The Scramble for Africa in the 21st Century

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Commercial ties are being upended.

European exploration of Africa - Wikipedia

By it was China first, India second and America third France was seventh. The biggest sources of foreign direct investment are still firms from America, Britain and France, but Chinese ones, including state-backed outfits, are catching up, and investors from India and Singapore are eager to join the fray. The stereotype is sometimes true. Far too many oil and mineral ventures are dirty.

Corrupt African leaders, of whom there is still an abundance, can always find foreign enablers to launder the loot. And contracts with firms from countries that care little for transparency, such as China and Russia, are often murky. Three Russian journalists were murdered last year while investigating a Kremlin-linked mercenary outfit that reportedly protects the president of the war-torn Central African Republic and enables diamond-mining there.

What was the Scramble for Africa? - Animated History

Understandably, many saw a whiff of old-fashioned imperialism. However, engagement with the outside world has mostly been positive for Africans. Foreigners build ports, sell insurance and bring mobile-phone technology. Chinese factories hum in Ethiopia and Rwanda. Turkish Airlines flies to more than 50 African cities. Greater openness to trade and investment is one reason why GDP per head south of the Sahara is two-fifths higher than it was in Sounder macroeconomic policies and fewer wars also helped.

Africans can benefit when foreigners buy everything from textiles to holidays and digital services. Even so, Africans can do more to increase their share of the benefits.

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First, voters and activists can insist on transparency. It is heartening that South Africa is investigating the allegedly crooked deals struck under the previous president, Jacob Zuma, but alarming that even worse behaviour in the Democratic Republic of Congo has gone unprobed, and that the terms of Chinese loans to some dangerously indebted African governments are secret. To be sure that a public deal is good for ordinary folk as well as big men, voters have to know what is in it. Journalists, such as the Kenyans who exposed scandals over a Chinese railway project, have a big role to play.

Africa may be nearly as populous as China, but it comprises 54 countries, not one. African governments could strike better deals if they showed more unity. No one expects a heterogeneous continent that includes both anarchic battle zones and prosperous democracies to be as integrated as Europe. But it can surely do better than letting China negotiate with each country individually, behind closed doors.

The power imbalance between, say, China and Uganda is huge. It could be reduced somewhat with a free-trade area or if African regional blocs clubbed together.

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King Leopold’s Ghost and the 21st century scramble for Africa’s farms and foods

After all, the benefits of infrastructure projects spill across borders. Third, African leaders do not have to choose sides, as they did during the cold war.

The Scramble for Africa in the 21st Century

They can do business with Western democracies and also with China and Russia—and anyone else with something to offer. Because they have more choice now than ever before, Africans should be able to drive harder bargains. And outsiders should not see this as a zero-sum contest as the Trump administration, when it pays attention to Africa, apparently does.

If China builds a bridge in Ghana, an American car can drive over it.


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If a British firm invests in a mobile-data network in Kenya, a Kenyan entrepreneur can use it to set up a cross-border startup. Last, Africans should take what some of their new friends tell them with a pinch of salt. China argues that democracy is a Western idea; development requires a firm hand.

The 21st Century ‘Scramble for Africa’

This message no doubt appeals to African strongmen, but it is bunk. The good news is that, as education improves and Africans move rapidly to the cities, they are growing more critical of their rulers, and less frightened to say so. US military aid to Africa is the new strategy that America is employing to gain a foothold into Africa. US strategy into African occupation is security, while the Chinese occupy through promises of economic advancement and the French make the same old promises of helping to spread democracy.

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Releated Posts 04 Oct. Ken Mambe February 14, Kenyatta sits there smiling at Chinese as they take over his country. Shaking my head. Claire February 16, Everyone knows no one wants partnership with Africa they just want exploitation. AlTiiye March 11, Sorry, your blog cannot share posts by email.

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