An illustration of the new cold war that the United States and China are waging within institutions and international donors.
The economic and trade war between the United States and China is opening up front lines in Africa. After openly neglecting the continent at the start of Donald Trump’s mandate, the US administration is working hard to block Chinese expansion and regain abandoned market shares. This is a strategy developed by the shadow advisers of the American president since 2017.
In this fight, the takeover of financing levers on the continent is a priority for the Americans, with the African Development Bank (AfDB) as a major target. In this context, is its president Akinwumi Adesina a pawn to be released?
*Adesina, a stone in the shoe of American influence?*
Engaged in a lip-service campaign to win a second term at the head of the African Development Bank at the end of August, Akinwumi Adesina has been plunged into the heart of a fight that is beyond him. Of course, the Nigerian remains the only candidate for his own succession. And even if he can avail himself of the support of the African Union, he will not obtain the easy victory that everyone promised him, essentially due to the economic and commercial rivalry between the United States and China raging across Africa. In this fight, to control the decision-making and financing levers on the continent, the AfDB, and therefore the president who directs it, are major issues for the American camp.
*The Trump administration’s strategy of winning back?*
Since coming to power in January 2017, Donald Trump has seemed to ignore Africa. So far, the American president has received only two heads of state from the continent at the White House. This is unprecedented. Worried about the omnipresence of Beijing on the continent and the loss of Washington’s economic influence on the ground, beginning in 2018, the advisers of the Trump administration concocted a strategy of reconquest to counter China in Africa.
*A slow work of persuasion begins with regard to the American president and turns into obsession in the ranks of the neoconservatives*
Ironically, the offensive was designed and led from the start by the hawk John Bolton, then National Security Advisor. The American conservatives are very worried. From 178 billion dollars in 2016, the volume of trade between China and Africa reached 186 billion dollars in 2018, and exceeded the symbolic mark of 200 billion dollars in 2019. Even if the objective announced by Beijing in 2014 to aim for 400 billion dollars in trade by 2020 is proving unrealistic today, the inexorable and rapid upward trend in trade between China and Africa is irreversibly written.
This is quite the opposite of trade relations between the United States and the continent.
*Attack through commercial means*
The cornerstone of the American trade strategy on the African continent, the AGOAa (law on growth and opportunities in Africa) has a poor record for its 20 years in 2020. Launched in 2000 under Bill Clinton, AGOA offers duty-free entry into the American market for 6,500 African products (petroleum, agricultural, textiles, handicrafts, etc.). Thirty-nine predominantly sub-Saharan countries benefit from it. AGOA goals? Help diversify trade with the continent and promote industrialization in sub-Saharan Africa.
However, petroleum products continue to represent two thirds of American imports. According to USAID figures, bilateral trade between the United States and the United States quadrupled from 2002 to 2008, to reach 100 billion dollars. But Africa trade is crumbling. It fell to $ 39 billion in 2017, only to rebound slightly to $ 41.2 billion in 2018, mainly due to the United States’ energy self-sufficiency.
Meanwhile, over the past five years, US exports to sub-Saharan Africa have stagnated on average at $ 19 billion per year. With $ 54 billion in foreign direct investment in Africa, the United States is still ahead of China in this area.
However, Chinese domination in Africa is a snub for Uncle Sam. Little by little, advisers will convince the American president to look beyond the borders of the United States. The Vice-President of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Washington, and the President, of the Sub-Saharan Africa Advisory Committee for the Export-Import Bank of the United States United (Exim), Daniel Runde, among others, feeds the Trump administration’s perspective on the economic engagement of the United States in the world, in particular in terms of development.
*Go through development institutions, including the AfDB*
Countering China in Africa, by relying on development institutions, has become an end in itself. In a memo titled “The Trump Administration Will Eventually Lead the Bretton Woods System,” Daniel Runde wrote in mid-2017 that “the United States will seek to have a say in the upcoming appointments of the heads of the multilateral banks of development.
In October 2017, Steven Dowd, the current Executive Director of the AfDB who is the representative of the United States at the Bank and the chairman of the audit and finance
committee of the pan-African bank, confirmed this desire. “I will leverage the US financial contribution to the bank to ensure that it is best used for Africa and serves the interests of US foreign policy there.” […] I will endeavor to open Africa to American investments and know-how.” This close friend of Daniel Runde then made the promise to American senators in order to get the post with the AfDB.
In October 2019, Daniel Rundee, a Republican loyal to Donald Trump, specified the interest of the Americans in controlling the AfDB to halt Beijing’s long march on the continent. “The AfDB is an alternative to engaging in Africa that is not led by China and it can help reframe Africa as a tremendous economic opportunity. ”
In a charge against Adesina carried in a column on the American online site ‘The Hill’, the message is clear. The writer, Daniel Rundee led a charge against the management of the bank by Akinwumi Adesina, its president. Runde insisted on his lack of transparency and his support for authoritarian regimes, in particular by organizing the AfDB’s annual meetings in Malabo (Equatorial Guinea), in June 2019. “Anyone who has read the classic book Tropical Gangsters will recognize that the government of Equatorial Guinea is probably one of the most corrupt in the world”, asserted Daniel Runde.
The offensive had already accelerated following the appointment of Tibor Nagy in July 2018 as US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, a post left vacant for several months. On March 3, at the United States Embassy in Kinshasa, he began his speech on what “the Trump administration in Africa should do: counter China’s narrative and clearly show that the breadth and depth of the United States’ engagement in Africa is second to none.”
On the ground, Tibor Nagy could count on the rebirth, in May 2019, of the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Exim) chaired by Kimberly Reed, a lawyer who served as senior advisor to the Secretaries of the United States Treasury in 2004. Congress gave a mandate to the federal agency, which now has a theoretical strike force of $ 135 billion. It is up to the Exim to devote 20% of its resources to unlocking financing that is capable of neutralizing Chinese offers in Africa. On May 14, 2020, the board of directors of the American agency validated a loan of 4.7 billion dollars for the benefit of Mozambique to build an LNG installation. “This is a prime example of how a revitalized Exim, thanks to the leadership of President Trump and bipartisan support from Congress, can help ensure the use of made in USA products and services, without giving way to countries like China and Russia, ”said Kimberly Reed.
*From 2018, a tool called Prosper Africa …*
In addition, when John Bolton presented the US Strategy for Sub-Saharan Africa in December 2018, he took the opportunity to launch Prosper America. This initiative, which brings together the resources of more than 15 American government agencies, is intended to counter the new Silk Road (Belt & Road), traced by Beijing since 2013, with the mission of doubling trade and investment between United States and Africa. Prosper America is establishing a one-stop-shop to make it easier for US businesses to access more than 60 business investment support services