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Shifting US-Africa Relations

August 04, 2019
The United States’ current relationship with African countries is rapidly changing. Previously, the US touted the strongest commitment to Africa, being the largest contributor of foreign developmental aid compared to other countries.[1] However, this strong relationship is being threatened as other countries realize a shifting commitment from the United States.

The US currently spends less than 1% of its budget on foreign aid and during the budget announcement for 2020, the Trump administration announced a deep 50% cut in aid to health programs in Africa.[2] The US also previously enjoyed a prevalent soft power foreign policy influence in Africa, but the current administration waited two years to appoint an assistant secretary for African Affairs.[3] This delay might signal to African countries a lack of commitment by the US and result in a waning US influence. But America’s decreased involvement in Africa presents to many others an opportunity for growth and partnership. The US is currently experiencing an end to a long-standing relationship with many African countries as other countries strengthen their alliances. Unfortunately, this loss in partnership may materialize in a weakening of economic and geopolitical power for the US.

Image: Former President Jacob Zuma of South Africa and the Former African Union Commission Chairp...Image: Former President Jacob Zuma of South Africa and the Former African Union Commission Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat. Source: Flickr.

The shifting US strategy has come at a time of rapid African growth. The UN predicts that the African population will double in size and eventually comprise of over 25% of the global population.[4] This growing population is an untapped consumer and labor market, presenting great opportunities for private sector growth. For example, African household consumption is projected to reach $2 trillion within the next six years.[5] African regional and continental institutions are also strengthening as critical political institutions. The African Union for example has become the third largest diplomatic capital in the world.[6] Their agenda has called for infrastructure development, improvements in trade flow, and advancements in health and agriculture.

Image: Diagram illustrating relationships between multinational African entities and the African ...Image: Diagram illustrating relationships between multinational African entities and the African Union
Source: Wikipedia.

The lack of engagement by the US has left a rapidly developing Africa wanting more and other countries ready to act. Countries like Malaysia, Vietnam, Turkey, and Russia have all taken efforts to invest in African development. India, for example, has increased their imports and exports to Africa by 181% and 186% respectively, making it Africa’s fourth largest trading partner.[7] But the country with by far the fastest growing influence is China. China has become the world’s largest energy consumer and requires a sustainable input of energy to sustain its rapid economic growth.[8] Appropriately, Africa has an abundance of raw energy and resources ripe for use that China is currently leveraging. In 2009, China surpassed the US as Africa’s largest trading partner and by 2016, China became Africa’s largest foreign job creator.[9][10] Starting in 2006, China laid out plans for the future. It promised to invest in Africa by establishing a $3 billion preferential loan package, doubling aid to Africa, and training 10,000 professionals.[11]

The window of opportunity for the US to maintain its presence in Africa is closing. China has long surpassed US investment in the area. If the US does not start increasing its attention within the region, it is at risk of being cutting off from African markets. In 2013, the Obama administration implemented programs to incentivize increased business operations in Africa.[12] Although unsuccessful, the initiative tapped into the link between government involvement and private sector success. In contrast, the Chinese government has been investing heavily in African infrastructure partly for developmental purposes, but also to satisfy private investment demands to create a viable location for industry.[13] As such, China is currently operating in a way that undermines US strengths and interests in the region.

The Chinese government is also starting to build ports and military bases that could choke off US access to global markets. China just constructed its first overseas military base in Djibouti which also happens to be the location of the only US military base in Africa.[14] These areas are of great economic and strategic importance. For example, building a facility along the Red Sea or the Gulf of Aden could give China access to major oil markets that currently ship about 5 million barrels a day.[15][16] Additionally, Djibouti has taken on a lot of debt from Chinese loans. After accepting Chinese loans, the small city’s debt-to-GDP ratio increased from 50 to 85 percent between 2014 and 2016.[17] If Djibouti were to default and give up the port that supplies the US base, American involvement in the Middle East would be threatened. All of this leads to a blow in American hegemony worldwide. Despite the Western narrative that China is preying on African countries, not everyone feels this way. African learners understand the faults of Chinese assistance but generally recognize it as a good thing.[18] America has long enjoyed diplomatic influence in Africa but may not enjoy that same partnership as China presents inciting and mutually beneficial opportunities.[19] This weakening relationship could prove detrimental to both American commercial and strategic interests.

