« You haven’t finished seeing us in Africa “, launched Antony Blinken last December in Washington, during the United States / Africa summit. The American Secretary of State has since visited Niger and Ethiopia. Earlier this year, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen was in Senegal, Zambia and South Africa.
This time, it was the Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris in person, who came. This is a real offensive. As soon as he arrived in Accra at the beginning of the week, the tone was set : « I am very excited about the future of Africa. Very enthusiastic about the impact on the rest of the world, including the United States. When I look at what’s happening on this continent, the fact that the average age is 19, and what that means in terms of growth, opportunities, innovations and possibilities… I see in all of these great opportunities, not only for the continent, but for the whole world. »
Washington wants to strengthen and develop ties with Africa – in particular economic ties – and promote investments to try to counter the rise of China and Russia on the continent. The United States wants to catch up, says Ousmane Sène, director of the West African Research Center. A delay that has widened under the presidency of former US President Donald Trump.
« America is very present in areas of cooperation on the continent, underlines Ousmane Sene, but in the economic sector, its presence is minimal. The United States needs to get to know Africa. The African continent is a big question mark for them. They must learn to discover this positive Africa, this Africa which is making great strides in all areas, which is ready to welcome all European, American and Asian investors. Win-win investments. The possibilities are there, sleeping. And that others are exploiting. If you look at the countries that invest the most in Africa, there are the Chinese, okay, but the Indians and the Turks are there. »
Ghana is in the grip of a severe economic crisis, with galloping inflation at over 50%. Its finance minister was recently in Beijing to renegotiate the country’s debt. Idem for Zambia, more than half of whose external debt is held by Chinese banks – more than 6 billion dollars – and who is in default of payment. And finally Tanzania, where China is the leading investor with no less than a hundred projects underway in different fields : mining, transport, agriculture, fishing and tourism.
A new battlefield between great powers
Pour Christopher Fomunyoh, Regional Director for Africa National Democratic Institute, the United States also wants to highlight the countries that have chosen good governance and democracy : « Ghana is the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to gain independence. Tanzania is the only country, at present, to have a female president, head of the executive. And Zambia is co-hosting a world summit on democracy and good governance. »
Africa is once again a battleground between the great powers, writes Guinean columnist Boubacar Sanso Barry, adding that Africans must take advantage of this struggle for influence between the United States, China and Russia.
« We see all of this as a way to redefine relationships. This gives leeway to the African continent to be able to discuss, debate and negotiate with the partners in question. Now, maybe the United States, France and all the other western partners know that if we are not careful, the places we risk leaving vacant can be filled by other partners. I think we are becoming less condescending, we impose things less, we try to discuss things relatively as equals, as partners and not as a former colonial power. »
And who better, underlines a researcher, than Kamala Harris – first African-American female Vice President of the United States – to carry this new American vision of Africa ?
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