Train or Slay the dragon: US against Sino-Africa relations

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China’s influence in Africa has reached historical proportions and the US, coming rather late into the game, is now attempting to ‘change Chinese narrative’ on the continent.

The US is looking to move Africa from training or rather petting the dragon to slaying it, metaphorically speaking.

The new US-Africa policy that was launched in 2018, is designed for this purpose. As a top US diplomat put it, the policy “…will continue to counter China’s influence in Africa in order to slay the dragon.”

The US would have Africa and the World at large know, the continent is now getting “the attention it deserves from senior US officials.”

With the new policy, that is meant to guide bilateral relations with Africa, the US is trying to improve its public diplomacy outreach.

As China continues to assert itself on the continent with ever more development pacts, the US is now trying to sway African leaders to “…choose sustainable foreign investments that employ Africans in good jobs and ensure that skills are transferred to African workers.”

The US would have Africa view China as sheep-skin covered wolf with ill intentions to say the least or as former US National Security Advisor John Bolton put it “…Africa should choose the US over China because of Beijing’s predatory actions.”

He alleged that China’s investment is a corrupt two faced beast with self interest and ulterior motives. He said Chinese ventures on the continent do not meet neither US’ environmental nor its ethical standards.

The official made it clear that Africa’s development,”…stability, prosperity, independence, and security…” are of national security interest to the United States. In this regard, the national security interests of the US, it is clear military works by China on the continent are rather unsettling for the US, least of which not been ‘China’s military installations in Djibouti.’

A Chinese-American professor of sociology at the University of California in Los Angeles, Ching Kwan Lee is of the view that the behaviour of capital will greatly influence current and future narratives of both the US and Chinese relations on the continent.

The professor does however, point out that it is China not the US that “…seems to hit the right note in many countries and in crucial economic sectors.”

However, the US maintains this ‘goodness’ of China to Africa is not what it seems. Consider a report published in February this year by Breitbart, in which it is alleged that China is selling chemically packed fish to Africa.

Titled ‘China Is Selling Kenya Fish Poisoned with Mercury, Lead, Pesticides’ the author Frances Martel writes;

In the past three years, China has overwhelmed the Kenyan fish market with high volumes of cheap farmed fish like tilapia, making it impossible for Kenyans to subsist off of fishing in Lake Victoria as they cannot compete with the low prices of the Chinese product.”

But how will Africa avoid these cheap imports, next door to Kenya is Tanzania where the annual fish production capacity is 336,821 tonnes yet domestic demand is in excess of 731,000. The easy earns to fill the demand gap is to buy Chinese readily available fish.

China is building schools, it is Chinese companies that are constructing roads and railways, refurbishing ports and erecting new inland depots. Everywhere you turn it is Chinese investment all around.

In fact you can no longer go down the road in any major city across Tanzania, and much of East Africa, without running into a Chinese. From employees to traders, specialists and contractors, China’s presence is evident everywhere you turn.

According to the Chinese Ambassador to Tanzania, Wang Ke, China’s investment in Tanzania, has hit record high and that is the case in most other African countries too.

Speaking to press during a recent Tanzania-China high-level investment and business meeting held in the country’s commercial capital of Dar es Salaam, the high ranking Chinese envoy told media that China’s total investment in Tanzania surpassed USD7 billion in 2019 officially making it the largest foreign investor in the country.

However, the US is not having this narration. In her book, Ching Kwan Lee professor of sociology at the University of California in Los Angeles, says media is exaggerating Chinese investment amounts.

According to her, China, is doctoring these figures so statistics lean in its favour but when it comes to foreign investment in Africa, it’s the West that maintains the lead.

Well, as the professor’s allegations linger, China maintains that its bilateral trade volumes between it and Tanzania, last year alone, stood at whopping and un-topped USD 3.976 billion.

And with those figures, the Chinese top ranking envoy concluded that this amount serves to “…confirm China as being Tanzania’s largest trade partner for three consecutive years.”

In fact the only thing that has come between growing China influence on the continent is the coronavirus.

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Giza Mdoe is an experienced journalist with 10 plus years. He's been a Creative Director on various brand awareness campaigns and a former Copy Editor for some of Tanzania's leading newspapers. He's a graduate with a BA in Journalism from the University of San Jose.

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