Lusaka, Zambia. Vice President Kamala Harris’ trip to Africa has been marked by concerns over China’s expanding influence on the continent. On the final stop of her weeklong trip, Harris is set to visit the new airport in Lusaka, Zambia, which was built with Chinese financing. The airport is just one of the many infrastructure projects that China has undertaken in Africa, thereby expanding its footprint on the continent, rich in natural resources.
In this article, we will explore China’s increasing influence in Africa and its impact on the US’s relationship with the continent. We will examine the key projects undertaken by China in Africa, the US’s response to them, and the challenges facing Harris and the Biden administration during their Africa visit.
China’s Growing Influence in Africa
China’s deepening engagement in Africa is based on a strategy of economic development and infrastructure investment. Beijing has invested billions of dollars in African countries to finance infrastructure projects, such as roads, ports, railways, and airports. As a result, China has become Africa’s largest trading partner, with business worth $254 billion in 2021, four times that of the US.
China’s investment in Africa has brought mixed results for the continent. While China’s infrastructure projects have improved the region’s connectivity and spurred economic growth, African countries have become heavily indebted to China. Zambia is a prime example, with billions of dollars of debt owed to China for projects such as the new airport in Lusaka.
Furthermore, China’s engagement with African countries has been criticized for its lack of concern for human rights and democratic governance. Unlike the US, China does not condition its investments in democracy and human rights. This has made China an attractive partner for African countries that are disillusioned with Western values and politics.
US Response to China’s Growing Influence
The US has viewed China’s growing influence in Africa with suspicion and concern. The US’s interest in Africa has historically been based on security and anti-terrorism concerns. However, the US has recently started to take steps to counter China’s influence on the continent.
In December 2021, President Biden hosted a summit for African leaders and announced plans to commit $55 billion to the continent in the coming years. During her Africa visit, Vice President Harris announced more than $1 billion in public and private funds for economic development, $100 million for security assistance in West Africa, and $500 million to facilitate trade with Tanzania.
The US’s commitment to Africa has been well received by African leaders, who have expressed their hopes that the US will deliver on its promises. However, there remains scepticism about the US’s willingness to follow through on its commitments.
Challenges Facing Harris and the Biden Administration
The US’s efforts to counter China’s influence in Africa face several challenges. Firstly, China’s infrastructure projects in Africa have improved connectivity and stimulated economic growth, making them popular with African governments and people. Secondly, China’s investments in Africa have not been conditioned on human rights and democratic governance, which has made them an attractive alternative to Western investment.
Furthermore, the US’s focus on security and anti-terrorism in Africa has limited its ability to engage with African countries on economic and development issues. This has made it difficult for the US to compete with China, which has focused on economic development and infrastructure investment.
Vice President Kamala Harris’ trip to Africa has highlighted China’s growing influence on the continent and the US’s efforts to counter it. While China’s investment in Africa has brought economic growth and improved connectivity, it has also left African countries heavily indebted to China. The US’s efforts to counter China’s influence in Africa face challenges, such as the popularity of China’s investments and the US’s focus.