USA – Africa reset under the shadow of China: An African perspective. Part 2 of 3

A tentative blueprint for a reset of USA-Africa relations

Part I briefly discussed why USA and Africa mattered to each other, and why a reset of their relations was justified.

This Part II explores indicative shifts in US thinking, attitudes, and policies to adjust to a new Africa yearning for sovereignty and dignity. In theory, given China’s and Russia’s forceful courting of Africa, the continent has more options and bargaining power vis-à-vis the West. How can the USA respond to that competition?

Recent US policy towards Africa can tentatively be characterized by three tenets:

  1. Outsourcing of US influence to former European colonial powers;
  2. Primacy of security as diplomatic tool;
  3. Weaponization of “American values,” including democracy and Human Rights, as competitive advantage over Russia and China.

All those tenets may be called into question today. Specifically, the usual triangulation of USA-Africa relations via Europe is showing its limits. For the USA, a reset of relations with Africa would involve a change in mindset, narrative, strategy, and policies. Great powers should understand that partnership with Africa cannot only be about security and business, but also about fairness and respect.

A – Change in US mindset.

It is crucial to acknowledge the singularity and complexity of Africa where past, present and future collide, deep doubt and exuberant hope coexist, and chaos meets creativity. In dealing with Africa, the USA needs to resist several impulses:

  1.  The obsession with exporting US values and lifestyle
  2. The tendency to categorization
  3. The inclination for rapid solutions
  4. The quest for a quick return on investment

When attempting to export its way of life and values, the USA faces the tests of credibility, consistency, and fairness. Does the US attempt to flatten countries’ peculiarities by imposing a one size fits all approach to diversity, rights, and freedom? Are Human Rights being selectively weaponized to serve foreign policy goals? How does the US itself respond to accusations by rivals about foreign invasions or police brutality? Does the US consistently apply the same Human Rights criteria to all countries in all the regions of the world? Speaking of Africa, why condemn a coup in Myanmar and accommodate one in Guinea? Is this an implicit admission that the USA can conveniently lower democracy expectations and standards when it comes to Africa? What are the criteria for defining an “acceptable” and a “reprehensible” coup or power transition in Africa? Are good dictators and bad dictators defined by the sole yardstick of material interests?

The notion of individual rights should be interpreted with caution in Africa where duties vis- à-vis self, family, elders, and community, not rights, are taught. The essence of Ubuntu philosophy (I am because we are) is about togetherness. By stating that a dead body cannot bury itself, a Tuareg proverb extols humility when talking about the individual rights and privileges of the living. Fulani people celebrate self-effacement, and for them, publicly voicing one’s opinion sounds pretentious if not obscene: who are you to speak and expect to be listened to? In many traditional African societies, sex talk is a codified language and sexuality is a very private matter. Should Africa accommodate America’s definition of diversity, or should America accommodate the diversity of the world? When speaking of freedom and rights, concepts collide with context; it has been said repeatedly that the world is not culturally flat, and that there are oceans of differences and mountains of incomprehension. While cultural relativism should not serve as an excuse to abusive practices and customs, using rights and values in diplomacy can prove problematic due to inconsistencies and double standards. If the intuition of and the aspiration to rights can be described as universal, the place, the moment, the road, and the pace of the trip leading to them are very much local.

Categorization is another trap to avoid. With fifty-four countries, Africa is the most fractured continent. No country resembles any other, by any measure. African countries are often described as Anglophone, Francophone, Lusophone, to signify the colonial heritage if not persistent spheres of influence (Commonwealth, Francophonie…). If history, nationhood, ethnicity, culture, religion, and language are the most noticeable fracture lines, other division factors exist, such as generation, gender, and ideology, although the latter has been fading since the collapse of the Soviet Union. In the Sahel region, Islam has become a political and social force to reckon with. Given that complexity, Africa cannot be approached with binary divisions of countries such as between North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa; indeed, if the Maghreb is culturally close to the Mashreq, it is equally tied to the rest of the continent by shared challenges; the so-called North Africa cannot evade its African geography and history. How Arab is Mauritania and how African is Sudan1? Senegal is culturally closer to say Morocco than Lesotho. In some parts of Africa, religious fractures may be more pronounced than racial fractures. Islamist threat for instance is prevalent in countries as diverse as Algeria, Mali, Libya, and Mozambique. An arbitrary division between democracies and autocracies is not more relevant as most of African countries are navigating between those two extremes; in fact, despite laudable cases such as Botswana, Mauritius, Cape Verde, and South Africa, the so-called African democrats often speak with a strong autocratic accent, as evidenced by electoral shenanigans and the neutralization of political competitors via a subverted justice system. Likewise, the tendency to read African politics only through the ethnic lens may be misleading as there is a true generational aspiration to nationhood; social class, education level and political affiliation are progressively replacing tribal kinship as identity markers. In terms of identity, Africa is an ever-moving target for foreigners.

Not specific to the USA or the West, the perception of Africa swings between cynicism and paternalism. For cynics, it would be easier to negotiate with a weak, divided Africa than a united and powerful one. According to that view, fragile states become dependent on their security or fund providers. The problem with the cynic view is that it would fuel in Africa fanciful conspiracy theories linking security suppliers with insecurity, development assistance with poverty. On the other hand, the paternalistic view would mix compassion and contempt and see Africans as inherently incapable of self-ruling, hence the need to baby-sit them, a version of the “White Man’s burden.” Furthermore, the paternalists pretend to know what is best for Africa and Africans, and therefore feel legitimized to speak and act in their names. Both the cynic and paternalistic views have contributed to create the compassion industry of aid, assistance, and advice. Both have a moralizing undertone: Africa is made of rogue states, sinful governments, and corrupt elite. Africa surely has numerous failings, but those disparaging and infantilizing views fail to acknowledge the progress achieved and the emergence of a new, uninhibited, and self-reliant continent. That new Africa wants to speak for itself on the world stage, without translators of its interests and wants.

Furthermore, the USA has an obsession for quick fixes and tends to discount time as a factor. African countries in their current configuration are roughly sixty years old, given the fact that the majority of them acceded to independence around the 1960s. In the grand scheme of nations’ lifespan, they are in their infancy. The traumatic past of Africa after centuries of Levantine and European domination led to physical, psychological, mental, and institutional destruction, and caused alienation and disorientation. Africa’s current plagues are the lingering effects of past trauma. The complexity of Africa’s heritage and present means that the continent needs time to redefine itself, heal its wounds, gather pace, and rebuild. In this context, democracy should be understood as a long experimental process (democratization), improving over time after trials and failures, rather than an overnight achievement. The focus should therefore shift from isolating and sanctioning faulty African leaders to engaging and attempting to change them.

Although anecdotical, even California has secession whims from time to time. Putting things in perspective, the ongoing Africa’s insecurity, instability, and disorganization are not historical oddities. The US Secession War of 1861 took place almost a century after the 1 Ironically, certain analysts group Sudan, the “land of the Blacks” according to Arabs (Dar Es Sudan), with North Africa and the Middle East Declaration of Independence of 1776. Despite Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation of 1865 formally ending slavery, Jim Crow laws institutionalized discrimination in housing, education, transportation, employment, from 1896 to 1964 when Civil Rights Act was passed. American women vote only since the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920, 144 years after independence. It obviously takes time to build a cohesive and stable nation, so Africa should be given an opportunity to try, correct its own mistakes and grow; that learning trajectory would take decades if not more.

In Africa like elsewhere, democracy, human rights, good governance, and the rule of law are not the natural attributes of countries, and they require not only time but also pedagogy. The USA sometimes seems impatient about them, dismissing a country’ history, social fabric, political realities, implementation capacity and readiness. Organic democracy is home grown, not imported. Many African opposition leaders are not politically worthier than the sitting leaders, and most of the military coup engineers know nothing about the nuts and bolts of democracy. The uncertain aftermath of the Arab Spring and the far-felt instability that resulted from the Libyan expedition of 2011 are cautionary tales: not only shock therapy does not always lead to the desired outcome, but it may open the pandora box and unleash the insecurity genie. Idris Deby, the late president of Chad, famously said that after getting rid of the Gadhafi regime, the West did not take care of the “after-sale service” in Libya and the region. The inconclusive US-led nation-building experiments in Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan invite caution. Democracy and human rights are universally acclaimed containers, but are the contents universal or local? A smooth intellectual map but a rough ground landscape, a dreamed destinations but a chaotic road, democracy is a never-ending trip, not a finished journey to rest on.

Lastly, US obsession with a quick return on investment must adjust to the African context. The USA government’s engagement with Africa cannot be appraised through the corporate prism of short payback period, and low risk and high return, given the continent’s weak institutions and lack of implementation capacity. Here again, time and patience are of first order.

B – Change in US narrative.

Change is also needed in the way the US and Western media outlets portray Africa. They swing between sheer oblivion, malign neglect, sensational over-exposition, caricature and even offense. Reports on Africa are too often morbid accounts of natural disasters, coups, ethnic clashes (the “most rapid” genocide as described in the case of Rwanda), rape (“rape rate” in Congo DRC), genital mutilation, diseases (“the coming Covid hecatomb in Africa”) and burlesque leaders (brutal, kleptocratic, incompetent). Africa is frequently presented as a taker, not a giver. Because the continent faces many concomitant challenges including building at the same time states, nations, economies and democracies, Africa’s multiple problems have led to depict Africa itself as a problem. It is urgent to deconstruct that toxic narration:

  1. Africa is not a burden, but an opportunity for the USA;
  2. Africans no longer believe international relations are about platonic friendship and benevolence;
  3. Africans are not the sole responsible for Africa’s woes;
  4. Africa can produce transformative leaders.

As discussed earlier in Part I, Africa presents significant opportunities for US corporations and government. Indeed, Africa is potentially a vast market comparable to China and India in terms of population. On the other hand, Africa is a huge reservoir of natural resources.

Also, Africans have grown skeptical about notions such as aid and friendship. Relations among states are about cold calculus of interests, not about sentiments. History teaches us that countries are at the same time friends and foes, as they are both cooperating and competing, and Africa has learned it the hard way about its “foe-friends.” Nothing is free; help is self-help; charity starts and ends at home. Humanitarian assistance has become a publicity tool to boost donor’s image, international reputation, and feel-good sentiment. It would be healthier if Africa and its partners talked about mutually beneficial partnership, not disincarnated friendship.

Moreover, for all Africa’s failings, attributing the fate of the continent to local circumstances and forces only would be disingenuous. As seen, Africa is a battlefield for world powers, often via local proxies. In their own creative ways, foreign powers are ever reinventing their tools to tighten their grip on the resource-rich continent. In the jungle, lions always roam near the herd of fleshy antelopes. Young, disorganized, weak but rich, African countries are tempting and easy preys; countries who have not experienced a successful coup or a coup attempt since independence are rare. Coups have something in common with clothes: they are often designed overseas and manufactured locally. The condemnation of the coup by big countries north, west, and east of the continent becomes a simple diplomatic ritual, not an act of faith. In the Sahara-Sahel region, Sudan, Mali, Guinea, and Chad, are the most recent examples.

How can the grass be green on the African soil where foreign elephants love to fight? How can that long brutalized ground be smooth and fertile? To escape their own burned grass, many Africans seek a greener grass elsewhere, hence mass immigration and the brain drain. Likewise, the blame about Africa’s economic misgovernance will be lopsided until the role of foreign companies in securing the strategic Defense, Infrastructure, Resources and Energy (DIRE) contracts is acknowledged. DIRE contracts are diplomatic, state-to-state contracts about security and development, not ordinary commercial contracts. Africa can only yield to the overwhelming power of the states hiding behind DIRE corporations. Are the weak African countries, subjected to big powers competition, able to freely negotiate, partner, buy and sell? An adage holds it that the best way to trace African resources is to follow the footprint of foreign troops: boots on the ground, wealth in the ground. By action or by omission, foreign powers have amply demonstrated their ability to sway Africa’s destiny. Tellingly, resource-rich African countries are less likely to live in peace; this is Africa’s own definition of resource curse 2.

