African Interests ‘Take Backseat’ When US Plays Geopolitical Games, Says Expert

African Interests 'Take Backseat' When US Plays Geopolitical Games, Says Expert
African Interests 'Take Backseat' When US Plays Geopolitical Games, Says Expert

Africa-Press – Gambia. While US Vice President Kamala Harris tours Africa, with visits to Ghana, Tanzania, and Zambia in order to counter Russia and China on the continent, press sat down for an interview with an African economist to get more details about Washington’s attempts to pull Moscow and Beijing away from Africa.

African interests take a backseat against the backdrop of the US’s goal of dragging the continent away from China and Russia, Rugare Mukanganga, Economist at Development Reimagined, an African-led International Development Consultancy, says in an interview.

In the interview, the expert elaborates on Kamala Harris’ trip to Africa as an attempt to draw the continent’s attention away from China and Russia.

“What comes to mind is a recent reflection by an African head of state on these developments. In a nutshell, they highlighted how African interests often suffer or are made a secondary concern whenever global geopolitical conflicts take place,” Mukanganga said.

In his opinion, the US might not be prepared to “fill the gap China and Russia fill in terms of fulfilling African development and security needs.” And if prepared, he also questions whether this could be even considered a success by those African countries “at the receiving end of the US’ back and forth tussle with Russia and China.”

“By countering a growing influence, one is responding to a perceived threat, most likely at the expense of someone or something else,” the economist maintains.

He adds that a “more proactive form of engagement as global peers” would be more successful than the current back foot and respondent approach to Africa.

He also elaborates on the financial aid to West African nations, amounting to $100 million, promised by the US.

The expert states that aid and financial assistance are really needed in West Africa, and when the “funds flow into targeted countries, they’re likely to have some impact on a number of various sectors.”

“What isn’t so clear to me is why African governments must be expected to make a set of reforms in order to receive development assistance,” he questions, adding: “Why isn’t aid being coupled with trade and investment commitments to make the US-West Africa engagement more wholesome and impactful?”

The economist notes that he would be a “bit skeptical” about the US’ other financial commitments it could make beyond the promised $100 million, as they set off domestic pushback, he believes.

According to Mukanganga, by revamping financial assistance, Washington “could be responding to a gradual realization that relations must be give-and-take, not one-sided.”

“With talk of extending financial assistance, to some extent I see US efforts as dangling a carrot in front of African countries in the hope that it will sway interest away from China and Russia and towards the US,” he explains.

The expert highlights that Washington’s influence in Africa has weakened over the years, since China has stepped up efforts and offered various forms of assistance “with relatively lower constraints.”

Speaking on the upcoming so-called Second Democracy Summit hosted by the US, the economist points out this could be the issue of “competing influence on the international stage.”

“With a theme like ‘to renew democracy at home and confront autocracies abroad,’ it comes as a reminder of the US’ approach to governance and a perceived need to see the system that works for the US implemented [as is] in African countries,” he says.

However, in his opinion, African interests vary from country to country as well as “country-level conditions.”

“Promoting democracy at this time is difficult not to associate with the US’ goal of reducing African countries’ interest in partnering with China and Russia. Again and unfortunately, African interests take a backseat,” the expert notes.

Along with that, he says the summit is not an immediate need for Africa.

From March 29 to 30, the United States is hosting a Summit for Democracy with leaders from Zambia, Costa Rica, the Netherlands, and South Korea as co-hosts.

The summit is taking place after the Second International Forum on Democracy that was held in Beijing, the capital of China, last week, during which the participants noted that there was no single formula or model for democracy, since countries differ according to their political culture and national needs.

Earlier, one of the experts interviewed, Ian Liebenberg, a Professor of Politics at the University of Namibia (UNAM), Windhoek, Namibia, and Extraordinary Professor at the Faculty of Military Science at Stellenbosch University, South Africa, said the increasing number of Western officials’ trips to Africa are aimed at maintaining the West’s dominance as well as to counter Chinese and Russian activities on the continent.

“These visits by Western leaders are apparently a concerted charming exercise to gain goodwill in Africa to protect Western material interests (diamond, gold, uranium) as well as their strategic footholds, especially after France was pushed out of Western Africa, which the French dominated for many, many years as a neo-colonial power,the expert noted.

In December 2022, during the US-Africa Summit hosted by Washington, South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa addressed the Countering Malign Russian Activities in Africa Act issued by the Biden Administration in May that year and implying punishment for African nations cooperating with Russia in certain areas.

“We should not be told by anyone who we associate with, and we should never be put in positions where we have to choose who our friends are,” Ramaphosa insisted.

Along with that, before her trip to Africa, Harris said the visits would include discussions on Russia and China’s involvement on the continent.

“We’ve made clear we have real concerns about China’s behavior in Africa and around the world. But a true partnership with Africa means that we’ll talk about elements of China’s engagement… including the technological, economic, military and global governance domains,” the official said.

US Vice President Harris also noted that despite the fact that many African countries have long-standing relationships with Russia, which exports foodstuffs to the neediest of the continent’s nations, she vowed to hold talks with African officials over shared points of agreement on economic issues aggravated by the conflict in Ukraine.

However, Kemi Seba, a pan-African activist, who took part in the second Russia-Africa interparliamentary conference in Moscow this month, in turn, said BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) are a “source of inspiration” for Africa, because they behave differently from the West.

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