African business, politics and lifestyle
Has Clinton visit helped offset China’s clout in Africa?
U.S Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 10 day trip to Africa ends this week with many commentators viewing it at least partly as being aimed at offsetting China’s growing economic clout on the African continent.
In public, Clinton has delivered Washington’s traditional messages on the importance of fair elections and of fighting corruption and human rights abuses.
But the fact that top oil producers Angola and Nigeria are both on the tour has made clear the importance of the visit from the perspective of ensuring access to resources – an area of huge importance to China too.
China’s trade in Africa hit $107 billion in 2008 and there are now 750,000 Chinese workers living and working in Africa. Sources in both Washington, D.C. and Africa confirmed that Clinton’s subtle diplomatic strategy is to offer African leaders infrastructure assistance in exchange for oil resources and increased energy investments on the African continent.
China, meanwhile, may be marshalling reserves to help kick start African economies and fuel demand as well as to secure access to its resources.
In the past, Beijing has always argued that it is still a very poor country on per capita basis so cannot afford foreign aid. China’s foreign aid was only 0.04 percent of its gross domestic product, only a fraction of the U.S. percentage of 0.4 percent and Europe’s 0.7 percent.
But the financial crisis has changed this. While the downturn has crimped U.S. and Europeans companies’ ability to expand overseas, Chinese firms, awash with cash, are keen to look for new growth opportunities in new markets.
Has Hillary’s visit helped to offset the Chinese push? What value can her words carry against Beijing’s ready cash? Should China be concerned that Washington may be catching up with its own push into Africa?
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