Hillary Clinton goes to sub-Saharan Africa: a counterpoise to China's sway?
The Secretary of State was in Senegal Wednesday, kicking off a six-nation trip to sub-Saharan Africa. Hillary Clinton will highlight Africa's economic and political progress – and try to define what Obama means by 'partnership, not patronage.'
(Page 2 of 2)
Clinton will wind up her trip Aug. 10 in South Africa, a middle-income country whose global influence is rising as one of the BRICS (Brazil, India, China, South Africa) emerging economies. Before that, she will make stops in Uganda, Kenya, Malawi, and South Sudan, which became the continent’s newest country in 2011 after breaking off from Sudan.Skip to next paragraph
South Africa is a good place for Clinton to bring a new US policy toward Africa, some experts say, because in some key ways it represents where a growing Africa is heading: increased prosperity for some as investment grows, but under broad and crushing inequality.
“South Africa is a middle-income country with perhaps the highest inequality in the world,” says Haroon Bhorat, director of development policy research at the University of Cape Town. Clinton, he says, is likely to emphasize that South Africa must address its considerable economic challenges, including unemployment that tops 25 percent, if it wants to fulfill its promise as “Africa’s next big thing.”
Clinton will also be looking to elaborate what the White House unveiled last month as its “new strategy for sub-Saharan Africa,” which speaks of four “pillars” of US relations with the continent: democracy-building, trade and investment, development, and peace and security. The latter point reflects growing concern across the administration that Al Qaeda and affiliated extremist groups are gaining new footholds in pockets of instability.
But some experts say what is billed as a “new strategy” risks not sounding all that different to Africans – especially if it remains policy with little concrete application.
“What the US is talking about sounds good, but it comes across to both the leaders and the people in Africa as theoretical and abstract, and that will hamper the US role in Africa until it becomes something more concrete,” says Terza Lima-Neves, an associate professor of African politics at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, N.C.
Despite a “yearning” across much of Africa for the things the US talks about, from strengthened democracies to greater respect for human rights, Professor Lima-Neves says, there is also a part of Africans that appreciates the “more concrete” version of assistance that China has made a part of its investment strategy.
Noting that China has focused on building infrastructure while “leaving things like governance or human rights alone,” she says there’s no denying the appeal of that approach “to the family that now has a paved street in front of their house or a school for their kids to go to.”
That doesn’t mean the Chinese approach is better, Lima-Neves says, but rather that the US should figure out a way to make its policy and its “partnership” with Africa more tangible.