A friend of mine and an extremely astute observer of news at the excellent new aggregator site Top the News, wrote the following piece and he has given me permission to post it. Unfortunately, many of the proxy wars that are certain to be fought in the future will see Africa as a staging ground, and this piece does an excellent job giving the reader some background of where we have been and where we are headed. So without further ado…
Africa in the Crosshairs
“The Dark Continent” as it is known to many, has a dim history of modern foreign influence. While much of Africa was technically independent by 1960, memories of colonization and cronyism have lasted much longer. Infamous dictators like Sani Abacha and Mobutu Sese Seko held net worth in the $ billion category, due in no small part to the hypocrisy of western nations like the United States. However, starting with the funding of a nearly-$500 million railroad known as the Tazara Line in the 1970’s, a new player started their emergence in the region: China. With its vast natural resources and geopolitical position, Africa is now in the crosshairs of the world’s two superpowers. The Sino-U.S. rivalry is an ‘open secret’ in the hemisphere, destined to only grow.
In a collection of essays published by Columbia University titled China Returns to Africa, the authors highlight the “Chinese government’s strategic pursuit of resources and attempts to ensure raw material supplies for growing energy needs within China.” The Chinese hierarchy understands that with limited resources in the world, commodities will only become more valuable based on supply and demand alone-before debased currencies are accounted for. Africa’s “fertile land, ample water, and (its status) among the world’s lowest farming productivity” all add up to foreign investment. Trade between China and Africa quadrupled from 2005-2011, passing the United States along the way as Africa’s largest partner. Even the African Union’s Ethiopian headquarters were funded by a $200 million ‘gift’ from the Chinese. Largely avoiding military intervention on the continent, instead focusing on “diplomacy, trade deals, debt forgiveness, and aid packages,” has helped China to establish a strong foothold and relationship, comparatively to the United States. As Andrew Malone pointed out a few years ago: “The strategy has been carefully devised by officials in Beijing, where one expert has estimated that China will eventually need to send 300 million people to Africa to solve the problems of over-population and pollution.”
The interests in Africa are not much different to the United States as they are to China: plentiful natural resources to support its populace and business ventures. However, as China primarily focuses on African hegemony through financial arrangements and agreements, the United States emphasizes regional destabilization and military force to forge their entry. Mali, “which until recently was applauded for its stability and promising nascent democracy,” has recently been added to the U.S. hit list for aiding “al-Qaida linked extremists.” With foreseeable U.S. involvement in Mali inevitable, much of the north part of the continent will be involved in armed conflict. Just for safe measure, U.S. soldiers will be sent to as many as 35 African nations starting next year, adding to our military presence, known as AFRICOM.
As has been witnessed time and time again, the United States modus operandi is to let the military industrial complex lead its efforts to protect the petrodollar, debt expansion, and every other business interest of banks and politicians. However, with the growth of another superpower, the rules of the game have changed from the last 20-year period. A bipolar emergence in global governance can be seen as a balance of power, adding a degree of stability, but this is not likely. During the last bipolar power structure, involving the U.S. and Soviet Union, horrific wars were fought with one side generally making a power play (e.g. U.S. in Korea, the Soviet Union in Afghanistan) and the other funding their enemy. If this history is any indication, Africa will be ground zero for the wars of the 21st century. It’s especially tragic considering all the suffering this beautiful continent has already undergone in recent times.