In the years following Africa’s decolonization, superpowers have been fervently pursuing a new kind of engagement with the continent. While others have referred to it as a global multipolar system, many have labeled the United States and China’s insatiable commercial and financial interest in the continent’s valuable resources as a new form of neocolonialism.
The lack of trust that has developed between Africa and the rest of the world as a result of this engagement, which embraces a superior mentality regardless of what interest they want to take from the continent, is also causing growing dissatisfaction and skepticism among African intellectuals on various forums and platforms.
Despite the fact that the majority of African leaders are human rights violators and tyrants, observers say nothing can stop China’s engagement in Africa as long as there is an open hole to dig into the riches it seeks and abuses.
Both Chinese and African governments act in a sovereign and respectful manner, and China rarely intervenes in continental or national matters.
Critics accused the US of failing to recognize Africa as a truly sovereign and independent continent, as well as of intervening directly in the internal affairs of African countries in order to influence their political systems and exploit the region’s vast natural riches.
Last week’s US-Africa summit may be seen as an expression of the US’ informal call or invitation to dozens of African leaders, with no preconceived agendas on the table. With the exclusion of Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali, Sudan, and Eritrea, 49 leaders or heads of state, as well as the African Union commissioner, were present.
Arikana Chihombori-Quao, former African Union Ambassador to the United States and founder of the African Diaspora Development Initiative, confirmed this position in an interview with Al Jazeera, saying that the United States is losing momentum as a commercial partner to Africa.
The recently concluded US-Africa Summit was called without a particular agenda or prior discussion, according to Chihombori-Quao. She described it as a call from the US to African leaders to tell them what needed to be done and what policies they should implement.
The US must acknowledge that business as usual is no longer an option and that it can no longer claim to make policy decisions and urge Africans to comply, according to her.
That has to change, Chihombori-Quao said, adding that losing Africa’s trade preference is a formula for disaster for the US. “It’s time to plan how to treat Africans fairly, with respect, and as equals,” she continued.
Critics also pointed out that, despite the fact that most African leaders want to discuss country-specific, regional, and continental issues, a large portion of the summit’s coverage was framed around the US-China rivalry, as well as Russia’s war in Ukraine, which has nothing to do with US-Africa diplomatic ties.
The former Ambassador continues to regard the US’ reluctance to engage effectively as disrespectful to Africans compared to the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), which normally convenes after heads of state and ministerial-level conferences have discussed the themes and agendas that would be tabled. China and Africa both committed to establishing cooperative follow-up mechanisms to assess how well the follow-up initiatives are carried out.
However, according to the former ambassador, there is no clear agenda or methodology for evaluating outcomes; rather, the US informs Africans plainly about agendas and policies.
“I have constantly complained about it, but it is still a severe problem, and the US will steadily lose ground to China, Russia, and others if it does not deal fairly and equally with Africans,” she said.
In 2021, the trade balance between Africa and China was USD 262 billion, while the trade balance between Africa and the US remained at USD 64 billion.
Russia is a significant armament supplier and seller, while China is the largest investor and commercial partner. When combined with the United States’ recent preconditions of engagement and unpopular diplomatic relations with African nations, the next US-Africa scenario may be short-lived and unsustainable.
Some argue that the concept, principle, and commitment to state sovereignty and equality have weakened and that the fate of poor countries is being controlled by a few global economic and military superpowers.
However, as the African continent’s importance to global economies grows and more countries collaborate with it, Africans are expected to work together to use this as a bargaining chip to secure permanent seats on the UN Security Council and other key UN organizational bodies for the continent’s 1.3 billion people.
In an interview with The Reporter, Mohamed Ahmed Mohamoud (PhD), an international relations expert and current Somaliland Representative to the Republic of Kenya, described the recent engagement of the United States, China, Russia, Turkey, and other global nations with Africa as a situation in which the international political order is becoming multipolar rather than bipolar or unipolar.
The unipolar age, in which the US dominated the world and told everyone what to do, appears to be finished in this multipolar era, and the interest of superpowers in the continent should serve as a wake-up call for African leaders.
Mohamed says that Africans should start by explaining why the continent is more important than ever and why the AU as a bloc and/or individual countries should hold a summit of African leaders in Africa instead of going elsewhere to talk about African problems.
According to him, African leaders should recognize this superpower’s interest in the continent and use their influence to oppose it and demand permanent participation in the Security Council.