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.”