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China's 'Belt & Road' Trading Strategy Presents New Challenge to U.S. Influence in Africa

The implementation of China’s ambitious “One Belt, One Road” (OBOR) trade agenda in Africa is now fully underway. The launch of the Standard Gauge Railway in Kenya, the opening of the new navy base in Djibouti and dozens of other major infrastructure development projects along Africa’s eastern shore are all part of this new ambitious strategy.

OBOR’s roll-out in Africa comes at an important time in global geopolitics, just as the United States appears to be in an all-out retreat from Africa as the government in Washington, D.C. is consumed by infighting and a lack of strategic focus. But just because the U.S. government may not be as active in Africa, doesn’t necessarily that American corporations are not eager to take in OBOR-related investments. “Chinese banks and firms have requested the help of their U.S. counterparts to navigate existing norms in Africa, creating new potential opportunities for collaboration,” noted Janet Eom, a former research associate at the China-Africa Research Initiative at Johns Hopkins University, in a recent Washington Post column.

Eom argues that there are a number of sectors, ranging from finance to manufacturing to civil society/NGOs, where the Chinese could benefit from working with American organizations in Africa. In this edition of the podcast, she joins Eric to explain why she is seemingly more optimistic about a role for U.S. firms in OBOR than many other analysts.

Show Notes:

About Janet Eom:

Janet Eom is a Scwartzman Scholar at Tsinghua University in Beijing. Previously, Eom was the research manager at the China-Africa Research Initiative in Washington, D.C. where she managed CARI’s fellowship program of 35 researchers conducting independent fieldwork in 12 African countries. She also administered grants from Carnegie Corporation of New York and the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development and Economic and Social Research Council. Before joining CARI, Eom was the Young Ambassador and Global Intern at the prestigious Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Beijing. Eom received her undergraduate degree from Harvard and also holds a master’s degree in global affairs from Tsinghua University.

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