Image: The container terminal at the Port of Djibouti. Source: Wikipedia.Image: The container terminal at the Port of Djibouti. Source: Wikipedia.

If the US wants to compete with China in the global market, it must look to increase its influence in Africa. The US should invest in technology sectors such as artificial intelligence and next-generation mobile communications to re-establish US dominance as a modern country but also as an investment in regional infrastructure. We should also invest in the foundations that create a sustainable emerging economy. These sectors include public education, infrastructure, government building, and research and development. We can achieve this by working multilaterally with organizations like the EU which have the resources to form a united front against China. Initiatives like USAID’s Power Africa are examples of how development can strengthen economic ties.[20] The program relies on public, private partnerships to create farmers’ cooperatives, develop infrastructure, and increase bi-lateral trade and investment between Africa and the US. Unfortunately for the US, other countries—especially China—are investing in these programs which strengthen relationships in Africa and the US is quickly falling behind. This weakening position could jeopardize the US economy as China tightens its hold on private sector engagement in Africa, oil markets through northern Africa, and soft power influence. But the United States’ decades long relationship with Africa is not all lost. Investing in long term solutions and institutions can solidify American market presence and re-establish US dominance in the region.

Student Blog Disclaimer
  • The views expressed on the Student Blog are the author’s opinions and don’t necessarily represent the Wharton Public Policy Initiative’s strategies, recommendations, or opinions.

References

  [1]https://www.oecd.org/dac/financing-sustainable-development/development-finance-data/Africa-Development-Aid-at-a-Glance-2018.pdf

  [2]https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/w/trumps-budget-cuts-aid-to-africa-to-boost-spending-on-military

  [3]https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/africa/2018-08-28/post-american-africa

  [4]https://population.un.org/wpp/

  [5]https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2016/05/what-s-the-future-of-economic-growth-in-africa/

  [6]https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/africa/2018-08-28/post-american-africa

  [7]https://www.ft.com/content/62b1e38c-bd83-11e8-94b2-17176fbf93f5

  [8]https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/china-africa

  [9]Ibid.

  [10]https://gbtimes.com/china-becomes-top-foreign-job-creator-africa-2016

  [11]https://www.cfr.org/content/thinktank/ChinaandUS_Africa.pdf

  [12]https://www.clingendael.org/publication/how-us-lost-chinas-growing-foothold-africa

  [13]https://www2.deloitte.com/insights/us/en/industry/public-sector/china-investment-africa-infrastructure-development.html

  [14]https://www.reuters.com/article/us-china-djibouti/china-formally-opens-first-overseas-military-base-in-djibouti-idUSKBN1AH3E3

  [15]https://www.wsj.com/articles/china-tightens-grip-on-east-african-port-11550746800

  [16]https://www.cfr.org/blog/free-flow-oil-strait-hormuz-and-policing-international-sea-lanes

  [17]https://time.com/5381467/china-africa-debt-us-security/

  [18]https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/africa-loves-china-190103121552367.html

  [19]https://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Foreign-Policy/2018/0306/Why-Tillerson-pitch-of-US-as-soft-power-partner-will-be-a-hard-sell-in-Africa

  [20]https://www.brookings.edu/blog/africa-in-focus/2018/04/16/competing-in-africa-china-the-european-union-and-the-united-states/

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RESOURCE SPOTLIGHT:

