China is placing Africa on the map. The globalization map, that is. Next to Shanghai – in terms of Beijing’s business priorities, that is.
And Washington is playing the catch up game.
For years, globalization – the increasing integration and interdependence of national and local markets – bypassed Africa. For obvious reasons: poor infrastructure, low incomes, and political instability — to mention but a few.
Then came China, hungry for energy and raw materials for its growing manufacturing might, in possession of a big chest of foreign reserves to pay for it, and holding a long list of state owned enterprises ready to reach out and conquer the world.
Africa became an easy, convenient target, topping the Beijing business agenda.
“Sensing that Africa had been cast aside by the West in the wake of the Cold War, Beijing saw the continent as the perfect proving ground for some Chinese companies to cut their teeth in international business,” writes Howard W. French in China’s Second Continent. “It certainly did not hurt that Africa was also the repository of an immense share of global resources—raw materials that were vital both for China’s extraordinary ongoing industrial expansion and for its across-the-board push for national reconstruction.”
Year after year, Chinese leaders headed business delegations to every major African capital, landing infrastructure projects and trade deals, which turned Africa into China’s “second continent.”
Finally, globalization began to touch Africa, with trade between China and its second continent reaching close to $200 billion in 2013 – double the trade level between the United States and Africa.
“To his credit, President Barack Obama has taken some steps to rectify this imbalance,”writes John Burnett. Like the commitment of $14 billion in investment funds for Africa. “But that is a mere pittance when compared to an estimated $75 billion in investments China has made in Africa from 2000 to 2011.”
Apparently, Washington has a great deal of catching up to do before America can be in par with China.
But does it have the resources, the political will and determination to do so?