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People walk past the gate of the Eastern Industrial Zone where Chinese company Huajian opened its first factory in Ethiopia in the town of Dukem near the capital, Addis Ababa, March 21, 2018 (AP photo by Elias Meseret).

The New U.S. Africa Strategy Fixates on China While Mimicking Beijing’s Approach

Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019

DAKAR, Senegal—When National Security Adviser John Bolton unveiled a new U.S. strategy for Africa in December, commentators were quick to notice that its overarching purpose is containing China. According to Bolton, China, and to a lesser extent Russia, are “deliberately and aggressively targeting their investments in the region to gain a competitive advantage over the United States.” He claimed that China’s “predatory practices stunt economic growth in Africa, threaten the financial independence of African nations, inhibit opportunities for U.S. investment, interfere with U.S. military operations, and pose a significant threat to U.S. national security interests.”

A more deliberate reading of Bolton’s speech, however, shows that it was also a welcome endorsement of American economic engagement to help foster growth across the continent. The strategy, as outlined by Bolton, is built on three pillars: advancing American and African prosperity through increased U.S. commercial ties in Africa; enhancing security through counterterrorism efforts; and promoting American interests and African “self-reliance” through a more targeted and selective use of U.S. foreign aid. Its signature initiative, called “Prosper Africa,” aims to support U.S. investment across the region, improve the business climate and expand Africa’s private sector and middle class. ...

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