  • <h3>MapStats</h3><p> A feature of FedStats, MapStats allows users to search for <strong>state, county, city, congressional district, or Federal judicial district data</strong> (demographic, economic, and geographic).</p><p> Quick link: <a href="http://www.fedstats.gov/mapstats/" target="_blank">http://www.fedstats.gov/mapstats/</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>Federal Aviation Administration: Accident & Incident Data</h3><p><img width="100" height="100" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/100/height/100/80_faa-logo.rev.1402681347.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image80 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/100/height/100/80_faa-logo.rev.1402681347.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/100/height/100/80_faa-logo.rev.1402681347.jpg 3x" data-max-w="550" data-max-h="550"/>The NTSB issues an accident report following each investigation. These reports are available online for reports issued since 1996, with older reports coming online soon. The reports listing is sortable by the event date, report date, city, and state.</p><p> Quick link: <a href="http://www.faa.gov/data_research/accident_incident/" target="_blank">http://www.faa.gov/data_research/accident_incident/</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>The Penn World Table</h3><p> The Penn World Table provides purchasing power parity and national income accounts converted to international prices for 189 countries/territories for some or all of the years 1950-2010.</p><p><a href="https://pwt.sas.upenn.edu/php_site/pwt71/pwt71_form.php" target="_blank">Quick link.</a> </p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>USDA Nutrition Assistance Data</h3><p><img width="180" height="124" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/180/height/124/485_usda_logo.rev.1407789238.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image485 lw_align_right" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/180/height/124/485_usda_logo.rev.1407789238.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/180/height/124/485_usda_logo.rev.1407789238.jpg 3x" data-max-w="1233" data-max-h="850"/>Data and research regarding the following <strong>USDA Nutrition Assistance</strong> programs are available through this site:</p><ul><li>Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) </li><li>Food Distribution Programs </li><li>School Meals </li><li>Women, Infants and Children </li></ul><p> Quick link: <a href="http://www.fns.usda.gov/data-and-statistics" target="_blank">http://www.fns.usda.gov/data-and-statistics</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>Internal Revenue Service: Tax Statistics</h3><p><img width="155" height="200" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/155/height/200/486_irs_logo.rev.1407789424.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image486 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/155/height/200/486_irs_logo.rev.1407789424.jpg 2x" data-max-w="463" data-max-h="596"/>Find statistics on business tax, individual tax, charitable and exempt organizations, IRS operations and budget, and income (SOI), as well as statistics by form, products, publications, papers, and other IRS data.</p><p> Quick link to <strong>Tax Statistics, where you will find a wide range of tables, articles, and data</strong> that describe and measure elements of the U.S. tax system: <a href="http://www.irs.gov/uac/Tax-Stats-2" target="_blank">http://www.irs.gov/uac/Tax-Stats-2</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>National Center for Education Statistics</h3><p><strong><img width="400" height="80" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/400/height/80/479_nces.rev.1407787656.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image479 lw_align_right" data-max-w="400" data-max-h="80"/>The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) is the primary federal entity for collecting and analyzing data related to education in the U.S. and other nations.</strong> NCES is located within the U.S. Department of Education and the Institute of Education Sciences. NCES has an extensive Statistical Standards Program that consults and advises on methodological and statistical aspects involved in the design, collection, and analysis of data collections in the Center. To learn more about the NCES, <a href="http://nces.ed.gov/about/" target="_blank">click here</a>.</p><p> Quick link to NCES Data Tools: <a href="http://nces.ed.gov/datatools/index.asp?DataToolSectionID=4" target="_blank">http://nces.ed.gov/datatools/index.asp?DataToolSectionID=4</a></p><p> Quick link to Quick Tables and Figures: <a href="http://nces.ed.gov/quicktables/" target="_blank">http://nces.ed.gov/quicktables/</a></p><p> Quick link to NCES Fast Facts (Note: The primary purpose of the Fast Facts website is to provide users with concise information on a range of educational issues, from early childhood to adult learning.): <a href="http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/" target="_blank">http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/#</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>Congressional Budget Office</h3><p><img width="180" height="180" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/180/height/180/380_cbo-logo.rev.1406822035.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image380 lw_align_right" data-max-w="180" data-max-h="180"/>Since its founding in 1974, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has produced independent analyses of budgetary and economic issues to support the Congressional budget process.