summit was held during Obama presidency in 2014.

Gupta described the US stance on African countries as "benign neglect". "The US-Africa Summit is a hugely welcome one, given that Washington has not always been as forthcoming towards Africa as it should have been, and which is in its interest to be," he said.

The summit takes place in the US viewing China as its global competitor. Biden's speeches had not mentioned China, yet still the summit highlighted China, which is recognized as self-evident among observers and analysts.

Joseph Sany, vice-president of the Africa Center at the United States Institute of Peace, said "we know China is in the background although China is not mentioned in the agenda" in an interview with SiriusXM's POTUS Channel 124 before the US-African Summit.

"Our goal is not to make this about China, but to make it about Africa and the US. And of course, China has been present. China's investment in Africa dwarfed US investment. We have been losing ground," Sany said.

The US seems to be downplaying its current Africa strategy's relevance to China. When visiting Africa this August, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US wouldn't ask African governments to pick sides in an intensifying standoff with other powers, such as Russia and China.

However, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin Tuesday told leaders from Africa at the US-Africa Summit that "the combination of those activities" by China and Russia and their influences risked "destabilizing" the continent.

Austin said China was raising its footprint in Africa "on a daily basis" by increasing economic impact.

"China's significant inroads and win-win ties with Africa is a key driver that has concentrated minds at the African desks within the US government. Up to a point, it is good that Washington feels the need to up its game in Africa because of China's presence on the continent," said Gupta.

"But I would also admit that this is not the best way to approach the endeavor. Washington must work for the benefit of Africans as a matter of its enlightened long-term self-interest rather than as a matter of simply competing with another major power for the hearts and minds of Africans."

At a fireside chat with Semafor news platform, Qin Gang, the Chinese Ambassador to the US, said on Dec 12 that Africa is a place for international cooperation rather than the major-power competition.

Qin also noted that the US and China should keep cooperating in Africa. He says: "We need to extend, broaden our vision, and expand our cooperation in Africa. This is one of the very interesting areas for the two countries to work on."

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