Into Africa – China Plays U.S. in Great Power Game
Africa has long been a battleground for world powers. Two giantsplaying there these days are China, which is spending freely throughout the continent to scoop up resources and tap some of the world’s fastest-growing economies, and the U.S., which is looking to do more business. Both Chinese and U.S. companies expect to profit from their African stakes. The question is whether Africans can win, too.
China’s investments in sub-Saharan Africa have grown 40-fold since 2003 and its state-owned enterprises have been able to roll out projects quickly and in every country on the continent, primarilybuilding things like hydroelectric dams on the Nile, highways to oil regions and railways to carry iron ore. After complaints that China was becoming another colonial overlord, China’s government and the African Development Bank committed $2 billion to a fund designed to help African companies win Chinese contracts. While Chinese companies have been criticized for importing Chinese labor rather than training and employing Africans, they are now building garment manufacturing plants to take advantage of Africa’s cheap labor amidhigh unemployment. U.S. development in Africa has been private-sector driven and concentrated in just a few countries including Liberia, Mauritius and South Africa. President Barack Obama wants American companies to do more. In 2013, the U.S. began the Power Africainitiative to build electricity grids and generators across six countries by working with African companies and U.S. partners that have top-of-the-line technology, including General Electric, and offering $7 billion in financial support and loan guarantees. U.S. companies pledged $14 billion in investments this week at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington.