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The US/EU/JPN All Seem to Want to Challenge China’s Development Push in Africa… But They’ll Never Admit It

JOHN THYS / AFP

The U.S., Europeans and Japanese have all convened Africa-focused development summits in 2019 and one theme has emerged from all of them: everyone is keen to catch up or somehow rival China’s dominance of the African infrastructure and development space. 

China is the New Benchmark for African Development Summits

  • EUROPE WANTS BACK IN: The EU convened a group of “wise persons” (no, really that’s what it’s called, seriously!) who are preparing a report that calls for the creation of yet another development bank that reportedly aims to “Copy China’s Belt and Road to Engage Africa.”
  • JAPAN + EU: Japan may have said at its recent TICAD7 African summit in Yokohama that it wanted the private sector to lead its engagement efforts in Africa but now, just a month later, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is downplaying that message and instead focusing on how Tokyo and Brussels can team up to build large-scale infrastructure projects in places like Africa.
  • CHINA WHO?: The US doesn’t talk about China as much now when it announces initiatives like Prosper Africa that was unveiled back in June without a single mention of the Chinese or even the new development finance agency that is now open for business with barely a reference of how the new agency will “rival/counter/challenge” the Chinese. But while the government may be mum talking about the Chinese, DC-based think tanks and the media aren’t shy about making the connection between these new projects and countering China’s “aggressive influence.”

WHY THIS IS IMPORTANT: China is the unspoken benchmark that all of these governments are struggling to measure their African development initiatives against whether it’s because they feel increasingly marginalized by China’s growing international presence (Japan/Europe) or they believe countering China around the world is a national security priority (US).

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