Finally, contrary to a well-constructed myth, Africa has had charismatic, benevolent and transformative leaders. During the Cold War, several historic African figures fell victim to the competition between West and East. Were Lumumba, Nkrumah, Mandela and Sankara communists or were they conveniently labelled as such? Did the West inadvertently throw those leaders in the arms of the Eastern bloc? Revealingly, the now much-celebrated Nelson Mandela was on the US “blacklist” until 2008; with the benefit of hindsight, one realizes how he was misjudged. It is time to recognize that for the long-humiliated Africans, the quest for dignity, more than ideology, has fueled many revolts and opposition to the West.

C – Change in US strategy and policy.

Tentatively, the following seven shifts and novelties could contribute to shape a new US approach to Africa:

  1. From a reactive to a more pro-active Africa policy
  2. From outsourcing to Europe to direct engagement with Africa
  3. From focusing on Africa to focusing on Africans
  4. From security and military diplomacy to people-to-people diplomacy
  5. From checkbook policy to textbook policy
  6. From stressing governance to strengthening government
  7. From demoting geopolitical rivals to promoting America

First, America may need a more pro-active Africa policy. So far, the US approach to Africa has been more reactive to Soviet Union and now China, than active, namely a legible, clearly spelt, and consistent policy. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union’s friends were foes of the USA and vice versa. The Bandung Conference of 1955 had not kept its promise about non- alignment as a third path for developing countries, and every African country, by necessity, had to choose between West and East. Today, it seems difficult to read the US Africa policy beyond the need to counter the influence of China and Russia. A more pro-active policy would consider the internal dynamics of African countries. New powerful demographic, cultural, political, economic, and psychological currents are changing the relationship between genders, generations, and social classes; women, the youth and the poor are becoming increasingly vocal and assertive, helped by the expansion of the internet and the social media. The US Young African Leadership Initiative (YALI) seems to have seized that momentum, but America cannot jump into the future (next African leaders) without addressing the present (current leaders). Also, a growing African middle class is seeking to counter the power of greedy and incompetent professional politicians. What are the specific US goals and interests in Africa? Is cultivating ambiguity and leaving African interlocutors guessing a deliberate strategy or does it simply reflect an absence of strategy? If the objective is to keep China and Russia at bay, what economic and security space does America want to occupy in Africa? Speaking of the USA, one African leader lamented: “I have a vague idea about what they do not want, but no idea about what they actually want.”

Secondly, in what looks like a division of labor, the US used to outsource to Europe the lifting of the “African burden.” By so doing, the USA killed two birds with one stone: (a) accommodating the former European colonial powers’ anxious desire to keep Africa under their influence and hence recognizing Europe’s “comparative advantage’ on matters relating to its former possessions in the name of the West3; and (b) saving US own resources for other theaters in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. The latter preoccupation about cost- effectiveness was at the heart of George Kennan’s preoccupation, as Head of the State Department Policy Planning Staff in 1947. But that triangulation, namely the US strategy consisting in relying on Europe to handle Africa, is facing enormous challenges today.

To start, the former European colonial powers are facing several challenges in Africa, for the USA to rely on them on African matters. First, in an ironic reversal of psychological balance of power, a Europe fatigue is now perceptible here and there in Africa. Taking stock of their historic relations with Europe, Africans are looking to diversify their economic and security partners. Africans resent the fact that Europeans generally see their continent only as a resource reservoir, a financial burden, and a demographic threat. Europe’s credibility as a traditional partner is increasingly questioned; despite the geographical, cultural and economic proximity, Africa has barely benefited since independence from a spillover of Europe’s economic expansion. For Africans, Europe looks eastward for integration, cooperation, and co-prosperity, and southward for natural resources, exports, and influence. In addition, an even bigger challenge to Europe in Africa is coming from non-Western competing powers.

The former European colonial powers can no longer fully play their agency role on behalf of the West, as they are having tough time handling the new Africa or competing with China, Russia, and others. China may have built more roads in Africa in a matter of decades than Europe in centuries. Further, the Russian security group Wagner is now practically ruling the Central African Republic, a former French stronghold, and has made inroads in Mali, an erstwhile significant French military playground in Africa. Tellingly, the new Malian authorities expelled both the French ambassador and the French military. Despite a ceremonial decision by its parliament to welcome the French troops expelled from Mali, the neighboring Niger in fact reluctantly accepted, fearing a potentially hostile reaction of the population and also jihadists’ pressure. Cameroon, a significant asset of France’s influence in Africa, signed in 2022 a security cooperation agreement with Russia. France’s competition with Turkey on Libya and Greek waters may migrate to the Sahel region where Turkey, as a major Sunni country, can leverage anti-West sentiment among the majority Muslim population; in clear, the ruling classes may be pro-Western while the populations are susceptible to be anti-Western. Similarly, by funding some Islamist movements in Africa, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar may inadvertently reinforce the enemies of the West in the continent.

