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Opinions of Wednesday, 21 October 2020

Columnist: Sulley Kone

The race for Africa

Africa once was seen by Europe as the antithesis of civilization the heart of darkness in the words of one Joseph Conrad. Centuries later, Africa remains ignored. It makes news for its conflicts, poverty, and exorcism. For the longest time, the world saw it as a lost god’s then one country saw an opportunity and that began a new race for Africa not different from the scramble of the 19th century when the colonial British and France went to draw raw materials, slaves and geopolitical influence.

Now in the 21st century, global powers are more or less in the same race, China, the United States, India, the European Union, Japan, Israel and Canada all these countries are in the race for Africa and one country is emerging as the clear winner.

Africa a continent of 54 sovereign states, 17% of the world’s population, 9.6 of the global oil output, 90% of the world’s platinum supply, 90% of the world’s cobalt supply, ½ of the world Gold supply, ? of the world’s manganese, 35% of the world’s uranium, 75% of the world’s Colton and 54 voters in UN General Assembly this is what makes Africa attractive and makes the continent a bitter ground for global powers.

There are numerous funds for investments and infrastructure, military power, diplomacy, soft power, Trade, Geopolitics.

Every country has its own interest in Africa. In 2016, Israel began it’s crumbling for the continent and Benjamin Netanyahu became the first Israelis Prime Minister to visit African in 50 years…. what did he want in favour of Israel against Palestine in the United Nations resolutions? Africa and Israel share similar histories he said. Israel went on to sponsor solar, water and agriculture and technologies in the same year 2016, Senegal co-sponsored UN resolution, it condemned the construction of illegal Jewish settlements in the west bank. What did Israel do? It cancelled the Mashav Drip-irrigation and this is just one example.

Another one the European Union has pledged more than 54 billion dollars in sustainable investment for Africa.

What does the European Union want? What European Union wants is access to the African market of a population of over 1.3 Billion people. Brussels has negotiated free trade agreements with at least 40 African countries but does this ensure a balanced trade………….?. No country has a bigger interest in Africa than China. China is funding one infrastructure project in Africa. It is even building a third one. Africa has an infrastructure deficit and China has a signed cheque book.

Starting in 2005, China has invested a little over 2 trillion dollars in Africa, it built 6,200 KMS of railways including the continent’s longest railway line connecting Ethiopia and Djibouti. Beijing has also built the African Union headquarters in Addis Ababa. What does China get in return…. a lot. Geographical influence to start with, Beijing is selling its culture, currency in Guinea Bissau, exit signs are written in mandarin.

China has established at least 50 of its institutes across 33 countries and several African countries use Chinese currencies. China on the other hand has its strategic bases. In 2017 China built its overseas base in the hall of Africa `` Djibouti'' to be precise connecting the Mediterranean Sea. The base has the capacity to accommodate ten thousand troops. China also gets a market to dump its goods. China is Africa’s largest trading partner.

Chinese trade has increased at least forty-fold in the last two decades at least 10,000 Chinese firms in Africa according to a Mackenzie study. Africa has resources and China has access. Did you know that a third of China’s investments in Africa are in the mining sectors? This in the end gets to trap Africa. China is not the only country investing in Africa and it’s not even the biggest. The United States is Africa's largest investor, it accounts for 54 billion of FDI stock. There are more than 600 US companies invested in South Africa alone, and this is after the US President Donald Trump called Africa “Shithole”.

For the longest time, Africa is nothing but a war zone for Washington, it has over 7000 troops deployed on the Africa continent across thirteen countries including Libya, Niger, Chad, Central Africa Republic, Kenya, Dr Congo, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Mali, Mauritania, South Sudan, Somalia and Tunisia. For the US, Africa is a country for counter-terrorism operations……why is the US suddenly has an interest in Africa and building its bases? The answers are that for the US, Africa is the new front to take on China and Washington is now fighting for power and influence.

An article on the US states department website reads and I quote, “Africa is the continent of the future. Thus, we need to make most of its potential. By 2050 it’s population will more than double to 2.2 billion people with over 60% under the age of 25". Where is Africa’s interest in all of this? What about India and what role does India play in this continent? In the days of Mahatma Gandhi, India was part of the Bandung project of 1955 and India supported Africa in anti-colonial struggles, it supported the liberalization movement in Ghana, Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Angola, Mozambique and Guinea Bissau. India did also raise the issue of racism in South Africa through a racist country but raised the issue because there are millions of Indians in South Africa.

Can we say Indian’s newfound in Africa has nothing to do with China with all their bilateral challenges? In 2018, Indian Prime Minister Mr Modi told the African States just after the Chinese president visit. In 2018, India decided to open 18 new embassies in Africa by 2021. India has defence partnerships with Ghana, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Uganda, Zambia, Botswana, Mozambique and Namibia. India is currently training Africa militarily.

Indians telecommunication company Airtel is the most dominant in Africa. India is offering 50,000 scholarships to African students. Undoubtedly India is way behind Africa in the race for Africa. In the 19th century, Africa was colonized with force and in 2020 it was trapped by LOANS. China comes for 14% of the sub-Saharan debt, in Kenya, the volume of Chinese loans is six times that of France which is the county’s largest creditor.

Sri Lanka can tell you what happens when Chinese loans are not repaid. China is looking to capture Africa with its strong Diaspora spending all the big monies, selling its culture and currency. China extracts raw materials, its manufacturer products with them and sells them back to Africa. What does this remind you of? What did the British do in India? In the 19th century, the British and France filled Africa with colonization, in the 21st century the trade was between the United States and China is hastening the same like the 19th century, there were numerous countries that scrambled for Africa but there is nothing in it for Africa.

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