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US accusations 'hold no water'

By LUCIE MORANGI | China Daily | Updated: 2018-03-09 09:09
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson receives a cup of brewed coffee during a traditional coffee ceremony at the US embassy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, March 8, 2018. [Photo/Agencies]

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson's visit to Africa is to protect interests of the United States in the continent and strengthen security efforts, said an African expert based in Kenya.

Tillerson started his five-nation trip on Tuesday that will take in Chad, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Nigeria. He had expressed reservations over China's influence, saying loans advanced by the country to Africa are promoting dependency and undercutting sovereignty.

While calling these accusations old and mundane, Macharia Munene, a history and international relations scholar at the United States International University-Africa, based in Kenya, said the patronizing tone used by the US top diplomat is similar to the one he used before embarking on his trip to Latin America a month ago.

Macharia said the remarks hold no water. "Chinese investment is spread globally and Africa's share is less than 5 percent of total global investment. There is really no basis to Tillerson's admonition," he said.

The scholar added that the US is awakening to the realization that China is making strong inroads in Africa and displacing the West's hegemony. He said that China found its footing when most developed nations were retreating due to the global recession. This saw investments from the traditional powers dwindle while those from the East increased.

Latest reports by Deloitte, a global consultancy firm, have consistently shown an increase in China's participation in Africa's construction sector while investments from traditional partners such as the US have been waning.

"The US is simply protecting its interests," Macharia said, adding that the US wants to re-establish US-Africa ties while strengthening joint peace and security efforts with countries such as Nigeria, Chad and even Kenya.

Peter Kagwanja, founder of Africa Policy Institute, a policy think tank, also based in Kenya, said Africa can aptly manage its debts.

"We have seen an increase in Africa's infrastructure stock courtesy of China's financial assistance. This is what Africa needed since the 1980s when the US tightened its grip in global influence. Although we are latecomers, the modern infrastructure is improving the continent's global competitiveness."

He predicted that Tillerson's trip will focus mainly on security issues but not economics following the US' current policy of "America first".

Kioko Ireri, an associate professor at United States International University-Africa, scoffed at the assertions that Chinese loans are creating dependency, pointing out that previous funding arrangements fronted by the Bretton Woods Institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank designed and promoted dependency on aid that adversely curtailed Africa's growth.

Sino-African engagements are moving away from this concept and basing their engagements on trade, he said.

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