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Africa in the New Era of U.S.-China Relations

African leaders have said repeatedly that they want to stay clear from the escalating conflict between the United States and China. But despite their best efforts, a growing number of African countries are nonetheless being drawn in to disputes over Huawei, COVID-19 and debt relief among other issues.

While most African governments have opted to take a low profile in this burgeoning dispute, Kenya appears to be articulating clear policy positions that push back on both powers. Last week, ICT Minister Joe Mucheru rebuffed U.S. efforts to boycott the Chinese telecom company Huawei. Then, over the week, Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe issued a devastating blow to China’s “donation diplomacy” initiative when he confirmed that Kenya had stopped buying Chinese PPE due to poor quality.

But Kenya appears to be the exception in Africa as most other countries have, so far, resisted articulating equallyclear policy positions to frame their ties with the United States and China in this new, more combustible era.

W. Gyude Moore, a former Liberian public works minister and currently a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development, and Judd Devermont, the Africa program director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, have both been writing a lot lately on the new geopolitical landscape. They both join Eric & Cobus from Washington to discuss the current state of U.S.-China-Africa relations.

SHOW NOTES:

JUDD DEVERMONT:

W. GYUDE MOORE:

ABOUT W. GYUDE MOORE AND JUDD DEVERMONT:

W. Gyude Moore is a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development. He previously served as Liberia’s Minister of Public Works with oversight over the construction and maintenance of public infrastructure from December 2014 to January 2018. At CGD, Moore’s research focus is around financing infrastructure in Africa and the changing landscape of development finance on the continent. His research tracks the channels of private sources of finance, the rise of China and its expanding role in Africa, and Africa’s response to these changes. He currently serves on the Board of Advisors of the Master of Science in Foreign Service Program at Georgetown University. He holds a BS in Political Science from Berea College and an MS in Foreign Service from Georgetown University.


Judd Devermont is the director of the Africa Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). Prior to joining CSIS, he served as the national intelligence officer for Africa from 2015 to 2018. In this position, he led the U.S. intelligence community’s analytic efforts on sub-Saharan African issues and served as the DNI’s personal representative at interagency policy meetings. From 2013 to 2015, he was the Central Intelligence Agency’s senior political analyst on sub-Saharan Africa. Mr. Devermont also served as the National Security Council director for Somalia, Nigeria, the Sahel, and the African Union from 2011 to 2013. In this role, he contributed to the U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa, signed by President Obama in 2012, and managed the process that resulted in U.S. recognition of the Somali government for the first time since 1991. Mr. Devermont spent two years abroad working at the U.S. Embassy in Abuja, Nigeria from 2008 to 2010.

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