FILE PHOTO: Chinese President Xi Jinping bids farewell to well wishers as he prepares to depart from the Julius Nyerere International Airport in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, March 25, 2013. China's new president told Africans on Monday he wanted a relationship of equals that would help the continent develop, responding to concerns that Beijing is only interested in shipping out its raw materials. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya/File Photo - RC22TJ9151YP

Vested Interests In Africa

To secure their geopolitical and economic interests in Africa, both China and the US have implemented militarization and securitization across the continent. The two superpowers want to protect their interests in the emerging African nations from piracy and terrorism, which have caused political instability and disruption in the extraction of natural resources, and the functioning of markets and investment outlets. Both China and the US have built strategic partnerships based on conflict resolution and cooperation principles that have helped to overcome the jeopardization of their geo-economic interests and national security in Africa. Additionally, the Chinese and American military forces have helped to protect the continent from terrorist attacks.

Increased Chinese economic presence in Africa has made way for increased security in the region. Securitization method includes deploying military troops, maritime security, and establishing military bases in Djibouti to defend from threats such as piracy and terrorism to enhance stability and security in the region. China has deployed military troops in Mali and South Sudan against violent rebellion and terrorist movements. With this, China claims to promote a more stable, peaceful, and secure Africa. However, it also aims to achieve its main goals which are to protect its economic and geopolitical interests by ensuring open trade markets for its manufactured goods and commodity trade, to strengthen its international position as a superpower, and to gain political power provided by the African governments in supporting the “One China” policy when voting in the United Nations General Assembly.

The Consequences of Foreign Involvement

The increased military presence of China in Africa has caused a higher risk for US national security in Africa. This is because China`s intensive securitization in the region provoked an increase in the levels of terrorist attacks. To defend its interest in the continent and get a more favourable status from the African governments, China has offered sales of arms and technology at more affordable prices as well as assisting African countries with military aid.  The excess of arms transfers has created implications for the continent`s inner security where the ethnopolitical conflicts and rebel groups violence against the governments intensify. This relies on that the stronger the military presence in the region, the more challenging it is for terrorists and rebels to win against state actors, and, therefore, the number of terrorist attacks has increased in countries such as Mali, Chad, Niger, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, and Cote d’Ivoire. Compared with the US which mainly uses the “speech act” as an effective securitization method for identifying an existing threat and creating a plot to eliminate the risk, China has a more traditional way of securitization by implementing a heavy military presence in the region.

American Intervention

To confront this challenge, to be competitive with its military presence, and to protect its interest in the region, the US further increased the deployment of American soldiers. For example, according to AFRICOM, the US deployed 6,000 troops on active duty and 75,000 troops on contract duties in 2017. As terrorist and rebellion attacks increased in the region due to the Chinese excess military presence and became a threat for the locals,  the American soldiers protected the continent against the terrorist affiliates in western Africa, in the Sahel region which includes Nigeria, Niger, Chad and Mali, as well as the eastern African mission in Djibouti, Kenya, and Somalia by airstrikes or by soldiers on the ground. There is an American military presence in almost every African country, but it is mainly concentrated in Djibouti where China’s military base is located. To deal with increased terrorism in Africa, the US invited China and several African countries to a dialogue for a more cooperative approach towards solving the security issue, by providing advice, assistance, and training African militaries. The US-China engagement on the continent has been important for sharing the burden when securing the region during the post-conflict times and supporting the UN peacekeeping mission in Africa.

Economic Implications

The increased competition for economic gains and resources on the continent has further created implications for the US. The main reason for this is that China has not been transparent in providing accurate data about its amount of aid and investment on the continent, while in return it has gained more “favourable treatment” in terms of political and trade support from various governments of African countries. The financial aid given to Africa by the US and the EU was $5.1 billion and $20 billion per year respectively, which makes them the leading aid providers in the region, while China’s financial aid was $3.1 billion in 2019. Similarly, stock investments in Africa made by China have been much lower than investments made by the European countries that colonized Africa in the past or by the US. China`s foreign direct investments (FDIs) are mainly focused on transport infrastructure and natural resources investments where most of the employees are Chinese citizens, instead of investing in sustainable economies that will likely create labour-intensive jobs for the locals in the region. 

To balance the economic and political strategy in the region, the US encourages China to have a more cooperative approach with global financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank by making investments more transparent and approving loans based on the countries` needs, instead of creating unrecoverable debts for underdeveloped African countries, which is against the policy of creating a sustainable and stable economic growth. This approach has been projected to improve the Chinese reputation and its global governance in the continent.

The Path Towards Good Governance

Despite China`s competitive approach in dealing with securitization in Africa for protecting its economic and geopolitical interest, the US has still offered to cooperate with China regarding the question of dealing with terrorism and promoting peace and security in the region. The Chinese presence in Africa has also threatened American security and has created implications in terms of creating a sustainable economy and good governance across the African continent. The US has offered support for China on how to improve its reputation through strategic economic and political dialogues in having advanced cooperation on areas of joint concern. China has to improve its strategic securitization methods to protect its interest in the region by cooperating with the US and promoting peace and stability. Also, China does not have to take advantage of  African governments by selling military weapons at a more affordable price to enforce the African military, which then provokes the locals to act more aggressively in terms of political and economic competency.