The former European colonial powers have reached their peak influence in Africa. Indeed, Portugal’s influence is nowadays anecdotical. Despite the Commonwealth, UK no longer sets the political agenda in Nigeria or South Africa. Probably the most entrenched European power in Africa owing to its military bases, the CFA Franc common currency Zone for 14 African countries, the Francophonie Forum, and the so-called France-Afrique informal network of entangled state and private interests, France is now being challenged in almost every single French-speaking African country, including in its three darlings of Côte d’Ivoire, Senegal and Cameroon. France’s palpable anxiety about its standing in Africa is symptomatic of Europe’s difficulty to adjust to a new Africa. France’s unstated strategy is to leverage Europe to defend its substantial interests in Africa, including natural resources, quasi-captive markets, shared language, diplomatic support, and global power status. That strategy is now showing its limits. The implementation of the European Takuba force in the Sahel has proven laborious. France’s repeated calls to other European countries to join its African economic and security crusade is interpreted by some Africans as a call for “recolonization” or “co- colonization.” France’s ordeals are symptomatic of the need for foreign powers to adjust to the new Africa. The entanglements of France’s Barkhane military mission in the Sahel is only the logical epilogue of the unsustainable tensions between ambition and means, engagement in Africa and field results, and old patterns of influence and new African realities.

Europe and the West are misreading the new Africa’s mindset and expectations. The former colonial powers should internalize the fact that the old Africa of Yes Men and cartoonish leaders they wittingly or unwittingly contributed to create like Amin Dada and Bokassa is becoming outdated. How can European powers prop up obliging African leaders and then dissociate themselves from the sinister records of their own creatures? The increasing inability of Europe to secure the interests of the broader West in Africa will eventually force the USA to enhance its direct presence in that continent, particularly as the African youth’s growing defiance of former European colonial powers may easily morph into a condemnation of the West, including America. Therefore, after having long been an asset, Europe may end up becoming a liability for America’s material and moral interests in Africa, if European powers do not change course there.

It remains to be seen whether US direct engagement in Africa will result for USA-Europe relations into cooperation, competition or even substitution. As discussed in Part I, the USA has built direct military and security presence in several African countries, traditionally under France or UK influence. Less discussed but no less potent in terms of expanding US influence is the growing number of Africa’s intellectual, political, business, military, artistic and civil society elite trained or living in the USA. As naive as it might sound, the” Obama effect”4 is still vivid in Africa. Therefore, the USA may be already quietly supplanting Europe in that continent. A longer-term consequence of that trend might be a simple decoupling of USA-Europe interests in Africa if current Africa-Europe communication gap widens. The not so discreet menage à trois among the USA, Europe and Africa may be ending, as China, Russia and other powers broke in the black continent.

The third strategic shift in US Africa policy would consist in focusing more on Africans than on Africa. Instead of considering Africa as a mere battlefield in the context of its competition with geopolitical rivals like China and Russia, the USA should partner with Africans as people with specific needs, plans, expectations, and rights. According to an African proverb, when the elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers; should Africa be only the grass, the battleground where directly or through proxies, world powers compete? Foreign powers have long viewed Africa as the home of natural resources, without paying due attention to the inhabitants of the continent. The issue here is how to address the needs of Africans in terms of security, stability, freedom, sovereignty, health, education, development, and dignity. This means listening to Africans, heeding their concerns, cooperating, and coordinating with them to help them resolve their own problems, in a nutshell, empowering Africans to solve Africa’s problems. Instead of top-down policies prescribed from afar, regardless of how well- devised and intentioned they might be, empowering Africans to tackle their own challenges might be more cost-effective. In the most urgent and emblematic field of security, empowerment could take the form of training and equipping African troops and providing them with intelligence on Jihadist groups. But how much foreign troops present in Africa share and cooperate with local authorities? Empowerment can be implemented through the recognition and reinforcement of regional pillars such as Nigeria (Western Africa), South Africa (Southern Africa), Ethiopia (Eastern Africa), Angola (Central Africa) and Egypt (Northern Africa), who in turn would train and support national armies, and foster regional cooperation. For the USA, this entails switching role from crisis resolution to crisis prevention through recognized African regional powerhouses. As an additional strategic shift, the USA may need to depart from the primacy of military and security diplomacy and add people-to-people diplomacy. Since the creation of AFRICOM in 2007, security seems to have monopolized the agenda of US diplomacy towards Africa. To address the persistent insecurity in Sahel and beyond, the solution cannot be military only but also economic (jobs creation), educational (change in culture) and political (better leadership). People-to-people diplomacy could take the form of a stronger involvement of African Americans and the African diaspora in the USA, civil society, learning institutions, sister cities network, all amalgamated into a civilian version of AFRICOM, the objective remaining to cooperate not conquer.

