America's new Africa policy aims to counter growing Russian and Chinese influence on the continent without spending the money to do so.
WASHINGTON – National Security Adviser John Bolton unveiled a new U.S.-Africa policy Thursday, pledging to promote U.S. trade interests, fight terrorism and reduce foreign aid.
But central to the new strategy is the threat of growing Chinese and Russian influence. The U.S. accuses China of lending large sums to African countries with a goal of seizing state assets when those countries fall short on loan payments.
“China uses bribes, opaque agreements, and the strategic use of debt to hold states in Africa captive to Beijing’s wishes and demands. Its investment ventures are riddled with corruption, and do not meet the same environmental or ethical standards as U.S. developmental programs.”
As an alternative, Bolton touted a new “Prosper Africa” program to highlight less compromising U.S. investments.
“In framing it as a counter to Chinese influence in some ways talks down to African governments and African citizens.”
Jennifer G. Cooke directs the Institute for African Studies at George Washington University.
“That we want you to be independent, we want you to grow self-sufficient and you need to be very careful about China – that’s not the language of a partnership of mutual respect.”
Optics aside, countering Russian and Chinese won’t be cheap, and Bolton instead pressed for reducing foreign aid to countries able to pay their own bills or that vote against the U.S. at the United Nations.
Todd Moss is a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development.
“Africa is a long-term strategic play for the United States and we should behave like we’re here for the long haul rather than negotiating over small things over short time horizons.”
Regardless of the wisdom of a focus on short-term costs, the White House may not have the final say. Bipartisan members of Congress killed a White House effort to reduce foreign aid by $3 billion this year.