</p><p> The agency is strictly nonpartisan and conducts objective, impartial analysis, which is evident in each of the dozens of reports and hundreds of cost estimates that its economists and policy analysts produce each year. CBO does not make policy recommendations, and each report and cost estimate discloses the agency’s assumptions and methodologies. <strong>CBO provides budgetary and economic information in a variety of ways and at various points in the legislative process.</strong> Products include baseline budget projections and economic forecasts, analysis of the President’s budget, cost estimates, analysis of federal mandates, working papers, and more.</p><p> Quick link to Products page: <a href="http://www.cbo.gov/about/our-products" target="_blank">http://www.cbo.gov/about/our-products</a></p><p> Quick link to Topics: <a href="http://www.cbo.gov/topics" target="_blank">http://www.cbo.gov/topics</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>The World Bank Data (U.S.)</h3><p><img width="130" height="118" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/130/height/118/484_world-bank-logo.rev.1407788945.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image484 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/130/height/118/484_world-bank-logo.rev.1407788945.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/130/height/118/484_world-bank-logo.rev.1407788945.jpg 3x" data-max-w="1406" data-max-h="1275"/>The <strong>World Bank</strong> provides World Development Indicators, Surveys, and data on Finances and Climate Change.</p><p> Quick link: <a href="http://data.worldbank.org/country/united-states" target="_blank">http://data.worldbank.org/country/united-states</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>National Bureau of Economic Research (Public Use Data Archive)</h3><p><img width="180" height="43" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/180/height/43/478_nber.rev.1407530465.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image478 lw_align_right" data-max-w="329" data-max-h="79"/>Founded in 1920, the <strong>National Bureau of Economic Research</strong> is a private, nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization dedicated to promoting a greater understanding of how the economy works. The NBER is committed to undertaking and disseminating unbiased economic research among public policymakers, business professionals, and the academic community.</p><p> Quick Link to <strong>Public Use Data Archive</strong>: <a href="http://www.nber.org/data/" target="_blank">http://www.nber.org/data/</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>HUD State of the Cities Data Systems</h3><p><strong><img width="200" height="200" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/200/height/200/482_hud_logo.rev.1407788472.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image482 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/200/height/200/482_hud_logo.rev.1407788472.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/200/height/200/482_hud_logo.rev.1407788472.jpg 3x" data-max-w="612" data-max-h="613"/>The SOCDS provides data for individual Metropolitan Areas, Central Cities, and Suburbs.</strong> It is a portal for non-national data made available through a number of outside institutions (e.g. Census, BLS, FBI and others).</p><p> Quick link: <a href="http://www.huduser.org/portal/datasets/socds.html" target="_blank">http://www.huduser.org/portal/datasets/socds.html</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED®)</h3><p><strong><img width="180" height="79" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/180/height/79/481_fred-logo.rev.1407788243.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image481 lw_align_right" data-max-w="222" data-max-h="97"/>An online database consisting of more than 72,000 economic data time series from 54 national, international, public, and private sources.</strong> FRED®, created and maintained by Research Department at the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, goes far beyond simply providing data: It combines data with a powerful mix of tools that help the user understand, interact with, display, and disseminate the data.</p><p> Quick link to data page: <a href="http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/tags/series" target="_blank">http://research.stlouisfed.org/fred2/tags/series</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>
  • <h3>NOAA National Climatic Data Center</h3><p><img width="200" height="198" alt="" src="/live/image/gid/4/width/200/height/198/483_noaa_logo.rev.1407788692.jpg" class="lw_image lw_image483 lw_align_left" srcset="/live/image/scale/2x/gid/4/width/200/height/198/483_noaa_logo.rev.1407788692.jpg 2x, /live/image/scale/3x/gid/4/width/200/height/198/483_noaa_logo.rev.1407788692.jpg 3x" data-max-w="954" data-max-h="945"/>NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) is responsible for preserving, monitoring, assessing, and providing public access to the Nation’s treasure of <strong>climate and historical weather data and information</strong>.</p><p> Quick link to home page: <a href="http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/" target="_blank">http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/</a></p><p> Quick link to NCDC’s climate and weather datasets, products, and various web pages and resources: <a href="http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/data-access/quick-links" target="_blank">http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/data-access/quick-links</a></p><p> Quick link to Text & Map Search: <a href="http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cdo-web/" target="_blank">http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/cdo-web/</a></p><p>See all <a href="/data-resources/">data and resources</a> »</p>