How US military plots to lock China, Russia out of Africa
Washington - Strengthening partnership with Africa to project itself as a "true friend" is Washington's strategy to dominate the African market, US military has said.
For decades now, Washington has drastically lost influence in Africa to emerging economic empires mostly Russians and the Chinese.
Ironically, while Moscow and Beijing's influence is anchored in trade, the US has continued to support Africa in many aspects including the war against militants.
Since independence, African nations have faced instability due to persistent attacks by militias and rebels, AFRICOM said.
The US aims at deepening friendship
Maj. Gen. William Gayler, the AFRICOM Director of Operations, believes the US should stamp her authority by enhancing "dependable relationships"
“I think the most important part of our approach is, it’s about relationships, it’s not about access to a resource or to a mineral, or to sales of U.S. equipment,” he said.
While noting the negative ripple effect for emphasizing trade, he added: “I think the relationships we build will have a far-lasting impact.”
China and Russia have controlled the African market, with many leaders resorting to cutting deals with the two socialist nations.
Most countries in Africa owe the two nations billions of dollars, with much being credited to infrastructural development, IMF said.
But the loans have paused dangers to the young economies, due to struggle in repaying. This, analysts have warned, would lead to repossession of critical assets.
US dwindling fortunes in Africa
For instance, the modern railway in Kenya was built through Chinese loans and the government is yet to make the details public.
To showcase the dwindling influence of the West in Africa, the ongoing UK-Africa summit saw only 16 African heads of attending.
On the contrary, such meetings have attracted dozens of leaders from Africa when organized by Vladimir Putin or Xi Jinping.
Russia, China non-committal in terrorism war
But Russia and China are largely absent from the effort to eliminate terrorism in the region which threatens integration, AFRICOM said.
“It is important to remember that outside of selling arms for their own economic benefit, China and Russia are not doing much to help counter extremist groups to rob Africans of their future,” Brig. Gen. Gregory Hadfield, AFRICOM deputy director of intelligence, told reporters.
For instance, African countries have struggled to battle emerging militia groups such as Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram and ISIS, which threatens to destabilize the continent.
While the US has deployed over 7,000 troops, who are likely to be scaled down according to the Pentagon, China and Russia have few or none in these countries.
But the US has paid the price given frequent attacks against her servicemen, the latest coming in Kenya where Al-Shabaab raided a Naval Base.
Top arms exporters to Africa
Russia is the top arms exporter to African countries and was responsible for 39 percent of arms exports to the continent between 2013 and 2017, followed by China, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute reports.
“Where they go with certain other arms sales or other activities, oftentimes, that’s an economic decision for them,” Gayler said of African partners.
On top of the arms sales, Russia has inked more than 20 bilateral military agreements with African states since 2015.
While Gayler said these agreements are not “worrisome” to AFRICOM, he noted the command was monitoring the activity.
The US has traditionally backed her allies in Africa for strategic interest even though it has not entirely centered on economic well-being.