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Obama’s Africa summit: expanding US strategic reach into the African continent

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by Max O.

In early August a “US Africa Leaders Summit” was held in Washington by the Obama administration, where some 50 African heads of state and the chair of the African Union attended.

The summit was the Washington’s frantic attempt to dictate the political, economic and military direction for this continent.

It is one amongst many initiatives the US has undertaken in recent times, in the scramble for African resources and markets. Presently it is desperately trying to counter China’s growing influence in trade and economic business with Africa.

No favours just military dominance
Whilst the US announced $33 billion in new investments to suborn African states, the emphasis of the summit was on “human rights” and the so-called “war on terrorism.” Aid and debt reduction was dismissed by Washington officials; instead they stressed the promotion of deals for US corporations, a practice employed by the US to subject client countries to its interests.

Soon after African leaders headed home Obama announced that it would finance French military operations in West Africa. The US is contributing $10 million in supposed “foreign aid” to France to help out with the alleged “counterterrorism operations” on the African continent.

Under the guise of “human rights” and “war on terrorism” the US was in effect declaring its military hegemony on the continent. This was the raison d’être for George W Bush creating the US Africa Command (Africom) in 2007.

Africom’s role is to consolidate US presence in the region through a proposed chain of military bases around the African continent. Presently, the US conducts joint military operations with 36 African countries.

Clearly this militarism is aimed to oppose and eventually cut off Chinese economic power in the region.

Two-way trade between Africa and China in 2013 amounted to $170 billion; this is twice the volume of trade than that of the US. China surpassed the US in trade with the Africa 5 years ago.

From just $10 billion in 2000, China’s trade with Africa increased 17 fold. In an endeavour to secure supplies of energy and a host of strategic resources, 80% of China’s trade with Africa is in raw materials.

However, the two-way trade between the European Union, in particular the old colonial powers of Britain, Belgium and France is still the largest at $200 billion in 2013.

Militarism comes first before trade for the US
The Summit’s focus on “security issues” illustrates the fact that there is nothing the US can offer Africa other than military interference and excessive exploitation by corporate energy and mining giants along with predatory financial dealings of their banks.

Countries such as the Central African Republic, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, South Sudan and Uganda have considerable Central Intelligence Agency and Pentagon operations; such as troops, intelligence field stations and drones. The US Africom now deploys around 5000 troops in 38 African countries at any one time. 

They are involved in numerous interventions, military training missions and exercises. The African countries who host these types of military bases have gained no economic benefit at all; in fact they continue to suffer from underdevelopment and political instability.

The US is losing respect and influence in Africa

The founder of the Constituency for Africa (a group promoting African interests in Washington), Melvin Foot points out: “Africans say ‘why do we need the United States’? “When I travel around Africa, I’ve seen airports, I’ve seen roads, I’ve seen railroads, I’ve seen ports, I’ve seen all kinds of things that are really impressive built by China, that you have to say the United States refused to build.”

The US has refused to build infrastructure in Africa because they see no money in it for them and because they’re obsessed with military dominance.

The British Guardian notes in contrast that Beijing’s influence has grown due to the large numbers of Chinese living and working in Africa, from factory managers to traders, and by the big construction projects that have been built across the continent.

No doubt China is extracting a big benefit for themselves out of its dealings with Africa. However it is in contrast to decades of western aid that has often been directed to propping up authoritarian cold war allies and not development.  


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