In a strategic shift of power dynamics, the United States is emerging as a key player in Africa, particularly in Angola, posing a challenge to China’s long-standing influence in the region. This development, as reported by the Wall Street Journal, signifies a significant turn in international relations and economic competition on the African continent.
The story begins in Luena, Angola, where a Chinese-built train station, now outdated and neglected, symbolizes China’s waning grip on African infrastructure projects. This setting serves as a backdrop to a broader narrative of the U.S. gaining ground in Africa, particularly through a railway project in Angola. In 2022, Angola chose a U.S.-backed European consortium over a Chinese bid to rehabilitate and operate the Lobito Corridor line. This decision represents a significant shift, given Angola’s historical ties with China, which has been the continent’s largest recipient of Chinese infrastructure loans.
The U.S. government’s involvement in the $1.7 billion Lobito Corridor project, including a $250 million loan, reflects a strategic move to counter China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which has been expanding Beijing’s influence across resource-rich Africa. The project aims to transport essential green-energy minerals from Congo to Angola’s Atlantic coast, signifying the U.S.’s commitment to establishing a foothold in the region’s vital economic sectors.
The Biden administration has prioritized improving commercial ties with Africa, seeing it as a key foreign-policy goal. This approach is evident in various initiatives, such as the U.S. Export-Import Bank’s $900 million loan to Angola for solar-energy projects and a $363 million loan guarantee to Acrow Corp. of America for selling steel bridges in Angola. Furthermore, Texas-based All-American Rail Group is exploring upgrades to another train route in Angola, highlighting the growing U.S. interest in African infrastructure.
These developments indicate a broader strategy by the U.S. to compete with China and Russia for economic position and political sway in Africa. The U.S. model, as Ambassador Tulinabo Mushingi emphasizes, is expected to appeal to African nations due to its focus on sustainable and mutually beneficial partnerships.
The U.S.’s increasing involvement in Africa is not just about infrastructure; it encompasses broader geopolitical and economic interests. For instance, the U.S. is negotiating arms deals with Angola and has selected the country for significant military and intelligence cooperation. This multifaceted approach aims to strengthen ties and influence in a region historically dominated by other global powers.
However, the U.S. faces challenges in this endeavor. American firms often perceive Africa as a high-risk investment destination, and the U.S. government’s ability to finance projects is limited compared to China’s state-backed model. Nevertheless, the U.S. is making significant strides, as seen in Vice President Kamala Harris’s recent pledge to increase investments in Africa and the U.S. government’s support for critical minerals projects in Zambia.
In summary, the U.S. is actively working to counter China’s influence in Africa by investing in key infrastructure projects and forging stronger political and economic ties with African nations. The problem is that this is what China has done and they have encountered incompetence and corruption and this will be extremely expensive for the U.S. maintain true and lasting influence. Buying influence in Africa may indeed be prove to be a losing battle for both sides. And pandering is almost always a bad idea.
McMillan and others might suggest that this is a move in the “great game” and our cold war battle against China is in full swing. But The Biden Administration appears to be incompetent, and China’s trade bloc is moving forward quickly.