Opinion| Fierce competition between US, China, and Russia over Africa’s wealth

Hatem Sadek
5 Min Read

Day after day, new things emerge that reveal plans of international parties to tighten their economic and political grip on the African continent.

We are witnessing the last period of an international system that relied for more than 3 decades on a single power – the United States of America – which has been unique in managing global crises since the collapse of the former Soviet Union. Also, the results of the current Ukrainian-Russian conflict indicate to a large extent that the African continent this time will be the priority of the victorious party in drawing the map of the new world. Rather, it can be said that whoever wants to win in this international competition must first win the heart of Africa.

What is remarkable about the new global conflict is that the major powers are beginning to understand that the race to win the leadership of this world must pass through respecting the laws of nature that they have transgressed and neglected during the decades of industrial revolutions throughout history. These forces are moving towards their goals this time, and they are driven by fears of natural disasters that have increased recently due to the environmental imbalance caused mostly by global warming. They believe that there is no objection to conflict, provided that its vocabulary is respected, and the first is competition in a clean environment. In other words, the winner of the conflict is the one who can seize clean energy, whether gas, solar, or wind energy, as well as new minerals. In this way, Africa has become the great prize that everyone seeks.

When we talk about the Chinese-American competition in the African arena, we primarily mean the African countries located south of the Sahara Desert, although North Africa is no exception to this competition. North Africa represents a mixed set of opportunities and challenges for both China and the United States because it is part of the Middle East and North Africa region and because of its geographical proximity to Europe. As for the important African region located south of the Sahara, the United States has, over the past century, enjoyed preference in it, for economic, political, and military reasons, but China has been catching up with it quickly in recent times.

Chinese policy towards Africa today aims to achieve four strategic goals. The first is access to natural resources, particularly oil, and gas. Second, facilitating investments in Africa to take advantage of the low costs of African labor is in line with Beijing’s efforts to restructure its economy away from labor-intensive industries, especially with the increase in labor costs in China. Third, China seeks regional political legitimacy that strengthens its stance toward Western-backed Taiwan. Finally, China seeks a more positive role as a contributor to stability in the region. This is to partially mitigate security-related threats to China’s economic interests.

On the other hand, Washington did not look at Africa differently except under Obama’s second term between 2009 and 2013, when President Obama launched the “Power Africa” initiative, which is an innovative partnership to double access to electricity in sub-Saharan Africa. 

US strategy believes that China is the main competitor of the United States in Africa. And that the development of this continent will be a major determinant for the future of the world and America in this century.

The Africa Strategy is based on the assumption that Africa is a major foreign policy priority for the United States. This strategy is based on realizing the importance of Africa in relation to the global priorities of the United States such as the continent’s rapid population growth, being one of the largest trading blocs in the world, having great natural resources, and enjoying a large voting bloc in the United Nations. Another justification is that it positions the United States in its competition with China and Russia to become the power with greater influence in Africa.

This strategy is based on four main objectives, which are to enhance openness to societies, spread democracy, provide economic opportunities, and support climate preservation, climate adaptation, and a just transition of energy. This is the crux of the new conflict.

Dr. Hatem Sadek: Professor at Helwan University

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