Moving from checkbook to textbook is another desired shift in USA-Africa relations. In Africa, money wise, the USA will have a tough time competing with its own creditor, China. While China is focusing on physical infrastructure and lending, why doesn’t the US focus on Africa’s much needed human infrastructure, namely building of knowledge and skills? This can be done through partnerships to overhaul African universities, the reinforcement of regional science and technology universities in Africa, scholarships, educational exchange programs, entrepreneurship development program with US universities, partnerships between African universities and US Historically Black Colleges, collection and distribution of books to African universities and schools, and an ambitious digital program involving IT training, computer equipment and internet access. On digital divide, the USA can lead by initiating and coordinating a global efforts to narrow Africa’s digital gap.

Furthermore, in Africa, the USA should contribute to strengthening government, and not only to promoting good governance. America’s governance lessons alone do not achieve their goals in terms of political freedom, economic effectiveness, and accountability. On government Alexander Hamilton wrote: “The vigor of government is essential to the security of liberty…their interest cannot be separated.”5. To what another US Founding Father echoed: “But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”6 Governance and government reinforce each other; there can be no governance in the absence of effective government as there will be no legitimate government without respect of the principles of good governance (rule of law, justice, effective delivery of social services, transparency, accountability….). A government supposes caring representatives of the people, a working administrative infrastructure, a strong security apparatus, a fair justice system, and an effective implementation of law and order. Government, not governance, might be the existential priority for African countries, as evidenced by the urgent cases of Libya, Chad, and Mali. In addition to security cooperation, the USA can help strengthen the state apparatus in Africa by training African members of parliament via the US Congress and African government auditors via the US Government Accountability Office.

Lastly, in Africa, the US should focus on promoting America instead of demoting its rivals. China’s weaknesses do not necessarily translate into US strengths. Aligning US language with China’s behavior might be perceived as a weakness on the part of the USA. With their sense of dark humor, Africans observe that while an eminent American casually treated their countries as “shitholes,” the Chinese were busy fixing those countries’ potholes; the underlying message is that Americans should stop talking and cursing, and instead start acting. Why should America let China drive its moves and discourse? Some of the American arguments against China might signal a US lack of confidence in its own capabilities, which would be utterly un-American. The overused argument about China debt trap for instance might not pass the test of comparison. Indeed, the US-dominated international development agencies also have intrusive and invasive lending policies as their famous and feared conditionalities are geared to re-orient countries fiscal and structural policies (e.g., budget tightening and privatization). China is also suspected of neo-colonialism; there is some irony in the West’s accusations about China colonialism given the fact Europe had colonized and exploited Africa over centuries. Another argument questions the cost and quality of China- built infrastructure in Africa, but hasn’t the USA deserted the infrastructure business in Africa? What concrete alternative is the USA proposing to Africans to convince them to reject China’s Belt and Road Initiative, infrastructure projects or loans? Instead of being anti- China, the USA should be pro-American: what are the resources the US can leverage to compete with China in Africa? What winning partnership can the USA propose to Africa? How to capitalize on the broadly positive US image in Africa? If they had a choice, why should Africans favor partnership with the USA over China?

D – Examples of high visibility/high impact joint USA-Africa initiatives.

