The United States Deputy Secretary of commerce on Wednesday June 26 2019 announced at the opening ceremony of the U.S. Africa Business Summit in Maputo Mozambique that ‘’the Trump administration message to Africa is simple and blunt choose to Africa is simple and blunt . Choose the United States over China and Russia.’’ This is clearly an attempt by president Trump to isolate the Russians and China from trading globally. It betrays a desperate effort to impress Africa and claim the continent’s resources and growing market. In this new year the world would see an intense rivalry for the natural resources of Africa between the United States and France which has its former still subservient to her.
The previous efforts of the US to support Africa towards growth and development was embodied in its ‘’ African Growth and opportunity Act “ (AGOA) under the Clinton administration in 2000. Its objective was to stimulate economic growth, through trade and investment in sub- Saharan Africa and to encourage and facilitate Africa’s economic integration into the global economy”. The AGOA is mostly based on a General system of preferences (GSP) .
Under this system African countries can export a wide range of product to the U.S. As a result of duty free trade in goods between the United States and sub- Saharan Africa increased nearly six percent to S39 billion between 2015 and 2017, according to a report delivered to the U.S. Congress on June 29 2018 by the office of the United States Trade representatives (USTR)
The AGOA expired in 5 years but has since been renewed to 2025. But Africans know that it will be difficult to continue the one – way trade preference post AGOA. The Trump administration is now proving that AGOA was actually a tool to woo Africans into the economic bossom of the United States in order to achieve the U.S goal for open access to the natural resources of African states. The administration wants to introduce a new approach namely “prosper Africa” that shifts American focus on the continent from aid to industry. The new $50m program will offer technical help to American companies looking to enter or grow in Africa. The U.S. is aware that Africa is urbanizing more than anywhere else on earth, so it wants to get its cut in the projected spending of 1.52 billion consumers by 2025, nearly five times the size of the U.S. population. France is equally taking a new look towards Africa in the light of new challenges to its influence in the continent. Although France’s relationship with its former colonies in Africa has changed with time, Paris remains committed to protecting its interest in the continent.
On January 23rd 2019, Italy’s Deputy Prime minister, Matteo Salvini derided France’s “apathy” toward stabilizing Libya, claiming, “Probably because it has oil interests that are opposed to those of Italy. Another Deputy Prime Minister, Luigi DI Malo, supported this position two days later by claiming that French economic policies prevented African states development and contribute to increased migration from the continent. In 2013, the French senates published a report, entitled “Africa is our Future “, highlighting 10 priorities and 70 measures to improve French African relations. And since his election in 2017, French President Emmanuel Macron has placed Africa at the cornerstone of France’s foreign relations policy.
France, hoping to boost its trade volume with Africa reportedly increased its aid to the continent to 20 billion Euros in 2019. Macron has outlined France’s diplomatic and financial commitments to build relations with Africa. These commitments include education and academic cooperation, innovation and economic partnerships, climate and sustainable cities initiatives, and cultural exchange. It is clear from these moves by Washington and Paris that their priorities in developing relations with Africa are based on their need for unrestricted access to the natural resources of African states. This goal is achieved under the beguiling guise of providing various assistance regarding combating terrorism, mixed Migration and improving human rights situation in Africa. Following the change of political leadership in North African states on the Arab uprising scenario, Washington is able to spread the practice of destructive imposition of democratic principles and Freedom to West of the continent, where elements of its military structure, Africom, are already present
Historically, West Africa has traditionally been a zone of political influence of France. But recently there has been a tendency towards a gradual diminishing of control of Paris in Africa where Washington is increasingly using the methods of “Force Diplomacy.” This means Heads of African states who remained in power for several consecutive mandates could be affected by the upcoming battle for sphere of influence between Washington and Paris which could use against them their tested methods of ousting “undesirable regimes” in the nearest future.
Among European countries, France has the highest levels of military engagement with Africa given its defense agreements signed with countries such as Cote d’ voire, the Central African Republic, Gabon, Senegal , Cameroon and others. Many of these agreements have been revised but France still has numerous military bases located From western Senegal to the Horn of Africa. France has also been active in Chad since 1986, and this active in Chad since 1986, and this base is key to current sahel operationice against al-Qaida in the Islamic Magreb and Ansal- Dine
Though French companies are winning new infrastructure bids, such as the French firm, Eiffage in Togo that signed a S 35 – million construction contract for a container terminal in 2014, China has become an easier business partner. The United States and France are united against the china economic peril. as the U.S Africa trade has has dipped in recent years. So the battle for self – serving political and economic influence between the U.S. and France is playing out across Africa as Bejjing’s growing presence continues to trouble both countries policymakers
Blackson writes from Asaba