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Joe Biden’s Getting a Lot of Advice on How To Reset U.S. Foreign Policy in Africa and It All Calls for Less Focus on China

U.S. President Joe Biden speaking at the White House in Washington, D.C. Nicholas Kamm / AFP

Scholars, analysts, and commentators in the U.S. and Africa are all offering lots of advice for what Joe Biden should to do to revitalize foreign policy in Africa. Seemingly without exception, the experts agree that Washington urgently needs to shift the focus away from China and towards Africa itself.

What Experts Are Saying About China’s Role in U.S. Foreign Policy Towards Africa:

  • CHINA IS NOT AN EXISTENTIAL THREAT TO AFRICAN COUNTRIES: “U.S. policy in Africa will have to focus on African needs and American strengths. The narrative of China’s rise as an existential threat has limited resonance on the continent. Since 2000, China has built over 6,000 kilometers of rail, 6,000 kilometers of roads, about 20 ports, and over 80 large-scale power plants, industrial parks, and special economic zones, the AU headquarters and awarded over 120,000 scholarships. That is hardly the behavior of an existential threat.” — Gyude Moore, senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development (QUARTZ AFRICA)
  • FOCUS ON GOVERNANCE NOT TRADE: “The Biden commitment to renewing democracy inevitably will be compared to China’s role on the continent. On trade, the U.S. is trailing badly. Between 2017 and 2018, two-way trade between the U.S. and Africa increased from $55.4 billion to $61.8 billion. During this same period, the value of bilateral trade between China and Africa increased from $155 billion to $185 billion. While the U.S. will not catch up to these numbers any time soon, there is another important role for the United States in its partnership with African governments…American companies work to conform to global best practices in anti-corruption, labor practices, and the protection of the environment. This is in stark contrast to the practices of most Chinese companies.” — Witney Schneidman, non-resident fellow at The Brookings Institution (THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTION)
  • NO COLD WAR 2.0: “Hawks will see [the continuation of Trump-era initiatives like the new Development Finance Corporation] as a response to the ‘China threat’ but I like to think it offers more options for African nations and I think Biden will be more interested in what’s good for Africa than in ‘countering China’” — John Stremlau, international relations professor at the University of Witswatersrand(SOUTH CHINA MORNING POST)
  • LEARN TO COOPERATE WITH CHINA: “Supporting democratic governance and learning to cooperate with China are two areas that will make America part of Africa’s future rather than its past. America should pivot way from making the military the most visible face of its engagement with Africa and instead invest in deepening democracy as a principled approach rather than a convenient choice” — Abdullahi Boru Halakhe, columnist and security analyst. (THE ELEPHANT)

By The Way, Biden’s Also Getting the Same Advice on His Asia Policy: Focus More on U.S. Strengths and Less on China

Just as commentators and analysts are urging the new Biden administration to focus its foreign policy in Africa more on U.S. strengths and less on China, the same conversation is also underway with regards to Washington’s approach to Asia.

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