Below are examples of concrete joint initiatives that could strengthen USA-Africa relations, while serving the interests of both the USA and Africa. The underpinning concerns are the acknowledgment of Africa as a worthy partner, the promotion of people-to-people relations, and making education the cornerstone of US investment in Africa:

  1. Permanent US-Africa Leaders’ Summit every two years, following the 2014 summit. A one-off summit leaves the awkward impression of an unfinished job or a fading mutual interest. The summit should become a lasting, predictable feature of USA- Africa relations. By so doing, the USA would signal the strategic relevance of Africa. By comparison, China, Russia, Japan, France, UK, or Turkey hold regular summits with Africa.
  2. Expansion of direct US flights to Africa. This supposes an enhancement of airport and air security in Africa.
  3. Institution of An Africa week during the Black History Month in the USA, to bring together African Americans and Africans, and to help the larger US public better learn about Africa.
  4. Unconditional and immediate awarding of an African citizenship to any African American applying for any African passport. By so doing, African Americans become American Africans, hence bridging continents, experiences, and memories. That would be a revenge on history that dismembered Africa and separated its children.
  5. Partnerships between US Historically Black Colleges and African universities. This involves exchanges programs, scholarships, joint studies, and publications…
  6. Creation of a USA-Africa Business school with branches in Northern, Central, Western, Eastern and Southern Africa. The school should calibrate its curriculum to Africa’s specific needs such as entrepreneurship, business ethics, public/private partnerships, social enterprises, family businesses, business leadership, corporate governance, women-owned businesses. By comparison, China has created in Ghana a campus of the China Europe International Business School.
  7. Launching by the US IT giants (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple…) of a so-called IPAD Initiative: Initiative for Progress via the Digitalization of Africa. US companies are already heavily present in Africa’s seabed optic cables.
  8. As a mirror to military and security cooperation through AFRICOM, the reinforcement of African governments and governance through cooperation between American and African parliaments, courts, government audit offices and media.
  9. Creation, with the assistance of USA, of a long overdue continental Africa TV channel, an outlet focusing on Africa and the Africa diaspora, and capable of broadcasting world-wide news about Africa, from Africa and by Africans.
  10. Facilitation by the USA of Africa’s permanent membership of the UN Security Council7. A legacy of WW II and a reflection of the then military balance of power, the UNSC as the executive power of the world body does not reflect today’s world realities and values. One human in six is African but the Africa is excluded from key decisions that impact humanity.

In the forthcoming Part III of the essay, the discussion will expand to the USA-China competition in Africa.

  1. Ironically, certain analysts group Sudan, the “land of the Blacks” according to Arabs (Dar Es Sudan), with North Africa and the Middle East
  2. Traditionally, resource curse refers to the paradox facing resource-rich countries whose economic and social performance deteriorates despite huge wealth potential.
  3. That was the position expressed among others by of US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs George McGhee in early 1950s. He had reservations about “premature independence” of African colonies. Later, President Eisenhower had similar reservations about independence; he was facing a dilemma: how to support Africans in their fight for independence while keeping racial discrimination laws in place in the USA itself? US hesitancy was attenuated by President Kennedy in a speech on April 15, 1961, on the Africa Freedom Day; in
    that speech, the US president drew a comparison between Africa’s struggles and the American Revolution.
  4. The most powerful nation elected the son of an African as President; that created an “only in America” reaction across Africa.
  5. Alexander Hamilton, Federalist Paper No. 1, October 27, 1787
  6. James Madison, Federalist Paper No. 51, February 6, 1788
  7. The selection of the representative of the African continent to the UNSC may be a combination of quantitative and qualitative criteria, such as: (i) vote by the 54 African countries themselves to establish legitimacy at home, in Africa; (ii) population size; (iii) GDP size; (iv) respect of democratic principles, rule of law and human rights; (v) effective contribution to the African Union’s budget and peace keeping operations; (vi) vote by the African immigrants legally established outside Africa; (vii) effective contribution to a forthcoming African Diaspora Fund, to help communities of African descent in the Americas, Caribbean islands, Europe and elsewhere. Indeed, Africa’s representative needs to have all the credentials, including moral authority, to speak to the rest of the world.

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