US-Africa Summit: The Real Agenda behind US Hypocrisy

Last week, Washington hosted the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, attracting attention and questions from around the world. On the face of it, the summit was comparatively large, and the American side in attendance was quite high-profile. President Joe Biden did not just receive the leaders of African nations with great decorum; he was also at pains to plan some smaller gatherings, even including a viewing of the World Cup together during the summit’s interactive session, in an attempt at putting on a show of friendship and warmth toward Africa. But in reality, beneath the American hypocrisy at the U.S.-Africa Summit, the U.S. has revealed its true agenda.

There were three things worth noting on the American side at this summit. First, it was meticulously planned and packaged. Washington spent a long time planning and preparing for this summit, and both the items on the agenda and the addresses made by Biden were orchestrated in such a way as to avoid antagonizing African leaders and targeting third parties in public. Second, the U.S.’ approach of “deceitfulness with a smile:” The U.S. has been deploying all sorts of enticements among African countries to highlight the “U.S.-Africa Partnership,” mainly emphasizing economic and technological cooperation and investment while ostensibly downplaying the political overtones of U.S.-Africa cooperation, even advising against dependency and emphasizing shared growth. Third, the customary “promises ploy.” On the eve of the three-day summit, Biden announced that the U.S. would invest $55 billion in African countries over the next three years and inject more than $15 billion in trade and investment, remarking that “this is just the beginning.” The Office of the First Lady also stated that it would contribute $300 million to the fight against cancer in Africa and to research on the topic. Clearly, the U.S. is a big spender when it comes to paying lip service. In fact, it may have spent beyond its means.

These words out of Washington sound perfectly mild and agreeable, but in reality, all of the U.S.’ planning, packaging and performative smiling directed at Africa has a direct target and is implicitly confrontational. The U.S. is trying to hedge, weaken and confront China’s all-around cooperation with Africa, attempting to regain U.S. geopolitical dominance over the continent and even forcing African countries to choose sides between the U.S. and China. The White House is also goading U.S. businesses into reopening economic and trade doors with Africa and grabbing major economic, energy and infrastructure projects, and companies such as General Electric and Cisco Systems availed themselves of the summit to reach cooperation agreements with African countries.

However, there is much analysis and commentary to suggest that Washington’s strategies and tactics toward Africa are unlikely to succeed.

First of all, Washington is not truly strengthening its cooperation with or helping Africa. Its plans and intentions lie elsewhere, namely in international and geopolitical confrontation, on the one hand, and in U.S. domestic political competition and confrontation, on the other. Donald Trump, Biden’s predecessor, never set foot in Africa in his four years in office — he even insulted the continent — so Biden is deliberately acting differently.

Second, the U.S. lacks a coherent strategy and policy toward Africa. Since the beginning of this century, especially in the last 10 years, U.S. policy toward Africa has mostly been opportunistic, profit-oriented and intermittent, incapable throughout of breaking away from its ideological, hegemonic, politically coercive and profit-oriented nature. Going by public opinion in Europe, the EU earlier this year announced an investment of $159 billion in Africa, so had it not been for the U.S.-Africa summit, the U.S. would have been lagging behind Europe. The many considerations and needs Biden has for having convened this summit are evident — but they are not for Africa’s sake.

More importantly, African nations have long since seen through the U.S. and no longer trust or rely on it. China has always been committed to upholding justice while pursuing shared interests, and it has practiced a genuine and sincere approach toward Africa. In fact, it is not China that is crowding out the U.S. in Africa; rather, it is the U.S. that has given up on Africa and looks down on it. In 2021, trade between China and Africa amounted to $254 billion, four times that of U.S.-Africa trade. China’s investment in Africa has been increasing — actually working for the benefit of African countries and people — and the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation has been held every three years in regular rotation since it was established in 2000. The U.S.’ heart is not in the right place: No matter what tricks it gets up to, it will never win Africa’s trust.

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About Matthew McKay 105 Articles
A British citizen and raised in Switzerland, Matthew received his honors degree in Chinese Studies from the University of Oxford and, after 15 years in the private sector, went on to earn an MA in Chinese Languages, Literature and Civilization from the University of Geneva. Matthew is a member of the Chartered Institute of Linguists and an associate of both the UK's Institute of Translation and Interpreting and the Swiss Association of Translation, Terminology and Interpreting. Apart from Switzerland, he has lived in the UK, Taiwan and Germany, and his translation specialties include arts & culture, international cooperation, and neurodivergence.

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